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Egypt Travel Tips

Visited in November-December 2010

Hello: Salaam Ala Coom

Thank You:  Shukran

Currency:  Egyptian pound

Tipping:  Restaurants - about 10%; everyone in Egypt expects a tip but the amount is usually some small change.  There are entire web pages dedicated to the subject, so do your research!


I was eager to arrive and ready to leave.  Egypt is comprised of an incredible history manifested in pyramids, tombs and paintings still vivid in color and character, with a backdrop of sand along the river Nile.  But there was more than the heat and humidity to make the atmosphere stifling.  People seemed disconnected from themselves and their country, moving as ghosts through the cities.  I visited Egypt only weeks before the unrest erupted in early 2011, resulting in the teardown of the government.


Traveling south from Cairo and down the Nile to places such as Abu Simba, we saw a change in landscape but could not escape the overall attitude of the Egyptians.  I often thought, “What has happened to this country?”


Egypt is an amazing place because of the deep history and the unique civilization.  However, it is sad that it has become such a disrupted country over the last few years and even fewer people will be able to experience it.


What to experience:  every ancient site is worth seeing

  • Cairo - Egyptian Museum - leave enough time for this!  It contains treasures from all over Egypt and can actually take days to review.  Don’t limit yourself to just a few rushed hours.
  • Pyramids and Sphinx - You can grab lunch across the street at a small cafe and then wander among the mighty Pyramids and the complex with the Sphinx.  
  • Overnight train to Luxor - It is an interesting experience but do bring your own food.  Although they serve a dinner, it is not very appetizing and our guide even suggested that we not eat it and he encouraged us to buy something before boarding the train. 
  • Luxor - This is the ancient capital of Egypt, full of temples, tombs and museums; There is a night show that is rather interesting especially as you can see it without suffering the heat of the day.  Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple.
  • Nile cruise - This seems to be one of the best ways to see the sights in a relaxing way.  The river is home to many boats making stops while traveling south along the Nile. 
  • Valley of the Kings -   Of course, the highlight of this day was seeing the tomb of Tutankhamun and the Colossi of Memnon.  It is amazing that the colors and details inside the tombs are still so vibrant after centuries.
  • Komombo - temple
  • Aswan - Temple of Isis at Philae
  • Camel ride - Indulge in a camel ride to see the Monastery of St. Simeon (complete with a camel canter).
  • Nubian Bazaar - A market where you should be prepared to bargain hard and walk away if needed.
  • Felucca cruise - Spend at least one lazy afternoon on this traditional boat floating along the Nile.
  • Abu Simbel - One of the most amazing sights in Egypt.  You walk down a hill and round a corner to see the “gi-normous” seated figure of Ramses II overlooking a lake.  You would swear you were on a movie set because of the sheer size and placement of this monument.  He was destined to drown in the lake but his salvation is the result of a UNESCO project to move the monument to higher ground. 
  • Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo - Another ultimate market and shopping experience.  Be prepared to be assaulted by salesmen convincing you of their worthy souvenirs and goods.
  • Nubian Museum - This is worth a visit to view the collection of ancient treasures.
  • St. Catherine’s - One of Egypt’s most visited monasteries, it is crowded with tourists and sits at the base of Mt. Sinai.
  • Mount Sinai - We had a Bedouin guide take us to see the sunset.  Some people prefer to hike up in the dark for sunrise at the top.  Either way, it was hard not to have Charleton Heston and The Ten Commandments back-flashes as we climbed up the famous mountain.  The climb is not too difficult until the last bit where you find yourself scrambling over large rocks/steps to reach the top.  And after watching the sun slide into darkness, it is back down the mountain with only a flashlight. 
  • Other sites and experiences:  Edfu temple; Ruins of Memphis; driving through the Suez canal tunnel; Sinai Peninsula

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Food:  Egypt had some of the best food I’ve ever enjoyed in any country.  There is a great variety of vegetable and meat dishes served at most meals.  While we were on the Nile cruise, our food was outstanding and varied from day to day allowing us to sample many dishes.


How I traveled: I booked my trip through Adventure Center and the tour was conducted by Imaginative Traveller.  We had a small group of six which allowed flexibility with our schedules.  The lodging in Egypt was just okay and the boat for the Nile cruise was in need of a refresh but the crew was excellent, the food spectacular, and we had the boat to ourselves.  Accommodations in Jordan were quite a step up.


Memorable Moment:  As part of our tour, we actually rode donkeys up through the village to visit the Valley of the Kings.  Having never ridden a donkey before, I couldn’t help but laugh when my little steed took off in a little donkey canter as we neared the end.  Being an equestrian, it seemed as if we were barely moving compared to riding a horse.  But once you ride one, it is easy to understand why you see them everywhere, carrying goods and people that seem to overwhelm them.  Despite their size, they are certainly hardy little beasts.