By Briana Seftel
Home to one of the oldest civilizations on earth, Egypt is a land of myth and legend. From the Nile River to the Pyramids of Giza, Egypt is just one of those iconic bucket list destinations. If you're planning a vacation to the land of Pharaohs for the first time, here are things to know before you know.
1. Dress modestly
While one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East, Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country, so female travelers should follow certain rules when it comes to clothing. Women should avoid sleeveless shirts and wear pants or long skirts. If you plan on entering a mosque, bring a light scarf to cover your head. Keep in mind Egypt has a hot and dry climate year round, so wear breathable, light fabrics like cotton.
Tip: In addition to appropriate dress, travelers should not drink alcohol in the street.
2. Belly dancing was originated here
Egypt is often considered the home of belly dancing, so while you're there, you might as well catch a performance! A longstanding part of Egyptian culture, belly dancing can be seen everywhere from cafes in Cairo to lavish weddings. Do your research beforehand or ask your hotel concierge for recommendations on where to see an authentic belly dance performance.
3. Bargain, Bargain, Bargain
Bargaining is totally acceptable - if not encouraged - in Egypt. Whether you're in a bazaar, shop or restaurant, it's recommended to haggle over the price. However, you should always know the value of the object before bargaining.
4. The official language is Arabic
The official language in Egypt is Arabic, while many Egyptians also understand English or French. Learn a few key phrases in Arabic like marhaba (hello) and shokran (thank you). Egyptians are a very warm, sociable people, so even if you don't speak the language, they are willing to strike up a conversation and offer you directions or assistance - even if you didn't ask for it!
5. Egypt’s Nile River is the world’s longest river
Spanning 4,135 miles, the Nile is famous as being the longest river in the world (although some would argue that designation goes to the Amazon). The Nile is the lifeblood and primary source of water for Egyptians. For travelers, there's nothing quite like experiencing the river by cruise or felucca, a traditional sailboat. Cutting through Cairo, the Nile is home to some of Egypt's best temples, tombs and palaces like Karnak, Edfu and Philae.
6. The Pyramids are the last remaining Seven Wonders
Located just outside of Cairo, the Pyramids of Giza are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and the only one still standing to this day. Comprised of three pyramids, the Great Sphinx and other well-known ruins, the complex is truly an overwhelming sight. Visiting the pyramids requires one full-day minimum to truly get a sense of the history and scope.
7. It's home to beautiful beaches
Beaches may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think of Egypt, but the country is home to miles of beautiful windswept beaches and turquoise waters. Located in eastern Egypt, the Red Sea Riviera is a great place to go diving, swim with dolphins and go underwater fishing. With year-round sunshine, this area is perfect for a visit any time of year.
8. It's vegetarian-friendly
You'll find plenty of vegetarian dishes in Egypt, where the cuisine focuses heavily on rice, vegetables and legumes. Falafel (known as ta’meya), made with fava beans instead of chickpeas, is a common breakfast food, while molokheya is a rich green soup made from the finely chopped leaves of the jute plant, served with rice or bread. Wash it all down with a strongly brewed cup of mint tea!