Egypt is a tourist hot spot. But attractions like the Pyramids, and the resorts around Sharm El Sheikh, keep most visitors very much on the beaten path. Much of Egypt remains largely undiscovered by Westerners, and if you’re looking at Egypt holidays with an eye for doing some exploring, here are 5 off-the-beaten-path destinations you should investigate:
Once an isolated Bedouin fishing village, this town in South Sinai is the best destination for adventurous, independent travellers. A few luxury hotels have monopolised the beautiful coastal location, so if you’re looking for quiet indulgence, this is your place. But equally, the town has kept its hippy vibe, with plenty of cheap accommodation for backpackers, many of whom come for the windsurfing and scuba diving opportunities, and the town is still the home to many Bedouin people, particularly during the summer when they migrate for the fishing season. And Old Dahab is full of “regulars” – visitors who have fallen in love with the town’s charm and come back year after year.
It sounds silly; if you go to Egypt, of course you’re going to visit the desert! But actually, very few people really get the full desert experience, because that requires you to pack up a backpack, grab a sleeping bag and go hiking for a few days. The White and Black Deserts, which are areas within the Sinai desert, are visually stunning, and make great campgrounds, especially if you find a Bedouin tribesman to act as your guide. There is nothing like the experience of trekking with camels, learning how to make Bedouin food and falling asleep under the stars.
Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh are the two Egyptian cities that attract most of the tourist attention. But if you’re looking for somewhere a bit different, Alexandria should be at the top of your list. The Mediterranean city is packed with culture, as you’ll find impressive Roman ruins and catacombs to explore, as well as what was once the world’s largest library. The Lighthouse of Alexandria may not still be standing, but if you visit its location, its easy to understand why this was the sight of one of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
This island in the middle of the Nile is a must see for any history buff, as it ishome to the ruins of the ancient city of Abu. Now largely considered part of the city of Aswan, the island is very accessible, but has not yet established itself as a real tourist destination, which is wonderful for anyone who wants to experience a bit of real Egyptian life. This is also a great start point for a Nile cruise, so watch out for tour opportunities that will take you up to Cairo.
Before the ‘80s, the only way to get to this incredible oasis settlement was through the desert on camel back. Now, a tarmacked road will get you there, but the distance from any major city means that the area is wonderfully untouched by the outside world. The unique Berber culture centers around the production of beautiful crafts and jewelry, and the Siwans even have their own language. The hot springs, the lake and surreal mud-brick ruins will give you plenty to look at.
So What Are You Waiting For?
Of course, the traditional tourist hot spots are popular for a reason, and they’re well worth a visit – it’s just that you shouldn’t stop there! Egypt has one of the most remarkable cultures in the modern world owing to its fascinating history, so if you’re visiting the country, why not take the opportunity to explore a little further?