It’s a new year, so let’s make the most of it here in Egypt.
1. Learn to dive and get your open water certification.
Considering that Egypt is universally agreed upon as being one of the best diving destinations in the world, very few of us actually take the time to get certified and experience the world-renowned diving for ourselves. The open water certification usually just takes 3 days, with two dives a day, and places like Dahab, Marsa Alam, Hurghada and Sharm have tons of PADI-approved diving centers. Here’s a bucket list of all the best diving spots in Egypt.
2. Stay at an ecolodge.
An ecolodge is a type of accommodation that tries to have the least possible impact on the environment around it. Many don’t have electricity, and try to grow their own produce. Egypt has around a dozen ecolodges all over the country. They’re the perfect destination for a break from your stressful, overly-connected daily life. Here’s a list of our favorite Egyptian ecolodges.
3. Encourage local artists and tradesmen.
While we’re probably going to continue buying the bulk of our wardrobe at Zara, H&M, etc. and the bulk of our home furnishings from IKEA, that doesn’t mean we should overlook local crafts and wares. There are a lot of great little shops around town that sell 100% Egyptian clothing, furnishings, and handicrafts. Buying these products helps provide a living for the artists and supports our micro economy. Some of our favorite stores are Fair Trade, Oum El Donia and Earth Gallery, among others. Check out these places for unique, Egyptian products.
4. Take tabla classes.
This is a fun activity for both men and women, and a great way to learn a musical instrument without investing a huge amount of time and money. There are several different instructors around the city, and most classes are once a week for 6 weeks.
5. Adopt from an animal shelter or volunteer/donate.
If you’re considering getting a pet this year, make sure to adopt one from the handful of animal shelters around Cairo. There are so many adorable cats and dogs that need a home, and the animal shelters are full to the brim. If you can’t adopt, then you can either volunteer or make a monthly donation to the shelter of your choice. Every piaster helps. Here are nine reasons you should #adoptdontshop in Egypt.
6. Go camping.
When was the last time (if ever) you went camping? There are all types of camping sites in Egypt — close to home, like Wadi Degla; out in the middle of nowhere, like the White Desert; and on the beach, like Basata. Try to time your camping trip with a 2018 meteor shower (there are ten of them this year), or a supermoon or lunar eclipse. Or go during a new moon for the stars and galaxies to be at their brightest.
7. Go baladi bar-hopping.
Want a fun, casual night out? Want a break from the same old places you go to every weekend? Then head over to Downtown one night and check out their array of baladi bars. They’re all seedy but they all have a certain charm, and are in walkable distance of one another, so you get to roam the streets and check out the bazillions of “vatrinas”.
8. Attend a performance at the Cairo Opera House.
There are dozens of performances monthly at the Opera House — modern dance, Arab heritage music, orchestras, opera, concerts, instrumental recitals, theatre, poetry, choirs, contemporary jazz, ballet, and much more. Check their schedule on their website and see what catches your fancy.
9. Help tourism in places like Luxor and Sharm el Sheikh.
Sadly Sharm and Luxor are not the tourist hubs that they were a decade ago, and thousands of Egyptian families are impacted daily by that. If you’ve been to Sharm recently, you’d notice that most of the hotels are closed down, and the same goes for tons of souvenir and gift shops in Luxor. Even Khan El Khalili has taken a huge hit. When you’re thinking of traveling this year, consider investing your money in somewhere local, where it’ll make a difference.
10. Learn another language. Or at least try to.
We always say we’re going to learn French or Spanish or whatever your language of choice is year after year, but we never actually take any real steps to do it. Try to make 2018 the year you actually get around to it — there are tons of language classes around the city, so there’s no excuse. And if going to a center isn’t really your thing, here are easy ways to learn a new language totally from home.
11. Hop on a felucca as often as you can.
Feluccas are like little hour mini-breaks from the city, and yet we don’t utilize them enough. Feluccas during the day, at sunset and at night all have completely different vibes — we recommend them all. You can also bring your own food and drinks and make a complete outing out of it. We should enjoy the best thing is this city –the Nile– far more often.
12. Try kitesurfing.
Kitesurfing is not an easy sport to pick up, and you’re going to swallow gallons of sea water until you finally get it right, but once you’re up on the board, it’s totally worth it. Egypt has some of the best kitesurfing globally, and more and more people are becoming aware of that fact — there are whole kitesurfing communities now in Ras Sedr and El Gouna. It’s also a good way to meet new people.
13. Have a barbecue.
Whether it’s on your balcony/roof, at a chalet in Sokhna or somewhere in the desert, having a barbecue is always fun, especially when the weather is ideal. Wadi Degla is always a good option for barbecue destinations.
14. Go watch an independent and/or foreign film at a little arthouse.
Besides the usual blockbuster and big production movies that are in the normal cinemas, little arthouses like Zawya screen smaller-budget independent movies, whether Egyptian or foreign. Similar places are Balcon in Heliopolis and Cinema el Fourn in Darb 1718.
15. Actively learn about ancient Egyptian history.
For most of us, the last time we learned or read about something Ancient Egypt-related was back in elementary school, which is a crying shame. Reading up on Ancient Egypt as an adult is actually fascinating, especially if you organize trips to points of interest to really bring it to life. Besides Luxor and Abu Simbel, the Dendera temple at Qena is in amazing condition, and Memphis is right outside of Cairo. For more awesome places in Egypt you might not know about, like Dendera, check this out.
16. Have a staycation.
Who doesn’t love staying in luxury hotel? The usual issue is that abroad it’s just too damn expensive, what with us already paying an arm and a leg for airfare and going out, and the Egyptian pound being useless as usual. But you don’t have to be outside of Egypt to spend a weekend in the lap of luxury — book the Cairo hotel of your choice for a weekend and just kick back and relax.
17. Go to a music festival.
Awhile back, there was no such thing as an Egyptian music festival. But now there are actually really good options — the daytime FunknPop in Mohamed Ali Club, Sandbox in El Gouna, 3al Ganoob, and other pop-up festivals in Sahel and Dahab.
18. Walk around the old nice areas of Cairo while they’re still nice.
Maadi, Zamalek, Korba and Garden City all have beautiful old streets worth walking down — a rarity in Cairo. Spending Friday mornings walking around these areas and admire the greenery and old architecture.