How to experience the real Egyptian “Arabian nights!”
Every year travelers from far and wide come to Egypt to discover its ancient history. Like a magic carpet ride through the ages, Egypt’s sights will enliven your sense of adventure and intrigue. Camel rides through the desert and a long list of temples and tombs will have your daily itinerary packed. But what do you do in Egypt when the sun goes down?
Check out these four great ideas on how to experience the real Egyptian “Arabian nights!”
1. Get Your Shop On In Aswan’s Night Souk Market!
Though you may find local souks (markets) in most Egyptian cities, Aswan’s night souk, known as Sharia as-Souk, is a colorful collection of trinkets, sounds and smells that stirs the night alive. Locals and tourists flurry about the market purchasing everything from souvenirs and spices to ‘genuinely fake’ Rolex watches. With strong influences from both Egyptian and African cultures, souks are the perfect spot to pick up gifts to take home. A great place to sample Egyptian fare and chat with locals, the Aswan souk is believed to be cheaper than the souks in Cairo and Luxor. Sellers will do their best to lure you into their stall; haggle if you can, but always aim for a price that you think is fair to pay for both parties. One phrase I suggest you learn before entering the souk is “la shukran” (no, thank you).
For a great read on all the goodies you can pick up at the Aswan souk, check out the fantastic blog by The Global Girl.
2. Cruise Down the Nile River With a Felucca Boat Ride (Aswan/Luxor/Cairo)
A trip to Egypt wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Nile River. The best way to experience the Nile River is to spend a day and night aboard a felucca traveling as the Egyptians once did – and still do, even today! A traditional Egyptian sailboat, feluccas are powered by the wind and gently propelled forward as you cruise. With beautiful surrounding views as your source of entertainment, be sure to admire the passing villages, as you stop along the way for meals and a quick dip in the river (if you’re game!). Feluccas can carry between 8-12 people at one time, and most companies will have a rough itinerary but anything can happen along the way. Sleep under a bed of stars as the current gently rocks you to sleep on an authentic Egyptian adventure!
There are many local and international tour companies offering felucca tours from Aswan and Luxor, but be sure to check out Encounters Travel.
3. Be a Home Guest and Share a Meal With Locals in a Nubian Village in Aswan.
If you’re in search of a unique Egyptian experience, don’t miss a chance to visit a Nubian village. From Aswan, travel by boat or by taxi to a local village and marvel at the brightly painted houses – many often without roofs. Nubians are beautiful, hospitable people who warmly welcome tourists into their homes. And when inside, you’ll have a chance to sit down and share bread, baked using ancient techniques, and savor the taste with a cup of hibiscus tea – a staple cuisine of any Nubian home. It’s polite to bring gift with you, or purchase handicrafts made by local women and children, when entering the home. Despite the tea and warm temperatures, it will be the smiles of the many Nubians you encounter that will surely warm your heart as you head home from this life-lasting experience.
4. Inhale the Pleasant, Hazy Aroma of a Traditional Shisha Bar.
Shisha bars, also known as hookah bars (and don’t get the wrong idea these are perfectly legal establishments!), are a great way to experience Egyptian culture and meet locals and travelers alike.
A Shisha is an Arabian water pipe filled with scented tobacco that is then vaporized and smoked through the mouthpiece of the pipe. A choice of scented flavors will be available from the bar for you to choose from, and, for first-time smokers, the waiter can assist you with setting up the pipe. The shisha pipe is then passed around the table for all to enjoy; each person is given an individual plastic mouthpiece, for hygienic purposes.
Your first shisha experience will feel like you’re on a magic carpet ride, as you take a seat on the carpeted ground, furnished with an array of colorful cushions. Let the haze of your fruit scented smoke create an intimate and exciting atmosphere, as you partake in traditions set long ago. Don’t forget to check out Omar, Master of Shisha, to see how the pros do it! :
Finally, if you would like to experience all of these adventures in one convenient tour, check out Oasis Overland for more information.
What do you think of these to-do’s in Egypt? Let us know in the comments.