Travel back in time and experience the mystique that Egypt has to offer, full of history and awe-inspiring sites that could only be a result of highly intelligent humans, who were clearly way ahead of their time. The country's capital Cairo is the ideal place to start to fully immerse yourself in the culture.

Steeped in history, the city itself surrounds the River Nile, the longest river in the world. The capital is the hub of the country, with an astounding population of over nine million, making it the largest city in Egypt. Here you will be able to see The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, two of the most famous architectural structures from the ancient world that are still around today.

We are able to get there in just under five hours from London, making it a manageable trip. There is also the option while there to travel on to Luxor to absorb more of the country’s culture, where you will be able to see sites such as the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings. Flights are just over an hour, so you will be there before you know it. While many are unsure as to whether Egypt is safe for tourists, it is currently coloured green by the UK Foreign Office. Luckily there are no warnings against travelling to the main tourist attractions in Cairo and Luxor.

Captivating Cairo

Expect luxury when you stay five-star in Cairo. Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at The First Residence is at the centre of everything and overlooks the Nile and the Giza Pyramids depending on your room, with beautiful views day or night, making it the ideal place to stay. The hotel also boasts a shopping mall with three floors of high-end, luxury boutiques, and a swimming pool where you can cool down after all the sightseeing. The spa is another great facility, which will help you unwind while enjoying some Ancient Egyptian beauty rituals that you would not find elsewhere.

The main attraction in Cairo is the Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx, which are what the country is known for, being one of the most astonishing remains of Ancient Egypt. The Pyramids themselves are listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient World, which comes as no surprise, as the way they were built still remains a mystery today. There are many theories as to how and who built the Pyramids. Some believe they are as a result of slavery by order of the Pharaoh, while others are of the view that this could not have been the case and that they must have been constructed by skilled workers who received a salary. Most of the theories as to how they were built are based on the moving of giant blocks of limestone using a pulley system. However it was done, it is agreed by the majority that the Egyptians were simply way ahead of their time, seriously skilled and hard-working people whose creations can now be admired in today’s Egypt.

There is evidence to suggest that the workforce was made up of 10,000 people dedicating a total of 30 years to each pyramid. This really puts into context the sheer volume of work and precision that it took to make these three fascinating structures. With the body of a lion and the head of a human, the Sphinx lies exactly along the east-west axis of the Giza necropolis, missing its nose and beard. The beast is estimated to be 4,500 years old, and due to weathering caused by the sands surrounding it, the mystical creature’s head was the only thing showing for many thousands of years until it was discovered by the Pharaoh Thutmose IV, who worked with a team to free the statue from the sands of time that had taken over the structure. The word ‘Sphinx’ is derived from the Greek word ‘to squeeze’. However their version of the beast had wings, and a woman’s head. Greek mythology tells of the Sphinx who would strangle anyone who could not answer her riddle.

Setting off into the Sunset

In Cairo, it is possible to visit the two sites by camel ride. The ideal time would be as the sun is rising and setting, at the two coolest points of the day. Do be prepared to barter for your camel ride to avoid being overcharged. Egypt’s culture is similar to Morocco, just over the Straits of Gibraltar, which many of you may be used to already. Some may choose to ask their hotel to arrange the ride for them, but be aware that they will likely charge you higher fees than if you arranged it yourself. Either way, haggling is part of the fun.

Mummies at the Museum

Relish in a section at the Cairo Museum dedicated exclusively to King Tutankhamun, child royalty who ascended to the throne at the mere age of nine. He married his half-sister, who became pregnant twice, both with girls, but unfortunately both resulted in stillbirths.

It is unsure as to how the King died, but he did have several deformities. He was unable to move his head due to all seven vertebrae in his back being fused together. Several canes were found in his tomb, leading to the assumption that he had difficulty walking. Some speculate that he was assassinated, as his remains suggest that he had a serious infection in his leg caused by an injury. The actual cause, however, remains a mystery. Today, many of his belongings can be viewed in the Museum, including his gold mask made of 11kg of solid gold.

The Museum itself was broken into in 2011 during the Egyptian Revolution. Many artifacts were stolen and two mummies were damaged. Since then a treasure hunt has taken place to try and recover the missing pieces, with 25 of 50 objects being restored to their rightful home, including two statues of King Tutankhamun and a mummy of a child.

Mummification was a process that was unique to Ancient Egypt, where it was believed that in order to move on to the afterlife, their body needed to be preserved. This involved embalming the body before wrapping it in linen bandages. Prior to this, all organs were removed and preserved apart from the heart, which was considered important for the next life. The brain was not deemed necessary and was discarded. There is a Mummy Room at the Museum, which you will have to pay extra to access, where you can see what Egyptians looked like 3,000 years ago. Alternatively there are mummified animals to view with a general admission ticket. These were the beloved pets of the living, which were preserved in the hope that they would follow them on to the afterlife, and keep them company there as they had done on Earth. The most common animals include cats, dogs, monkeys, birds and gazelles.

Luxor; A Labyrinth of History

Get lost in Luxor’s open-air museum, otherwise known as the Karnak Temple Complex. This large religious site, made up of approximately 200 acres of land, is where many came to worship. As with the Great Pyramids, you will be amazed by the sheer scale of some of these pylons, statues and temples that all congregate in this towering fortified village. It is popular, being ranked the second most visited attraction in Egypt. The site itself has been very popular in Hollywood, featuring in many movies such as Death on the Nile, Tomb Raider, and The Mummy Returns. The Great Hypostyle Hall is a popular feature of the Karnak Temple, made of 134 colossus columns, and named after its architectural pattern, which consists of a hall with a roof supported by columns. There is also a sacred lake on site, where barges would float during the Opet Festival. This took place annually, at a time when the Egyptians believed that the Earth and the Gods were tired and needed a boost at the end of the agricultural cycle.

Adventurous Activities

While in Luxor, be sure to stay at the Hilton Luxor Resort and Spa to continue that luxury streak you started back in Cairo. With over seven different bars and restaurants to choose from, you will be spoilt for choice. There are many things to do while in the area, including a trip to the Souks, where you will be able to wander around and put your new found haggling skills to good use, picking up some unique souvenirs to take back home. Some great finds include leather slippers, geometric jewellery boxes, and glass sand bottles. Just be sure to wrap things up carefully when you pack them to take home!

Hot air balloons are also a popular activity, with the best time to take your trip being at sunrise. See the ancient land from the skies, and enjoying looking down on all the temples and historical sites, which will be pointed out to you by your guide. Bedouin campfire picnics really are a special experience too, where you will be able to immerse yourself in the culture of these truly amazing people. Also known as desert nomads, Bedouins live in the depths of the desert where they usually receive less than five cm of rain water a year. Difficult for us to imagine here where, when it rains, it pours! Join them in their habitat for a campfire picnic to really feel like part of the tribe, where you will be able to enjoy some tasty Egyptian food and if you are lucky enough they may even play you some music, usually involving a clarinet and some haunting chants, which is typical in Arabic culture.

Valley of the Kings

Buried deep within a rocky landscape is the Valley of the Kings, where, as the name suggests, the last resting place of all the Kings of Egypt can be found. Today there are 62 tombs in total and the mass influx of tourists over the years has worn away many of the original features such as paintings, due to carbon dioxide, friction caused by footsteps and… wait for it… perspiration. Each visitor produces approximately 2.8g of moistue when entering the tombs, given the sweltering heat in the desert. This only causes people to want to visit them even more before the original features disappear completely. Of course, every effort is being made to preserve these by introducing glass screens and dehumidifiers in the tombs that have been affected the most. Bear this in mind when you are reminded not to take photographs in the tombs, as the flash does contribute to the damage over time.

The most famous King of Egypt, Tutankhamun’s mummy can be found within a climate-controlled case to protect him from the elements. When it was discovered by Howard Carter back in 1922, his remains were already badly affected, maybe from the sheer amount of belongings that were in the coffin with him including jewellery and his famous gold mask, which can today be seen in the Cairo Museum. The Valley of the Queens also lies nearby, where wives of the Pharaohs were buried. Here, there are approximately 75 tombs, with four open to the public for viewing, one belonging to Nefertiti, one of the most famous queens of the ancient world. She was depicted as a powerful woman, having equal status to that of a king, usually riding in a chariot. Both tomb sites were added by UNESCO to the World Heritage List in 1979.

Tagines and Falafel

The food in Egypt is an eclectic mix of beans, spices, tagines and vegetables with rabbit and pigeon being common meats here. while many of the locals choose to stay away from alcohol due to their religion, which is mainly Islamic, the most popular drink is beer and is readily available. Local dishes include kushari, a high carb choice with macaroni, rice and lentils blended together and topped with fried onions, tomato sauce and chickpeas with plenty of spices to add flavour. This dish dates back to the 19th century, and naturally was popular with labourers who needed a good meal before a long day of physical toil. Try bissara, which is eaten as either a soup or a dip for pitta bread. The main ingredient in this dish is dried broad beans, with spices, olive oil and lemon juice. Falafel, kofta and shawarma kebabs are also popular dishes in Egypt, so expect to tuck into these during your time here.

Arabian Nights

Egyptian nightlife is buzzing, full of dancing and celebration from the locals. Belly dancing is popular here, with plenty of shows available to enjoy over dinner. Most hotels offer this as part of the evening entertainment. Beware however, as the dancers like to encourage audience participation, so get your glad rags on in anticipation of a good boogie! These is the option to catch some belly dancing on the Nile Pharaoh’s Cruising Restaurant which is conveniently situated just behind the Four Seasons in Cairo. Not only will you have a delicious meal and entertainment for the evening, you will also enjoy some fantastic views of the Nile at night. Alternatively, visit Crimson Cairo, a rooftop bar and restaurant with a great atmosphere, where you can take in the sights from a different angle.

In Luxor, should you be in the mood for some food closer to home, The King’s Head Pub serves salads, jacket potatoes, burgers and pizzas, but with an Egyptian spin, such as their chicken shawarma with mash and local brew, Sakara Gold. Hopefully this will help you get back into the frame of mind of heading home, as once you have visited this beautiful ancient world, you really will find it hard to leave.