This week, Big in Japan is on vacation in the Middle East, and will be bringing you travel news and happenings from around this often misunderstood region.
Home to the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, namely the Great Pyramids of Giza, Egypt is the original tourist destination. While the Greeks were writing epics and the Romans conquering civilizations, powerful Egyptian dynasties had long come and gone. Indeed, ancient Upper and Lower Egypt were some of the most sophisticated and complex civilizations to have ever existed on the planet.
The Great Pyramids are nearly always at the top of the most tourist itineraries in Egypt. Indeed, a camel trek through the desert plains of Giza is a memorable experience, assuming of course you ignore the fact that pyramids themselves are now located across from a KFC!
But, there are plenty of things you can do in Egypt that don’t involve pyramids. Although this list is by no means expansive, here are our top 5 suggestions for getting the most out of your Egyptian odyssey.
1) Cruise the Nile - The lifeblood of Africa is the Nile River, which has fostered civilizations for several millennia. Generally regarded as the longest river in the world (though the Amazon may in fact have it beat!), a cruise along the palm-fringed banks of the Nile is a quintessential Egyptian experience – particularly memorable is the stretch from Aswan to Luxor.
2) Visit Abu Simbel – While you’re down in Aswan, don’t miss Abu Simbel, two massive rock temples that were carved out of a mountainside by Pharaoh Ramesses II and Queen Nefertari in the 13th century BC. Remarkably, the entire complex was relocated in 1the 960s following flooding caused by the construction of the Aswan dam. The temple is also located near the Sudanese border, which definitely gives you some serious travel bragging rights!
3) Summit Mt. Sinai – Regardless of your religious beliefs, few can resist the magnetic attraction of the fabled mountain where Moses is reported to have received the Ten Commandments. Start your climb in the late evening (bring a flashlight!) so that you can reach the summit in time for what will most likely be the most spiritual sunrise of your life!
4) Dive the Blue Hole – Also on the Sinai Peninsula is the backpacker friendly town of Dahab, which has been dubbed the ‘Koh Samui of the Middle East.’ Even if you’re not a die-hard fan of banana cakes, the SCUBA diving here is tops, especially the infamous Blue Hole. The site of an enormous limestone sink hole, the Blue Hole drops to dizzyingly deep depths that challenge even the most advanced divers.
5) Visit the Pyramids – OK, we lied…well, not exactly. While most tourists in Cairo are dodging touts at the Great Pyramids of Giza, savvy travelers are exploring the ‘Other Pyramids,’ namely the Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid at Dahshur. Located in the Giza Plateau beyond the Cairo city limits, these remote pyramids are virtually untouristed, yet in many ways are more striking than their more famous counterparts.
Intrigued by the Middle East? Want to know more about this often misunderstood region? Check out previous posts on the top sights in Dubai, a how-to-guide for would-be travelers in the Palestinian West Bank, reasons why Jerusalem is holier than thou and how to reenact Indiana Jones at Petra in Jordan.
** Big in Japan will soon be returning home to Tokyo, so stay tuned for more on the weird, wonderful and wacky world of Japanland **