Beyond the Pyramids and Pharaohs: How to Experience Egypt Like a Local

Egypt is one of the top tourist destinations for a reason. It’s full of history, mystery, culture, and entertainment. There is just an endless number of things that you can do here. However, a lot of people that visit Egypt run to see the famous pyramids and explore the tombs of pharaohs — but don’t give anything else the chance to impress them. There’s so much more to this fascinating country than this. So if you want to experience Egypt like a local, and gain a deeper understanding of its rich history and culture — here are some tips that you should consider. (And remember, however you choose to visit Egypt, safety is still a concern, so think of hiring a local guide no matter where you’d like to visit on your trip).

Explore Cairo’s Neighborhoods

Cairo is a bustling city with a rich history and diverse neighborhoods. Instead of sticking to the tourist hotspots, take some time to explore the local areas. Zamalek is a trendy island neighborhood that’s home to art galleries, cafes, and boutique shops. Maadi is a quieter residential area with beautiful parks and gardens. The Islamic Cairo district is full of historic mosques and bazaars, while the Coptic Cairo district has ancient churches and winding alleyways.

Taste the Local Cuisine

Egyptian cuisine is a delicious mix of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and African flavors. While you’re in Egypt, be sure to try local dishes like koshari (a mixture of rice, pasta, and lentils), ful medames (a fava bean stew), and ta’amiya (Egyptian falafel). You can also indulge in sweet treats like basbousa (a semolina cake) and qatayef (a stuffed pastry). Be sure to visit local markets like Khan el-Khalili in Cairo or the Luxor Market to try street food and buy spices and souvenirs.

Experience the Nile River

The Nile River is the lifeblood of Egypt, and exploring it is a must-do experience. Take a traditional felucca boat ride at sunset to see the city skyline from a different perspective. You can also take a multi-day cruise down the Nile, stopping at historic sites like Luxor and Aswan along the way. Another option is to take a traditional Nubian boat ride in Aswan and visit a local Nubian village to learn about their culture and traditions.


Visit Local Villages

Egypt is full of small villages where you can experience local life. The village of Al-Qasr in Dakhla Oasis is home to stunning mud-brick architecture and traditional crafts like pottery and weaving. The Siwa Oasis is another unique destination, with hot springs, salt lakes, and a centuries-old fortress. You can also visit the small village of Darb al-Ahmar in Cairo, where you can learn about traditional crafts like pottery, brasswork, and embroidery.

Attend a Local Festival

Egypt has many festivals throughout the year that celebrate its rich culture and history. The Cairo International Film Festival in November showcases films from all over the world. The Abu Simbel Sun Festival in February celebrates the alignment of the sun with the temple of Ramses II in Abu Simbel. The Siwa Oasis Festival in October features traditional music, dancing, and camel races. Attending a local festival is a great way to experience Egypt’s vibrant culture and meet locals.

Kanita Bajrami

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