CAIRO: There are many things Egyptians can look forward to with the onset of summer: ideal weather, outdoor cafes, a jump-start to the summer and an abundance of holidays.
“Spring is one of the best seasons for travel, says Mohammed Al Rifai, director of sales at Eastmar Travel. “The weather is accommodating to most of the activities and excursions that people select their destinations upon, which is probably why it s one of the busiest, peak travel periods in the year, along with Christmas and summer.
Instead of flocking to international destinations, considering local alternatives could prove rewarding on many levels, whether in the affordable prices, the relative proximity or the wide range of activities available in these destinations.
“The benefits of living in Egypt is that there are a lot of places to visit for a multitude of purposes, says Al Rifai. “That’s why Egypt is a well-rounded destination. You have the sun, the beach, the pyramids, camping, cruises, museums and windsurfing. The country has everything to offer, regardless of the type of vacation you are looking for.
According to Al Rifai, Egyptians are not taking full advantage of the destinations within the country.
“Egyptians have a habit of going to the same, popular places for the holidays, which is a shame because there are many great places in Egypt to visit. You have tourists who fly thousands of miles to come to those places as a testament, he says.
For those one-day national holidays, Alexandria is an all time favorite. Located along the Mediterranean, Alexandria is an ideal way to get out of the congested city for the day.
From the famous Bibliotecha Alexandrina, national museum and Roman amphitheater, to the local cafes and multitude of seafood restaurants, Alexandria will satisfy both those visitors who want to walk along the beach and eat at a local restaurant, as well as those looking for a day of intense sightseeing.
Other destinations in the same area include Sahil (North Coast) and Marsa Alam, a popular destination in the summer.
Ain El Sokhna is also a popular destination for one-day trips. Its proximity to Cairo, warm weather and quiet beaches and resorts has gradually made it the first choice of many. It also attracts vacationers looking to spend longer holidays.
Also, for those three-day or longer holidays, getting reacquainted with Luxor or Aswan is both recreational and educational.
Known as the world’s largest open-air museum, Luxor reminds Egyptians of their country’s great history. Aswan, which is known as the jewel of the Nile, also invokes the same feeling.
“Aswan and Luxor, while mostly tourist destination[s], [are] a great place for Egyptians to visit, says Al Rifai. To really enjoy it, Al Rifai suggests taking one of many three or four-day Nile cruises. “You can go for as long as a week or three days, with a big or small budget, he says.
The minimum average for a three-day Luxor-Aswan full-board cruise, including sightseeing, runs at about LE 800 for Egyptians.
For the bohemians out there, the Western and Southwestern desert are the places to be. For an experience more relaxing than the best of spas, ditch your laptops and spend a few days camping in the desert.
“The great thing about the Western desert is that you can do it in luxury or with virtually no budget. Either take your camping gear and drive out there and set camp for a few days, or book yourself in one of the small hotels and get yourself a guide, says Al Rifai.
Aside from camping, desert goers can go hiking or camel riding. They can also take jeep rides along the dunes or swim in one of the many hot springs.
Another prominent location is Siwa. Again, visitors can go with luxury and book themselves in the environment friendly ecolodge, which runs at around $200 a room, or stay in one of the neighboring hotels at a much cheaper price.
Taba, located on the Egyptian-Israeli border, is also ranked among the popular vacation spots.
For any vacationer, a trip to the beach is usually high up on the list. And no one can deny that Egypt has an abundance of beach resorts.
“Tourists come to Egypt’s beach resorts because we have some of the best beaches and most renowned diving areas in the world, says Al Rifai, “That says something.
Dahab and Bassata are the most primitive of the beach resorts, yet extremely inviting with their long strips of beaches, soft sand and lack of commercialism.
Sharm El-Sheikh, Hurghada, El Gouna and Makadi Bay provide vacationers with a more modern vacation, yet complete with the most pristine of beaches.
Located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm El-Sheikh has become the Ibiza of the Middle East, with world renowned DJs and a club scene that almost makes you forget you are in Egypt.
El Gouna, just 20 km north of Hurghada, was voted the most environmentally friendly resort in Egypt, and is for those who enjoy a quieter sort of fun, with great coffee shops, a few good bars and a wide variety of restaurants.
Hurghada, located southwest of Cairo, combines the best of Sharm and Gouna: with a solid party scene and, at the same time, family fun.
Makadi Bay, the new and fashionable destination in the country, located close to Hurghada, is a resort town in itself, complete with five star hotels, restaurants, cafés, nightclubs and entertainment for children.
According to Al Rifai, the perks about traveling within Egypt are that vacationers can enjoy themselves regardless of their budget.
While prices differ wildly based on the number of travelers, number of days, destination, hotel and airfare, Egyptians can get great deals if they book in advance, or if they book a package deal from any of the travel agents and offices. Online bookings are also available.
“A person on a tight budget can do almost the same things and have as good a time as a person on a big budget. The difference is instead of traveling by plane, they travel by bus. And instead of staying, say at the Four Seasons in Sharm, they can stay in a four-star hotel. But the excursions [and] the entertainment, is just as enjoyable, says Al Rifai.