21 non-touristy things to do in Egypt
Egypt was not on my bucket list, but it happened to be my solo travel destination for simply No REASON. (I’m just weird like that!) Cartoons, Hollywood movies, and documentaries on pyramids, tombs, mummies had always kept me curious about the country. So, I decided to travel solo to Egypt. I mean, there are many reasons to visit Egypt, so why not?
When you think about Egypt, the first thing that comes to mind are The Pyramids of Giza, Nile River, Sphinx, and other famous tourist attractions. While these are attractions that everyone should see, these aren’t the only things that you should do on your trip to Egypt.
I did a few local non-touristy things in Egypt, other than seeing some tourist hotspots. I planned my solo trip by reading a tonne of blogs on the internet. It helped me to physically and mentally prepare myself.
I decided to do non-touristy things with the help of the Airbnb experience to spice up my solo trip to Egypt! Here is a list of the same.
1. Staying in a local residence
I chose to stay at a local residence to experience the lifestyle in the neighbourhood. How did someone let me stay at their place, you ask? Thanks to the Airbnb experience! It wouldn’t be possible without that.
A hotel stay is the most touristy part of any trip, so I decided to do something non-touristy and went ahead with a local residence instead. I also think it is important to step out of your comfort zone to experience the best of both worlds.
2. Go quad biking
I love adventures, and whenever I get a chance, I take it with open arms. While exploring the Sinai Desert, I got one such opportunity to try quad biking. It turned out to be a lot of fun and interesting than I thought. Everyone else would settle with just exploring the desert, but something adventurous like quad biking makes the whole experience much better. After you’re done, you will have sand all over yourself, so be prepared for that!
3. Hop on a felucca
Felucca is one of the oldest Egyptian boats, and it is operated by the locals to this day! I had a ride on the boat for around an hour during the sunset. And it was the best thing that I saw along the stretch of the Nile! I am not even exaggerating a bit. However, I am sure not many tourists are aware of this non-touristy thing in Egypt yet! So, when you go on your solo trip, make sure to hop on that felucca and take a ride.
4. Check out the Bent Pyramid and Step Pyramid
The Pyramids of Giza are the most famous tourist attractions in Egypt. But when it comes to exploring the non-touristy places, Bent Pyramid and Step Pyramid should be on your list too. The Step Pyramid was the shift between triangular pyramids and mastabas. On the other hand, Bent Pyramids have a history of their own. It was a mistake of the architects that gave the pyramid a bent shape.
5. Go on a desert safari
The Western Desert of Egypt and the Sinai Desert are the perfect ones to go on a safari. You can choose from camels, bikes, cars, and trucks, whichever suits you best. I went on a camel safari and recommended that you try out the same. If you decide to do it in the afternoon, remember that it can get quite hot, so stay hydrated and use sunscreen. Make sure that you pack all these items, so you don’t have to worry about them. However, if you decide to do it in the evening as I did, you can enjoy the cool temperature and stunning scenes as well.
6. Exploring places with local guides via Airbnb
I hired a local tour guide via Airbnb experience to take me to places around the country. The Pyramids of Giza, Valleys of the Kings, and Sphinx of Giza became much more exciting and fun to explore. The local freelance guides from Airbnb can give you detailed, fascinating insights into Egypt’s rich history because they know the place in and out. And the best part is that they are friendlier than the traditional guides working for travel agencies.
7. Camping in the White Desert
If desert safari and quad biking aren’t enough, you can spend a night or two camping in the desert. While there are many deserts where you can spend a night, I recommend that you camp in the White Desert (aka Farafra). This is one of the most famous deserts for camping and totally safe for solo women travellers. In addition, there are various companies that offer camping services, so there is a lot to choose from.
8. Shop at Khan el-Khalili
Khan el-Khalili is not only one of the best places to shop in Egypt but is also one of the oldest bazaars in the country. I was baffled to know that this place was first established more than six hundred years ago. It is located in the historic centre of Cairo, and almost everything from handicrafts like paintings, carpets to shishas, shoes, handbags, etc., are available here. But make sure that you bargain a lot to get the lowest price!
9. Devour on local foods
Whenever I travel around the world, I try out at least a few local dishes. This is easily one of the best parts of solo travel. During my solo trip to Egypt, I walked around the neighbourhood and tried out the locals’ favourite koshari and shawarma in small food joints. I chose these smaller outlets and not the famous overrated restaurants because the locals told me that the food is more authentic, cheaper, and delicious. I had the same experience, and I loved it!
10. Visit NOLA Cupcakes
Why would I recommend visiting a cupcake shop? Well, because they offer the best desserts in the country. I visited them multiple times on my solo trip and was more than satisfied every single time. You can choose from cupcakes, muffins, brownies, doughnuts, and many other desserts. In addition, they have many outlets around the country, so you can easily find one. So, if you want to curb your sugar cravings in Egypt, NOLA Cupcakes is the place to be at.
11. Watch a Sufi dance show
There are so many touristy places to explore, and it can get tiring while travelling from one place to another. So, why not relax a little and learn something about the art and culture of the country? Watch a Sufi dance show at Wekalet el Ghouri Arts Centre in Cairo. It is a traditional Egyptian dance form where performers wear colourful costumes and blend the country’s history, culture, and rituals into one mesmerising show.
12. Enjoy sunset at Al-Azhar Park
I love sunsets and enjoy clicking pictures a lot. And this is what I exactly did when I visited Al-Azhar Park in Cairo. If you do not want to enjoy the sunset, you should visit the park for its lush greenery, beautiful lake, and serenity. The best part is that it closes at ten at night, unlike others, which usually shut right after dusk. Even though Egypt is very safe for women, you wouldn’t want to stay here until ten, but you can relax for as long as you wish to.
13. Awaken your inner Picasso
Egypt has some fantastic ancient architecture. So, I could not resist going on an excursion with a local artist in Zamalek. While exploring these places is great, I decided to put my artistic abilities to the test. So, I painted some aesthetic portraits sitting outside a cute boutique café. Of course, the artist helped me. And the sketch came out to be better than I expected. Thanks to the Airbnb experience, because of which I got to do this exciting activity!
14. Le Pacha 1901
Le Pacha 1901 in Cairo is a floating boat that never leaves the port. What’s so special about it, you ask? It has around ten restaurants and a few pubs too. You can choose from Asian, French, Italian, English, and many other cuisines. I was reluctant to check out this place at first. But I never knew that it would turn out to be so good! The vibe, food, and overall experience are totally worth visiting. And you can also make some friends here, which is excellent!
15. El Sawy Culture Wheel
This place is somewhat unknown to many because it is located in a slightly non-touristy district of Zamalek in Cairo. However, it has gained some popularity in recent times and is a pretty famous cultural centre now. There are many events and activities conducted here, like lectures, concerts, festivals, puppet shows, and a lot more. No matter what your likes are, you can always find something interesting, which makes it a must-visit!
16. Fair Trade Egypt
If you do not have a lot of time but want to pick up some souvenirs, Fair Trade Egypt is the place to be at. Located in Cairo, they sell some of the highest quality souvenirs you will find in the country. You need not visit every single souk to buy stuff as they do that for you, while you also support many small businesses. Things might be slightly on the more expensive side here. However, this one-stop destination is totally worth visiting.
17. Local taxi tour
I hired a local taxi in Cairo to explore the city. I visited Islamic Cairo and Cairo Citadel, both of which look gorgeous. Do note that Egypt is very safe for women, including solo women travellers. So, you need not hesitate while taking a taxi tour. I met some local school kids on a field trip who wanted to click pictures with me. I totally felt like a celebrity, lol. But it was indeed one of my best days in the entire Egypt trip.
18. Hot air ballooning
Luxor is a beautiful city to explore. What’s even better is exploring this city from great heights. You can see the historical sites, sunrise amidst the mountains from a hot air balloon, all of which look stunning. It is a fantastic experience that you shouldn’t miss out on. However, ensure that you choose a good agency even if you need to shell out a little extra money. Do not compromise on safety when it comes to adventures!
19. See Tutankhamun’s mummy
While visiting the Valley of the Kings, you will have to purchase a separate ticket to check out Tutankhamun’s mummy. He was one of the most famous rulers of Egypt, even though he ruled for only around a decade, before passing away at the young age of nineteen. I also purchased a ticket to have a look at his tomb, and it was hauntingly fascinating! It was much smaller than the other tombs, but it was truly the goosebumps moment!
20. Visit the Hanging Church
If you love great architecture, you should check out the Hanging Church in Old Cairo. It got its name because it was built above a gatehouse of the Roman Fortress. The church’s ceiling was made in the shape of Noah’s Ark. It is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, and its history dates back to the third century. If you are generally interested in religious and historical sites, you should definitely visit the Hanging Church on your solo trip.
21. Dinner with an Egyptian family
I went to an Egyptian family’s place for dinner. I was hesitant at first but realised that I wouldn’t get this chance ever again. So, I set my fears aside and went to their place. We exchanged a lot of information on culture, food, and languages. And the food was authentic and flavourful. I also got an opportunity to look around the interior of a typical Egyptian household, and I loved it! Thanks to the Airbnb experience!
Those were all of my favourite non-touristy things to do in Egypt. I believe these are what genuinely make solo travelling enjoyable. Of course, travelling to the most famous places is easy, but finding hidden locations and exploring them is what makes your solo trip complete. If you have never been to Egypt because you think it is too expensive, read my blog on travelling solo to Egypt on a budget.
I am glad I did a lot of these non-touristy things despite all the slight hesitations. And I really hope this blog pushes you to try out local things and adventures whenever you travel to Egypt. I must say, I left for my country, feeling inspired! With all that said and done, it’s time to pack your bags, book your flight and fly to Egypt.
An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.