Travel: Egyptian Adventure in Cairo, Luxor and the Red Sea

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Sitting in a rooftop bar on our first night in central Cairo, we enjoy our drinks with a view of the Nile, which turns pink as the sun sets. The view looks dreamy, until I glance over my shoulder to see the pyramids are right behind us, silhouetted against a hazy sky, and realize we’ve missed the main attraction from the beginning. This first night was a lesson for us. In Cairo, you’re never too far from an atmospheric view of the world’s oldest and most famous wonder.

The pyramids have captured the imagination for millennia. Almost unimaginably old, around 4,500 years to be exact, they serve as a constant physical connection to a world that seems both distant and remarkably familiar. Built by the pharaohs as their tombs and final resting place, they have come to represent the very beginnings of the civilization we enjoy today. Seeing them has to be on everyone’s bucket list, and we were beyond excited to get our first look.

The next morning we rode through the bustling streets of Cairo to Giza, following the pyramids that peeked between the towers. We arrived early in the morning and felt like we had them all to ourselves. It was magical.

Of course, there’s more to the Egyptian capital, from museums to markets to mosques. But one thing not to miss is the local favorite, a hot bowl of koshary. This carb-heavy dish features pasta, chickpeas, rice and lentils, smothered in a tangy tomato sauce with chilli, vinegar and crispy onions. It may sound dense, but it was deceptively more. The place to go for koshary is Abou Tarek, which with its green neon lights and chrome furniture feels like you’re stepping into the 80s, but the struggle to get a table shows just how popular this restaurant is.

Tutankhamun's burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings, near Luxor

Luxor: a historic step

The next stop on our Egyptian adventure was Luxor, a short hour flight from Cairo, and we stayed at the historic Sofitel Winter Palace, a property that was once Agatha Christie’s home as she explored Egypt. , and was where Sir Howard Carter announced the discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb to the world press 100 years ago. Speaking of the little king, we visited his final resting place in the Valley of the Kings in the West Bank, which dates back over 3,500 years and features some of the most spectacular archaeological finds ever discovered.

Of course, Tutankhamun is so famous that seeing him in (mummified) flesh seems rather surreal, but the best tomb examples are for some of the lesser-known kings. That of Seti I is the largest and liveliest, with murals adorning every inch of the hallways and rooms, so well preserved you can see the brushstrokes and chisel marks made by the craftsmen there all these years.

On the east bank and within Luxor city itself are the spectacular temples of Karnak and Luxor, which have recently been linked by a newly discovered 2.7 km avenue of ancient sphinxes. The city celebrated its opening in November, so now is the perfect time to walk its length and visit the two temples at either end.

Rixos Premium Magawish Suites & Villas Resort in Hurghada

Hurghada: time to relax

Then we dust off the Saharan sand and head to Hurghada to cool off in the Red Sea. Even here, there’s the chance to learn about Egyptian culture in Hurghada’s new museum, which is full of locally found artifacts dating back thousands of years. However, most tourists come to enjoy the clear blue waters and pristine golden beaches. We chose to stay at the five-star Rixos Premium Magawish Suites & Villas Resort, which since opening in 2021 has quickly established itself as the most upscale hotel in the area.

The suites are beautifully appointed, many with private pools and gardens, and it has six restaurants, the beautiful Anjana Spa, stables and private cabanas to ensure a luxurious beach break. As I gaze out to sea on my last evening, I recall our first night overlooking bustling Cairo and nothing could seem further from where we are now. But the Red Sea is part of the fabric of Egypt like any tomb or monument, and it was explored extensively by the ancients, providing the food and access to trade that helped build the Egyptian empire. For me, however, it’s the perfect relaxing end to my Egyptian adventure.

The Nile

How to get there

To travel internally between Luxor and Cairo, you can take a one-hour flight on Egypt Air, from £46 one-way. British Airways flies between Cairo and London Heathrow. Prices start at £230 each way.

Where to stay

The Sofitel Winter Palace in Luxor is £225 for a superior room-only room, and the winter rate is £205. Rixos Premium Magawish in Hurghada costs £496 for a Double Garden Suite per night and £745 for a Double Pool Villa per night. The Sheraton Cairo Hotel & Casino is located on the west bank of the Nile and is home to a complex of restaurants and bars. Rooms start at £124 per room per night only.

Activities and things to do

A sunset felucca ride starts at £25 pp. Entrance to the Egyptian Museum costs 200 Egyptian pounds (£9). Entrance to the Giza pyramids costs 200 Egyptian pounds (£9). Snorkeling in Hurghada starts at £25 pp including lunch with diving company Happy Dolphin. Entrance to the Hurghada Museum starts at £15 for adults. For more information on visiting Egypt, see egypt.travel

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