From the land of pyramids, pharaohs, and papyrus, we bring you a look at Egyptian culture past and present. Grab a cup of mint tea, fire up the hookah, crack open a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, play some songs by Abdel Halim Hafez, or put on a movie starring Omar Sharif and join us while we share recipes, music, jokes, videos, and current events from Egypt.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Things to Do in Egypt

Header from samulli.

To play Thursday Thirteen or see other entries, click here.

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

13 Things to Do in Egypt

1. Snorkel or dive in the Red Sea.

Did you know that

  • the Red Sea is the world's northernmost tropical sea?
  • the Red Sea is one of the most saline bodies of water in the world?
  • there are several, mostly dormant, volcanic islands in the Red Sea?
  • of the more than 1200 species of fish that live in the Red Sea, approximately 10% are found nowhere else in the world?
  • of the 9 countries that border the Red Sea, only Egypt and Eritrea have borders on more than one shore? Egypt has borders on the northern and western shores; Eritrea has borders on the southern and western shores.

2. Shop in Khan El-Khalili.

Did you know that

  • the souk (market) in Khan El-Khalili has existed since 1382? I guess you could say it's a 14th century outdoor mall!
  • Naguib Mahfouz's novel, Midaq Alley, is set in a section of Khan El-Khalili?
  • Bayn el-Qasrayn, in English, Palace Walk (Cairo Trilogy), the first book in Naguib Mahfouz's award winning Cairo Trilogy, is located in Khan El-Khalili?
  • shopkeepers expect customers to bargain with them?
  • shops in Khan El-Khalili are organized and grouped together by product?

3. Ride a camel or a horse around the pyramids.

Did you know that

  • Egyptians call camels the ships of the desert?
  • before you take the ride, you should bargain with the animal handler for the fee?
  • you can take a short ride in the desert just beyond the pyramids which is even more cool than riding around them?

4. Drink mint tea at Cafe Fishawy in El Gamaleyya.

Did you know that

  • Egyptians are serious tea drinkers? It's a holdover from the days of the British Occupation, I think.
  • Egyptians drink tea from glasses instead of cups?
  • like the Brits, Egyptians prefer loose tea to bags?
  • Egyptian tea is served with plenty of sugar?

5. Look down on Cairo from the heights of the Citadel.

Did you know that

  • the Citadel was built by Saladdin?
  • other than the Pyramids, nothing in the Cairo landscape is as striking or easily identified in the air as the Citadel?
  • the Citadel is one of Cairo's most popular tourist destinations?
  • within the walls of the Citadel, you'll find several different museums?

6. Visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.

Did you know that

  • the Egyptian Museum houses more than 120,000 artifacts from ancient Egypt?
  • some, but not all, of the treasures of King Tut are housed in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo?
  • only 9 of the 27 royal mummies of antiquity are on display at one time in the museum?
  • it's best to plan more than one day to see all of the treasures in the museum?
  • two of King Tut's coffins and the famous gold death mask are on display in this museum?

7. Eat shawarma.

Did you know that

  • shawarma can be made from beef, lamb, goat, or chicken?
  • shawarma is very similar to a Greek gyro?
  • shawarma is the most popular fast food in Egypt?

8. Drink karkaday.

Did you know that

  • karkaday, made from red hibiscus flowers, is served both hot and cold?
  • karkaday is more popular in Egypt than Western sodas?
  • hot karkaday tea has been used for centures in Egypt as a natural aid for reducing high blood pressure?

9. Protect yourself from the evil eye.

Did you know that

  • the Bible mentions the power of the evil eye in Proverbs 23:6 and Mark 7:21-22?
  • if you've ever heard the age old phrase "If looks could kill," you're familiar with the belief in the power of the evil eye, even if you didn't realize it?
  • for centuries, people in the Mediterranean basin and the area known as the Fertile Crescent have believed that some envious, covetous, or jealous people have the power to cause sickness and disaster, bring bad luck, and even cause death with their "evil eye"?

10. Take a walking tour of Old Cairo.

Did you know that

  • Old Cairo, also called Coptic Cairo, is home to the oldest church in Egypt?
  • the Hanging Church (shown in the photo) was built on top of the gate of a Roman fortress?
  • the Romans built a fort in Old Cairo that is known as Babylon, and that some of its walls still exist today?
  • Old Cairo is home to the oldest synagogue in Egypt?
  • it is believed that during their flight into Egypt, Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stayed in this part of Cairo and a church exists on the site?

11. Observe a wedding procession.

Did you know that

  • if you see a wedding procession in the street, "crashing" the party is perfectly acceptable?
  • it is the custom for the wedding procession to lead the bride and groom from the bride's parents' home to the new home she will share with her husband?

12. Shop at the Tentmaker's Bazaar.

Did you know that

  • it is customary for the brightly colored tents made in this section of medieval Cairo to be used for the celebration of life's major events: birth, marriage, and death?
  • technology is rapidly edging out the craftsmen who make these tents by hand as their carefully hand sewn designs are often stolen by textile manufacturers and run off on a single piece of fabric?
  • if you see a tent pavillion set up in the street, chances are that a funeral is being held there?
  • Naguib Mahfouz's novel, Children of the Alley: A Novel, is set in the Tentmaker's Bazaar?

13. Visit Al-Azhar.

Did you know that

  • Al-Azhar University is the world's second oldest surviving degree granting university?
  • since its founding in 975, Al-Azhar has been the center of Arabic literature and Sunni Islamic learning in the world?
  • Al-Azhar was the meeting place for the opponents of the French occupation of Egypt and the seat of the revolution?
  • its scholars are seen as the highest scholars in the Muslim world?
  • the Al-Azhar Mosque, begun in 971, was completed in two years?


  1. Wow, what a wonderful post. I used to live in Egypt and your post brings back fond memories! Thanks.

    Recent undefined:=- Oh no! Comluv had an error with your feed, see message below!

  2. WOW...I wanna go there now. It looks fabulous. The evil eye hummm? Great information and great post :)


We appreciate your feedback and comments! Please chisel your glyphs here.