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Egypt - December 2008 - Trip Report

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I have just returned from 11 days in Egypt. To say that it was amazing would an understatement.

The itinerary was as follows:
Day 1: Arrive Cairo and immediately fly to Luxor. At leisure in Luxor. Overnight at the Sonesta St George Hotel (5*).
Day 2: In Luxor. Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Overnight at Sonesta St George Hotel.
Day 3: Luxor. Early morning hot air balloon ride; Valley of the Kings; Temple of Hatchepsut; Colossi of Memnon. Overnight at Sonesta St George Hotel.
Day 4: Luxor. Workmen's village; Temple of Medinet Habu; Leisure time. Overnight on board the Tuya (5* Nile cruiser).
Day 5: Sailing on the Nile. Overnight on board the Tuya docked at Edfu.
Day 6: Edfu and Kom Ombo. Temple of Horus at Edfu; Temple of Horus and Sobek at Kom Ombo; Sail to Aswan; Galabeya night on board. Overnight on board the Tuya docked at Aswan.
Day 7: Aswan. Ancient granite quarry (unfinished obelisk); Philae Temple; felucca cruise to Kitchener's Island, Elephantine Island and mausoleum of Aga Kahn. Overnight on board the Tuya docked in Aswan.
Day 8: Abu Simbel. Aswan High Dam; Morning flight to Abu Simbel; Temples of Ramses II and Nefertari; Sound and light show. Overnight at Seti I Hotel (4*).
Day 9: Cairo. Flight to Aswan; flight to Cairo; Cairo Museum. Overnight at Semiramis Hotel (5*).
Day 10: Cairo. Giza Pyramids and Sphinx; Solar Boat; camel ride; Saqqara Necropolis. Overnight at Semiramis Hotel.
Day 11: Cairo. Citadel of Salah-El-Din; Mosque of Mohammed Ali; Hanging Church; Khan El Khalili Bazaar.

The tour was arranged by Kim Lings of Nile Travel in Johannesburg using De Tours of Cairo as agents. The organisation of this tour was incredible. Everything ran extremely smoothly and nothing was too much trouble. Kim accompanied the tour and took care of everything clamly in the background. We were accompanied by a professional egyptologist named Eman Bahaa Samy whose knowledge and enthusiasm are prodigious. On top of that, she has a bubbly personality and was able to pass her enthusiasm to the group. The hotels and cruise ship were excellent; nice rooms, good service and good food. Transport was in large, airconditioned coaches which were in excellent condition.

For me, the highlight of the trip was the hot air balloon ride in Luxor. Being part of a flotilla of balloons rising in the early morning light and drifting gently over the fields and houses below has a special kind of magic that has to be experienced to be appreciated.

The weather was mild, with hottish days and coolish nights. It was never too hot or too cold. The down side of December is the milling masses of tourists from every country around the globe. If you are a keen photographer, I would brave the heat and visit Egypt at a quieter time of the year. It is very difficult to get any pictures without crowds of tourists taking each other's pictures in front of everything.

In general, the duration of the itinerary was just about right. There was a good variety of things to see and we didn't see too much of any one type of thing. If I had to make a change, it would be to add another day in Cairo. I think Cairo had a lot more to offer than we were able to see in the limited time.

If you have never been to Egypt I can thoroughly recommend it. It is a very safe country to visit. Crime is very low and there are thousands of police. They are in evidence on every street corner. The touts can be a pest but if you just say 'No thank you' firmly and keep walking they will eventually leave you alone. Bargaining is essential when shoping. The first price you are given is always way over what the seller will be prepared to accept. Be prepared to make a much lower counter offer and to walk away. They will seldom abandon a negotiation until it becomes hopeless, so be prepared to persevere. They are probably the world's best salesmen so be ready to be sold.

My pictures are available through the following link:

http://picasaweb.google.com/yelpir38/

I hope this report has been helpful.

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