by Tricia Cusi-Jimenea
What is life but this one crazy beautiful adventure to discover the world. And what is this adventure if you don’t get to share your experiences that might be valuable for other wanderers.
Here at ComCo, we’re on a mission to collect the best of our travel memories in hopes of giving you some tips as you plan your next trip and more importantly of inspiring you to go out there and explore. After all, they say it’s better to see it once than to read or hear about it a million times!
So we came. We saw. We chronicled. Join us in ComCrossing the world! And our first stop is Egypt! Instead of debating which place is more worth seeing we decided to get a taste of both the magical cities of Luxor and Cairo.
Location: Egypt is a transcontinental country with parts of it in Africa and Asia, specifically the Middle East. It’s surrounded by Israel to the north-east, Sudan to the south and Libya to the west.
Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP)
For this trip:
Month of Travel: June
Weather: 34 °C
What to Wear: It was hot… the kind that stings. Dressing modestly and smartly is the best way to go. One of the reasons why people in the Middle East cover their heads and entire body is to protect their skin from the harsh desert sun. Pick clothes with breathable fabric, wear a hat or anything to cover your head, and apply a generous amount of sunscreen before going out.
- If this is your first time to travel to Egypt, you are more likely looking to visit the main historical attractions. Hire a private Egyptologist or tour guide. They help you appreciate every structure you find, whether well-preserved or in ruins.
- Sure, you’ve tackled ancient Egypt in your history classes, but brush up on it a bit. It will be quite useful!
- We flew during Ramadan and it has its pros (i.e., tourist spots are less crowded, rates drop) and cons (i.e., some good restaurants are closed during the day, shorter operational hours). Read some useful tips here so you can plan ahead.
Part 1: Best of Luxor
They say you haven’t really been to Egypt if you haven’t been to Luxor. Luxor is regarded as the world’s largest open-air museum. It was the great capital of Egypt during the New Kingdom (after the period of the pyramids in the Old Kingdom) and has been renowned as a center for wisdom, art, religious and political supremacy.
Top five things to see in this beautiful city are (1) The Valley of the Kings, (2) The Temple of Hatshepsut, and (3) the Colossi of Memnon in the West Bank; and the (4) Karnak Temple and (5) The Temple of Luxor in the East Bank.
1. The Valley of the Kings are rock-cut tombs used as burial sites for the Pharaohs during the New Kingdom. While most of the treasures and mummies found here were either looted or already transferred to the Museum of Egypt in Cairo, you will still notice a lot of the wall paintings preserved. Some of them are still in their original colors! These intricate paintings could be records of the lives of the mummies, their accomplishments, families, wars won, enemies defeated; stories about how they would travel to the afterlife; or even spells to cast curses and injuries upon grave robbers. The most famous tombs are those of King Tutmosis I, Tutmosis III, Tut-Ankh-Amon, King Ramses VI, King Mrenptah and Amonhotep II.
2. The Temple of Hatshepsut is a funerary shrine built for Hatshepsut, the longest reigning female pharaoh in Egypt. During her rule, Egypt prospered because she focused on developing the economy rather than conquering new lands.
3. Colossi of Memnon are two giant stone statues representing Amenhotep III. They were constructed as guardians for the pharaoh’s mortuary complex, which stood behind them before floods, earthquakes and the practice of using older structures as resource material for new structures contributed to its disappearance. Today, only the two statues remain.
4. Karnak Temple is the second largest ancient religious site in the world, after Angkor Wat in Cambodia and is also the second most visited historical site in Egypt after the Giza Pyramids.
5. Luxor Temple is one of the four main parts of Karnak Temple. Like the Karnak Temple, this is a World Heritage Site under the cultural category.
Part 2: Best of Cairo
No visit to this country is complete without a trip to these top three attractions in Cairo, the vibrant and bustling capital of Egypt. These are (1) The Pyramids of Giza and the Great Sphinx, (2) the Egyptian Museum and (3) the Khan El Khalili Bazaar.
1. The Pyramids of Giza are some of the biggest and grandest structures built by humans in ancient times. They were designed as burial tombs to honor the pharaohs who were then believed to be both man and god.
Within this complex, you will also find the Great Sphinx, which is one of the largest single-stone statues in the world. The sphinx has the body of a lion and the head of a king or a god to symbolize strength and wisdom.
2. The Egyptian Museum houses one of the world’s most extensive and most important ancient artifacts. Our guide said if you spend one minute looking at every piece displayed in this museum, it would take you three months minimum to see them all. That’s not including those hidden in the storerooms! The highlights for us were definitely the Mummies Room and the Tut-Ankh-Amon exhibit. This youngest pharaoh’s tomb was the most preserved when it was discovered by archaeologist Howard Carter that it took him ten years to catalog all of the items that were retrieved and are now displayed in this museum. You will also find here a great deal of items recovered from the tombs of pharaohs, queens, noble and holy men from a sarcophagus to the tiniest of accessories.
3. The Khan El Khalili Bazaar transports locals and tourists alike to the hustle and bustle and the colorful offerings of an old Arab souk. We enjoyed looking around but if you’re aiming to buy more authentic souvenirs, it might be best to ask your guide to take you to shops that are selling genuine products. Papyrus for example is one of the materials used in ancient Egypt not just for writing but also for the construction of boats, mats, sandals and baskets. As we enjoy collecting paintings when we travel, we decided to get one in papyrus that symbolizes love. The artist adding our names in hieroglyphs was the cherry on top!
With grateful hearts, we recall how we only used to watch these structures in movies and imagine how magical this place must have been. Seeing them in all their glory was truly a worthwhile experience. We couldn’t help but wish we had a field trip to Egypt for our history classes. There’s definitely greater understanding and appreciation when you come face to face with whatever remains of this super rich civilization. Every stone, every tiny inscription has a story! From Luxor to Cairo, from myths to real-life marvels, Egypt definitely won our hearts in the cultural and historical wealth category.