Egypt – the ancient land full of myths and fables which is slowly creeping back onto travellers bucket lists. We have uncovered some of Egypt’s lesser known sites that you simply must see on your travels. It is likely that you may have many of these sites to yourself!
1. Medinet Habu
Medinet Habu is the Arabic name for the Mortuary Temple of Ramses III, a huge complex second only to Karnak in size and better preserved. Medinet Habu is among the least visited of the major sights at Luxor.
2. Deir el-Medina
The ancient village of Deir el-Medina, known as the tomb workers village, is situated in a small valley on the west bank of Luxor in Upper Egypt in a desert area, just south of Thebes in a valley behind Gurnet Murai hill. The remaining foundations of this village have been well preserved, and it has been concluded that the village was in use for about 500 years during the period of the New Kingdom (18th to 20th Dynasties). Deir el-Medina was first thought to be started by the pharaoh Amenhotep I and his mother, Ahmose-Nefertari. They established the village in order to have sufficient housing for the tomb workers that gave their labour to the Valley of the Kings. This was its only purpose.
Dendera is located about 60 kilometres north of Luxor on the west bank of the Nile River opposite the provincial modern town of Qena.
Ancient Egyptian Iunet or Tantere, known to the Greeks as Tentyris, was the capital of the 6th nome of Upper Egypt and a town of some importance. Today, we know it as Dendera, though the population of the town has, since antiquity, moved to Qena across the Nile on the east bank. Now, the ancient temple lies isolated on the desert edge. Along with the temple itself, there is also a necropolis that includes tombs of the Early Dynastic Period, but the most important phase that has been identified was the end of the Old Kingdom and the 1st Intermediate Period. The provinces were virtually autonomous at that time and, although Dendera was not a leading political force in Upper Egypt, its notables built a number of mastabas of some size, though only one has any decoration apart from stelae and false doors. On the west end of the site are brick-vaulted catacombs of Late Period animal burials, primarily birds and dogs, while cow burials have been found at various points in the necropolis. Of course, this was a significant site for the Hathor cult, whose forms included a cow.
4. Abydos Temples
Abydos was the epicentre for the pharaoh’s cult worship of Osiris and became the most important burial centre in ancient Egypt. Here, Seti I raised a glorious temple dedicated to Osiris and a pantheon of other gods that remains a beautiful and unique central point to this necropolis. For travellers interested in the artistry of the Pharaonic period, the Temple of Seti I’s colourful wall and ceiling paintings and sculpted column work are a highlight of any Nile temple itinerary and shouldn’t be missed.
5. St. Simon Cave Monastery
Located on the West Bank of Aswan. The Zabbaleen (meaning literally “garbage collectors”) village at the base of the Mokattam cliffs began around 1969 when the Cairo governor decided to move all of the garbage collectors to a single settlement. The garbage collectors were largely Coptic Christians and as their numbers continued to grow over the years the need for a centralised church began to grow. In 1975, the first Christian church was built in the village but after a large fire broke out nearby, work began on a monastery that was built right into the cliffside.
The Monastery of Saint Simon was the result of this new project. Simon the Tanner was a craftsman saint who lived during the 10th century and the cave church that was dedicated to him seems as though it might last for 10 more. Using a pre-existing cave and the slope that led into it, the current monastery seats 20,000 people around a central pulpit. Other nearby caves have also been built into separate church spaces and all of them have been linked to create a massive Christian complex in the heart of garbage city.
6. Wadi El Natroun Monastery
Wadi Natroun is known for its Coptic monasteries where thousands of Christians escaped from Roman persecution in the 4th century. Of the 60 or so original compounds in the valley, only four remain. These monastery buildings are impressive, as they were fortified after Arab raids in 817. The area was also important to the ancient Egyptians because the valley’s salt lakes dry up in the summer and leave natron, a substance crucial to the mummification process.
Looking for the ultimate Egypt experience? Be sure to check out our Egypt Rediscovered small group tour.
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.