Vibrant City, Peaceful Desert: Exploring Northern Egypt
25 July, 2019
Our Egyptian journey began in Giza, where we immersed ourselves in local life by staying with a family. The traffic here is crazy; there are no rules, no road marks. Cars are interspersed with donkeys, horses, old trucks, carts and bikes.
Navigating the chaos, we spent days wandering, people-watching and visiting the pyramids. Yet it was in the evening, away from the summertime heat, that the city really came to life. We'd pull up a seat in one of the many street cafés as children played in the street until the small hours. Most shops stayed open until 4am.
Of course, no trip to Egypt would be complete without visiting Cairo. Of the thousands of mosques in the city, the Mosque-Madrassa of Sultan Hassan came the most highly recommended - its detailed architecture, ornate iwans and grand design did not disappoint. It's situated in Old Cairo, where, along cobbled streets, a rich history manifests in ancient religious buildings and quaint, centuries-old shops.
Leaving the capital, we travelled to the White Desert and Bahariya Oasis. Few tourists venture here. Like something from a sci-fi movie, it's peppered with chalk formations carved by centuries of erosion. The surreal, silent landscape couldn't be more different from the roar of the city. Our desert camp was simple. We cooked around a campfire and, when the nights were mild, we slept under the stars.
We drove across the wild landscape to Faiyum, a green oasis of palms and crops that gives way to big lakes. Much like a beach, this area is where city dwellers come to wind down.
As we travelled from vibrant cityscapes to peaceful desert, I couldn't help but feel that this diversity is what makes northern Egypt so appealing.