The country of Egypt is where I had longed to travel to for years; the history, climate and culture totally intrigued me. I had my first taste of North Africa when I travelled around Morocco in 2013 and that opened my eyes to a new culture, new food flavours and a totally different environment – the desert. When I visited the Sahara I was totally moved by it’s peacefulness, isolation and beauty. So I knew I’d be back to this region again and luckily the chance came up when Pete, my partner, and I had 5 weeks free and fancied a holiday.
Initially we looked into independent flights to Egypt and booking some accommodation but it actually worked out cheaper going… all inclusive. Now after being stranded at an all inclusive in Magaluf for a week (true story, cheers EasyJet), I didn’t think I would ever book a holiday like that for me. I’m not judging people who like the ease of this holiday but I personally like using the country’s public transport, getting lost in food markets, finding restaurants and also having the opportunity to self cater and use local ingredients. Despite all that, we booked a week in Hurghada for £300 each. You can’t beat those kind of prices, so we booked super last minute and next thing you know we were on a Tui flight to Egypt. Flying over 90% of the Egyptian desert at sunset was so cool.
I had contacted the Sindbad Club hotel with regards to eating a vegan diet and they advised me to speak to the head chef when I arrived. I didn’t bother with this because on the first night at the international buffet, I realised that all the ingredients were labelled for each dish and there was plenty for me to eat. Every evening had a kind of loose theme and there was always something tasty to have. The only let down was the dessert section but fresh fruit and fresh dates were available as an alternative which was fine, I love fruit! Below are some examples of the foods I ate:
Hummus, Baba Ganoush, flatbreads, roast potatoes, french fries, fresh falafel, salad, olives, veggie sushi, chickpea curry, grilled aubergines, potatoes in tomato sauce, pasta, lentil soup, boiled seasonal vegetables, fava beans, tahini dressing sauce and lots of different breads.
As you can see, I had lots of choice and certainly did not starve! If we were up for breakfast I usually had lots of fresh melon and toast washed down with gallons of lemon tea. We didn’t go to the restaurants for lunch as it’s just too much food, we preferred the snack bars where they made fresh falafel which we had with salad, olives and tahini dressing.
From Hurghada, you can book snorkelling tours to the beautiful coral reefs in the Red Sea. We did this through Viator which also included a buffet lunch. There was plenty of vegan options and I had pasta, grilled aubergines, hummus and salad. You can find loads of shops selling tours in Hurghada town around Egypt but Viator worked for us as I got a 10% discount code for signing up and I booked two tours at once. The snorkel trip was well organised and and the sea life was amazing, way more than I expected. Sadly we didn’t see a turtle but there were hundreds of fish. The sea was warm in December but I did get a little chilly sat on the boat because of the wind so prepare to take some extra layers. We stopped off at a little paradise beach which had white sand and the clearest turquoise sea then had three snorkelling stops.
We also booked a day trip to Cairo through Viator with Ramashka Tours which was awesome. Be warned it’s a super long day in a small bus but totally worth it to learn about some of the incredible Egyptian history. When I was just around the hotel and beach area, I didn’t really feel like I was in Egypt, but Cairo was totally different. It’s a crazy, busy place which totally reminded me of New Delhi. Our guide Mr Mandoor was well known in Cairo and showed us the most important and significant artifacts in the Cairo museum. Cairo museum and everything in it is moving to a new modern site in Giza closer to the pyramids. That museum will be incredible when it’s finished as although I enjoyed the old museum, it did feel dated and a bit crammed with historical objects that probably needed more space and more descriptions.
We also got the opportunity to do a short cruise on the river Nile which turned out to be so fun. We got to see a great vie of the big city and Cairo’s iconic buildings. Our lunch spot was also on the Nile on a local river boat restaurant. It was buffet style and actually really delicious. It was a nice change from the hotel food as it had more freshness and lots of vegan options.
I was so excited to go to Giza and you can see a glimpse of the pyramids in the distance as you approach. I was buzzing, this really was the main event. They are spectacular and you cannot gauge the scale and sheer size of them until you are up close. Every man and his dog was there trying to the get the perfect Instagram shot but I still felt like it was a really special experience and our excellent guide took us to a hidden area away from the crowds giving us an exceptional tour full of insight into that period.
Going on a tours like these supported the local economy and put much needed money into various local Egyptians pockets rather than staying within the large hotels. Tui currently doesn’t run tours to Cairo and their snorkelling trips are double the price of the ones on Viator.
I was happy that we went to Cairo and got to experience some true Egyptian culture. The locals are friendly, keen to help you and really keen to make sure you enjoy your time in Egypt. This country needs the tourism so don’t hesitate a visit to Egypt if you get the opportunity. Vegan food is widely available so it is easy to travel here.