A trip to The Motherland: 3 Weeks in Egypt | Local culture, tourist attractions, a road trip to the Red Sea & more!

April 2018 – My trip to Egypt may be different than others you’ve read about. I’m taking you to Egypt through the lens of the daughter of an Egyptian-native. Traveling to Egypt with my dad, I was a tourist living like a local with the locals. I’ll also show you how you can have a 5-star resort experience for a 2-star price!
The traffic…Hectic is an understatement. Driving in Egypt is like playing Tetris.

Instead of driving, try Careem: The Uber of Egypt | “Careem” is a ride-sharing service that operates in cities across the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Africa. The app works just like Uber.

The ancient city of Alexandria..Believed to have been founded by Alexander the Great, this ancient port-city is one of the greatest historical cities of the Mediterranean.

Above, is the view from my bedroom. Outside this balcony, speakers amplify the harmonious, meditative sounds of Muslims across the city joining in prayer.

Explore the streets of Ramleh station | Alexandria, Egypt

Nothing beats the desert heat like fresh squeezed juice – a MUST try in Egypt. Make your way to El Nabi Daniel, where you’ll find this juice shop offering a selection of juices/shakes. I highly recommend trying fresh sugarcane, mango, and orange juice while in Egypt!

You might even run into this local street vendor selling Lupini beans (Termis in Arabic) and Fava beans (Foul in Arabic). These high-protein staples of Egyptian cuisine are everyone’s favorite healthy snack food. Lupini beans are delicious & fun to eat – Simply use your front teeth to pop the bean out of its skin and into your mouth.

The Citadel of Qaitbay

The Qaitbay Citadel serves as the most important defensive fortress of the 15-century. Situated on the Mediterranean Sea, the Citadel was developed from the ruins of a Lighthouse that once stood as one of the 7 wonders of the world, the Lighthouse of Alexandria – also known as the Pharos of Alexandria.

Before being demolished by several earthquakes in the late 14th-century, the Lighthouse of Alexandria stood at an an impressive 110 meters, almost as tall as the Pyramids of Giza – the tallest man-made structure at the time.

View of the Mediterranean Sea from inside the Citadel.

Take a seat on the Mediterranean Sea at Casino Alshatby | El-Gaish Rd. Alexandria, Egypt

Make your way upstairs to Aroma Lounge/Cafe, located on the rooftop – Take a seat on the Mediterranean Sea and enjoy the stunning sea views over Shisha and Arabic coffee (or hot tea with fresh mint, a staple of the Middle Eastern). Aroma Lounge can be a bit pricey for locals, but it’s pretty cheap for tourists.

A road-trip along the Red Sea | from Cairo to Hurghada

El Hurghada freeway will you get you from Cairo to Hurghada in about 5-6 hours. Add a day or two to your trip and make a stop in El Gouna, another very popular tourist destination along the Red Sea. Best part is, it’s on the way!

Where to stay in El Gouna…There are reasonably priced resorts all along the Red Sea ($50-$110 USD/night – may be more or less depending on the season) – We stayed at the Arena Inn for its great price and convenient location to the city center.

Rub elbows with other tourists at DuPort Pool Club in Marina El Gouna! Whether you want to drink, dance, or just enjoy live music, I promise you will have an absolute blast here. The music/visuals make for a great party experience, with featured sets from a variety of international and local DJ’s. There is a fee to get in (about $10 USD) and that includes a free drink voucher.

Next stop, Hurghada “The BEST resort experience of my life”

Hurghada, Egypt: Home to Egypt’s oldest and most famous resorts. Do yourself a favor and book a room at the Continental Hotel Hurghada for an INCREDIBLE stay. Situated on a pristine private beach, this hotel offers a 5-star experience for a 2-star price.

Take advantage of their luxurious (yet surprisingly affordable) spa menu! The Spa staff tend to hang around the resort to share special pricing/treatment options. If you’re up for an hour or so of pampering, you MUST get a massage during your stay! It’ll cost you 500 Egyptian Pounds – about $30 USD. The price includes the massage, plus access to both the Sauna and Steam room. The masseuse are extremely talented at what they do – Marwa was my masseuse and she did an outstanding job – Try to get your massage with her. Another plus – The massage creams they use are made from essential herbs/spices that naturally contain pain relieving & inflammatory reducing benefits.

If you’re into water sports, you’ll have lots of options in Hurghada: scuba-diving, snorkeling, parasailing, and jet-skis to name a few.
The rooms! Our room had a large balcony with stunning views of the Red Sea and outdoor pool area.
The food! I absolutely loved waking up to a delicious breakfast spread right on the beach.
The staff! From the front desk, to the beach bar, to the outdoor entertainment team, the staff is incredibly friendly, helpful, and all about making sure you enjoy every moment of your stay. Like many of their guests, the staff is a mix of locals and foreigners. We LOVED our stay so much, we decided to stay an additional night at Continental Hotel Hurghada.

Would you try Camel meat? You won’t always find it on restaurant menus, but you will at Moby Dick in Downtown Hurghada.

I didn’t order camel but a lot of people enjoy it for how tender and healthier it is than other meats.

Eating local also includes Koushari, a delicious Egyptian dish that you can try at El Tahrir in Downtown Hurghada

Koushari is a classic vegetarian recipe, found in almost all Egyptian restaurants, homes, and street vendors. This inexpensive, yet filling dish consists of noodles, lentils, rice, and fried onions, topped with a special blend tomato sauce. It is also common to add vinegar for an extra boost of flavor.

And when you’ve had enough Egyptian food in Hurghada, try the Thai restaurant White Elephant

A few of our favorites: Yellow curry, Vegetable noodles, Spring rolls, & Tom Kha coconut soup. If you’re curious about prices, my curry dish was 80 Egyptian pounds (about $5 USD)

Back to Cairo… Next stop, the Pyramids of Giza.

Upon entering the Pyramids, tour guides will offer to take you around for a fee, so make sure to carry change with you. We had a great time with our guide, Ali. There is no better way to experience the Pyramids than with one of the guides. They are very knowledgeable and give a lot of info throughout the tour…AND, they act as your own personal photographer, so take all the photos you want while you can!
The heat…It can get very hot in Cairo and around the Pyramids. Luckily, I visited in April and the weather was perfect.
Ali and I rode a horse carriage around the pyramids and all the way up to the top for an incredible view of all the pyramids and the best picture you can get. See below!
Go inside the largest Pyramid! If you can handle the heat, small space, and possible lightheadedness, I recommend you climb inside the large pyramid (although it’s not as interesting as the Valley of the Kings in Luxor). As you climb up a narrow plank, you will reach a small room where the tomb of the King once laid. The mummy was moved to the Egyptian museum, so there’s not much to see but a box that once held it. Although there is not much to see, the climb up is still an adventure and you’ll be able to say you’ve climbed inside the tallest pyramid!
WARNING: Photography is not allowed inside the pyramid and is said to be bad luck.
Our view as we ride back down from the pano view of all the pyramids. Guess who’s guiding that horse? A 5 year old boy..

Check out the ancient Khufu Ship, dated back to 2500 B.C.

The fully intact Khufu ship, believed to have been built for Egyptian Monarch Khufu (known by the Greeks as Cheops)

Head of a Lady – Face of a Man – Body of a Lion, the Sphinx

As you make your way to the exit at the end of your tour, make sure to stop for an amazing view of the Sphinx.

More to do in Cairo…

You must make time for Khan el-Khalili, a major Souq and one of Cairo’s best attractions.

Stop for coffee and Shisha at the famous El Fishawi, one of Cairo’s oldest coffee shop. Relive what the regulars, including famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum used to enjoy here. Much of her songwriting happened right here inside this cafe and although she is no longer physically present, her tunes are still very much present here and throughout Egypt.
My dad grew up in Egypt and used to come here with his family. While Egyptian tunes play in the background, he shares many of his childhood memories with me.

Make your way to Concord Plaza Mall, but not for the shopping!

For the freshest seafood in Cairo, make your way to Asmak Seafood restaurant.

I recommend the red snapper grilled with lemon & oil (or fried), and their soups, dips, salads, and rice.

Author: Christine Jacob

Learn more about the author, here

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