After Serengeti - help for Egypt and the Nile

Old Nov 4th, 2006, 09:14 PM
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After Serengeti - help for Egypt and the Nile

Hi all

We finally booked with Sunny Safaris for our 11 day Serengeti safari in March/April 07. One the the deciders for chosing Sunny was the outstanding responses by Sakina to my endless emails as well as the reasonable price. The itinerary has specific accommodation requests and my only concern is that after paying the deposit, they then advise they are waiting to book the lodges/camps as they (the lodges) wont clear block bookings until 60 days out and we may have to stay in alternate accommodation if no bookings available. This would be disappointing. Is this normal? What does this mean? Continuing our journey, after we leave Tanzania and our Serengeti safari, we (me, wife, reluctant son (14) and non-stop daughter (8) are heading to Egypt for a fortnight. Not sure how we are getting there yet but it may be via a couple of days in Ethiopia (although my London based sister siggests Morrocco). We want to spend a couple of days in Cairo, ride a dawn camel to the pyramids and sphinx, look at the museum and a bazaar somewhere around town.

Should we spend a whole day at the Egyptian museum of will that be too much for the children? (or me!)

Any recommendations on how best to do this - should I find a tourist agency and book now or wait closer to the time? Any must does for the Cairo area? We then plan on a sleeper train to Luxor (that I would book myself) and then 4-5 days on a good cruise boat. I know there are millions of things to see and do but what do people think are the highlights? Should I stay in Luxor for a couple of days and use a local tour company to see most of the sites, then start a shorter Nile cruise to Aswan, visit Abu Simbel before flying back to Cairo? It seems that most cruises I have looked at has the boat anchored in Luxor anyway for a couple of days so it is really only a floating bed. There are so many options and operators that I seek the wise advice from this forum! Any good local tour operators that can be recommended?

Are the various sound and light shows worth the expense? Any other must-sees? Hints and tips?

Many thanks

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Old Nov 5th, 2006, 09:01 AM
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I would say a half day at the museum would be all you would need (that was enough for us). We did the sound and light show at the pyramids, but it was nothing spectacular. Although we had a tour guide in Cairo, you wouldn't necessarily need one. You could take a cab to the museum, the pyramids and the bazaar. Benu Travel out of Cairo was the company that toured us around Cairo, they were very good. I believe they have a web site, if you wanted to Google them. One word of will find many, many people trying to part you from your money, so be forwarned.
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Old Nov 5th, 2006, 12:34 PM
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There are flights between Nairobi and Addis, but their tourism network still needs some work. And except for hotels in Addis which are quite nice, once you visit outside the capitol, your choices aren't all that good - figure 2* or 3* at most.

There are a number of flights between Nairobi/Cairo with an excellent tourism network at every price point.

Few flights, if any, go to Morocco directly. So Egypt is probably your better bet.

For things to do/see in Cairo (and probably Luxor) you can contact Debbie Senter of Casual Cairo Detours. There have been a few posts on this board about her services.

You can certainly do Cairo on your own, but it's nice to have a guide and air conditioned vehicle to get you where you're going. Guides also tend to get priority at sites vs "ordinary tourists."

The Museum is large enough to keep you occupied for weeks and months on end. Half day is usually enough for a taste of all there is to see. And do try to arrange (extra fee) to visit the Mummy Room. This room and the Tut exhibit are the only rooms that are air conditioned. You can figure 2/days in Cairo before heading south to Luxor or Aswan in upper Egypt. You can do a very early flight or the overnight train. From either Luxor or Aswan you can cruise the Nile between the two with stops at the various points - Edfu, Esna, Kom Ombo.

Once in Aswan you can visit Philae Island and further south to Abu Simbel. The latter can be done with a short flight, spend about 2/hrs on the ground and flight back to Aswan.

When in Luxor you can visit the Valley of Kings/Queens, Luxor and Karnak Temples. You can cover the distance between Luxor/Aswan or the reverse (depending on boat and direction it's cruising) over 4-5/days.

Again, while you can arrange this once in-country, it'll take time aways from what you want to do; besides, it's much easier to have it already arranged and someone running interference for you.

Old Nov 5th, 2006, 04:37 PM
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I second the recommendation of Debbie Senter -- she guided me and my sister during the Cairo part of our trip.

We split our time between being guided by Debbie and exploring on our own. We normally do everything independently, but this was our first visit to a country where neither of us spoke the language, and it was great to have Debbie there to help with some of the more challenging bits. She was especially helpful when it came to getting us some good bargains on crafts in the bazaar, and she knows some great out of the way shops which aren't frequented by many tourists. I had some cufflinks made which turned out quite nicely.

In addition to seeing the sights, I'd recommend setting aside an evening just to wander around downtown Cairo. It's like a never-ending street fair, with impromptu markets springing up everywhere. Your kids will love it.

If you're looking for a nice, inexpensive place to stay in Cairo, I'd recommend the Talisman. I stayed there with my sister when I was in Cairo, and it was a lovely place -- centrally located but quiet and peaceful, with air-conditioning and traditional decor. There's no pool, room service, or gym, but if you don't need those things this is a great little bed and breakfast.

The website is not functional, but here is an article on the Talisman:

My sister and I took the overnight train to Luxor. You should definitely book this in advance, and it's much easier to pay for the tickets in advance than it is to go to the station and try to communicate what sort of tickets you want. The cars are a bit creaky but much more spacious than the sleeper trains I have used in Europe.

In Luxor, you might want to look into letting a flat rather than staying in a hotel. I let a lovely brand new 2-bedroom flat for the grand sum of £30 per day (about $60). I found it on a great website run by some expats (who are also a great source for recommendations on reliable local guides to show you around the West Bank sites).

With your kids in tow, it would definitely be worth it for you to hire a taxi for the day to move around the sights in Luxor (the Valley of the Kings, Medinat Habu, etc).

I'm afraid I didn't go to Aswan so I can't comment on that part of the itinerary.

I've never encountered the block booking problem you mentioned in the Serengeti, but it may have to do with the properties you're using. This sort of problem is more common with the big lodges like Serena and Sopa as they are the ones which are used by the large tour companies.

jasher is offline  
Old Nov 7th, 2006, 12:53 AM
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Thanks Loru, Sandi and Julian. This is all great advice and is most welcome. I will keep working on an intinerary and will keep asking questions so please bear with me!


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Old Nov 8th, 2006, 06:18 PM
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We have just returned from Egypt and I agree with everything that Loru, sandi and julian have told you. We also went to Aswan - which I really enjoyed. It is a lovely city with a great climate. From there we flew to Abu Simbel and spent three or four hours there which was fascinating. We were lucky in that we had an Egyptologist with us who had worked on the relocation of the temples for 10 years so we had background information and appreciated the huge task undertaken. Incredible really.

I think having an expert guide in both Luxor and Aswan would be essential - to wander around the tombs in the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens on your own with just a guide book in hand would be difficult and you would miss so much. We did see people doing that and often they would tag along with us just to get the detailed history, stories and so on.

We did the Sound and Light show both at Karnak and the Pyramids at Giza - I loved the latter but would give the Karnak one a miss if I had to choose. It is a walking tour so you miss a lot if there are crowds in front of you. - whereas the Pyramid show is totally seated.

As for the Museum in Cairo - half a day would be ample. Make sure you see the Mummy room and the King Tut exhibits.

Cairo traffic is a nightmare and we got caught in a traffic jam last week on our way to the airport - it took 2 1/2 hours from Giza instead of the normal 1 1/4 and we almost missed the flight - so allow ample time.

Enjoy this wonderful country - it is so different from anywhere else!
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Old Nov 9th, 2006, 08:11 PM
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Hi Alison

Many thanks for your reply. The advise is very useful. Is the Egyptologist you used available as a guide? I read so much about the hustle and bustle of these temple tours and often the disappointment of being herded like cattle with the large organised tours and not seeing enough. I've heard too much about Cairo traffic to tempt fate - I'll get a driver!

Many thanks again. Cheers

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Old Nov 10th, 2006, 07:56 PM
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Unfortunately, Peter, she works exclusively for Lindblad and does two trips a year for a French company. I am sure there are other very good guides around. Perhaps someone else has a contact.

I could give you my guide's email address and she could perhaps suggest someone else. If you want to do that, email me at [email protected]
and I will send it to you.

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Old Nov 11th, 2006, 07:41 AM
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If I may add my two cents, my daughter and I did something similar last year. We flew on a direct flight from NBO to CAI on Kenyan Airways, Debbie Senters had someone meet us at the Airport and transport us to our Hotel. It was comforting having someone there to help with Customs. After settling in at the Nile Hilton I called Debbie and we set up an Itinerary for our stay. She showed us many things, but by her own admission she is not an expert on everything. For these areas she set us up with Egyptologists who speak very good english. We flew to Luxor and she got us an egyptologist there also. I booked the flights, hotel, and Debbie all via the computer. If you go with her, contact her early as she is busy. Her ideas and help made Egypt very enjoyable.
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Old Nov 11th, 2006, 02:03 PM
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Some more thoughts. Your wife & daughter could go look in the Jewelry Room which is next to the Tut area at the Museum while you & your son stand in line for the Mummy room.

If your daughter is blond, you should prepare her for lots of attention, including people touching her hair. If she were my blond 8 year old daughter, I would have her wear some type of headcover, probably a scarf, to keep the curious at bay.

Make sure you have downtime. The days are packed and can be tiring for adults, let alone 8 year olds. Make sure your cruise ship has a pool.

I've never been there (no children) but Dr. Raghab's Papyrus Museum or something like that is aimed at children. Unfortunately the Zoo was closed b/c of bird flu and hasn't reopened, I believe.

Normally I'd say skip the light shows, but the kids may like it.

For something familiar from home, there's a McDonald's across from the AUC campus which is not far from the hotel Jasher recommended.

Prepare the children for bathrooms that do not live up to the American style of cleanliness. Carry Kleenex with you at all times. I live here and take advantage advantage of good bathrooms even when I think I don't need them. I'm not below popping into a 5 star's facilities if I'm in the area. The McDonald's has decent bathroom facilities, too.

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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 02:42 AM
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When you get to Luxor best place to stay is the Jollie Ville Movenpick. Situated on its own private island in the middle of the Nile. Huge grounds where you can relax without constant harrassment, which is what you get in Luxor. The Jollie Ville offers regular boat transfers to central Luxor.
The light show at Karnak Temple was a let down for us but that was maybe because we had such a great time there a few days earlier. Yes Karnak Temple will be one of the highlights of your trip. The Tombs of The Nobles is one of the less publicised sites and really deserves a visit. DO NOT GET ON A HORSE AND CARRAIGE IN LUXOR. You WILL regret it. Check out our website at
We have not built our Egypt page yet but you will find a link to Jollie Ville on our recomendations page
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 04:14 AM
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We were on the Movenpick Nile cruise boat so when at Luxor we were docked on their island rather than the bulkhead in Luxor property. We had full use of the hotels restaurants and pool if we wish, though using the boat at our hotel. It was nice to be away from the hustle of Luxor itself, and took their shuttle bus or a taxi back and forth.

We did the Light & Sound at Karnak and as mentioned above, it's mostly a walking show, till close to the end when you sit in the theatre. If you choose this, it's a good idea to have a small flashlight at the ground is uneven and there are no lights on the temple grounds at night.

We did a short carriage ride from Luxor to Karnak Temple - midday and it was ovr 90-degrees. It was fun, cheap and no grief from the driver.

If you take a Nile cruise, these boats offer an English speaking Egyptologist for the English speakers on board. Our group was maybe 15/people so we never felt "herded" and given plenty of time to be on our own. Others on the boat were in their own small groups (various countries,languages) and had their own guides... also small groups. But then our boat only had about 100/pax total... quite manageable.
Old Nov 12th, 2006, 05:34 AM
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Sorry I haven't chimed in earlier..

Have to agree with the recommendation of the Movenpick Jolie Ville in Luxor. We stayed there with our kids (2 months after 9/11) and it was great. The kids could run around, we took a felucca ride, walked around the island and learned about their gardens, and rented (?) bikes to go around the island as well.

We never did the light show at the pyramids, but the one at Karnak didn't really thrill me. Altho - I loved the one at Abu Simbel!

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Old Nov 28th, 2006, 05:31 PM
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I don't know if the "alternate accomodations" possibility is normal or not at this point in time, but three years ago I used Born Free Safaris to book a 30 day trip that included 18 flights and a dozen locations, and while they could not guaranty anything until I posted my deposit, I got exactly what I asked for. While I was re-arranging a few things I did have to reduce the number of nights at one location and increase it at another, but that was before I paid my deposit. I'd have a serious talk with your travel agent and find out what the "alternative" might be. If they are of equal value/price and acceptable to you, fine, but I would certainly find out ahead of time.
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