Egypt - March 2018
I feel as though Egypt is one of those destinations on everyone’s bucket list but gets overlooked too often due to concerns of safety and recent government instability. Despite these concerns, I wanted to see this country for myself and experience it firsthand. From a young age, I have always been fascinated with ancient Egyptian culture and mythology. I’ve been mesmerized by the ancient wonders and tales of pharaohs and Gods. I did have my own reservations about visiting Egypt due to safety concerns and what you hear by the media. Fortunately we had a friends who have visited Egypt recently, and we spoke with them prior to planning our trip. We got some great advise and our confidence grew in planning our trip. Now fair warning, Egypt does have its own set of challenges. We planned every aspect of this trip on our own. I feel, if we had went through a tour agency, we may have been shielded from more of the negative sides of Egypt but that could be a negative aspect as well. The biggest challenge we faced was being hassled by local vendors into buying things we did not want and being cheated on pricing because we were foreigners. We constantly had to negotiate for a fair price and this did become irritating quickly. I plan to keep this post pretty honest throughout. This was a common theme but I’ll only highlight the major situations as I don’t want this post to sound as though the whole trip was a negative. But keep in mind that every form of transportation and site we visited, hassling and negotiating is to be expected.
DAY 1 & 2: Our first day was full of travel. We started early in the morning make sure we have everything packed and organized. We headed to the airport for our flight at 5:00pm. Our connection to Cairo had a layover in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. From there, we continued our journey to Cairo International Airport. Before we could enter into the country, you have to obtain an Egyptian Visa which could be purchased at immigration in Cairo. But our travels weren’t over. We wanted to keep the Pyramids and Cairo for the end of the trip. So we transferred over to the domestic terminal to catch a late flight to Aswan to start our journey. We boarded our flight with Air Egypt and landed in Aswan at midnight Egypt time. Luckily we had a driver set to pick us up from the airport and drop us to our hotel, Citymax. By the time we reached our hotel and settled in, it was nearly 2am. After such a long journey we were fairly exhausted. There was no real need to unpack because he knew we had an early morning start.
DAY 3: Just as we fell asleep, our alarm clock goes off at 4am. We were scheduled to be picked up early in the morning to start our journey to Abu Simbel. The tour bus picked us up at our hotel and we had a 2 hour ride further south. We hoped we would get some rest on the bus but unfortunately it wasn’t what we expected. It was a rough start to the trip but the excitement kept us going. We reached the temples of King Ramseys II and his Queen Nefertiti.
On this trip, Abu Simbel is one of the gems you MUST see while in Egypt. Most people come to Egypt to see the Great Pyramids and you pretty much know what to expect. But Abu Simbel is one of the places that is under-rated. At first we were on the fence about it. Is it worth taking the time to travel there and taking days away from other places we wanted to visit? ABSOLUTELY! We would highly recommend making a trip to south Egypt to see Abu Simbel.
We spent a few hours admiring the temples. Getting to see these larger then life statues and ancient hieroglyphics were absolutely beautiful. We soon boarded our tour bus and made our way back to Aswan.
Next was our journey to Luxor. Instead of flying we took the train so that we could get to see this country through a different perspective. Fortunately, the train station was close to our hotel so our tour bus dropped us off straight there. We had a few hours to kill before we were to depart, so we grabbed lunched and people watched. Our train arrived and we boarded on our way to Luxor. We reached Luxor at a good time, so we were able to reach our hotel, the Luxor Winter Pavillon of Sofitel, settle in and call it an early night.
That morning was a lazy start. After such a hectic few days we planned for a simple, relaxing day. Luxor Temple was only a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel so we decided to make our way there. We spent hours walking around the temple. We explored every nook and cranny. Inside, you can appreciate the evolution of this temple over time. You will find original ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs, but also historic Roman Christianity murals and current day Islamic influence, all within one temple. We then made our way back to the hotel to rest.
Locals know the major spots tourist hangout. Unfortunately they will hassle you to buy their goods and try to get to most money out of you. If you are interested in what they are selling, you have to bargain hard and not feel bad about doing it. We would normal cut 70-80% off their selling price and wouldn’t budge. Majority of the time, they would agree after “negotiating” for 5-10 minutes. Otherwise just walk away. If you are not interested in buying anything, it’s best to just ignore them and keep walking. It seems rude, I understand, but unfortunately, if you acknowledge them, they will follow you and hassle you into buying something. They commonly wait at the exits of major landmarks to pounce.
This was a common trend throughout our entire trip and this is the biggest negative when it comes to Egypt. You feel as though you can’t trust the locals because they are trying to take advantage of you. I got into many “disagreements” with locals while negotiating because they would try to change what we agreed upon. From souvenirs, to taxis, to restaurants, you had to keep your guard up to not get cheated. Even asking for help or direction, they expected being tipped for their “generosity”.
In the evening we scheduled a boat ride on the Nile River. We boarded our “felucca” and enjoyed a lazy cruise to the western bank. Our tour guide told us stories along the way, made us traditional Egyptian tea, and we enjoyed the time on the water.
We made our way back to our felucca. We rode up and down the Nile some more and caught the sunset. We docked back at our pickup location and made our way back to our hotel to end our day. Another early morning awaited us the next day.
Heerali had planned something pretty special early in the morning. We were picked up at 3am and boarded a felucca to cross the Nile river once again. We met other tourist and couples along the way to our destination. In the distance we could see the fires roaring and our
Hot-Air-Balloon waiting for us. Neither one of us had rode in a hot-air-balloon in the past so we both were quite excited. The early morning start allowed us to catch the sunrise above Luxor. We also got an aerial view of the “Valley of the Kings” and Hatshepsut Temple.
We were able to make our way back to our hotel before breakfast ended. We got some food, some rest and had a lazy afternoon by the pool.
We had one more site to see in Luxor, Karnak Temple. This is the biggest ancient Egyptian temple in all of Egypt. We spent more time getting lost here then we did at Luxor Temple. You would think after seeing Abu Simbel and Luxor Temple this would start getting old, but each temple has its own unique purpose and stories.
DAY 6 - 7:
Our next destination was the beach destination of Hurghada, along the Red Sea. We took a local bus system called GoBus from Luxor to Hurghada. It was a pretty comfortable ride and we past through the desert, getting to see more of the unique countryside of Egypt. We arrived to the Hurghada bus station, again had to “negotiate” a fare price with the local taxi drivers. I’ll admit that here, they were more reasonable and friendly then compared to Luxor. And made our way to Steigenberger Resort. This place was the perfect little break we needed away from the craziness of the past 5 days. The best part was everything was all inclusive, so we spoiled ourselves to our hearts content.
We enjoyed good food, spent time at the pool and beach, and pampered ourselves. Hurghada is definitely more westernized as many Europeans come here for vacation. It is also a popular scuba diving location. We spent the two days we had at the hotel, sometimes that’s all that you need.
Finally, the main reason we came to Egypt, to see the Great Pyramids, one of the Ancient Wonders Of The World! Another early morning, we made our way to the airport in Hurghada to catch a flight to Cairo. We grabbed a local taxi and made our way to
Mena House. This is a one-in-a-million hotel as it is located right next to the Great Pyramids and you have an unobstructed view. The staff there is amazing and very helpful. They knew it was our anniversary so they upgraded us to a suite with an amazing view!
Everyone recommends to get to the pyramids first thing in the morning to beat the crazy rush and the tour buses. So we decided to save them for the next day. We learned of a close by hotel which has a great view of the Sphinx and Pyramids so we made our way to the Sphinx Guest House. It did not disappoint. We spent some time enjoying with some food and drinks and shortly after made our way back to our hotel for the night.
DAY9: The next morning, I could hardly control my excitement. We finally made it to the Great Pyramids! We awoke early in the morning to make it to the entrance right when it opened, but despite the effort, there were so many tour buses and people already there, but I guess that is to be expected. We bought our tickets at the main entrance, and took in the grandeur of it all. We spent the entire day at the pyramids. We first made our way to the Great Pyramid of Giza. We bought tickets to go inside the king’s chamber where the original sarcophagus to King Khufu still remains. After exiting we made our way to the remaining pyramids and made sure we touched each one before we left!
Heerali really wanted to ride a camel so we spoke to one of the locals and we were off on our way to the panoramic view of the pyramids on the back of a camel. It’s a ways out into the desert but you get an amazing view of all 6 pyramids from there. Once we arrived to the panoramic view, of course our camel driver tells us the price we agreed upon was only a one way trip and we would have to pay double for the ride back (should have know something wasn’t right). So we ditched the camel, and we enjoyed the view as we watch to camelman walk off. This was honestly the best decision because we got to enjoy everything we wanted in peace. We had a breath taking and we were grateful for this happy coincidence.
After an hour or so we made the walk back toward the pyramids. We stopped by the remain pyramids enjoyed our time at each one and then back to Mena House. We decided to relax the rest of the day, so we spent then evening at our hotel and at the pool.
We had an extra day in Cairo and we wanted to experience some local places and experience the culture in Cairo.We heard of a beautiful Mosque in the heart of Old Cairo as well as Coptic Cairo where we could find a Babylonian fort and Greek Church. Without hesitation we made our way there.
Our first stop was Coptic Cairo. We arrived just in time for the morning service at a beautiful Greek Church which we were blessed to be a part of.
Next we made our way to the Cairo Citadel and the Mosque of Muhammed Ali. From the top of the citadel, you have a scenic view of Old Cairo.
Our last day in Egypt. Our flight wasn’t until later that night so we had the morning and afternoon in Cairo. We didn’t want to miss out on the Egyptian Museum where we saw old relics, sarcophagi and real royal mummies! If you are interested in ancient Egyptian culture, this museum is a must see. You could easily spend an entire day here if you take the time to read and inspect everything. We spent 4-5 hours at the museum and then made our way back to Mena House.
Sad that our adventure was coming to an end, we begrudgingly packed our bags and made our way to the airport. Although this trip was a bit of a rollercoaster ride, we left with great memories as always.