Egypt was exhausting. Fantastic amount of history, but oh my goodness exhausting. We spent about 10 days, excluding fly days, tromping around multiple cities in Egypt and I feel like we barely skimmed the surface given the vast amount of history. Egypt is considered the start of history (compared to prehistoric times) since they were the folks who write down what happened in hieroglyphics. Egyptian history spans back not only hundreds, but thousands of years. The fun fact on Egypt to put it in perspective: We are closer in time to Cleopatra than Cleopatra was to King Tut. Mind blown. Also, don’t mention Cleopatra while you’re in Egypt, people do not like her because she wasn’t even an Egyptian woman. More on that later… Check out the 10 day itinerary we followed ahead of your next Egypt trip.

Day 1

  • Location: Dallas to London To Cairo, Egypt
  • Accommodations: Le Riad
  • Activities: Dinner at Le Riad and crash after a long flight
  • Breakfast: N/A
  • Lunch: N/A
  • Dinner: Le Riad

After flying from Dallas to London to Egypt, we were wiped out. Memphis Tours was the company we opted for on our Egypt journey as we’ve heard repeatedly that a tour company is the way to go. Once we arrived in Cairo, our tour manager was waiting for us and shepherded us to the hotel in Old Cairo. In the van ride over we got the lowdown on how the private tours worked and what to expect in the days to come. It was a very similar vibe to what we saw in Turkey, where there is a bit of sales tactics employed to become your friend. Overall, we were very impressed with how easy Memphis Tours made it for us but keep your eye on those tour managers to prevent being upsold on excursions.

Day 2

  • Location: Cairo
  • Accommodations: Le Riad
  • Activities: Pyramids of Giza, Photoshoot at the Pyramids, Camel Ride, Sphynx, Cartush shop, Papyrus shop, Step Pyramid at Saqqara, Valley Temple (belonging to the Pyramid of Chefren), Sphinx of Memphis, Carpet Shop, Giza Pyramid Sound & Light Show
  • Breakfast:  Le Riad
  • Lunch: Restaurant Pharous
  • Dinner: Abou Shakra

Our first real day in Cairo was mind-blowing; starting the day at the Giza Pyramids and seeing some of the oldest artifacts in the world. Our guide Mervet and driver took us all over town in a personal van, giving us the scoop while in the protection of the shaded and airconditioned vehicle. What we were surprised by was being allowed to climb up on the very lowest blocks of the pyramid. We assumed it was a no touch zone, but us along with all the other tourists were invited to clammer over the steps and stand on part of it.

What we didn’t expect was the photoshoot our guide signed us up for. An entrepreneur friend of hers takes pictures by the pyramid on tourists’ phone for tips. We are the typical arm around each other and smile couple, but all of a sudden we were shooting mini movies, looking into the distance with our arms crossed, etc. Not an Instagram famous person, but I could see the appeal for folks who want to get many ~instagram worthy pics~.

The camel ride is touristy but do not miss out on it. It was so fun and spectacular to ride a camel around the pyramids. The rest of the day was a blur visiting tombs and the step pyramid among little shops we were shuttled to. Our first day we did purchase our goal souvenir – a rug!

One excursion / upsell to skip – the Pyramids Light & Sound show. It was super cheesy and expensive for the value. I would opt for a restaurant with a view of the pyramids that night and just enjoy a glass of wine overlooking it.

Day 3

A 3am wakeup call started our day in Cairo to get on a local flight out to Luxor. This is arguably one of the coolest days we had on the trip seeing Karnak, Luxor Temple and Avenue of Sphynxes. Karnak was a stranger Hodge podge of architecture than I could’ve imagined, with each successive ruler trying to put their own spin on the temple by adding on each time. The columns inside Karnak are hard to conceptualize in size. Our guide Mohammad was telling us that 100 people could stand comfortably on the top of a column, that is how large the diameter is, and there are 100+ columns inside Karnak! These Egyptians are go big or go home.

Luxor Temple was an undercover surprise as well, with an interesting structure, massive figures and partially converted into a modern day mosque. We were trashed after a 3am wakeup call, so by the end of the Luxor day our resolve was at a low point and we were talked into the “Luxor by Night” horse drawn carriage. It felt like poverty tourism and was quite uncomfortable, wouldn’t recommend. There are many more opportunities to take a horse carriage that aren’t poverty tourism.

Day 4

The Nile Cruise was easily my favorite part of the trip, and Memphis / M.S. Salacia did a great job with dining and happy hours on the boat. Each day our routine was to have breakfast and be out the door by 7 or 8am with the group, and back on the boat to sail by 12 or 1pm. It was an action packed morning each and every day. For Luxor Day 2, we went to Valley of the Kings, a spectacular excavation area of hundreds of Egyptian ruler’s tombs. We were stunned by the hieroglyphics and painted walls being in such great condition and preserved for thousands of years. While the ticket comes with 3 tombs, we paid for an additional one and had to practice calming breaths descending down into the tomb packed with tourists.

One great lesson (of many) from our tour guide was that of Hatshepsuit. We visited her temple right after Valley of the Kings and she was one of the greatest rulers of Egypt. She dressed up like a man to appease the people she ruled, but it was a time marked with peace, expanding trade operations, and wealth for Egyptians. Our guide was very passionate about telling her story and how Cleopatra is nowhere near the greatness of Hatshepsuit.

Day 5

Wakeup, temple, haul back to boat, cruise, repeat. The Temple of Horus in Edfu was a raucous start to the day. The typical form of transportation is to take a horse drawn carriage from the boat to the temple and back. Some horses are better taken care of than others, but the way our guide tried to manage the safety was limit carriages to 2 people per horse. Some let you pack in the people, but for one horse it isn’t the safest.

The interesting part about the Temple of Horus was the mashup of Egyptian/Greek/Roman influence. You can see over all the temples you visit the different occupations and stylistic elements from other cultures. Each temple follows the same basic formula where each progressive chamber or area is for higher ranking or holier people. The unique aspect that Temple of Horus offered was that it was dual chambered and served as two temples in one.

We hoped back on the boat and sailed to the next temple, Temple of Kom Ombo. The fun fact of Kom Ombo is that it depicts in greater detail the medical practices of the time, from surgeries, babies being born and medicines used. This was unusual because most of the drawings and hieroglyphics in temples were telling stories of great leaders winning battles and the usual “history told by the winners” type of messaging.

Day 6

  • Location: Aswan
  • Accommodations: M.S. Salacia
  • Activities: High Dam, Philae Temple, Essential Oils shop, Unfinished Obelisk, Coptic Orthodox Cathedral of the Archangel Michael, drinks at The Old Cataract Hotel
  • Breakfast:  M.S. Salacia
  • Lunch: M.S. Salacia
  • Dinner: M.S. Salacia

We reached our final destination on the Nile Cruise in Aswan. Likely my favorite temple, Philae Temple was a boat ride, bus ride, and water taxi ride to get to. It is on an island off Aswan and tourists can only get there by boat. While the temple was in a fun location on the water and beautiful motifs all around the structure, we learned that most of the temples were relocated with the building of the modern High Dam. Over the span of a few years while the High Dam was built, Egyptologists and other scientists were actively taking down temples and rebuilding them several miles away as the dam created a huge lake and would’ve drowned almost all of the temples along the river banks. It is a very interesting process over a short timeframe that these temples were saved, and even UNESCO helped out financially to make it happen. It does make me curious what history is now underwater and never discovered before the dam was built.

We wrapped up the day at The Old Cataract Hotel, famous for where Agatha Christie wrote her book Death on the Nile. It was beautiful, especially having a glass of wine on the balcony along the Nile but know that you’ll pay a high dollar for those drinks and get bad service. It is a touristy place after all!

Day 7

  • Location: Aswan to Abu Simbel to Cairo
  • Accommodations: Le Riad
  • Activities: Early morning drive out to the Two temples of Abu Simbel, flight back to Cairo, stroll through Khan el-Khalili
  • Breakfast:  M.S. Salacia
  • Lunch: Aswan Airport
  • Dinner: Naguib Mahfouz

Another 3am start to the day, we were shuttled off the boat with a bread box for breakfast and onto a van to make the 3.5hr drive to Abu Simbel, which is only 10 kilometers from Sudan. If it had been any other temple, I would’ve skipped it given the 7 hours of driving in a single day, but Abu Simbel is beyond comparison. The pro move is to fly in privately or take an even more extended Nile cruise to enjoy the trip down if you have more time. The pictures simply don’t do it justice – it was Ramses’ shrine to himself and then separately, his favorite wife.

After a brief 1hr walk about, we got on the van to go straight to Aswan airport. Back in Cairo, we strolled through the Old Cairo marketplace (Khan el-Khalili) to get to a famous restaurant for traditional Egyptian cuisine.

Day 8

  • Location: Cairo
  • Accommodations: Le Riad
  • Activities: Egyptian Museum, Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque, Salah El Din Citadel, The Hanging Church, Saint George’s Church, Roman Tower, Fortress of Babylon
  • Breakfast:  Le Riad
  • Lunch: Tajoury Oriental Restaurant
  • Dinner: Le Riad

Back in the hustle bustle that is Cairo, we wrapped up our tourist spots by visiting the twin of Turkey’s Blue Mosque and Coptic Christian Cairo. At this point in the trip, we were being carted along and barely hanging in there. From the start it was GO GO GO and the final truly tourist day in Cairo we were slogging along. We didn’t end up seeing two museums on our list: National Museum of Egyptian Civilization and Gayer Anderson Museum. If you can find ample amounts of caffeine and can hit those, please let me know and I will give you all the praise for managing to see it after a busy trip.

It was fun to see Coptic Cairo as a Christian myself, since Egypt is a predominately Muslim country. The depictions of Jesus were interspersed with mosaics of current leaders and you could really see the mosque style elements mixed with Christian church structures. It is really neat to see multiple religions coexisting together.

Day 9

  • Location: Cairo to Alexandria to Cairo
  • Accommodations: Le Riad
  • Activities: Qaitbay Fort & Citadel, New Alexandria Library, Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, Serapeum and Pompey’s Pillar
  • Breakfast:  Le Riad
  • Lunch: Fish Market
  • Dinner: N/A

One last day trip on our itinerary was to Alexandria, another 3 hour drive one way. At this point, we were toast. Alexandria is cool from a Roman / Greek / Mediterranean influence perspective, but the majority of history you will see along the Nile Cruise and in Cairo itself. We loved the clean sea air and sea bass we ate at lunch time. If you don’t have time, you could easily skip without FOMO. The catacombs were the highlight, but a tough sell for 6 hours of driving.

The funny part of the day was driving by an Egyptian “5 Star” prison according to our driver. He got a chuckle out of saying it because all the white collar criminals go to that particular prison between Cairo and Alexandria. Eventually Egypt is building a train between the two cities, but that is still several years, if not decades, away.

Day 10

  • Location: Cairo
  • Accommodations: Conrad Cairo
  • Activities: Nile Corniche, Massage, happy hour at Conrad
  • Breakfast:  Le Riad
  • Lunch: N/A
  • Dinner: St. Regis J&G Steakhouse

Our final day in Cairo we chilled. We were throwing around the idea of hitting Gayer Anderson or the other museum we missed, but at the end of the day we decided an actual relaxing vacation day is just what we needed. We enjoyed strolling along the fancy Nile Corniche with the high end hotels, and really took it easy getting a massage and having a steak dinner. We really noticed the difference between our first hotel, located in Old Cairo, compared to our big brand hotel along the Nile Corniche. Old Cairo is alcohol free and filled with culture and markets, but it was nice to have a quiet space on the last night.

Day 11: Fly home!

 Anything you did on your Egypt trip that we missed? I’d love to hear about it!

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Posted by:Allie

3 replies on “The Ultimate 10 Days in Egypt Itinerary

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