This post was written by Ralph Starks, a blogger and traveler who enjoys exploring the world in the best ways possible.
Just hearing the name Egypt conjures up all sorts of images of sprawling deserts, incredible temples, and the River Nile. But for many, this destination also calls to mind an odd blend of history, mythology, and the present day –– such that it’s hard to know what one should really expect.
It’s now been a decade since revolution and its aftermath briefly took Egypt off the travel map for many around the world. And with things having remained relatively stable, it’s a good time for sun-seekers and culture vultures to check out this beautiful country.
To the point about expectations though, it’s important for you to know before you go where the fictions stop and the reality begins concerning Egypt. So in this piece, we’ll be looking at some of the most famous representations of the country in films, games, and the like in order to separate the myths from the real thing. The truth is that broadly speaking, fiction and fantasy tend to portray slightly ridiculous versions of Egypt. But the real thing, while maybe less glamorous in certain respects, is actually far more authentic and fascinating.
The Nile doesn’t flow through palatial backyards
In the animated movie The Prince of Egypt –– which helped shape a generation’s view of the country –– it would appear that the longest river in the world (itself a much-debated fact, with the Amazon proving a worthy competitor) runs through the gardens of affluent aristocrats. It’s portrayed as a gentle and idyllic backyard stream, more or less.
In reality though, much of the river flows through the countryside, and its drainage basin covers eleven African countries. In Cairo, the river has a wide berth, with sprawling bridges stretching across it. The Nile is certainly majestic, and is part of a fascinating history in Egypt –– but it isn’t decorating the gardens of the bourgeois.
Pyramids don’t populate the city centres
Video games also play an active role in shaping perceptions of Egypt, and many seem to suggest that pyramids stand side by side with the cities and other ancient monuments of the country. For example, the Sid Meier Civilization games allow you to build pyramids such that they appear as part of your cityscape. And certain angles from the Ubisoft game Assassin’s Creed Origins (probably the most vivid portrayal of Ancient Egypt ever in fiction) make it look like the great pyramids are right in town.
Ancient Egypt has also been a popular subject in online casino gaming, and in some cases exhibits the same misrepresentation. The new Links Of Ra game on Gala Bingo in particular makes it seem as if the great pyramids are part of some grand city. With surprisingly excellent graphics for a slot arcade, this game actually presents a beautiful picture of Ancient Egypt –– but one that may still give thousands of players the wrong idea.
The truth is that you’ll find the most famous and iconic of the pyramids in Giza, which is in the desert on the outskirts of Cairo. Open daily from morning until late afternoon, the pyramids are about 11 miles southwest of the city. Your best bet is to drive, take a taxi or embark on a bus tour.
Tombs are not adventure labyrinths
We’ve already looked into the pyramids, but what of the tombs that can be found inside them, and in the temples of Egypt? The fact is that the vast majority of them do not contain labyrinths featuring traps, spirits, and treasures –– no matter how much various legends, games, and films may put forth a vision of adventure. If your idea of Egyptian temples has been colored by shows like Ancient Aliens or films like X-Men: Apocalypse, in other words, you’re going to find things much more grounded than you expect.
That said, a lost labyrinth was found –– as an exception –– beneath a pyramid in Dashur. It is believed to have contained a complex range of buildings, with galleries and courtyards. Still, the tombs themselves don’t contain mazes or monsters in Egypt.
The Sphinx is not a flawless sculpture
Come on –– how often have you seen depictions of the big Sphinx statue, pristine and perfect, lording over the desert? Well, the good news is that the monument still looks great today. But in many respects, it is more of a ruin than a perfect statue.
Carved from bedrock, the Great Sphinx of Giza is one of the most famous structures in the world. But what many don’t realize is that much of its original shape had to be restored with limestone blocks, and its nose is broken. Still, it can be argued that this makes it much more authentic. If it looked perfect, the effects of time would be less evident, and we wouldn’t be able to appreciate just how “ahead of its time” and borderline miraculous the sculpture was when it was built in 2500 B.C.
All in all, Egypt is better for not resembling the sensational fantasies that have been built up around it. But it’s still best to know what you’re getting into!