When You Go to Egypt—A Quick Primer

So you’re going to Egypt? Congratulations! You’ll be walking on the land of Pharaohs! Egypt is an excellent destination for anyone who geeks out on the history of ancient civilizations. Ancient Egypt was on the forefront of education, military strategies, medicine, science, architecture and the arts. Evan Andrews shares on History.com that it “created a culture so rich that it has spawned its own field of study.”

In the Bible, we find that Egypt became home to the Israelites for 430 years. Joseph, one of Jacob’s twelve sons, became prime minister of Egypt and paved the way for his family to settle and multiply in Goshen.

JosephPrimeMinister

Photo illustration from Pinterest

Egypt was also the setting of the Exodus. After being mistreated for 400 years, Moses, a native Hebrew who was raised in the Egyptian palace was prepared and used by God to bring His people out of the land of slavery.

MosesExodusPrinceOfEgypt

Image from the Prince of Egypt movie

In the New Testament, Joseph had to take Mary and little Jesus to live in Egypt for a while after he was warned in a dream not to return to Israel because King Herod was looking for Jesus to have Him killed.

Edwin_Longsden_Long_-_Anno_Domini

Painting by Edwin Long, Anno Domini, 1883.

Egypt has an estimated population of almost 86 million. It is a largely Muslim country with a very small percentage of Coptic Catholic, Orthodox Christian and Coptic Orthodox.

Just how large is Egypt? Egypt is a transcontinental country, meaning it covers more than one continent. A huge part of Egypt is in Africa but the Sinai area is in Asia.

Now that you’re acquainted with Egypt, here are some FAQs:

What is the climate like?

It’s generally warm and dry during the day but gets really cold in the evening, just like any desert country.

What should I bring and what should I wear?

Since Egypt is a largely Muslim country, part of respecting their culture and beliefs is to dress modestly. As such, do not go walking around and visiting their tourist sites dressed in skimpy clothing–no shorts, no spaghetti straps, tank tops or anything that exposes too much skin. Depending on what time of the year you plan to go, it would be helpful to bring a windbreaker or a light sweater. Since there’s a lot of walking involved, jeans, cargo pants and sneakers would be most comfortable. Also bring a scarf which you can use to shield your head or cover your face in case it gets too windy and the sand flies up from the ground.

Sunglasses are a definite must-have to shade your eyes, plus an umbrella and sunblock to protect your skin. Bring a reusable water bottle that you can refill with clean water when you get back to your hotel or when you stop by restaurants. .

Is it better to go there alone or with a group? Is it safe?

I went with a tour group. I know that it would be an entirely different experience to go there alone and plan my itinerary. I might decide to do that once I’m done ticking off the other countries on my list, so that would probably take a while.

Given my limited knowledge of Arabic, I think that it’s better to go with a group and to also find a local guide. Their history is so rich, I think your trip would be more meaningful if you have a licensed and information-savvy tour guide who can answer your questions and give you your fill of Ancient Egyptian history. Having a licensed guide will also protect you from over-charging vendors and even extortionists who may prey on tourists.

Where can I find good licensed Egyptian tour guides?

Our tour guides were from Meryland Tours. I was very pleased with Dr. Ashraf Moussa (his nickname is Moses) who communicated well in English and was very much in touch with current events. He is knowledgeable in history and culture, naturally funny and kindly urged us to get going specially when we were already spending too much time in our mini photo shoots! I know he wanted us to cover as many places as we could.

Marco on the other hand, assisted us as soon as we landed at the Cairo Airport. He also took us through the midnight trek to Mt. Sinai and brought us to the border at Taba where we were to enter Israel from Egypt.

What are the must-see places?

A trip to Egypt is obviously not complete if you don’t stop by the Pyramids and the Sphinx (he is so going to visit you in your dreams haha). We were only in Egypt for three days so we were not able to go to Karnak, The Luxor Temple, Abu Simbel, Philae and Alexandria, among others.

Our first stop from the airport was the Egyptian Museum, which by the way is so huge, you can’t go through all the antiquities in just one day. Moses said that we needed three whole days to go through all the halls! They have an extensive collection of personal items and furniture found in tombs, clothing, armor, sarcophagi, mummies, ancient condoms, accessories and even bread! Mobile phones and cameras are not allowed inside the museums, so no selfies, no photographs of the artifacts. You truly must go and just experience it for yourself.

What kind of money should I bring?

US Dollars are accepted almost anywhere in Egypt but make sure you have a lot of smaller bills. If you’re one of those travelers who like keeping foreign currency as travel souvenirs, then have a few dollars exchanged for Egyptian pounds and coins. Bottled water (believe me, you need it!) costs $1-2 per piece and these are available at small stores or from your bus operator.


Are you all set and ready to walk like an Egyptian? If you have any other questions, you can shoot me an email at ingrid[at]ingridnieto.com.

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