top of page


Egypt – this country should be on the top of everyone's bucket-list, it is essentially one enormous open air museum of pyramids, sphinx, tombs, temples, hieroglyphs, colossi. Add to that the beauty of the river Nile, stunning Red Sea beaches and the labyrinth of chaotic Cairo – this was the perfect trip to celebrate my 30th birthday!

I visited Egypt in November 2021 with my fiancé Paul. We flew into Hurghada and had a couple of days by the beach, then headed to Luxor for a few days, and then took the night train up to Cairo.

Quick Links: 





Screenshot 2023-04-05 at 19.51.02.png


We were keen for a bit of beach chill to start off with, and after seeing some cheap direct flights to Hurghada, we booked them and picked a hotel. Of course a few weeks later it turned out the flights did not exist, or rather they did, but only as part of a package holiday and it was an “error” that we had managed to book them… A second set of flights booked, and a slightly more convoluted route, we were off to the Red Sea!

Arriving into Hurghada, it was clear that this was very much a resort town – pretty much all the hotels we had looked at offered all-inclusive only, and so that is what we went for, and it lived up to the hype – nice rooms, multiple pools, beach access, spa, unlimited food – exactly what we needed to unwind for a few days. We spent most of the days here either by the beach or wandering around the marina. The hotel offered some day tours for scuba diving, but sadly they had been booked out for a few days in advance, so instead, we hopped into an uber and headed to Hurghada main area to visit the Hurghada Museum.


Hurghada Museum

We weren’t expecting much considering the museum was in the middle of a pretty empty shopping centre, but we were in for a real treat. We took the elevator up were met with a huge museum filled with hundreds of mummies , statues and other Egyptian artefacts. It was incredible! It had only opened the year before, and a lot of the exhibits didn’t have signs or labels yet so there was a lot of guesswork required!

WhatsApp Image 2023-04-05 at 19.42.17.jpeg

The Red Sea

WhatsApp Image 2023-04-05 at 19.42.46.jpeg

Mummy in Hurghada Museum

After a couple of days here we were ready to move on to our next stop, Luxor.

Getting there however, turned out to be a bit of a mission. We couldn’t find any straightforward route to get there despite it only being a few hours away, and so we looked online and found several companies offering private taxi transfers. We went with ‘transfer Hurghada’ who were good. There were a few hoops to jump through – the company needed to get a permit, copies of our passport, copies of our Egyptian visas, and our covid vaccination certificates and we needed to sign some forms the day before travel.  The journey to Luxor took around four hours, and we stopped frequently at Police Checkpoints where our permits, the driver’s ID and permit, our passports and visas were screened.


Luxor is one of the most incredible places I’ve visited, and is often referred to as the ‘Jewel’ of Egypt, boasting a plethora of ancient ruins etched in history and of course, the majestic river Nile. 

There is so much to see and do here – we only stayed for 2 nights but could have easily spent much longer.

We stayed in The Old Winter Palace Hotel which was absolutely stunning with beautiful gardens and was (fun fact) where Howard Carter was staying when he discovered Tutankhamun's tomb. Well, technically we were staying in the budget hotel at the opposite end of the gardens, but we had the same grounds and pool, it still counts yes?


Looking towards West Bank from the East bank of the River Nile

Luxor is split into two areas by the majestic river Nile. The East Bank is where the majority of hotels are and the newer, modern part of the city, several temples and the famous souk. .

The West Bank is more spread out and is where the majority of sights are located, including the Valley of the Kings.

We spent one day looking around the West Bank, and one and a half days on the East Bank.


Luxor West Bank


The majority of sights on the West Bank are pretty spread out, walking was out of the question. Looking online it seemed fairly easy to organise a day tour from where the boats arrive on the West Bank, and so we walked to the pier and headed on a boat across the Nile. As soon as we arrived we could see lines of taxi’s ready to take visitors around the sights. We chatted to a couple and settled on a reasonable price with one driver, Ahmed, and we were off.


Ahmed was really informative, and immediately handed us maps of the area, and asking us which sights we wanted to see, making recommendations here and there. It’s difficult to fit everything into one day, and we didn’t want to feel like we were squeezing everything in, so we picked a few sights – The Valley of the Kings, Medinat Habu, and Hatshepsut.


We started heading to the Antiquities Ticket Office, but before we had even got there we were treated with some incredible sights; two enormous faceless colossi, the Colossi of Memnon, which are thought to represent Pharoah Amenhotep III. We stopped and had a look around before heading to get our tickets.

Colossi of Memnon

Next we headed straight to the Valley of the Kings.



  1. Valley of the Kings


These are the sites where Pharaohs long passed were buried in grand tombs filled with beautiful artwork and rich treasures. With 63 (so far discovered) royal tombs, it’s a unbelievable site to explore. Given the sheer number of tombs, it’s a good idea to research and pick ones to visit in advance, although which ones are open at any given time change periodically (in order to help conserve the interior).


We bought our tickets at the entrance. Included in the general entry ticket are entry to 3 tombs of your choice (excluding the tombs of Ay, Tutankhamun, Seti I, and Ramses VI ,  which you need to purchase additional tickets for). We bought a ticket for Tutankauman, and headed on our way. It is essential to buy the tickets here, as after leaving the office, a little train takes you up to the valley (and it would be a bit time-consuming if you had to go back!).

As a lot of the tombs belong to pharaohs with similar sounding names, it can be helpful to look at the tomb number. Each tomb begins KV (Valley of the Kings) and is followed by a number. Simple. 

WhatsApp Image 2023-04-06 at 12.52.09.jpeg



We chose to visit the following tombs:

1) The Tomb of Tausert and Setnakht (KV14)

This is a unique joint tomb of Tausert, a queen (died 1189 BC) which was later extended and reused by Setnakht, a pharaoh (died 1186 BC). This tomb is one of the largest and was excavated in the 1980's. 

2) The Tomb of Ramesses V (died 1145 BC) and  Ramesses VI (KV9) 

This is another joint tomb, this time belonging to Ramesses V (died 1145 BC)  later re-used by Ramesses VI, which has lots of interesting ancient graffiti from 100 BC to 400 AD. - I thought that was pretty cool. 

3) The Tomb of Merenptah (KV8)

Tomb of Merenptah - this has suffered a lot of flash floods over the years but is one of the largest tombs in the area. 

4) Tomb of Tutankhamun (KV62)

We paid for an additional ticket to see the tomb of Tutankhamun (died 1325BC) , one of the most famous tombs in the valley. This tomb is unusually small, likely due to his unexpected early death. It was excavated in the early 1900's and the majority of the contents are on display in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. 

At each tomb our entry ticket was stamped, and camera pass checked. They all varied in size but were all incredible. I don’t think I could describe how impressive they were, I was in utter awe at the paintings, still standing strong several thousand years later.

The level of detail is outstanding – there isn’t a section of wall not decorated in colourful hieroglyphics and hand-carved motifs. It’s even more amazing considering there were no advanced tools in this time, everything has been hand-chipped and hand-painted.


It was easy to walk through the tombs on the wooden walkways


Intricate designs


Floor to ceiling decoration



By far my favourite tombs were KV14 and KV9, but Tutankhamun was worth the visit too. Whilst the tomb itself is probably the least impressive of the valley, the story of his tomb being excavated is famous, and inside the tomb are photos and explanations of the process – I think the fact that there are photos of Howard Carter’s excavation and the fact that it was discovered in relatively recent history (and that photos of the excavation exist) make it quite fascinating. 


As we were entering Tutankhamun’s tomb, we handed over our separate tickets – the man in front of me handed in his normal entry ticket, attached to a £50 note (half the price of the entry fee!) The ticket assistant nodded him in and took the note. So apparently you can bribe your way into the tombs, in case you were wondering.

2. Medinat Habu


Next up was Medinat Habu, Ramesses III’s huge memorial temple which has incredibly well-preserved original artwork from more than 3000 years ago.


Hypostyle Hall

Medinat Habu

3. Temple of Hatshepsut


This is another enormous temple that’s been built into the edge of a cliff with incredible detailed statues.

The walk up to Hatshepsut


Something we experienced at all the sights in West Bank (with the exception of the valley of the Kings) were people offering various services for ‘tips’ (or “backsheesh”) We’d been warned about this before going, so we were somewhat expecting it, but maybe not to this degree. They would predominantly be official workers (or at least, dressed like official workers), and they would appear constantly; for example when we were looking at some paintwork, someone would appear and tell us a fact about the history of the temple, or would ask if we wanted a photograph – and then ask for money. I didn’t really mind, except for the fact that we were running out of small change, and so we had to start saying ‘no’ a lot. The one I didn’t like was when they would remove a rope/sign saying “no entry – area unsafe” or “area under reconstruction” and tell us to go in, in exchange for some money – that just felt wrong.


Overall we had an incredible day exploring the West Bank – I can completely understand how you could spend days here – there was a lot we had to miss out, like the Valley of the Queens and the Tombs of the Nobles.


4. Hot Air Balloon Ride

The next day we got up bright and early ready for our sunrise hot air balloon ride!! (My birthday present from Paul!). I was SO excited! I had never been on one before but had always wanted to, whilst simultaneously being a little worried as I am pretty scared of heights.

We were collected by one of the organisers and met the rest of our group on the boat across the Nile and enjoyed a breakfast of tea and twinkies (yes…twinkies. There were a lot of US travellers in the group who appreciated this, and I tried one for the first time- sorry, I was very underwhelmed). Next we piled onto a minibus and headed to the hot balloon area.

Here, it was a bit of mad scramble trying to fit everyone into baskets; everyone else were part of bigger groups, whereas Paul and I were obviously a two, so we were the ones darting between baskets as the staff tried to even out the weightload (it seemed quite complicated!). But then, we were off!


A very beautiful sunrise

Waiting at the Hot Balloon Station

Views heading over West Bank

It was phenomenal, and amazingly I wasn’t scared at all – we glided over all the sights we had seen the day before, over houses, the Nile, mountains, it was beautiful.


Luxor East Bank


After our incredible morning, we headed back to the East Bank to explore this area.


1. Karnak Temple


Karnak Temple is a massive complex – over 2sq km! You could spend days here, and a map is essential! We started out where everyone does, at the first pylon, and took our time walking through underneath towering decorated columns to the Great Hypostyle Hall, the Obelisk of Hatshepsut, through Middle Kingdom Court, all the way to the Chapel of Tuthmosis III. From here we made our way back via the Sacred Lake, and the 7-10th pylons.

2. Luxor Temple

We visited Luxor Temple at night which was stunning. 


Eating in Luxor



This was a lovely restaurant with typical Egyptian décor serving delicious mezze and tea!


Al Sahaby Lane Restaurant

 This was another cute restaurant sitting in the middle of a souk with delicious curries and tagen.

Al Sahaby Lane Restaurant


Our time was up in Luxor, and we headed to the train station to board our night train to Cairo!


Night Train Luxor - Cairo


So admittedly it’s been quite a few years since I’d last been on a night train (probably about 5 or 6). I thought I would lie down and sleep like a log, but no, I’m 30 now after all. We had opted for the 'deluxe sleeper train' which was reasonably comfortable and came with a washbasin in the room (luxury!), but I think the days of arriving in the morning feeling well-rested after a night train are long gone.



Arriving into Cairo felt like entering a whole different planet – it’s big, busy and boisterously loud. It’s a VERY spread out city, and it takes a long time to get from one area to another. Although there is a metro, I only used it on one of the days as it the routes weren’t really where we needed to go. We used a mix of metro, walking and ubers/taxis.


There were loads of options for where to stay, as I was staying on in Cairo for an extra 3 nights after Paul left, I was keen to stay somewhere relatively central, multicultural and somewhere that seemed the safest for women to walk around in the evening. We chose to stay in Zamalek. I think it was a good choice – it was a really pleasant area that was busy enough at night without being too loud, restaurants, cafes and shops on my doorstep, and super close to the Nile. Perfect!


There was so much to see and do in Cairo, but the main attraction was obviously the pyramids.


1. Pyramids of Giza


Built more than 4000 years ago and the last remaining wonder of the ancient world, are the pyramids of Giza, and they are an incredible sight.


There are actually three main pyramids here – the Great Pyramid of Khufu, the Pyramid of Khafre, and the Pyramid of Menkaure, in addition to smaller “satellite” pyramids.


We headed straight to the Great Pyramid, and had a walk around before heading to see the other pyramids. The complex is huge and it took a good while to get to the Panoramic Viewpoint (but totally worth it).

Pyramid Panorama

We headed back to the Great Pyramid planning to go inside – we headed to the entrance, oddly there wasn’t a queue.. One of the ticket officers advised us that they weren’t letting anyone else in as they were closing for a lunch break in 15 minutes. We were a bit disappointed but just as we started to head back down he said “If you’re back here within 15 minutes it’s ok” so we headed in!

There isn’t a huge amount to see inside the pyramid, but it was definitely an experience. To get inside you have to climb up a very tall, steep staircase (whilst on all fours, as it’s only about a metre high. It’s very hot inside, and definitely a good cardio workout! We reached the King’s chamber, had a look around, and headed back down the same way we came, right in time for the guard to shut the door.

It was a bit rushed, but I think actually better because I can’t imagine climbing through with people coming the opposite way at the same time, it was tight enough with just me!


2. The Sphinx


The Sphinx is on the same site as the pyramids, we spent time walking around and looking around the Khafre Valley Temple.

Sphinx and Pyramids

Paul and I with the sphinx!

Getting to the pyramids was really easy – we actually just ordered an uber from our hotel, it was only about a 25 minute drive and was a lot cheaper and easier than arranging a tour. Upon arrival however, it was a bit chaotic. There were people dressed in uniform coming up and trying to get us to buy tickets out of the uber window and telling us that the entrance had moved, our uber driver didn’t speak much English but was shaking his head at us as if to warn us this sounded like a scam. Thankfully I had my guidebook with me, which had a section explaining the common scams – and one of them was this. We asked the uber driver if he could just keep driving, and we got the official ticket office with no issues.


From Giza, we headed to Islamic Cairo for some shopping and lunch.


3.  Islamic Cairo


Our uber dropped us off at Bab al-Futuh, the huge city gate. From here we headed south, taking in the delicious scents wafting through cafes and listening to echoing call to prayers.  

There were so many museums, mosques, madrasas and mausoleums, practically at every street corner, and so we popped in to have a look around a few.


Beauty lies behind plain door

Islamic art

We headed towards Khan Al Khalili for some shopping


4. Khan Al Khalili


This the famous labyrinth-like bazaar, in the centre of the historic area of Cairo, and it truly is a treasure trove of delights. Here you can buy anything from soaps, stones, jewellery, toy camels, to carpets and alabaster furniture from countless brightly-coloured stalls and shops.

I bought a few different things – some perfume, a candlestick holder and a pair of earrings, but my favourite purchase was my rug. I’d been wanting to buy a nice rug for our hallway, and was hoping to get one here. One thing I didn’t bank on was how difficult it might be to barter here – I went into a number of shops where the same thing would happen; we would walk in, I would start asking about the different rugs and the different prices, and the salesman would immediately dismiss me and start talking to Paul instead. It was infuriating. Whenever we go anywhere abroad, it’s usually me who does the haggling – mainly because it’s me buying the item. But here it was so difficult, I would try to chime in and say what we were looking for, but would get either laughed at or ignored. The salesman would shove random things into Paul’s hands that neither of us wanted “present for your wife”. To be fair not every shop was like this, but it was a fair number. I did find a couple of rugs I liked, but they were very overpriced.

I went back to Khan Al Khalili on my last day in Cairo, after Paul had left, and it was a totally different experience. I didn’t get half as much hassle, people didn’t pull me into shops, and it seemed a lot easier to haggle, but I still couldn’t’ get a rug for a decent price. I ended up turning a few corners into a quiet street and found another carpet shop. I started having a look through and the shop owner came out and asked me what colours I was looking for and what size, I asked what the price was and was shocked – it was about 1/5 of the cost everywhere else had suggested. I clearly looked a bit taken aback and he said “We don’t haggle here, that’s the set price” “take your time”, and he took out about 20 different rugs in the colours I liked – I bought two and headed on my way. Success!

Mog approves of the Egyptian Rug

Pretty bazaar

5. Cairo Citadel


I came back to explore more of Islamic Cairo after Paul had left, and this was one of the sights I wish he'd managed to squeeze in. The citadel is a stunning sprawling complex with various mosques and museums inside with striking décor. There is also a panoramic view over Cairo.

Cairo Citadel

Islamic art

Views for days

Beautiful ceilings

6. Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan


After exploring the citadel I headed to this grand mosque. I found myself being guided by a cat around, which made a unique (but not very informative) tour-guide.

7. Coptic Cairo


Coptic Cairo is (as the name suggests), home to the Coptic Christians and many churches including the Hanging Church, Church of St Sergius & Bacchus, and the Coptic Museum.

Coptic art was something I wasn’t exactly I was familiar with beforehand and it’s quite different to the styles I’d seen in European churches – everything seemed very round with people and animals appearing slightly out of proportion, but very intriguing. 

Coptic Art

8. Manial Palace


This is a beautiful palace, built by Prince Mohammed Ali in the 1800’s. The interior is stunning, but the gardens were my favourite part.


9. The Egyptian Museum


This is an absolute must-see in Cairo, and quite an experience. When we visited everything was in the process of being moved to a new museum, however it seemed that this process had been going on for almost a decade, I imagine the experience will be somewhat different when the new centre opens!

The museum itself was enormous and filled with some incredible artefacts, but very chaotic and disorganised. We picked out specific rooms we wanted to visit, and then made a beeline for these. My favourite picks were the Royal Mummies Hall, the Animal Mummies, the Royal Tombs of Tanis, Ancient Egyptian Jewellery, and of course, the Tutankhamun galleries which contain thousands of objects found in his tomb.

There was a lot of information about the hieroglyphic writing system and the process of mummification. It really was eye-opening to read and see how the process worked, I was shocked to see just how time-consuming it was (taking up to 70 days!). There were lots of mummies on display – my favourite section was the animal mummies where it seemed that almost anything had been preserved – crocodiles, cats, birds, monkeys!

Places to eat in Cairo:



This was really close to our accommodation, and was so good I went twice – a modern take on Egyptian street food, it’s actually made its way to open a branch in New York City. I would recommend.


Abu Tarek

This glitzy silver & blue hued restaurant is home to one of Egypt’s famous dishes, kushari (made of pasta, rice, lentils, chickpeas, tomato sauce and fried onions – with a spicy sauce on the wide). There were no menu’s offered here – its kushari or kushari.



This was another Egyptian restaurant with delicious food and stunning interior design.


Naguib Mahfouz Café

This was a really nice café in the middle of the bazaar – perfect!


I was keen to explore more of the pyramids in the area, and so decided to go on a day trip to see some more sights. It was quite short notice (as in, it was 8pm and I was trying to book a day trip for the next day) but after a quick look online and then reading recommendations in my lonely planet book, I whatsapped one of the tour guides listed in the guidebook, Aton Amon (+201006217674) who responded very quickly and within about 5 minutes, I had booked a tour to Saqqara and Memphis for 9am the next day.




Saqqara was my first stop, which is the site of an enormous burial ground for the ancient city of Memphis.

Here I explored more pyramids – the Step Pyramid, the Pyramid of Unas and the Pyramid of Userkaf.

It was also here that I discovered what a keen photographer Aton was, cue lots of photo opportunities and instructions on how to pose!

More pyramids!

Apparently I am in the photo to show it fit female corpses

More designs



A short drive south is yet another complex of pyramids – there were thought to be 11 pyramids originally here, but only 2 are intact now; the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid. These were honestly almost as impressive as the pyramids of Giza, but much much less touristy.


Tp be fair Aton was a much better photographer than Paul

My time in Egypt had come to an end, and I hopped in an uber to the airport.

I loved this trip, it really was everything I had had dreamed of and more. 

There's so much more of the country I would have loved to explore, so if the opportunity comes again I'll be sure to head to Alexandria, Siwa Oasis, Aswan and Nubian Village.

Top Tips for Egypt:


  1. Consider the timing of the trip well - we visited in November, and it was perfect. Temperatures reached mid-twenties but thanks to the year-round warm temperatures the sea was very warm. Egypt is an Islamic country and so modest dressing is essential (when outside of resorts) - this was much easier when it wasn't 40 degrees outside! The tombs in Luxor can get very, very hot (even in November) - I can't imagine what they would be like in summer, but I don't think it would be half as enjoyable.

  2. We got sim cards at the airport which was easy-enough.

  3. Bring your own toilet paper, lots of toilets at visitor attractions didn't actually have any.

  4. Make sure you carry lots of small notes - you need to tip constantly whether it is to go to the toilet, at tourist sights, if you take a photo of a camel - you name in. It's obviously always optional but is definitely expected here.

  5. Bring cash - we used our credit cards very little as most places preferred cash. ATMs were easy to find however.

  6. Be careful around Luxor as it is prime scam territory - we had several people approach us, the commonest was someone who would say they recognised us from our hotel - this would then prompt you to name the hotel and continue in conversation where they would take you to a friend's shop and very much pressure you to buy things. We had this a couple of times - it was difficult at first because we didn't want to seem rude that we didn't recognise someone, but it soon became clear (when Paul would name a completely different hotel and they would nod and say 'yes, I am the manager') or when they started taking you to the mysteriously empty "best spice shop in Luxor". We ended up tipping someone once just to leave us alone, which felt rather frustrating and a bit ridiculous but seemed to be the only way of being able to get on with our day.

  7. In addition to that, unless you can manage to look Egyptian, you will be hassled in Luxor - much less in Cairo. 

  8. Expect different opening hours during Ramadan.

bottom of page