Treasures of Egypt: gods, kings and men

On the cultural side, Egypt deserves its place on the podium of the most beautiful heritages of humanity. And what a heritage! 

 

Egypt is stones, temples, columns, golden sarcophagi and many mysteries…

 
The evocation of Egypt resounds in a very particular way for each one of us. It is a country that once reigned over the East, built the enigmatic pyramids with such a modern design and fills our imaginations of schoolchildren with mysteries, secret tombs containing forgotten treasures.
 

Gold and mystery is not what the traveller will find when he sets foot on Egyptian soil. But it is much better

 
Strange as it may seem, the ruins that have crossed the millennia to arrive until today have lost none of their bewitching power. They remain works from another world. They dominate everything that was created after them.
They are the source of many passions and dreams. Nothing can really compare to this perfect beauty, these perfectly balanced lines, this precise, lively style. The harmony that still emanates from these masterpieces, this power imbued with mystery cannot leave anyone indifferent. 
After all these years of research, ancient Egypt remains hermetic. Carbon dating will never give the key to the enigma: where did they find these pure forms, these supple and firm curves, this line, this perfect beauty? Never surpassed, the Egyptian heritage makes a mockery of the crawling, filthy city that covers the outskirts of Cairo or Luxor. Nothing detracts from the majesty of ancient Egypt, its aura of treasure. Nothing.
 

The gods invite the traveller to dream: Keops, Tutankamon, Nefertiti look at men, frozen in their eternal beauty

 
The Pyramids of Giza are so famous that they alone embody the country. Yes, they are impressive, yet there are other Egyptian monuments that will leave a lasting impression on the traveller. Karnak and its incredible columns, its bas-reliefs of a victorious pharaoh radiating strength and glory, the temple of Luxor and its guardians are spectacles that inundate silence and respect.
 

The Egyptian Museum in Cairo is a must, but not only for the antiques it contains

 
The Egyptian Museum of 2019, still located in Tahir Square, is a compendium of the past greatness of ancient Egypt and the souk-binz-bazaar of today. The superb building that houses the precious treasures is filled like a popular antique shop. Everything is piled up there as if in a hurry. The thousand-year-old papyrus trees are sunbathing, the glass cases protecting the delicate sarcophagi are cracked, taped, shaky. Visitors, not all of whom are educated, touch the statues, unscrupulously touch the beak of Horus, the breasts of the Sphinx and the beard of Akhenaten. 
There are so many artefacts that the visitor is at a loss for words. There is no free space on the walls or on the floor. The imposing statues sometimes climb up to the ceiling. It feels as if you are in an antique shop in the XXL souk.
 

In 2021, the new museum in Cairo is due to open its doors. It is said to be so large that it is already being compared to an airport. It will therefore be modern and give the museum’s guests the space and grandeur they deserve, Inshallah!

 
Will it be as endearing as the old one, in its 1900’s architecture, close to the Nile in the heart of Cairo’s bustling life? No one can say because this new titanic museum has been longed for since… 8 years. 
Its opening was announced in 2015, then in 2018, then in 2021. 
Pharaonic, it is the case to say it, the project is constantly falling behind schedule. We’re talking about more than 5000 workers on the job and a budget which is exploding. Let’s hope that these investments will be equal to the result. But in the land of excess, anything is possible!

The Egypt of the pharaohs can be discovered on well-tried circuits

 
Since it has been attracting tourists from all over the world, Egypt has had time to perfect the ideal circuit. It usually starts in Cairo. Tourists visit the Egyptian Museum, then the pyramids of Giza, Keops, Kefren and Mikerinos. They continue on to the necropolis of Saqqarah (pronounced sa-ha-ra), also known as Menphis. Then take a short trip to Dahshur for a photo of the rhomboidal pyramid with its strange irregular and smooth shape.
Usually they don’t stay much longer in Cairo. A cruise ship awaits them on the Nile to tour the south: Luxor, Karnak, the Valley of the Kings and Queens, Aswan, Abu Simbel and back to Cairo.
 

Everyone will explore as they wish, but such a heritage deserves a well supervised visit, with a competent guide, or on the contrary, alone

 
Flee the discount tours which will not give you any information and very little time to visit the monuments, especially in Luxor.
Saqqarah deserves a half-day alone. It is one of my favourite places. The site is vast, with a little patience and luck, let the tourist buses pass by and do your own exploration. The feeling of being alone, in the half-light of the colourfully decorated tombs is well worth doing without an organised tour. 
What the traveller will need most to honour his remains is time! It is quite possible to visit the Egyptian heritage alone, at one’s own pace. 
Bring a book on ancient Egypt and potash. Take the bus, train, bike or shared taxi and enjoy this fabulous heritage as you wish.
 

Wonder at a price. While the visits are affordable, the tourist harassment Egyptians experience at the sites is very unpleasant

 
Be careful not to fall into the net of pseudo-guides and tricks sold on the sly. With the help of a business card, map, programme and bagou, the most uneducated of the locals will pretend to be what he is not: a learned and experienced guide. In Luxor, attracted by the mirage of easy money, these people “hide” in front of hotels on the lookout for off-circuit visitors. Once they have found them, they stop at nothing to sell them a tour. They will stop at nothing. Even follow you on foot for 3 km.
Be prepared to face this harassment so they don’t spoil your ride.

To believe that pyramids and temples are the only heritage of Egypt is a mistake. Egypt does not limit itself to these treasures… 

 
Cairo is worth a visit. The architecture inherited from colonial times, the old cinemas, the innumerable mosques, the Coptic districts, the citadel, the souks… One week is not enough to see everything.
Alexandria is not to be outdone. With its feet in the Mediterranean, it has many cultural assets that will delight the curious traveller. But you will have to be a little obstinate, under the dirt, the crumbling buildings, the rubbish hides a real beauty.
 
Siwa, Fayoum and many other villages and oases take the explorer on a journey through time. Walls of sand and salt, lakes, hot springs, deserts, handicrafts, thousand-year-old temples lost in the palm groves and local history are worth all the effort to get there.
 
And then there will be gastronomy to discover, markets, bars where you can taste a Stella or Saqqarah beer. And of course, the Egyptians. Warm and funny, benevolent and respectful, the vast majority of Egyptians are far away from the hunter-scammers of tourists. Get off the beaten track a bit, that’s where you’ll meet them.

Cairo is an exciting, lively city full of surprises. Popular and joyful street canteens, souks buzzing like a beehive, mosques, churches … and very very endearing Egyptians await you!

Culture is like food: you are never at the end of your surprises!

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