Egypt is undoubtedly one of the most enchanting countries that you’ll ever explore. From its topographic characteristics to the pyramids, if archaeologists never tire of unearthing its secrets, neither will you. Step away from the mainstream itineraries into these quaint Egyptian towns, which have successfully retained their charm for centuries. By Shubhanjana Das
One of the most isolated yet most progressive desert oasis, Siwa is located close to the Libyan border. It’s a picturesque little town of palm trees and olive groves emerging out of the endless sand dunes. The 20,000-strong Berber population have their own language (Siwi) and their culture supports same-sex marriages, as can be seen in the town. The origin of Siwa dates back to the 10th century when the Temple of Amun was built here, whose ruins are left in Siwa till date. Old mosques, minarets, Fortress of Shali, and its winding alleys are perfect for a conversation-starting Egyptian adventure.
One of the oldest recorded villages in Egypt, Faiyum’s history dates back to the Pharaonic times.The traditional souks, Hanging Mosque and the Qaitbay Mosque (without minarets) are some of the things that attract the few visitors who visit Crocodilopolis, as Faiyum was known to the Greeks. The surrounding Valley of Whales at Wadi al-Hitan made it score the title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with hundreds of fossils of whale, sharks, and crocodiles.
Aswan sits on Egyptians’ lifeline- the Nile River. Once the southernmost Egyptian outpost called Swenett, Aswan still shelters the rare traditional dhows and feluccas. The old souks of Aswan and the Kitchener’s Garden, which is now home to the Aswan Botanical Gardens, the abandoned monastery of St. Simeon, and the Nubian villages with vibrant houses are worth seeing in Aswan.
The erstwhile ancient city of Thebes is now hailed as ‘the finest open-air museum’ owing to the ruins from the Pharaonic Age. On one side of the Nile are the Karnak and Luxor Temple complexes, the temples of the great Pharaohs Ramesses II and III, while the other side is the Valley of the Kings. The souks, street markets, and the local Islamic sites are going to make your stay in Luxor worth your time.
5. Qasr al-Farafra
The town of Qasr al-Falafra is a traditional mud-brick town home to 5,000 inhabitants who get to witness its beautiful surrounding palm groves and hill-top Roman fortresses every day. The town’s income comes from traditional industries like wool-spinning and teahouses. Next to one of Egypt’s most striking and impressive natural parks, Farafra is close to the White Desert known for its chalk formations and white rocks mixing with the stands. The place has seen very little modern development and is a treat to explore.