Beyond sphinxes and sarcophagi

The surprising delights of Egypt

From the majestic banks of the glittering, emerald Nile to the mad bustle of Khan el-Khalili souk, you don’t have to visit Egypt’s tombs to discover its many treasures. There are some sights and sensations that every first time visitor to the country should experience. First Choice is just one of many holiday makers that fly out to the magical lands, so saddle up your camel, and pad out over the sands to discover the gems hiding amid Egypt’s desert dunes.

The markets

To the cries of haggling, beseeching stallholders, through a souk sewn with the scents of a thousand, stained glass spices, the typical Egyptian bazaar waltzes visitors off their feet. Treat tired soles to a pair of leather slippers, or buy beautiful, intricate silks. Embrace tradition with the purchase of a breezy jalabiya, or jangling, twinkling silver and glass bracelets. Just remember to haggle- it’s not only customary; it’s expected.

The food

So much is made of Egypt’s ancient culture, that some of its more extraordinary, everyday attributes are forgotten about, one of which is its cuisine. Egyptian food dates back almost 5000 years, older than its pyramids, and today is characterised by a melting pot of different influences. Typical dishes are vegetable-heavy; thanks to the long-fertile banks of the Nile. Its best dishes; baba ghanoush, falafel and mahshi, are sold on the streets, rather than in restaurants. Be judicious when choosing where to pick up some lunch, and you’ll find the cuisine a daily voyage of pleasant discovery throughout your stay.

The natural sights

Egypt isn’t all one monochromatic sandstorm of golden dunes and dusty pyramids. Surrounding the Red Sea coastline, turquoise waters and lush coral reefs unveil a thousand different colours of whisking, rainbow fish, as startling as the sunsets that plunge below its glittering horizon. Resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh and Dahab are some of the best places to discover underwater treasure in the world, so grab a snorkel and dive on in: the water’s lovely.

Rich, Bedouin culture, bright clothes, bustling cities, tranquil oases: Egypt has so much more to offer visitors than crowded temples and tombs. When visiting this extraordinary country, be alive to the many surprise delights that will make your holiday unique.

Images by V Manninen and Edsel Little, used under the Creative Commons license.