HalalBooking guide for halal-friendly holidays in Egypt
Egypt is a unique and mythical country, its national history has crossed the world and lives in our imaginations since our childhood. The symbols of its heritage, the towering pyramids, the enormous sandblasted temples and its ancient mysteries buried in the sandy surroundings are just a part of this wonderful country.
The legendary Nile, the relaxing beaches of the Red Sea, the culture of coffee, conversation and shisha, the pure and healthy cuisine and the multiple magnificent mosques paint the picture of this country full of adventure. Egypt leaves an imprint on all its visitors due to its warm character that is impossible to forget.
The identity of Egypt, which is located in the northeast of the African continent, is influenced by its confluence with the Mediterranean countries to the north, the African countries to the south and the Muslim civilizations of the east. Its soul and personality can be read through the faces of the people, the architecture of pharaohs and Islamic remains. Each city has its story to tell.
Cairo, capital of Egypt, third largest city in Africa with a population of almost 10 million inhabitants, is a city that never sleeps and brings out beauty in the midst of chaos. The pharaonic identity, the Coptic Christian vestiges, the presence of the Fatimid dynasty, the Muslim conquerors as well as the passage of the French and the English make all the charming animation of this unique and dynamic city.
Pyramids of Giza
Last of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, the three Pyramids of Giza are the first image of the country. They are over 2000 years old and its triangular structures represented a meeting point between the earth and the stripes of the sun, a symbol of the domain of the dead. The three large pyramids behind the three smaller ones are protected by the Sphinx, a mythical creature. Iconic for their size, the Pyramids of Saqqara are however considered to be 200 years older than the Pyramids of Giza.
Grand Egyptian Museum
The Grand Egyptian Museum near the Giza Plateau is the new archaeological museum dedicated to the country's antiquities. The opening of the museum is planned for 2023 with a large exhibition of 5,000 objects from King Tutankhamun's funeral collection. The museum will feature a total of 50,000 preserved artifacts from several ancient cities in Egypt.
Located in the center of Cairo at Tahrir Square, it is the intellectual and cultural center of Egyptological studies. Visitors can admire its classical architecture with the 120,000 important relics on permanent display.
Cairo, "the city of a thousand minarets", is considered a historic center of Islam. Its intellectual and cultural dominance during the medieval period survives to the present day through its mosques, which were not only places of prayer, but also scenes of political intrigue, intellectual debate and cultural advancement.
Amr ibn al-As Mosque is the oldest mosque in Egypt, founded at the time of the Caliphate of ‘Umar in 642, of the Rashidun Caliphs. Although nothing remains of the original mosque, it is a must-see place with spiritual architectural aspects.
Built in 884, Mosque of Ibn Tulun is the oldest mosque in all of Africa in its original form. The minaret is a unique specimen that demonstrates a fusion between the influences of the Roman lighthouse of Alexandria and the Islamic inspirations of Iraq. The mosque is full of artistic elements.
Al-Azhar Mosque is one of the most famous in the world and was named to celebrate Fatima, the daughter of the Prophet (PBUH). Also the second largest university in the world, it is a gem in Islamic history and now a revered site for students of the religion and tourists. This heritage site has changed over the years, but it remains more beautiful than ever.
Qalawun Mosque is an example of Mamluk architecture, with a reputation for voluntary work and phenomenal examples of delicate architecture and art. The mosque was once a hospital and a school, which demonstrates the versatile assets of mosques in history.
Other mosques not to be missed: Al-Hakim Mosque, Al-Hussein Mosque, Aqsunqur Mosque, Amir al-Sayf Sarghatmish Mosque and all the other mosques you come across during your stay in Egypt.
Alexandria, the Mediterranean city of Egypt, nicknamed "the wife of the Mediterranean" bears its Hellenist and colonial identity with pride. Walk the Corniche waterfront promenade, sample seafood dishes at restaurants overlooking the sea, visit ruins from Roman times and chat with locals.
Pompey's Pillar is one of the most famous monuments of the ancient world, unique and different from obelisks. The pillar represents the triumphs of Emperor Diocletian.
Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa
The Catacombs of Kom El Shoqafa are an example of ancient Egyptian rituals adapted by the Greeks and Romans. They are considered one of the seven wonders of the Middle Ages. The underground rooms are accessed by spiral staircases that hide captivating friezes and murals.
This defensive fortress on the shores of the sea was founded on the ancient site of the Lighthouse of Alexandria. The structure imposes an impressive presence. The walkway, inner courtyard and cruises around the citadel in small fishing boats are well worth a visit.
Library of Alexandria
The Library of Alexandria is a jewel built to honor the Ancient Library of Alexandria, one of the greatest wonders of the world. This educational and national multiplex is a host for concerts, orchestras, plays and cultural routes. The library can house up to 8 million books and contains seasonal and permanent exhibitions as well as the Museum of Antiquities and the Museum of Manuscripts.
The Nile, mythical river, ancient symbol of life and death and watering gift of the country that allowed its flowering, can be admired in many ways. In Cairo, you can attend night boat parties with halal dinner, Egyptian music and oriental dance.
There are frequent boat trips to the cities of Luxor and Aswan, and even public transport boats for locals. You can rent the symbolic felucca boats of the Nile to admire the sunsets on the river. Nile cruises are luxurious experiences that allow for stress-free guided excursions. There are various choices of cruises available for the travellers individual personalities.
Luxor is the ancient great city of ancient Egypt which implements the glorious past of the pharaonic period through multiple spectacular remains. Fly over Luxor in a hot air balloon at sunrise for a breathtaking and unique experience.
Valley of the Kings
The Valley of the Kings is a royal territory with 62 tombs of pharaohs including the tomb of Tutankhamen. Kings, their wives, children and even their pets were buried here because of ancient beliefs that the sun god accompanies the dead more easily from this place. Only a small group of tombs are open to the public, in order to preserve the paintings and colors.
There is also the Valley of the Queens with more than 80 tombs. Most of the tombs, lacking the elaborate stucco decorations, paintings and carvings available in the tombs of kings, are not complete.
Karnak Temple is a perfect example of ancient buildings from the Golden Age. The temple is the result of each successive pharaoh who competed by building even more gigantic monuments and more colossal statues.
Temple of Hatshepsut
The Temple of Hatshepsut is considered a masterpiece of the ancient world, built to honor Hatshepsut, one of the first female pharaohs. This sacred site in ancient times is an example of the efficient reign of Hatshepsut, who ruled the kingdom peacefully with more elaborate development programs and projects than the pharaohs before her.
Aswan in southern Egypt, near the Sudanese border, offers an authentic Nubian atmosphere. It is an example of a city on the margins of society and completely quiet compared to other bustling cities, which has managed to preserve its heritage. Board a felucca (traditional wooden sailing boat) at sunset, engage in warm conversations with the locals and visit the Aswan Dam, the solution to the annual Nile floods.
Abu Simbel Temple
The Abu Simbel temple reaches 20 m in height and was built for Ramses II (Muslim historians believe that it was the pharaoh who ruled during the time of the Prophet Moses). The temple not only demonstrates the ego of the "King of Kings" but also the modern techniques of the ancient Egyptians. The four colossal guardian statues of the temple with their strict gazes are a striking image.
Visit the Nubian Museum for an immersion into the complexity and diversity of Egypt. Nubians are descendants of civilization as old as ancient Egypt, and native Nubians have preserved their ancient culture through their crafts, cuisine and customs. The museum is an exceptional experience to understand the African civilization of Egypt and their relationship with Sudan and East Africa.
Sharm el-Sheikh, built between the mountains of Sinai and the Red Sea in the Gulf of Aqaba, is a paradise of seaside resorts, idyllic relaxation and welcomes tourists looking for laid-back getaways. It is the ideal destination for lovers of sun, sand and serenity. Its clear waters remain warm all year round with temperatures of 25 degrees in winter.
Visit Halalbooking.com for an excellent choice of resort hotels and extravagant hotels for your stay in Sharm el-Sheikh.
For those who prefer the tranquility of a traditional city, Dahab has genuinely resisted the development of big cities. This fishing village is a hidden gem on the shores of the Red Sea, north of Sharm el-Sheikh. Try snorkeling in the Blue Hole, a 120m deep underwater excavation at the edge of the shore. Laguna, The Canyon, Abu Galum and Blue Lagoon beaches are all peaceful, pleasant and unchanged over time. In Dahab you will find international vegan food, meet foreigners who have given up everything to live in Dahab and drink tea with the Bedouins of the Sinai mountains.
Your ascent of Mount Sinai, believed to be the Mountain of Moses, can be arranged from Sharm el-Sheikh or Dahab. This intense pilgrimage and excursion site is 2,285m high and most guided groups start at night for views of the rising sun from the mountains. The Saint Catherine Monastery is a stop during this difficult but exceptional climb.
Egyptian cuisine, like its culture, has something for everyone.
For meat lovers:
Fattah: rice and meat with fried bread.
Hamam Mahshi: pigeon dish with rice, Molokhia (a green vegetable) and flavorings.
Hawashi: dough (or pita) stuffed with a mixture of spiced ground beef.
Macaroni Bechamel: penne pasta with minced meat and bechamel sauce.
Taameya: Egyptian version of falafel.
Torshi: marinated vegetables.
Feteer: adapted sweet or savory pie.
Ful Medames: typical beans of the country.
Koshari: dish of rice, pasta, lentils, tomato sauce, onions and chickpeas.
Mahshi: aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, vine leaves or cabbage stuffed with spicy rice.
Gourmands will be happy to taste deserts such as Basboussa, a semolina cake soaked in syrup, Baklava from the region, Ghorayeb, shortbread biscuits, rice pudding with nuts, Umm Ali, a pudding with milk, coconut, pastries and grapes.