4 Magical Days in Egypt

In Feb. of 2014, I had the unique opportunity to visit Egypt on a whirlwind trip with Abercrombie & Kent tours. These highlights are a glimpse of what I saw.

Highlights
6 Pyramids Road Giza, Kafr Nassar, Al Haram, Giza Governorate 12556, Egypt
I arrived in Cairo at night, in a blur of hectic traffic punctuated by blaring horns and blinking lights. The chaos ended as we drove through the gates of the Mena House Hotel, where I was whisked into one of the most opulent lobbies I’d ever seen. My luggage and I were chauffeured by golf cart to my spacious room. I had little time to look around before I tumbled into my bed. It wasn’t until the next morning, as I drew back the curtains to my private balcony, I saw a view that was unmistakeably Egypt. There, looming before me, were the Great Pyramids. The hotel was once home to royalty, and I felt like a queen, strolling through the opulent common rooms and sipping drinks in the golden Sultan Lounge. Visitors can choose from Egyptian, Italian, and Indian restaurants, as well as 24-hour room service featuring European and Egyptian dishes. Relax in the garden spa, float in the pool, or just sit and admire the view. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Nazlet El-Semman, Al Haram, Giza Governorate, Egypt
The boat at this particular museum isn’t your ordinary vessel. The ship in question was designed to sail its passengers into the afterlife, with the sun god Ra. Also known as the Giza Solar Boat Museum, the museum sits just meters from where the solar boat was found, behind the Great Pyramid of Khufu. The reconstructed sun boat is huge and you can get a good view of it from all angles on three different viewing platforms. The hull of the boat was built from single planks made from Lebanese cedar. As these trees have never grown locally, it is believed the ancient Egyptians transported the planks from Lebanon. Inside the museum, you can also see the tomb-like cavern the boat was buried in, as well as a scale model and a series of photos and diagrams from the excavation. There are a total of seven boat pits in the area, and a second one is currently being excavated, with plans for reconstruction. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
El-Karnak, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
I visited countless temples on my brief visit to Egypt, but my favorite, by far, was the Karnak Temple complex, the largest ancient religious site in the world. A visit to the complex begins with a walk lined on both sides by ram statues, leading to a great gate. Once inside the complex, you enter the Precinct of Amun-Re, where you can visit a series of temples dedicated to the god. Each temple seems more ornately carved than the last. In some of the better-preserved areas, you can even see traces of the colorful paint that once decorated the entire complex. It’s impossible to imagine the stately carved columns covered in gaudy hues, but that was indeed the case. Even more difficult to imagine is how these ancient Egyptians moved the 122 10-meter-tall columns into place, not to mention the additional 12 columns that reach 21 meters tall. Looking up at these great structures can easily give you a sense of vertigo—and wonder. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
15 Meret Basha, Ismailia, Qasr an Nile, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
You could spend a lifetime examining the more than 120,000 items in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, in Cairo. The collection is as vast as it is priceless. The cluttered rooms and dusty display cases give the museum a colonial charm. One of the highlights of the Egyptian Museum is the Tutankhamen room. You can view the pharoah’s exquisite gold funeral mask, and a variety of jewelry recovered from the tomb. Just outside this room are the larger contents of the tomb. It’s hard to imagine so many items packed into such a small chamber. The museum’s other big draw is the Royal Mummies Hall. This special room is the final resting place of 11 mummies of former kings and queens. While you can visit the museum on your own, the experience is much richer with an Egyptologist. My guide, from Abercrombie & Kent tours, brought the exhibits to life and showed us so much more than just artifacts. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Al Omraneyah, Giza Governorate, Egypt
No visit to the Giza Plateau is complete without a camel ride. Yes, it’s the touristy thing to do – but let’s face it, you’re a tourist. While there are camel rides available all around the Giza Plateau area, the best spot to grab an ‘Egyptian taxi’ is at the look-off point behind the pyramids. Here you can get a great view of the three main pyramids, with Cairo sprawling in the distance. Camels actually give a smooth ride. The only tricky part is when they stand up; a three part maneuver, where you’ll do best to lean forward, then back, then forward again. Why ‘walk like an Egyptian’, when you can ride like one? Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Pyramids Hill Rd
It’s not hard to find souvenirs in Cairo. In fact, most of them will find you at every site you visit. While street vendors are a cheap and easy solution for affordable gifts, if you’re looking for a quality souvenir of your time in Egypt, head to Karnak Jewellery. This huge store specializes in handcrafted items from around the country. You’ll find delicately inlaid boxes, statues carved from bronze, silver, and semiprecious stones, hand-made carpets, and even larger furniture items. But handmade jewelry is the specialty and you can have a piece made to any specification. One of the most original and affordable ideas is a hand-carved pendant featuring the name (or word) of your choice in hieroglyphics. I was given a silver pendant as a gift and it remains a treasured reminder of my brief time in Egypt. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Saqqarah, Saqarah, Al Badrashin, Giza Governorate, Egypt
The Egyptian city of Sakkara (or Saqqara) is famous for two things: its UNESCO designated temple complex and its hand tied carpets. In an attempt to fight illiteracy in rural Egypt, Sakkara funds a plethora of carpet-making schools. In addition to learning to read and write, children here learn the ancient art of carpet making. Their education gives them the opportunity to stay in their town and earn a good wage for a skilled trade, or continue their schooling elsewhere. The children are eager to demonstrate how they create these beautiful carpets from delicate silk thread. The speed and precision of their fingers as they knot the colourful carpets is hard to believe and mesmerising to watch. After watching the demonstration, you’ll be welcomed into the showroom to view carpets of all shapes, sizes, and colors. You’ll be served tea and soft drinks and there is no pressure to buy, but if you do, haggling is mandatory. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Before you even set foot through the gate of the Andrea Restaurant in Cairo, the smell of roasting meat wafts out. Peer through the smoke and you’ll see dozens of roasting chickens, lazily turning on spits. One man tends to the ever-burning coals that lend the chickens their distinct charcoal flavor. But it’s much more than just slow-roasting on an open flame that makes these birds famous. The cooks at Andrea marinate each chicken for 24 hours in a secret blend of herbs before they hit the spit. Beside the rotating chickens, a circle of women sits chatting and slapping the dough for tiny flatbreads. They slap the dough onto the inside of still more charcoal ovens and when they pull it out, it is puffed full of hot air. You can enjoy the hot bread, the meltingly tender chicken, and plenty of other Egyptian delights inside the huge dining room. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Kornish Al Nile, Luxor City, Luxor, Luxor Governorate, Egypt
What better way to see Egypt than a luxurious cruise on the River Nile. Cruising on the Sanctuary Sun Boat IV with Abercrombie & Kent tours means you get to experience a wide range of what the country has to offer, from the Valley of the King’s to the Temple of Hathor at Denderah. (And you only have to unpack once!) Spend the day touring Egypt’s fascinating temples and tombs and return for cocktails on the pool deck as the sun sets. Photograph scenes of daily life from the deck while you slowly cruise past towns and agricultural land. Enjoy a gourmet menu of European and Egyptian favorites and experience a special cocktail reception with the boat’s captain. Then return to your cosy room and sleep, while you sail to your next exciting destination. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
Hoda Shaarawy
When I asked my local guide where to get a real taste of Cairo, she brought me to Felfela. This restaurant has been cooking falafel the same way since 1959 and they have definitely perfected the art. Chefs toss balls of batter into boiling oil. Almost the size of a hamburger patty, the falafels are soft and moist inside, with a perfectly crispy crust. Felfela also offers a range of traditional Egyptian foods, with an emphasis on vegetarian cuisine. The restaurant has a quirky, jungle-themed decor, with plenty of plants, birds, and tables made from tree slabs. For a falafel to go, head around the corner to Felfela’s bustling take-away, where you can order your falafel in a pocket of fresh made flatbread. Both the sit-down and take-away options are affordable, delicious, and will be served with a smile. Alison Cornford-Matheson traveled to Egypt courtesy of the Egypt Tourism Authority and Abercrombie & Kent. Her highlights are part of AFAR’s partnership with The United States Tour Operator Association (USTOA), whose members provide travelers with unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value, and freedom to enjoy destinations across the entire globe. See more about Alison’s trip at the USTOA blog.
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