Ancient Egypt’s been the subject of history lessons almost as long as history itself! It continues to fascinate, as children are taken in by the gore of mummification, and parents enjoy arranging trips to Downton Abbey – aka Highclere Castle – where artefacts from Howard Carter’s discovery of Tutankhamun’s tomb are on display.
Yet, few of us look past the hieroglyphs and super-colourful jewellery to see Egypt as it stands today; just a four-hour flight away!
For those reminiscing about papier-mâché pyramids, here are five things you wouldn’t have learnt about Egypt in the classroom.
1. Its coral reefs are amazing!
Egypt’s coral reefs are diverse, colourful and teeming with wildlife. As the closest tropical coral to Europe, and with approximately 1000 species of fish inhabiting 250 coral gardens, it’s a haven for divers from around the world. Take the plunge at Jackson Reef in Sharm El Sheikh to see the magical wonders of the underwater world. Bit of a novice? Improve your skills at Temple Reef whilst snapping some impressive photos to show your friends and family.
Gold star: These delicate marine ecosystems are protected by several international conservation projects, so as long as you follow the guidelines, you can be enchanted without damaging the natural beauty.
2. Camel racing is a sport
Camel racing is a traditional and popular sport in Egypt. Try to see past the spitting for the speedy animals they really are – they’ve been known to reach speeds of 40mph! The most important event is the South Sinai Camel Festival, which takes place in Sharm El Sheikh every January, giving visitors the chance to partake in the fun and hop on a camel. Beware, it’s a bumpy ride!
Gold Star: Did you know the noun ‘camel’ derives from an Arabic word meaning ‘beauty’? Arguably this is slightly controversial, as camels are often perceived as lacking in the looks department! It’s true what they say; beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
3. You can dance all night
There’s probably a reason why this didn’t come up in school, but Egypt’s more than a cultural destination and is perfect for letting your hair down and having a bit of a boogie. Luxor’s the place to go, with a wide-range of bars and nightclubs in the city centre. There are a number of venues with live music and local DJs who play modern dance tracks. Not up your street? Why not sample some traditional Egyptian music by listening to players of lutes, drums and oboes?
Gold star: Alcohol isn’t big in Egypt, but you can find yourself a cool glass of locally brewed Stella or Heineken on a night out.
4. Egypt has dolphins
There’s a large school of dolphins to the north of Hurghada that you can visit by boat and even join for a swim! Their home is known as ‘Dolphin House’ and is largely made up of tranquil waters and some offshore coral reefs. They’re friendly, intelligent and curious creatures, so prepare to get close, but don’t intrude on their personal space!
Gold star: The golden rule with dolphins and interaction is to follow their lead. Listen to what the experts say and you’ll enjoy time well-spent with these enigmatic creatures.
5. Haggle, haggle, haggle!
Egypt offers a unique selling point; buy items for less than the asking price by haggling! Bazaars and souks in towns and cities across Egypt expect you to put up a fight and negotiate the price down, so naturally set it higher than it’s worth. Practice your haggling to get the best prices on souvenirs, clothes, pottery and even livestock! It’s the perfect way to engage in local culture, and might come in handy when you return home and want to persuade your phone supplier to lower your rates!
Gold star: Markets offer an exciting variety of products, so only work out a deal on items you really want to bring home. Whether it’s spices or jewellery, you might feel uncomfortable haggling at first, but you’ll soon get used to it!
As it turns out, Egypt has a lot to offer apart from its ancient history. But don’t be afraid to put your school work to the test too! Visit the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx and The Valley of the Kings to bring your posters and models to life.
Just remember, no more papier-mâché!