You don’t need to go luxe at Luxor or navigate the Nile in style. You can visit Nubian villages or hire a felucca for fun. Because budget trips do not mean compromising on culture. They might mean joining a small group tour at the last minute, or going on an overland trip between Egypt and, say, Jordan. So, forgo the thread count on your Egyptian sheets and see the countless Egyptian wonders instead.
Family trips to Egypt are the antithesis of dragging your kids to the British Museum to see the mummies. They can combine pyramids with PADI courses, Philae Temple with fun on a felucca and the Sphinx with snorkelling – with dolphin watching and dune boarding the icing on the cake. Great value to be had for families in Egypt right now too, with bargains available through our responsible holiday companies.
What the felucca? You have to love this word, just as you have to love the thing itself – a traditional wooden sailing boat used on the Nile and the Red Sea by for fishing and transport. And now mostly for fun. With growing concerns about cruise boat pollution, feluccas float freely through the flotsam, are often run by small, locally run enterprises, and stop at glorious sites along the river for essential cultural hits.
From March-Nov dolphins dance and dive around a horseshoe-shaped reef which is “zoned” to ensure boats don’t disturb them –only the curious come out to inspect the boats. Snorkel with dolphins, sea turtles and a huge variety of creatures here in safe, shallow bays. Check out responsible companies running highly supervised swimming with dolphin trips. Not theme park style, totally animal welfare style.
They aren’t just rated, they are Egypt. Immense, mystical, ancient, sometimes spooky, other times beautiful, transfixing for some, transformative for others. And yes very touristy, but less so at the moment as visitors numbers have dipped drastically post 2011 Uprising. There are over 100 pyramids across Egypt, but the trio at Giza the medal winners, gold, silver and bronze all glittering as the sunsets.
You don’t have to go to Sharm to scuba. Check out the joys of smaller places like Dahab for year round good diving. And shore based too, with the Red Sea dropping to great depths very quickly which makes this a great place for beginners and family diving holidays. It’s no amateur scene under water, however, with over 1,000 species of fish and 150 of coral. Always choose a responsible diving company.
Home to the famous Aswan Dam, infamous to the region’s indigenous Nubian people who were displaced only to watch their ancient homelands submerged into history when the dam was built in the 1960s. Their culture and language is re-emerging, however, with Aswan and its stunning environs home to villages, felucca trips and markets a must when you head to this, the Nubian beautiful south.
Built by Ramses II, these temples were totally dismantled and rebuilt when the Aswan Dam was built and Lake Nasser flooded. Now carved into the rock face and tunnelled into the hillside, rather than standing alone. People gather here annually on the eves of Oct 22 and Feb 22 to watch the rising sun illuminate just three out of four of their statues leaving the God of Darkness, Ptah, in the shadows.
A sterile land of ever-expanding infrastructure, which does nothing for its already very minimal appeal, Sharm El Sheikh is all about all-inclusive resorts and little else. Credit where credit’s due, it does have a fantastic array of dive spots, but so does Dahab, a much less developed spot which we highly recommend as an alternative.
Since the 2011 Uprising, security measures have become more stringent – camping in the White Desert is a no-go, as is visiting the midst of the Sinai Peninsula (but that’s been a no-go for more than a decade). Holiday companies are aware of this, which is one reason we highly recommend booking your trip through someone with an in depth and up to date knowledge of the region.
As well as the giant ones on the Nile, many of which have dubious environmental records, there are huge liners pulling into Alexandria and Port Said. Peak season is during the cooler months of October to May if you want to avoid the passenger onslaught at major sites. At Responsible Travel we believe that tourism is definitely one area where we do not need a bigger boat.
Everyone wants to do it, but be aware that many of the camels are mistreated, underfed and overworked. If they look skeletal or listless, then don’t use them. And if you are unhappy with the way they are treated, tell your tour operator. And tourist board, if necessary. They might get the hump – but it’s important they know that bad animal welfare practice isn’t on.