Venturing into the land of the pharaohs:
An Egyptian Adventure

By Rafaela Ferro, Pedro Cioga, and friends.

40 ☀ • Oct & November 2022

Things to take with you...

  • Revolut or another card with minimal exchange fees for easy access to local currency and making payments.
  • Student ID card, as many tourist attractions offer discounted prices for students (sometimes up to 50% discount).
  • Check with your doctor for vaccines you should take ahead of time and medication to take with you. Some medication is easy to find there, but I prefer to pack a small "travel pharmacy" and not have to worry about it while on the trip.
  • A scarf or face covering to protect you from breathing too much dust or smoke in certain areas. If you're a woman, the scarf is also important to cover your head and shoulders at mosques.

General notes

  • Always have cash on hand, as many restaurants and tourist attractions do not accept Visa. Avoid using ATMs with the EuroNext sign, as they charge extra 64 EGP per withdrawal (at least with the cards we tested).
  • If available, use Uber instead of taxis unless bargaining is your forte — you can still check the price on Uber to get an estimate. If Uber is not an option, be sure to negotiate the taxi fares before getting in. Another option is to use the metro, which is available in some areas of Cairo.
  • It's also a good idea to confirm prices before paying, even at tourist attractions, as sometimes prices get "rounded up" at the sole initiative of the cashier.

Cairo

6 ☾ — Recommended 3: ☾

Welcome to Egypt! If you're visiting for the first time, Cairo — home to world wonder pyramids — is likely to be on your itinerary, but be prepared. Cairo's population nears the entire population of Portugal, so you can imagine it to be a fairly crowded and bustling city. With non-stop, chaotic, and noisy traffic, Cairo could easily compete for the title of "city that never sleeps".

Where to eat in Cairo

  • Koshari Abou Tarek ★ Koshari is a must-try for anyone looking to sample traditional Egyptian comfort food. There are koshari restaurants in almost every city we visited, but this was by far the best we tried.
  • Sajia ★ This restaurant is a bit further from the city center, but it's worth the trip for the delicious eggplant fattah, eggplant kofta, and refreshing lemon juice with mint.
  • El Sharouk — This small shop is near the Egyptian Museum and has cheap but tasty and filling falafel sandwiches. If you're wondering "how cheap": five of us had lunch there for a grand total of 1€. While you're there, wander a bit down the street to the fruit juice shop nearby and grab yourself a mango juice.
  • Mo Bistro — If you need a break from Egyptian food, Mo Bistro offers a wide range of dishes, including pasta, Chinese cuisine, and steak. However, at around 15-20€/person, this is on the pricier side for egyptian standards (it’s the most we’ve paid for a meal).

If you prefer to dine in the comfort of your accomodation, Talabat (food delivery service) is available in Cairo. We used it a few times on days we were working and had a very positive experience.

Buildings in Old Cairo
Buildings in Old Cairo
Building tilting on top of another
Buildings in Old Cairo
A little girl playing in the Mosque.
Cat in a mosque
Building in the west bank of the Nile, Cairo
Building in the west bank of the Nile, Cairo
Nile river, Cairo. An abandoned boat contrasts with the modern skyscrapers in the background.
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo, Egypt, built in the Ottoman style
The Mosque of Muhammad Ali in Cairo, Egypt, built in the Ottoman style
Inside the Mosque of Muhammad Ali
Inside the Mosque of Muhammad Ali
Panoramic view of the city from the mosque of Muhammad Ali
View from Muhammad Ali Mosque
Babylon Fortress in Coptic Cairo, a historic district in Cairo, known for its churches and ancient architecture
Babylon Fortress in Coptic Cairo, a historic district in Cairo, known for its churches and ancient architecture

★ Saqqara Pyramids

The Saqqara pyramid complex is often overshadowed by the larger pyramids of Giza, but shouldn't be overlooked. Despite being a slightly longer drive from Cairo, it's well worth the visit — tombs are better preserved, and there are fewer crowds, not to mention it is home to the Djoser Pyramid, the oldest (yet still impressive!) known pyramid in the world.

  • Duration: Half a day
  • Price:
    • "All Inclusive" Ticket — 480 EGP
      Includes entries to most tombs (Serapeum, Tomb of Mereruka, Tomb of Mehu, Emhoteb, etc.).
    • To go inside Djoser Pyramid — 100 EGP

Notes:
Some of the tombs included in the "all-inclusive" ticket may be locked and you'll need to find someone from the staff to open them for you. Be prepared for tip requests, but we later found out that's not the only motivation — at least with one of the tombs.

While in Egypt, we met an Egyptologist who mentioned one of the tombs is closed because it's off-limits to Egyptians. This particular tomb depicts two men touching hands, which can be interpreted as a sign of intimacy or romance. Historically, it's not entirely certain whether the men depicted were family or lovers (the person who reluctantly opened this tomb for us mentioned multiple times they were two brothers, but it's just one possibility). According to the Egyptologist, this tomb is off-limits to Egyptians to protect them from being "corrupted by homosexuality". It's unclear whether this is true or just a theory, but it's worth keeping in mind.

Djoser Pyramid seen from a distance, partially hidden behind a dune
A man rides a donkey, with Djoser Pyramid on the background
Details of the side of Djoser Pyramid, where its possible to understand that many stones have been removed over time
Corridor inside Djoser Pyramid
Tomb of Djoser Pyramid
Ruins of a temple in the Saqqara pyramid complex
Ruins of a wall with columns, possibly a reconstruction
Entrance to the pyramid complex of Saqqara, a man can be seen riding a donkey
Decorated wall inside of the Saqqara Tombs, representing aggriculture and livestock rituals
Hieroglyphs inside a tomb in Saqqara
Overview of the Saqqara Pyramid complex, with the Djoser Pyramid on the background and ruins from tombs in front
Detail of the face of a statue of a person, inside a tomb in Saqqara
Line of statues of people, inside a tomb in Saqqara
Myself exiting one of the tombs in Saqqara
Close up on the face of a camel, focusing on its nose
Sunset in the Saqqara complex, a man walks with his bike through the long path to the exit
Djoser Pyramid illuminated on one side by the sunset

★ Giza Pyramids

Disclaimer: While the Giza Pyramids are a world wonder and certainly worth visiting, I personally preferred the Saqqara complex due to its smaller crowds, fewer scam artists, and better preserved tombs. We also opted not to go inside the pyramids at Giza because we had already entered one in Saqqara and our friends told us the experience was similar.

For the iconic panoramic view, where all the pyramids and the Sphinx are visible, you'll need to either walk for quite a long distance or negotiate a ride with one of the many people offering horse or camel rides around the pyramid complex. Alternatively, you could arrange a guided tour ahead of time, which may be more convenient, especially if horse or camel rides aren't your cup of tea.

  • Duration: Half a day (full day if the museum is already open)
  • Price: Regular ticket — 240 EPG
    Just for walking around the plateau area, doesn't include fee to enter the pyramids.

Scams to look out for:
If you want to avoid hassles and scams, booking a guide might be helpful, although it’s not essential.

  • Before you're even near the pyramid complex, your ride might get stopped a bunch of times, claiming that you can't go any further without buying tickets. This is not true, the ticket office is just outside the complex, and it's very easy to spot once you arrive.
  • They might also say that you need to pay extra for your driver to take you all the way to the ticket booth. This is also not true, they can drop you right at the entrance. One person pretending to work for the complex even directed our Uber to a dead-end alley, claiming they were guiding us to the ticket office. Alas, waiting for us was a horse.
  • At the security checkpoint, you might be told you can’t take seemingly permissible items with you. They might say that you must leave the item there, but offer to turn a blind eye in exchange for a tip. For instance, they told us we couldn't take our Canon 75-300mm lens with us, claiming we couldn't "use zoom".
  • Don't fall for anyone who tells you that you're going in the wrong direction or are in a restricted area. They are pretending to help you so they can ask you for money for "guiding" you (for instance, one person tried to convince us that we were going to the exit when we were walking to the Sphinx) or allowing you to be in a certain place (restricted areas are rare and usually well signaled).
  • Expect to be approached by multiple people trying to sell you horse or camel rides.
The Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
Detail of the top of the Pyramid of Khafre, with the original limestone still preserved.
The Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt, a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head of a human. Pyramid of Khafre on the background.
A profile photo of the Great Sphinx, with four camels on the background behind chartered by tourists.
A scrap yard sits right next to the Wonder of the Ancient World.

Hurghada will forever hold a special place in our memory as the place where we took our first breaths underwater — which was, in fact, what inspired this trip in the first place.

During the first week, we did a couple of Discovery Scuba Diving dives, which allowed us to experience scuba diving without being certified and without worrying about anything except enjoying the wonders of the underwater world. And boy, did we enjoy it! On our very first dive, we saw giant moray eels (including a baby one, which was not so giant), blue-spotted stingrays, lionfish, and the cherry on top: a sea turtle! I definitely won't forget that moment.

Even if you don't see these specific species, the Red Sea will spoil you with stunning coral gardens and colorful fish — including the cast of Nemo, of course.

Needless to say, we were hooked and decided to get certified a few days later. We are now Open Water Divers, and PADI hasn't seen the last of us — I have my eye on a couple of other certifications.

Where to Dive

We highly recommend the Blue Water Dive Resort. The center is very organized, and the instructors are top-notch — they made us feel safe all the time and thanks to them we had a pitch-perfect, unforgettable first contact with the underwater realm.

  • Price: Around 75€/day for one dive + 5€ (100 EGP) for the lunch on the boat.
    • This price includes a shuttle service from and to your hotel or Airbnb.
    • It also includes all the equipment (it will be cheaper if you have your own).
    • Lunch is optional but highly recommended — it's delicious!
  • Duration: Takes up a whole day, and you can choose to do one or two dives (prices vary).
  • Notes: I recommend doing at least two dives, as you might have very different experiences on different days and locations.

PS: A big thank you to Anita, Sarah — our instructors on the first Discovery Scuba Diving — and Thomas — our Open Water Certification teacher. We hope to meet again, either on land or underwater!

The Red Sea, known for its coral reefs and clear waters, on a sunny day, with three boats
Myself reading on the boat, waiting for my first scuba diving experience
Man jumping off the front of a boat wearing snorkel eqquipment
Group of friends on a boat
Beggining of a scuba diving session, talking with the instructor before going down
Couple in scuba diving eqquipment, signaling 'OK'
Five boats on a marina in Hurghada

Where to eat

  • Family Fish Restaurant: We had a variety of food here, including starters, shrimp, and casseroles. Everything was very tasty and the portions were extremely generous.
  • Starfish Seafood Restaurant: For, you guessed it, fish.
  • Antkhana Omyassin: If you're looking to try traditional dishes such as stuffed pigeon and orzo soup, this is a good spot for a meal. The tahini here is also delicious.

Talabat (food delivery service) is available in Hurghada.

Where to stay

Royal Blue Villa: We had the loveliest stay in this villa. The hosts, Diana and Ibrahim, were incredibly kind and welcoming, going above and beyond to make us feel at home. The villa is spacious and accommodates 6 to 8 people, but they also have a smaller villa that sleeps 4 to 6 people.

The only downside to this Airbnb is that it's away from the center of Hurghada, so you'll need to call a cab to get around. This wasn't a problem for us at all since we were in Hurghada primarily for diving and we had the diving center's shuttle service.

Red moon can be seen between four boats in the marina, Hurghada
Marina
Coast of the Red Sea, in Hurghada, photographed from the boat
Mosque El Mina Masjid, Hurghada
Mosque El Mina Masjid

Luxor

5 ☾ Casa Loko

As soon as we finished our diving certification, we headed for Luxor. While I was a bit disappointed that we wouldn't get a chance to dive in Hurghada again, Luxor more than made up for it with its ancient Egyptian sites that looked like they were straight out of a film.

Dirt road in Luxor, to the left there are plantation fields and to the right a house surrounded by trees
A man and a donkey working on a plantation field on sunrise
Banana plantation field
Sunset in the Nile river

★ Valley of the Kings

Of all the archeological sites we visited, the Valley of the Kings was my absolute favorite. You can spend an entire morning exploring the various tombs and chambers, marveling at the intricately decorated sculptures and painted scenes covering the walls and ceilings. It's an incredible place to get immersed in the history of ancient Egypt.

  • Duration: At least 2-3h, but I recommended half a day
  • Opening hours: 6am to 5pm (in summer), gets very crowded from 10am - 2pm
  • Price for "Regular Ticket": 260 EGP
    Each regular ticket gives access to 3 regular tombs. We bought two of these each so we could visit 6. Best tombs included in the "regular" ticket:
    • KV1 — Ramses VII
    • KV2 — Ramses IV
    • KV8 — Merenptah
    • KV11 — Ramses III
    • KV14 — Tausert-Setnakht
    • KV47 — Siptah
    • KV6 — Ramses IX
      We didn’t enjoy this one too much because it’s small and was crowded to the point it became claustrophic and people were not being nice; but if you get there early, it’s good.
    • KV15 — Seti II — can be skipped
  • The tombs listed below are not included in the regular ticket, and the ticket to visit each one is sold separately. And for a good reason: they are spectacular!
    • ★ Seti I — 1000 EGP
      By far the best one in the complex! If you only want to see one of the tombs, this is the one.
    • ★ Ramesses V&VI — 100 EGP
    • Tutankhamun — 300 EGP
      This is the most famous, but, in my opinion, not the best. If you need to skip one of the extras, this might be a good choice.
Tomb of Tutankhamun
Tomb of Tutankhamun
Tomb of Ramesses V & VI
Tomb of Ramesses V & VI
Two figures represented in the wall of a tomb in the Valley of the Kings: the left figure is man, the right one is the god Ra
Tomb of Ramesses V & VI
Tomb of Ramesses V & VI
The Valley of the Kings in Luxor, Egypt, featuring tombs of pharaohs and ancient Egyptian nobles.

Moving around in Luxor

There are two options for crossing the river to the other bank: using the ferry or taking a private boat. The ferry costs 5 EGP per person, but you might have to wait a few minutes for it to depart and, as expected on a public transportation, it's not possible to negotiate the drop-off location. A private boat will take you straight accross for 30 EGP per crossing. Some drivers have tried to charge us more, claiming it was 30 EGP per person, or that the prices vary depending on the time of day; but our Airbnb host had warned us about this, so we were prepared. However, if you wish to have the boat drop you off at a specific location rather than simply crossing the river, the price will vary and you'll need to negotiate it with the captain.

★ Karnak Temple

On the east bank of the Nile, you'll find the Karnak Temple.

  • Duration: 2h
  • Opening hours: Closes at 5pm
  • Price for Karnak Temple: 220 EGP
    • Mut Temple (access through Karnak Temple): 50 EGP
      Mut can't be compared to Karnak's grandiosity - so much so that the guy at the ticket office tried convincing us to not purchase the Ticket. We are stubborn and insisted but if you're short on time this bit is indeed skippable.
A line of statues combining the body of a lion with the head of a ram
Statue of Ramesses II in the Karnak Temple, Awsan
Enormous columns with hieroglyphics, in the Karnak Temple Complex in Aswan, Egypt
Enormous columns with hieroglyphics, in the Karnak Temple Complex in Aswan, Egypt
Details of a wall and two columns, decorated with hieroglyphs and other figures, in the Karnak Temple
A cat rests on the ruins of Karnak
A corridor delimited by columns through which the light of the setting sun creates a stunning visual effect
Granite statue of the goddess Mut, inside the Mut Temple
Granite statue of the goddess Mut, inside the Mut Temple

Luxor Temple

Connected to the Karnak Temple by the Avenue of the Sphinxes, you'll find the Luxor Temple. I believe it's possible buy a ticket that includes the visit to both Temples and allows you to walk the Avenue of the Sphinxes — but it’s a fairly long walk. An alternative is to take a taxi or boat from one temple to the other and see the Sphinxes from the Luxor Temple. If you find yourself having to chose between these two temples, go to Karnak instead.

  • Duration: 1h
  • Opening hours: Closes at 10pm
  • Price: 180 EGP
Statue of Ramses II at the entrance of Luxor Temple
Statue of Ramses II at the entrance of Luxor Temple

Souk Market

The souk market in Luxor, situated directly accross the street from Luxor Temple, promises a cultural experience whether you're seeking souvenirs (spices are a great option) or simply visit the market and interact with the people working there — who apparently speak a few words of almost every language in the world and are always eager to guess where tourists are from. Allocate approximately 1 hour to stroll through the market, although your time may vary depending on whether you're just passing through or planning to do some shopping.

Luxor is a popular stop for Nile cruises, and we encountered many people near the market pretending to know us, claiming they "worked on our boat". Since we weren't on a cruise, it was clear this wasn't the case and we didn't engage in much conversation, but my guess is they would just try to promote or sell us something from their family businesses.

Hot Air Balloon

If you stay in Luxor long enough, take your morning to new heights with a breathtaking aerial tour over the east bank. We suggest booking the earliest flight slot and rising with the sun, so you can witness the sunrise casting its warm glow upon the banana plantations and illuminating the Nile. This breathtaking view is an unforgettable memory in the making.

This was my first time riding an hot air balloon, and it was very serene and enjoyable.

  • Duration: around 3 hours total
  • Price: It varies depending on the time of the day - sunrise is more expensive - and who you book it with. We paid €60 per person, booking with our AirBnB host.
Hot air balloon from a distance, flying over the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt
Hot air balloon from a distance, flying over Luxor, Egypt
Hot air balloon flying over the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor, Egypt
Several hot air balloons flying over houses and the Valley of the Kings, in Luxor
Several hot air ballons flying over plantation fields, Luxor
Sun rising in the horizon and, in the foreground, a hot air balloon flies over the Nile, in Luxor
Dozens of entries escavated in rock, photographed from a hot air balloon
Temple in ruins photographed from hot air balloon, in Luxor, Egypt
Basket of hot air balloon flying over Luxor
Hot air balloon flying over Casa Loko, in Luxor, Egypt
Luxor photographed from hot air balloon during sun rise
Banana plantation field
Buildings in Luxor, photographed from hot air balloon
Road and buildings in Luxor
Banana plantation field, photographed from above, two women in the photo

Where to eat in Luxor

  • Sofra ★ (West bank) Probably the best restaurant we went to in Egypt. This restaurant serves traditional egyptian food at a very reasonable price — we spent around 225 EGP/person and we took a lot of leftovers home.
    • What we ate: ★ Lamb Fattah, ★ Lamb Tagine, Shamousas, Tahini, Baba Ganoush, Lentil Soup, Vegetable Tagine
  • El Mesala (East bank) — With very nice lentil and tomato soup
  • Sunflower (East bank) — Good falafel, bread, fruit juice (cheap menus)
  • El Zaeem — Koshari restaurant, not as good as the one in Cairo but still great.

Where to stay

Casa Loko: Guest house in the peaceful east bank of Luxor. Staying at Casa Loko we felt at home. Mohamed and his family treated us like friends, even inviting us to have dinner at their home one night. They helped us plan our days in Luxor, negotiating boat and taxi rides for us, giving us tips on what to visit and where to eat, and always making themselves available to answer any traveling dilemas we were facing. I might also add that the breakfast here is very complete. In short: we would and have recommended this place to all our friends visiting Luxor.

Marsa Alam

After getting certified in Hurghada, we didn't get a chance to dive there, so, after Luxor, we traveled east for one last rendezvous with the crystal-clear waters of the Red Sea. We stayed north of Marsa Alam, in a location between Al-Qusair and Port Ghalib, and were blown away by the beautiful beaches and amazing diving spots we found. We marveled at vast coral gardens that stretched out before us, with tall walls and holes that created breathtaking spotlights. Plus, we had the pleasure of encountering even more members of the cast of Finding Nemo, which had been my goal all along.

A scuba diver seen from a distance in an opening between two wallks of coral

Where to Dive

We dived with the DiveVerse. Our instructors, Lollo and Alessandra, were such good-spirited people that their good mood was contagious, even though we had to wake up at 5am (mind you, 3am in our home time zone).

  • Price: Around 60€/day for one dive each day (certified)
    • This price includes all the equipment, if you had your own it would be cheaper.
    • They also have a transfer service to and from your hotel. I don't know whether it's included in the price listed above because we were a 10-minute walk away from the diving center, so we didn't use this service.
    • If you're not yet certified, you can also do a Discovery Scuba Diving dive with DiveVerse - just contact them for pricing information.
  • Duration: We did early morning shore dives, so by 9am we were back at our Airbnb ready to start another day of work. However, you can arrange your diving schedule with the center to fit your needs.
  • Notes: Again, I’d recommend doing at least two dives to fully experience the diversity of the underwater world.
Close-up of two scuba divers
Two scuba divers in the distance, floating above a floor of corals

Aswan

9 ☾ Anakob

As our final stop in Egypt, Aswan was a peaceful and picturesque way to end our journey. At this point, all of our friends had left — some had gone back home, others moved on to their next traveling destination. We stayed at a boat guest house on Elephantine Island, a small island in the Nile close to the busy center of Aswan, where silence was interrupted only by the music of passing feluccas or the occasional braying of a neighbor's donkey. Each morning, we wandered through the narrow streets of the Nubian village on the island to get to whatever our destination was that day, and each afternoon we marveled at the stunning sunsets which beautifully distorted the colors of river banks. Aswan was, indeed, the perfect end to our long and memorable adventure in Egypt.

Old Cataract Hotel, known to have inspired Agatha Christie when she was writing "Death on the Nile"
Old Cataract Hotel, known to have inspired Agatha Christie when she was writing "Death on the Nile"
A felucca on the Nile
Two people on a boat parked in the shade of trees on a tiny island in the middle of the river
Nile river bank
Camel eating on the river bank, its head hidden by the trees
River bank on the Nile, showing the ruins of a house partially covered by the sand dune
Monastery of St. Simeon
Monastery of St. Simeon
A group of people in the distance standing on top of a tall dune during sunset
Felucca on the river Nile
Several touristic feluccas navigating the Nile
The Nile, turned pink by the sunset
Silhouette of the Monastery of St. Simeon against the sunset
Silhouette of the Monastery of St. Simeon against the sunset
A boat photographed from the same angle at dawn, midday and sunset
A boat photographed from the same angle at dawn, midday and sunset
A boat photographed from the same angle at dawn, midday and sunset
Two kids on a surf board using their hands to paddle through the Nile waters
King Jamaica restaurant seen from the opposite river bank
King Jamaica restaurant
River bank in the Nile, a line of trees separating the waters from the sand dune
Two kids on a surf board using their hands to paddle through the Nile waters at night

Philae Temple

  • Price: 200 EGP + boat
  • Duration: 1 or 2 hours

Once you buy the ticket for the temple, you’re allowed to go past security, however the temple is on an island and the boat isn’t included (surprise surprise). Since you already paid for the ticket, the captains are not shy to ask high prices – they were asking us for an extra 100EGP/person, we got it down to 50EGP but it wasn’t an easy negotiation.

Philae Temple complex in Aswan, Egypt, featuring ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman architecture.
Kiosk of Emperor Trajan
Temple of Isis in Philae, Aswan, Egypt
Colonnade in the outer or the forecourt, Philae Temple
Colonnade in the outer or the forecourt, Philae Temple
Cat sitting in a column in Philae Temple, seemingly posing for the photograph
Colonnade in the outer or the forecourt, Philae Temple
Temple of Isis in Philae, Aswan, Egypt
Temple of Isis
Opening on a wall revealing a boat passing through the river
Kiosk of Emperor Trajan
Cat sleeping on a column of the Philae Temple
Kiosk of Emperor Trajan photographed from a boat

Nubian Villages

While in Aswan, we visited two Nubian Villages. To the south, the more touristic ones. To the north, the ones that barely get visits from tourists at all. The experience, as you might expect, was vastly different. The village we visited in the south had an extensive market on the street. While walking the village streets, we were constantly approached by the merchants who insisted - sometimes a bit top aggressively for our standards - that we must visit their stores. We ended up buying more souvenirs than we had planned because we had a hard time dealing with their persistent marketing techniques - but surely our family and friends were happy with the spices and tea we gifted them. In these southern villages you'll find many options for having a meal. Please note you might have to hire a private boat to get there, we didn't find a ferry that took us directly to the village.

Colorful houses in a Nubian Village sitting on the edge of a dune
Color houses in Nubian Village right on top of the Nile river, Aswan, Luxor
Colorful market in Aswan, Egypt, selling textiles, and handicrafts.
Colorful market in Aswan, Egypt, selling textiles, and handicrafts.
Colorful market in Aswan, Egypt, selling spices.
A table full of spices for sale in the market of a Nubian Village
Young boys playing football on a dirt field

The village up north was much more peaceful and low-key and we crossed paths with many children playing and grown-ups going about their daily lives without paying much attention to us other than greeting us with a friendly "hello" or "welcome". We did get into a wee bit awkward situation as we were trying to get a ride back to the boat. Two nice boys offered to take us on their "trailer", but when we arrived at the port, we were turned around by a man who insisted we had to go to the "Crocodile House". We had to tell him multiple times that we didn't want to see a crocodile (seeing caged animals is not our cup of tea), and he still wanted to charge us but eventually they took us back to the river.

Colorful doors and walls in the streets of a Nubian Village
Colorful doors and walls in the streets of a Nubian Village
Colorful doors and walls in the streets of a Nubian Village
Colorful doors and walls in the streets of a Nubian Village
Four young girls dressed in colorful pajamas playfully posing for the camera
Two boys driving a motorbike stop and pose for the camera

Botanic Garden Island

We could see the island from our balcony, and we were curious to visit it. It's a peaceful place to walk around, with a variety of plants and trees, and we were also lucky to spot a few interesting-looking birds.


  • Price: 35 EGP + boat
  • Duration: 1 or 2 hours
  • How to get there: As far as we could tell, there isn’t a direct ferry to this island. You can take the ferry to Elephantine Island, cross the island to the other margin, and then negotiate a private boat.
Walk on the botanical garden, surrounded by tall palm trees
Walk on the botanical garden, surrounded by tall palm trees
The nile river, a ruin standing at the top of a dune
Nile river, a monument standing on the opposite river bank
Colorful bird looking for food on the floor
Dark bird sitting on top of a tree

Where to eat in Aswan

  • King Jamaica (Elephantine Island) — We ate at this restaurant multiple times, indulging in their generous portions for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
  • Makani (East bank)
  • Kendaka (West bank) — If you're planning a trip to the Nubian villages to the south, be sure to stop by Kendaka for a meal. The restaurant is easy to spot as it sits right on top of the Nile.

Where to stay

Anakob: We had a relaxing and peaceful stay at this guest house (or, I should say, guest boat), a tranquil escape from the busy center of Aswan. Plus, it had the best internet service we found in all of Egypt. When we weren't working or exploring Aswan, we were able to enjoy a book on the sun deck, a much-appreciated luxury now that we were about to go back home to wintertime. The captain and crew were very welcoming, and if we're ever back in Aswan, this is where we'll stay.

Anakob
Anakob

Abu Simbel

Day trip ☀

The magnificent temple of Abu Simbel is a three-and-a-half-hour ride away from Aswan, and it's a worthwhile excursion. Abu Simbel is a massive temple (yet another megalomaniac enterprise commissioned by Ramses II) that was originally carved into the banks of the Nile but was later moved to another site in an impressive coordinated international effort to prevent it from being submersed under rising waters.

  • Price:
    • Temple ticket: 250 EGP
    • Transportation: For a private car which could take up to 3 people, we paid 2100 EGP. The price we were told for a shared minivan was 700 EGP per person. However, we arranged this directly with our AirBnB host, and there might be places offering nicer prices.
  • Duration: Visiting this site is a day trip, as it takes at least 7 hours in the car and at least 1 hour at the temple. If you leave Aswan early in the morning, you may be able to return in time to enjoy the evening there.
Abu Simbel Temple complex in Aswan, Egypt, featuring colossal statues of Ramesses II.
Spot the people on this photo to get an idea of the scale of the statues
Corridor with tall statues of pharaohs
A bird rests on the entrance to the thomb, partially hidden in the shadow.
The two temples of Abu Simbel, with the smallest one closer and larger on the background
Entrance to the smaller temple in Abu Simbel, containing six statues twice taller than the entrance
Details of the interior of the temple, columns adorned with hieroglyphs and faces carved on the stone
The corridor at the entrance of the smaller temple, with adorned columns on the side and paintings on the opposite wall
Close up on the entrance to the large temple of Abu Simbel, with four gigantic statues sitting on thrones guarding the entrance

Thanks to Rita and João for letting us crash this trip. To Farida, Luís, and Mateo, it was such a pleasure to meet you, I plan to see you all again somewhere around the world. I barely knew any of you before this and you were all amazing travel buddies. It's been over a year and I still laugh thinking about Farida translating that the security guards at the airport were making fun of my rice, or about Mateo taking a couple of days to realize that Pedro's name wasn't Diego.

To Pedro Cioga, credit is due for many of the photos on this post. Thank you 🧡

Estimated Costs
Per person, for 1 month and a half

Accomodation

270

Transportation

850

Includes: international and domestic flights, taxis/Ubers, transfers between cities

Eating out

275

Supermarket

120

Diving

700

Includes: Open Water Diving certification + 4 dives (2 Discovery Scuba Diving, 2 Certified)

Tourist attractions

350

Miscellaneous

125

Includes: Visa, vaccines and medication, souvenirs, etc.

Total2690/ personAverage: €67 per person per day