Best ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids
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Top 10 ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids
Egypt is a huge country with a population of around 105 million people, 90 million of them live near the Nile. It’s a country high on many families bucket list as its a cradle of civilization, filled with countless of ancient wonders.
Some off the beaten path or outside of the big cities, like Abu Simbel and the pyramid of Djoser. But most of the ancient sights can be checked out with a city as a home base. Like in and around Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. Let’s share the top 10 best ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids!
Egypt with kids
Before we dig into the best ancient Egyptian sites to visit with your family, let’s talk about why you should travel to Egypt with kids. If you’re an avid travel family, Egypt is probably on your bucket list. But for some it’s not considered an easy destination.
I often get questions about the safety of Middle Eastern countries. Lots of them are safe to explore with kids. Places like the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Oman and Egypt are good places to visit with kids.
Stepping into Egypt is like entering a magical place, not just for parents, but also for kids. There are so many needly preserved and intact examples of ancient history in Egypt that you really get a good sense of how ancient Egyptians lived. And besides that, every kid that has learned about ancient Egypt wants to see the pyramids.
Kids are really welcomed in Egypt. In restaurants, shops and on the streets, they will get a smile wherever they go. Traveling with kids helps break cultural barriers all over the world. Egypt is no exception.
Is traveling to Egypt with kids safe?
We definitely think so. But Egypt isn’t the first Middle Eastern country we’ve visited. The culture in this region is very different from western culture. And also differs per country. But overall, it’s hot, it’s crowded and it’s loud, proud and colorful. Egypt is an amazing family travel destination, but it might take kids some time to take it all in, before they can fully enjoy it.
Like all crowded places all over the world you have to be mindful of your belongings. Don’t wear expensive jewelry, show off your electronics and make sure to keep an eye on your stuff at all times. That goes for Cairo as well as Amsterdam or New York.
Egypt with babies and toddlers
Egypt is also fun for toddlers and babies to enjoy. Just take it slow. Do your exploring early in the mornings to beat the heat and the crowds and book accommodation with pools to dip in during the hotter moments. Egypt is not very stroller friendly. Bring a baby carrier to explore the ancient sights, cities and villages.
Touts and scammers
That said, people in Egypt rely heavily on tourism. The bad press many Middle Eastern countries get, labeling them unsafe in general, doesn’t help tourism and the locals. Neither does the unrest in neighboring countries. And adding to the list of difficulties the Egyptian tourism industry already faced, are the recent lockdowns because of the pandemic.
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Egypt really took a hit regarding the amount of travelers the last 10 years. This is a big reason why touts at large ancient historic sites in Egypt show some annoying behavior. Following you around, constantly repeating what they have to offer. But also scamming you into paying a small sum of money, simply because they showed you the way by walking along for a few meters.
Be clear and give them a firm no. Sometimes up to a point where you feel impolite. Especially at the pyramids, where ignoring them all together unfortunately is the best advice.
If you’re interested, I’ve written more in depth about traveling to Egypt with kids in regards to safety in the ultimate road trip guide of Egypt.
Learning about ancient Egypt
Before enjoying all the ancient historic sites of Egypt it is nice to visit the Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Hire an Egyptologist to show your family around and learn about ancient Egypt. It will make it even more fun to visit the places, because you’ve heard about them before the exploration of a sight.
Greek and Roman Rule
Some of the beautiful places to visit in Egypt have a Greek and Roman feel to it. And that’s not a coincidence. The Greeks formed their own dynasty in Egypt from 300 to 30BC, called the Ptolemaic Dynasty. In 30BC the Romans took over and they ruled until around 640AC. The Greek and later the Romans, added their own spin to the already mesmerizing Egyptian architecture and even built entire complexes in ancient Egypt. Some examples of Greco-Roman temples are Philae, Kom Ombo and Edfu.
History of Egypt
Known as the oldest nation on Earth, Egypt left a lasting mark on not just Northern Africa, but also well beyond that. Egypt dates back to the 3rd millennium BC. Let’s share some facts about the ancient history of Egypt.
- Ancient Egypt had two main regions that still exist today. Upper Egypt and Lower Egypt. Each used to have their own pharaoh. Pharaoh Narmer united Upper and Lower Egypt in 3100BC. Making Narmer the first king of Egypt and the founder of the First Dynasty.
- The First Dynasty is also the era when the first pyramids were built. They didn’t built them like in Giza, though. That was centuries later. The step pyramid of Djoser is the first pyramid ever built.
- Egypt had several capitals throughout its history. The most famous being Memphis (the first official capital), Thebes (now Luxor) and Alexandria (named after Greek/Macedonian king Alexander the Great).
- Other key cities in Egyptian history were Nubt (now Kom Ombo), Elephantine (near Aswan) and Crocodilopolis (now Faiyum).
Now it’s finally time to share the top 10 ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids! In no particular order, that’s simply impossible. They’re all amazing in their own way.
Pyramids of Giza
We start off with the most famous Egyptian site of all, maybe even the world? The pyramids of Giza. You can find them in Giza, about 6km from Downtown Cairo.
The Great Pyramids of Giza, as this site is officially known, is the only remaining ancient wonder of the world. All the others are gone. It should be on every travelers bucket list, no matter how overrun with tourists it can get. I’ve never heard of anyone who regretted visiting these cluster of pyramids.
When you stand in front of them you can’t help but marvel at it. How did they design it and most of all, how did they built it?
While you’re here pay a visit to the Sphinx, located on the city side of the entire complex.
And you shouldn’t miss a drive up to the viewpoint, where you not only get a great view of the pyramids, but also a glimpse of the massive city that is Cairo.
Philae Temple is often overlooked by tourists. But if you’re in Aswan it shouldn’t be missed. It’s one of the few ancient Egyptian sights that is mostly in tact and beautifully preserved.
Take a boat to the island of Agilika and 15 minutes later you’ll be amazed by this temple complex, the gorgeous details and hieroglyphics and the beautiful surroundings and silence.
The fact that a lot of tourists skip this site is an advantage for your family. You’ll be visiting the place with only a handful of other tourists. A rare thing in Egypt.
Rise and shine early in the morning for the drive or flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel.
If you’re can get to this ancient Egyptian site around 7.30am -8.00am, you’re in luck. Tour buses and the flight from Aswan haven’t arrived yet. Hiring a driver to get here early is our top tip. You get to enjoy the amazing temples for Ramses II and his chief wife Queen Nefertari with only about 50 others. That may sound like much, but this complex is so big, you’ll hardly notice them.
The other reason to visit these amazing temples is the heat. Located right at the border with Sudan, it doesn’t get much hotter in Egypt than here at Abu Simbel, except when you’re in the middle of the Sinai desert, but I would skip that on your road trip ;).
Both the facades are impressive to look at. But, it’s the inside that count and what makes Abu Simbel one of the absolute best ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids!
Luxor’s Karnak Temple is the second largest religious site in the world. Only Angkor Wat in Cambodia tops it. It’s beautifully preserved, and a true architectural gem. You immediately get why Karnak is the most visited site in Egypt, after the pyramids of Giza. If you only have time for one temple complex while in Luxor, let Karnak be it.
There’s lots to see and explore for the whole family. Hieroglyphics tell interesting tales about fights that were won and love that was found. Kids will love the unraveling of the stories all the walls tell. It’s almost like reading a comic book.
There’s also enough room to run around and play hide and seek between the endless rows of pylons, just be mindful of the history and don’t touch or climb on any objects.
In short, this could very well be your family its number 1 of this top 10 best ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids.
Looking for more information about visiting Egypt with kids?
If so, read more about family travel in Egypt
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Karnak Temple is connected to Luxor Temple via the Avenue of the Sphinxes. You can walk from one temple complex to the other while being watched over by 650 sphinxes along the way. That’s already an impressive number, but there used to be 1.350 of them.
I wouldn’t recommend walking the entire route, because it’s 2,7km long. In the heat that is undoable, because there’s barely any shade. The best thing to do is visit Luxor Temple and enjoy a part of this walk from there.
Luxor Temple is much smaller than Karnak, but must not be overlooked. The architecture is amazing and equally mesmerizing. If you have the time to visit both, definitely do it.
Top tip: visit the Luxor Temple at night, when the entire site is beautifully lit. It gives the place a magical feel.
Valley of the Kings
If you want to feel like Lara Croft or Indiana Jones, a visit to Valley of the Kings is a must. You can find this immense sight on the West Bank of Luxor.
Here you can go underground and visit a couple of the 23 tombs that are open to visitors. The other 40+ are not. The tombs are all beautifully adorned and in some of the tombs the colors are still vivid.
The ones that we loved and recommend are the tombs of Ramesses (or Ramses) IV, Ramesses IX and Mernaptah. The last one had the best decorations and the colors were greatly preserved.
A little off the beaten path and best accessible with a car from Luxor or Aswan or while on a Nile river cruise is Kom Ombo.
The Kom Ombo temple is situated on the bank of the Nile and that makes for a lovely view. Little remains of this temple for the gods Sobek and Horus, but it is still worth a visit. Here you can find hieroglyphics of surgical tools like scalpels, suction caps, dental tools and bone saws. Amazing to see that they used tools ages ago, that we still use today.
The other great thing about this temple is that you can check out the calendar that the Egyptians used back in the day. It’s divided into 3 seasons, flood, sowing and harvest. Each season has 4 months and each month 3 weeks of 10 days. The 30 weeks for 12 months counts up to 360 days. The 5 missing days till 365 are called the forgotten dates that correspond with the birthdays of the gods Horus, Isis, Osiris, Seth and Nephthys.
Top tip: right next to the temple you’ll find the Crocodile Museum. A small place that takes about 20 minutes to explore and is filled with mummified crocs in all stages of life. Babies as well as huge grown ones. Your kids will love a visit to this place.
In Edfu you’ll find the Temple of Horus. It was buried onder sand and silt for centuries, until it was discovered in 1860. Because of this it’s one of the best preserved archeological sites in Egypt. Here you truly feel like you’ve gone back in time.
Especially impressive is a wall that tells the story of the fight between Horus and Seth in hieroglyphics and detailed carvings. And pretty much intact!
Most people opt to get a horse carriage ride to the temple complex. The carriage drivers have monopolized the route from the Nile to the temple. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid a ride. This is a bad thing, because most, if not all, of the horses are beaten and get no breaks. Another sad example of animal abuse in the tourism industry.
The only thing you can do is to make a deal with the driver to go slow and refrain from whipping. This will cost you a little extra, but it gives the horse time to breath and saves it from some whips. I paid the price for 1 ride before entering and paid for another, once we arrived on site. I told him I would only pay the amount for another ride if he lowered the tempo and left his whip in the cart.
If you want to read more about the horses at Edfu, visit my article Ultimate Road Trip Guide: Egypt and scroll to the Edfu part of the piece.
Temple of Hatshepsut
While most people have heard about Cleopatra, there was another female who reigned successfully in Egypt. Queen Hatshepsut. She once was the chief wife of pharaoh Tutmose II, but he died pretty soon. His successor was only a baby and Hatshepsut was named queen regent to her little nephew, Tutmose III.
She made all the decisions and ruled ancient Egypt, but she wanted to be a pharaoh. That started by dressing like one, wearing male clothes and the standard fake beards they all wear. She was extremely successful and now known as one of the best pharaohs.
Known for her peace deals and amazing trades, she built many monuments from the money that was made. One being her own mortuary temple on the West Bank of Luxor. When you stand in front of it you get why it’s referred to as the greatest ancient Egyptian achievements.
There are 3 amazing levels to explore here. A true architectural gem that tells the story of Hatshepsut in detail.
Last, but certainly not least, on the top 10 best ancient Egyptian places to visit with kids is another pyramid. We started with the world famous pyramids of Giza and end with the first pyramid of Djoser, found in a place called Saqqara (1h drive from Cairo).
This pyramid is known as the Step Pyramid, and you immediately see why. This pyramid is extremely important as far as Egyptian history is concerned. It is not only the first pyramid that Egyptians built, it is also the oldest ancient Egyptian stone structure that we know of.
Your family will be staring at a structure that is about 4.700 years old. How often can you say that?
That’s it, the 10 best ancient Egyptian sites to visit with your family. If you want to know more about all these places, or other top things to do in Egypt with kids, check out the following articles:
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