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A man and his cows at the camel market of Daraw

From 5,000 years ago and for the following 3,000 years, several rulers, pharaohs and empires left their footprint and built some of the most stunning and vast temples, buildings and tombs ever seen. Today, many of these constructions still remain and what once was one of the greatest civilizations has attracted travelers from all over the world, to the extent that Egypt has become one of the most visited countries on our planet.

In 2017, due to security concerns, tourism dropped to twenty percent of what it used to be. Nevertheless, twenty percent of hundreds of thousands is still a shit load of people, which means that, in Egypt, no one can escape from annoying tour groups yet.

However, as usual, most of the tourists just choose to follow the classic Ancient Egyptian route. But it turns out that this country is big, which means that there are still quite a lot of opportunities to enjoy Egypt off the beaten track.

For more information, read my guide for traveling to Egypt

Egypt off the path

 

Egypt off the beaten track: My 7 favorite places

The camel market of Daraw

When you are in the camel market of Daraw, it’s hard to tell who or what the actual attraction is: Is it yourself, the animals or the traders? Only in a few places in Egypt, will you feel as much like a superstar as much as in the camel market of Daraw. They call it ”the camel market” but, in fact, they sell all sorts of domestic animal.

The market is very lively and thousands of buyers and traders come every week from different parts of the region. Most buyers take the animals they just bought back home but, in the market, there’s also a butcher who kills the animal in front of you. He kills it, skins it, chops it and puts all the pieces together in a plastic bag. I had never seen an animal being killed before. I was freaking out and couldn’t even look at it.

How to get there? Daraw is 40 kilometers from Aswan. From the main bus station in Aswan, take a micro-bus to Daraw. The market is 1.5 kilometers to the right from Daraw main road. Note that the market only runs on Tuesday and Sunday, from 6 am to 1 pm

The little camel trader in the camel market of Daraw

 

The Nubian village of Nag el-Balida

Have you ever heard about the Nubians? Nubians originated in present-day northern Sudan and southern Egypt. They are one of the most ancient civilizations in Africa and, believe it or not, they are indigenous to the Nile area and the only authentic Egyptians. But it turns out that one day, the Arabs came and Egypt became an Arab Muslim country.

Nubians have their own language, are darker and have some cultural differences from the Arabs. Today, Nubians live spread across southern Egypt and, around the city of Aswan, you can visit many of their villages. Nevertheless, many of them have become extremely touristic. Seriously, I went to one of them where there was a café called ”Café Ibiza”.

Forget about going to Elephantine Island, the villages around Philae Island and the village next to the Tomb of the Nobles. Why? Because they suck, as the Nubians living there ask you for money all the damn time. Instead, go to Nag el-Balida. In this village, you’ll be amazed by the famous Nubian hospitality. Everybody will be inviting you to their house. But watch out, as you might get a tea overdose!

How to get there? From Aswan, take the local ferry to the other side of the Nile (2EGP). Coordinates: 24.100523 32.899082. Once on the other side of the river, the village is located 6 kilometers to the north. You can take a micro-bus for 1EGP. Coordinates: 24.154865, 32.869117

Nubian girls in a Nubian village in Aswan
Nubian girls, at Nag el-Balida
A Nubian village in Aswan
The Nubian village from the top

 

The northern-eastern part of the Sinai Peninsula

I love Dahab because of its laid-back and backpacker atmosphere but, one has to admit that it’s too damn touristic. If you want to get off the beaten track and get a glimpse of the Bedouin culture in the Sinai, go further north after Dahab. Along the coast, there are several Bedouin villages which barely receive any tourists.

I definitely recommend going to Ras Abu Galum. It’s a small beautiful village which can only be accessed by boat (or by foot if you are into rock climbing). Travel tip: Food and alcohol are very limited. Bring your own.

How to get there? Ras Abu Galum is 16 kilometers from Dahab. First, you need to go to the Blue Hole. I went there by foot (8km) but, a taxi should cost you around 70EGP. From there, you can take a local boat (50EGP) or go walking and follow the shore, over the rocks.

A local bedouin from Ras Abu Galum
A local Bedouin from Ras Abu Galum

 

The temple of Kalabsha

The most off the beaten track great temple in Egypt, Kalabsha was built in the 30 BC to worship Mandulis, a Lower Nubian sun god. The temple is located on a small island, 50 kilometers from Aswan, but this is not the actual place where it was originally built.

Due to the construction of the Aswan High Dam, the temple was relocated to protect it from the rising waters. With the help of the Germans, it took more than two years to be completely relocated.

Today, due to its remote location, Kalabsha barely receives any visitors. I had the entire temple to myself.

Getting there on your own is not easy. For more information, read my article: Kalabsha, the least visited great temple in Egypt.

The Kalabsha temple, Egypt
The Kalabsha temple
An Egyptian painting at the temple of Kalabsha
An Egyptian painting of a person murdering another. WTF?

 

The rural life around the Nile

The Nile River is amazing. Just think about the Egyptian landscape. Have you ever been there? It’s a complete desert. There’s absolutely nothing. Egypt is a damn dry, ugly desert. So, how could it have ever become one the greatest of the civilizations ever? Because of the Nile.

The Nile River creates life, and, wherever it passes by, the land becomes a green and fertile area, suitable for farming. Can you imagine vast plantations of wheat next to a bunch of sand dunes? Did you know that Egypt is an important exporter of mangos? None of these things would be possible if it wasn’t for the Nile River.

Most of the travelers skip it, but if you have time, head to the region between Luxor and Aswan to get a glimpse of what the rural life around the Nile is like. There are plenty of peasants working on the fields that can offer amazing picture opportunities.

How to get there? There’s no specific place. You need to get out of the main cities and explore the villages between Aswan and Luxor that are settled next to the Nile. The villages I went to were Daraw, Kom Ombo and Luxor West Bank.

A wheat plantation next to the Nile River, in Luxor West Bank
A wheat plantation next to the Nile River, in Luxor West Bank

 

The Suez Canal

Opened in 1869, for more than a century, the Suez Canal has served as a connection between the North Atlantic and the northern Indian Oceans, reducing the journey by more than 7,000 kilometers. You want to go there to see the dozens of immensely vast cargo ships that make their way through the Canal every day.

Travel tip: Don’t make the same mistake I did and go to the city of Suez. In Suez, the Canal is surrounded and guarded by the Army. For security reasons, you can only see the Canal from far away, from behind a fence. Besides, pictures are not allowed. If you want to get closer and sail over the Canal, go to Port Said or Ismailia.

How to get there? There are daily buses running from Cairo to any of these cities. Bus Station coordinates: 30.062338, 31.246309

Canal of Suez from Suez city
A crappy picture of the Canal of Suez. It was not possible to get closer 🙁

 

Alexandria

Alexandria is the second largest city in Egypt, which extends 32 kilometers along the Mediterranean Coast. Despite being quite a famous city, only a few travelers decide to visit Alexandria. I love it because of its chilled-out local atmosphere and its large number of budget seafood restaurants. Plus, in Alexandria, unlike in other touristic places, here you are free from the typical local harassments.

How to get there? There are daily buses running from Cairo to Alexandria. Bus Station coordinates: 30.062338, 31.246309

Alexandria coast
Alexandria coast

By the way, there’s also one popular place called Siwa Oasis which is located in the north-western part of the country, very close to the border with Libya. I didn’t go there but, I’ve heard that it’s quite a remote place where not a lot of people go. If you have time, you should definitely try it!

Don’t forget to read my guide for traveling to Egypt

Egypt off the beaten track

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31 comments

  1. Siwa is definitely a great place to chill out and float in natural hot springs. For super friendly people, the towns between Cairo and Luxor – Fayoum, Al Minya and Sohag are well worth stopping at, you’ll find no shortage of people who want to chat to you.

    1. Hey, Graham! Thanks for your suggestions! I wished I had gone to Siwa, but unfortunately, time was not on my site. If I had gone, I would have definitely included it. Moreover, I saw on the map that there were plenty of villages and towns between Cairo and Luxor but, I just didn’t have te chance to go there and never heard of anyone talking about them. It’s good to know that you went there and give a reason to include it on my bucket for my next time. Cheers bro. I’ve read some of your stories on your blog. They are pretty cool 😉

        1. Hey man, sorry I just went through your article now. It’s great and very inspiring. Your description reminds me the villages and cities I visited in Sudan. Most villages in Sudan are dirty, lack of any cultural site and there’s absolutely nothing to do except for talking to all the kind people who get excited for the simple fact that they can invite you to a cup of tea.

  2. LOVE Egypt! I traveled there with my children for 3 weeks and it just was not long enough! We did not get to see/or do any of these great ideas on your list.. We want to go back and will have to try out your things for off the beaten path. Really looks fun and thank you for sharing!

    1. Hey Stacey, thanks for your comment. Yeah, Egypt is huge and there is so much to explore! I was there for a little bit more than 3 weeks and still, didn’t have time see everything that I wanted! To be honest, I missed many of the great touristic sites, such as Abu Simbel and didn’t stay n Luxor for too long, just to be able to see the things on this list and write the article! 😉 Hope you go back and visit these places!

  3. Egypt is amazing and there are loads of things to see and do. I spent 2 weeks exploring the country and saw a lot of impressive things, including all the highlights and much more. Wish I had a bit more time to try other places as well.

    Also stayed at a Nubian village close to Aswan. Very hospitable and friendly people.

    1. Hi Hugo, good that you visited Egypt as well. It’s an amazing country! Yeah, I agree with you. Nubians are among the kindest and most hospitable people you can ever encounter in Egypt and in many other countries. I also agree with you that Egypt is huge and there’s no time to visit everything with just a shirt 2 or 3 weeks vacations. Still, have many places on my bucket list!

  4. Fantastic write up here and thank you for your suggestions. Haven’t been to Egypt yet but I think I be there very very soon. I prefer to do off the beaten track and not the touristy thing, I love getting a good insight to local cultures and cusinie.

    1. Hi Danik, Egypt is well-known for being one of those countries where you get ripped off so many times, more than any other country I’ve ever been. That’s the reason why one can really appreciate getting off the beaten track in Egypt, as you are finally free from all those annoying Egyptians looking to sell you any sort of useless.

  5. In late 2016, I visited Egypt for the first time while filming a project with CNN. I only saw a small part of Cairo, not even seeing the pyramids. I would love to return and see more of Cairo, and some of these places, especially the Kalabsha temple.

    1. Hi Leah, maybe we were together at the same time in Egypt, as I went in Nov-Dec 2016! Yes, if you have the time, you must definitely go there, but your filming project with CNN sounds very exciting and interesting! What was it about?

  6. Love these suggestions! I really want to explore Egypt someday and all of these spots sound great. The temple of Kalabsha, rural Nile and Suez Canal would all be awesome to check out!

  7. Looks like an wonderful off beat destination. Lucky you got Kalabsha Temple completely to yourself. 🙂
    Suez Canal is one place I have wanted to see since childhood. Great pics.

    1. Hi Indrani, thanks for your comment. Yes, the Suez Canal had always been on my list and it was a real shame that I could only see it from far away. I want to go back there and explore Port Said instead to get a better image of the place!

  8. I am fascinated by Egypt. I spent only a little over a week there traveling from north to south and saw so many things that were just incredible. I’d love to go back and try out some of these things on your list. I’d especially like to spend more time along the Nile River. So beautiful there.

  9. Egypt has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember! You’ve definitely touched on some places I’d love to see like the camel market, Alexandria and Kalabsha. I’m hoping 2017 is the year I finally make it there.

  10. Thanks for this! When we do eventually head to Egypt we want to take a Nile river cruise because I would love to immerse myself in rural life, or at least bear witness to it – Egypt is about so much more than the Pyramids, and I expect that these experiences you’ve listed would be far more memorable and worthwhile since they’re authentic experiences not overrun by commercialization and tourists 🙂 Thanks for the ideas!

    1. Hey Megan! I am sure that crossing the whole country over the nile must be an unforgettable experience! There are loads of places, especially between Cairo and Luxor, which I didnt have the chance to go, yet, I’ve been told they are awesome to see! If you go by boat, you’ll get to see them and after that, I really want to read your experience! Cheers!

  11. Is Cairo manageable by solo backpackers? I have heard it is too chaotic and people there are very pushy…

    LP suggested that some towns in the Nile Delta are quite nice for an aimless stroll (e.g. Tanta)

    1. Hi mate,
      Yeah, Egypt is totally doable for solo backpackers. I backpacked in Egypt for more than 3 weeks and it was totally cool.
      It’s true that the country is pretty chaotic but you also need to understand that it’s quite a touristic country, so you can find absolutely everything you need. You find plenty of hostels in both Luxor and Cairo and, in Aswan there’s a large offer of budget hotels. You can’t miss Dahab, which is the most backpacker-friendly place in the entire mIDDLE eAST. Hope you enjoy it and, I haven’t heard about Tanta and haven’t been in this part of Egypt but I’ m sure it’s an amazing place. Cheers,

        1. Hi Mate, apologies for the late reply. Yes, I went to Cairo but I stayed with some local Egyptian friends and didn’t visit anything but just hanged out with them, as I had already done all the touristic stuff (pyramids, museum, etc) a couple of years back

  12. I just didn’t have te chance to go there and never heard of anyone talking about them. It’s good to know that you went there and give a reason to include it on my bucket for my next time. Cheers bro. I’ve read some of your stories on your blog.

  13. Hey there! Thanks for the article! Egypt is high on my travel list for next year – and now I’ve found some inspiration beyond the obvious sights. I was wondering what your experience around safety on the Sinai peninsula was. I’m not to concerned about the rest of Egypt but the German foreign ministry warns against all travel to Sinai, even the resorts. I know these warnings can be exaggerated, so I was interested in your account. Thanks for all your awesome blogs, happy travels! 🙂

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