Linking northeast Africa with the Middle East, Egypt has a long and well documented history. It began back when the pharaohs decided to create monuments along the Nile River as well as in Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. Those monuments have ensured that even today, the pharaohs of yesteryear are never forgotten.
Over the years, layer after layer of this ancient civilization has been uncovered. This has allowed modern man to get an interesting glimpse of a people that counted hieroglyphs, mummies and the aforementioned pyramids as an important part of the life and death process. At this time, it is best to stay away from some areas of Egypt such as northern Sinai due to the government’s push against terrorism. However, other parts of the country are open and happy to welcome tourists. This is a wonderful time to visit Cairo and the Giza Pyramids since the crowds are not as heavy as they have been in years past.
Just in case you were wondering, tourists are no longer allowed to climb on the pyramids. The reasons are many, but include the overall danger of falling, and the negative impact on the monuments themselves. It is also recommended that visitors arrive at the location of the Giza Pyramids, which is about a 25-minute ride out of Cairo, at opening time. This is to avoid busloads of tourists, which begin to arrive equally early. In the summer the heat will keep you from spending too much time, but the earlier in the morning the better for optimum viewing.
One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and the only one left, the Great Pyramid of Cheops was at one point 479-feet-high towering in its glory. Over the centuries, the Great Pyramid has lost 30-feet from its height, but is no less awe-inspiring with its two million-plus pieces of stone used for construction. There is a museum next to the Great Pyramid which provides a look at some of the unique items that were buried with the Pharaoh. Look also for the smaller pyramids of Chephren and Mycerinus, the latter standing about 203-feet high.
You won’t miss the Great Sphinx, a human-headed lion with an obscure history that has been lost in time. The Sphinx was said to be carved from just one piece of stone. True or not, rumors have persisted for centuries about this megalith monument.
In the evening, the Pyramids Sound and Light Show is a fun tourist experience. To begin, the voice of the Sphinx narrates the show, detailing the history of the Giza Plateau and Egypt. The historical facts may not completely add up, but the laser display is worth the time.
Horseback or camel rides
Before even considering a camel or horseback ride, take a good look at how the animal is being treated by the stable and/or owner. The chance to ride a camel at the Giza Pyramids is an experience that can’t be repeated, but take precautions. For those not familiar with camels, these animals can be cranky. The spitting and bumpy ride just goes along with the moment. You can also get some amazing photos from the back of a camel or horse at a vantage point farther out in the desert. Consider a sunset ride on the back of a camel to see the beauty of the pyramids at this special time of day. Ask your hotel concierge for the best stable offering a sunset ride experience.
When to go
The best time to visit Egypt is usually from November to March. This includes for a Nile cruise since there is very little rain in the Nile Valley at this time. It is best to skip the summer months for a visit because it can be very hot and dry.
The country of Egypt makes it relatively easy to obtain an Egyptian Visa. Travelers need either a Tourist Visa good for up to three months with a single or multiple entry designation; Entry Visa for travelers visiting Egypt for work or study or to move to the country; or the Transit Visa required for some travelers passing through Egypt temporarily. Visas are normally obtained at the consular’s offices in the United States. It is also possible for travelers to obtain a one month single entry visa for $25 at the first point of entry into the country. For more information, visit: www.egypt.travel