Egypt

Why We Love It

My absolute favourite country in the world is Egypt. It has such an awesome atmosphere – apparent from the first minute you touch down in crazy Cairo Airport. The country’s unique culture and go-ahead spirit surrounds and envelopes you – no wonder visitors have been flocking to Egypt for centuries, often returning time and time again. Many, like me, even live there for a while! Two things hit you pretty much immediately. First – the people are so friendly, welcoming and proud to show you their country. And second, Egypt offers an eclectic, unbeatable mix of the ancient, medieval Islamic and modern Arabic cultures. The ancient monuments really are awe-inspiring. Documentaries and coffee-table books can never do them justice. Each monument has amazing symmetry and the colours on some of the reliefs are still there. Even after 3000 years! Life in Egypt’s south seems to be timeless, never-changing. Farmers still till the fertile land next to the Nile; donkeys and carts are still used in time-honoured fashion. Wander around towns here and you’ll find the locals passing time as their ancestors did: in one of the many ahwas (coffee houses), sipping mint tea or strong Turkish coffee, puffing on a shisha pipe, playing backgammon and trading news. Sailing down the Nile in a felucca (sail boat) is one experience that certainly shouldn’t be missed – so peaceful, a great way to see some of ancient Egypt’s finest sights. The Nile may be Egypt’s backbone, but the country’s also got so many unmissable experiences away from the river. The mountainous Sinai peninsula is beautiful – a rugged, desolate, stunning land. And its coastal area, including laidback Dahab, is a fantastic place to chill out, eat great food and try some world-class snorkelling and diving. Meanwhile, on the opposite side of the country, the Western Desert is home to unforgettable scenery – make sure you catch one of the desert’s amazing sunsets – and friendly people in oasis towns. And then there’s Cairo. From cutting-edge bars, adventurous restaurants, to and pharaonic icons and medieval Islamic architecture straight out of 1001 Nights, Cairo serves up an addictive, dizzying mix. The Khan al-Khalili bazaar has as much hustle and bustle as you could hope for, just watch out for donkeys pulling carts full of fresh vegetables, or boys on bicycles balancing huge baskets of pita bread on their heads. Gloriously chaotic on first arrival, after a while, you figure out how Cairo works, and you find yourself easily, happily slipping into the rhythms of the city, and indeed the country.