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Why Egypt is the ultimate adventure trip for kids

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And there, sleek and gleaming, was the new Grand Egyptian Museum. Due to open this month, after 20 years’ work and $800 million of investment, it will explore 3,000 years of ancient Egyptian history through its 100,000-strong collection of artefacts, making it the largest museum in the world dedicated to one civilisation. Situated at a respectable distance in the lee of the Pyramids, there is even talk that a cable car may link the museum to the ancient site.

When we arrived at the Pyramids our dependable, highly educated guide Tamer whisked us through security and hawkers, and soon we were riding camels: gurning, adorable Whisky (knock-kneed and bald as a coot) and Moses (wig-like mop of curly hair). ‘Good camel,’ I told mine. ‘Mummy!’ hissed Sybilla, clinging to her pommel, ‘I think he’s a dromedary.’

Venturing into the stuffy, slightly damp interior of Khafre’s pyramid was the highlight of Sybilla’s holiday, if not her life. She’d rehearsed it enough times in Playmobil. The Sphinx was timeless, mesmeric and baking hot. Meanwhile the Giza Plateau is now also host to – and rendered even more magical by – a contemporary art exhibition, Forever is Now. Among its large-scale installations are ghostly, transparent pyramids rising alongside the sandstone ones, and two phantom hands forming a pinnacle to echo the ancient tombs.

Travelling off season, we were grateful for our air-conditioned car and the cold drinks our driver offered. The midday heat reduced our hours of operation, but brought fewer visitors; we had some sacred sites almost to ourselves.

In Coptic Cairo, Tamer, himself a Christian, showed us the enclave of bookshops and churches marking where the Holy Family is said to have sheltered on the flight into Egypt described by the Gospel of St Matthew. And so it was that we found ourselves in the Roman gloom of the crypt of Saint Sergius, looking at the rather stony niche in which the baby Jesus slept – our third extraordinary sight before lunch.

Egyptians love children, and our guides were delightful with Sybilla, one addressing her as ‘my Queen’. He was pleased when she liked the salty local herb soup, molokhia, which she ordered at every meal, to a chorus of waiterly approval, until day three, when she secretly told me she never wanted it again.

We tried crispy falafel and stuffed pigeon at Abou El Sid, the dimly lit restaurant – conveniently near the Marriott – where fez-wearing locals have conspired over dinner for almost 100 years.

A tranquil evening cruise up the Nile on a private felucca (traditional wooden sailboat) took us past Cairo’s urban landscape of high-rise buildings and Vegas-like fountains. Later in the week, at Aswan, our felucca experience would be completely different, with a backdrop of golden sand dunes, Bisharin boys swimming in the Nile and verdant wilderness. Part of our trip’s pleasure was seeing the river and its environs change.

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