2 days in Egypt: Ancient wanders
We visited Egypt in December 2015 for a quick winter weekend escape and managed to fit in several sites in the 2 days we were in Giza and Cairo. If you are planning 2 days in Egypt, we’ve highlighted all the things you can try to fit into your itinerary below.
Spend a day or night at the museum
Entrance fee | 75 LE
Additional fee of 100 LE for the Mummy Room
Its easy to spend hours strolling through the different halls of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo discovering ancient artefacts, antiques and of course Mummy’s! The Museum houses an impressive collection of antiques encompassing 5000 years of Egyptian history, and is a must see for any visitor to Cairo. Armed with my little knowledge of Egypt – embarrassingly it was based on the Mummy trilogy and MJ’s remember the time video.. so I guess that would be no knowledge at all- I spent a good 3 hours exploring and learning about the Ancient civilisation.
The old school salmon pink building is located next to the famous Tahrir Square and is heavily guarded by armed security. From the entrance, you will see the large atrium showcasing two large statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III and his queen surrounded by several tombs and statues of guardians for the afterlife. Around the atrium, different hallways branch out into rooms housing collections from both the new and old kingdoms – and for a noob like me, the signage was sufficient for a very high level understanding of the eras and of the different ruling Pharaohs at the time.
On the second floor of the museum, there are several elaborately decorated, gilded pharonic coffins/tombs as well as art, jewellery and mummification tools. Morbidly fascinated by the mummification process, I spent most of my time on the second floor looking at and reading about the equipment used to embalm the Mummies – who doesn’t want to look at urns for organs?! The second floor also contains the Mummys room which is an additional 100 LE to enter. If you’re not keen on looking at human mummys, make sure you check out the collection of sacred mummified animals- there’s a full sized crocodile in there which is really cool.
Photography is restricted, however we visited during the short period of time that the Museum did allow it so we are able to share some photos with you.
Related post: Mena House Hotel Giza review
Have a geez at the Pyramids of Giza
Entrance fee | 80 LE
No visit to Egypt is complete without spending a day or two at the ancient Pyramids of Giza. The rich history contained within the grounds as well as the impressive architecture for that time is quite a marvel to experience in person.
The entrance fee to the Pyramids was 80LE but if you want a tour you can pay an additional amount and barter with the guides at the entrances. If you don’t mind people asking if you want to ride a camel, or consistently being offered a tour, take a guide as this will deter others from approaching you. Otherwise, if this doesn’t bother you, you can explore the Pyramids at your own leisure by foot.
The 3 main Pyramids Khufu, Khafra and Menkaure are surrounded by smaller Pyramids and tombs, with the Sphinx located near the main entrance. There is also a fully restored ship intended for Khufus transportation in his afterlife inside the Giza Solar Boat Museum, which is located within the grounds of the Pyramids of Giza.
Depending on how long you spend taking photos and exploring each monument and if you choose to go inside the tombs, it can take a minimum of 2 hours to a whole day.
If you’re staying in Giza, most of the hotels are less than a 10 minute drive away from the main entrance. However for those staying in Cairo and making a day trip out of it, depending on traffic it will take you between 30-45 minutes to get to Giza. On our arrival from Cairo Airport, it took us approximately 45 min – 1 hour to arrive at our hotel in Giza (click here to read about our stay in Mena House Hotel).
We stayed at the Hilton in the Zamalek district which is on a small island in the middle of the Nile. The tree lined streets, home to several embassies, art galleries, boutiques and trendy restaurants make it ideal to explore by foot. We highly recommend a stroll around the neighbourhood, stopping by some of the boutique stores and having an espresso by one of the al fresco cafes overlooking the river.
Find some green space and people watch
After trying the local food – people watching is probably one of my favourite things to do while travelling (not in a creepy way!). Cairo can get overwhelming at times, so if you’re the type of traveller that likes to chill out and observe, we saw a few parks and landscaped gardens scattered around the city that were perfect for hanging out.
Take a walk along the Nile
The mighty Nile River, snaking its way through the ever bustling city of Cairo is hard to miss. There are several restaurants, bars and hotels that we passed, located riverside with water views. The Qasr Al-Nil bridge which connects the island of Gazira/Zamalek to the mainland is a good starting point leading into the picturesque Corniche walk. If you’re feeling active, soak up the energy of Cairo city and join some of the locals on their run along the river.
Try some koshary
A staple street food, koshary is a carb heavy concoction consisting of pasta, lentils, chickpeas and rice with a tomato dressing and usually topped with fried onions. Most of the restaurants we looked at featured the dish, and we passed by a few street stalls specialising in the famous dish.
|Bring a selfie stick or ask other tourists to take photos for you! Some of the guides inside the complex will offer to take photos of you with the Pyramids and most will expect payment. I had a rookie travel moment and was asked to pay 300 LE because I took a picture with one of the camels (I didn't even sit on it!). I eventually bartered it down to 25 LE - even though it was a small amount, it was quite a frustrating experience so just be firm and politely say no.
|Going early in the morning as opposed to the middle of the day is a completely different experience - if you go when the grounds open, you can get photos without the bus loads of tourists and school children in the background
|Climbing the Pyramids is strictly prohibited, however we saw a few people get a few sneaky shots on the first few bricks of the Pyramids - I personally wouldn't recommend it as it helps preserve the state of these great wonders and it will be around for much longer for others to marvel at 🙂
|We found that most taxi drivers didn't want to use the meters, and being a hopeless negotiator, we opted to travel by Uber.