Luxury Hotels on the Cheap, Pyramids to Oneself—What It’s Like to Visit Egypt Right Now
For once, having champagne tastes on a beer budget didn’t feel like a problem.
The size of a crowd matters. Think about the dejected atmosphere of an unpopular restaurant, the awkwardness of watching a play in an empty theatre or the shame of dancing in a club before it fills up. By contrast, as a tourist you often do want to be entirely alone at the world’s most magnificent sites, and yet you so rarely are.
I’ve been to Egypt three times. My first visit was in 2010 to Cairo—it was a year before the Tahrir Square uprising and tour group numbers in Giza were so overwhelming that all I remember is the feeling of being tired, hot, and keen to leave. The second was in 2019 when crowd sizes were down but temples and tombs still felt busy. The third was this month when—on our way home from visiting family in Kenya—my boyfriend and I stopped off in Luxor and Aswan and found ourselves all but alone in one of the most extraordinary places on earth.
“Why are you whispering?” I whispered to him at the entrance to the Philae Temple—a vast, buttermilk-colored structure erected to the goddess Isis at around the same time as the birth of Christ. Set on an island in the middle of the Nile about a mile downstream of Aswan, it shimmered with heat and ancient life on the day we visited, but—other than one machine-gun toting guard in white—no sign of modern life. “Because it’s so damn quiet,” he whispered back.