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Just Back From… Egypt

Home to one-third of all of the world’s antiquities and the only remaining one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (the pyramids at Giza), Egypt has drawn tourists for thousands of years. From the Greeks and Romans to Napoleon and Mark Twain, travelers have come to see the glorious temples built by the pharaohs. But following Egypt’s 2011 revolution, tourism rapidly declined. Today, however, as the country experiences continuous political stability under President el-Sisi, open-minded travelers are slowly returning. After all, the ancient Egyptian dynasties spawned influences—religious, linguistic, political, military, medical and cultural—that have impacted virtually every society that followed them. Walking through the pharaohs’ 4,000-year-old temples and tombs, standing in the shadow of the Sphinx and being face-to-face with the throne and childhood toys of King Tut offer both a grandeur of achievement and an intimacy across millennia that is hard to wrap your mind around. For this and the following reasons, now is a particularly compelling time for curious world travelers to visit.

Learn more about the Indagare Journey that I will lead to Egypt in November, and speak to a travel specialist to plan your own trip to Egypt.

1. Visiting the country exceeds expectations

Some trips live up to their billing and many do not. Few exceed them. And when my husband and I thought about the places we most wanted to share with our children, Egypt topped the list. We had both been before, but after returning with our 17 and 19 year olds we all agree that the country is one of the places that has left the greatest impression on us all, even with our high expectations.

I cannot think of a destination that offers more layers of culture than Egypt. In fact, no other civilization has an entire academic discipline devoted to it; Egyptology is devoted to the ancient dynasties’ history, language, literature, religion and art. Greece, India and China certainly compare in terms of having rich civilizations, but their spread-out geography alone makes getting a concentrated grasp complicated. Egypt’s treasures, conversely, are concentrated between areas near Cairo and up the Nile along the east and west banks between Luxor and Aswan, allowing visitors to see much of the ancient civilizations’ remains in a matter of days.

Related: Melissa in the New York Times: Showing the World to Your Teenagers

Indagare’s favorite guides are Egyptologists who will take visitors around the monuments and spoon-feed wisdom and discovery day after day. Grasping the society and history behind Abu Simbel, the Valley of the Kings and Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple is mind-bending. A great guide will put the sites in context and share the complex histories that unfolded in the shadows of Karnak Temple, which is larger than Angkor Wat and two thousand years older, or the Pyramids. I felt like I was taking a crash course in the greatest hits of monuments, with every visit of grand finale proportions, and yet they kept on coming.

Moments spent between the sights were memorable too, because traveling down the Nile is like drifting back in time. The landscape—where swaths of palm trees and greenery along the river’s edge quickly give way to the Sahara and mountains of sand—has a hauntingly familiar quality, as it remains so little changed from how it must have looked in Biblical times. We passed mud villages that evoked memories of the stories that have been passed on for centuries. To see the ancient monuments without visiting modern Cairo is like seeing only one side of a coin. You need to spend a few days in Cairo for a glimpse into the complexities of the modern Middle East, where a tug of war is being waged between modern and traditional Islam.

Related: Where to Travel in 2018: Nine to Know

2. Cairo and the Nile feel entirely safe, despite most people’s impressions

There is no question that after the country’s former leader Mubarak resigned, Egypt experienced a huge spike in crime, particularly carjackings and petty theft. However, since the second uprising, which put el-Sisi in power, the military is firmly back in control and determined to keep the rule of law and order as well as to root out terrorism. While acts of terror have occurred this year in Cairo and the Sinai Peninsula, they have not been more numerous than those in the US or Europe and have targeted either religious or military sites—not tourists. In fact, the Nile delta around Luxor is reportedly the most heavily protected military zone on the African continent. Perception of danger could not be further from the reality that we experienced; we never felt unsafe during our eight-day stay.

Learn more and sign up for the upcoming Indagare Journey to Egypt.

– Melissa Biggs Bradley on January 5, 2018

Quotable

I felt like I was taking a crash course in the greatest hits of monuments, with every visit of grand finale proportions, and yet they kept on coming.
~ Melissa Biggs Bradley

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