Back from Egypt February 2023

Old Mar 14th, 2023, 12:25 PM
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Back from Egypt February 2023

Hi to all Fodorites especially those who helped with our planning.
I have decided not to rave about the wonders of pyramids, temples and tombs. So much useful information has already been posted about them. I will try to keep this report more practical. I hope it will be useful and I am very happy to answer any specific questions.

A quick resumè of our itinerary: We travelled independently but used the help of a local guide who was recommended by Progol on this forum for parts of our trip.
We flew from Rome to Alexandria – 2 Nights at Windsor Palace
3 Nights in Cairo at the Marriot Palace & Casino in Zamalek
Flight to Luxor – 2 nights in Winter Palace , 1 night West bank El Moudira Hotel
Boarded a Nour el Nil Dhabayia for 5 night Nile cruise
Last 2 nights in Benben resort Assuan Flew back Assuan-Cairo- Rome
The timings worked very well and we were not too rushed. Adding Abu Simbel would have been too much. We will go back!

TRANSPORT AND GUIDES
All the transfers during our trip went remarkably smoothly. We encountered no problems with flight delays, customs, queues, or luggage getting lost. On arrival in Alexandria we disembarked, obtained visas, got a SIM card and cash from ATM while waiting for luggage. We went through customs and met our driver all within half an hour from landing. We had the same experience in Cairo and Aswan airports. Maybe just lucky or maybe very early morning flights have their positive side!

We were planning to take the train from Alex to Cairo but decided against it because of a) time b)luggage c) ticket prices for foreigners increased tenfold (literally) in 2023 and d) our guide gave us a good rate for a driver. The drive was smooth and uneventful.

Taxis & Drivers
We read a lot about taxi drivers cheating you especially at the airport. In our experience I doubt they would ever cheat as much as hotel or other organised transport. We were charged by the hotel 35 US for an airport pick up. Similar prices on booking.com. But we heard of people paying as much as 40 US per person for a ride. Well, the same distance with a metered cab we picked up off the street came to 97 Egyptian pounds roughly 3 dollars. We took a lot of cabs in Alex and Cairo and whether we agreed on a price or used the meter the fare never exceeded a few dollars. The same can be said for the calèches – the horse drawn carriages they are very very cheap.

Thanks to Progol on this forum who put us in touch with Mohamed, a local guide, we had the luxury of being driven around and guided through a considerable part of our trip. This certainly made things a little easier and faster. However, for Cairo I felt a guide was not really necessary. The pyramids and Saqqara were very easy to negotiate. No queues or any difficulties in getting tickets. You are of course spared the bother of other guides hassling you. If you are a well prepared and well-read traveller, it’s unlikely a guide will really give you any new information. In Luxor too the driver was very useful but as the guides are not allowed into the tombs there is only so much they can do. In any case it was nice to chat with the guides and drivers about their lives and families etc. It was also very reassuring to have a local person a phone call away to sort out small problems like leaving our Kindle in the hotel after we had moved on!

THE CRUISE
We booked a 6 day cruise directly through the Nour El Nil website. Their flotilla of 7 traditional dhabaiya sailing boats markets itself as a very individual “luxury boutique ” experience. Yes and no. The boats are lovely and very charmingly furnished with comfy cushons strewn across the large deck ,friendly staff and plenty of wholesome food. There were 19 guests on board. Meals were served on deck at one long table so everyone soon made friends. However in February breakfast and dinner on deck meant we were all freezing and had to wear every single item of clothing we had. Practically every day there were a couple of guests off sick! They also stressed us with continual reminders about tipping the staff and the guides and the drivers. The suggested sums were huge and made us all feel that on top of paying a lot of money for the cruise we were also paying all the employees wages! Having said that we really had a great time and felt kind of sorry for all the people in the big boats hurrying by. We got to see many smaller sites, to go on walks in the desert, we visited the home of some villagers. They encouraged us to swim in the Nile but aside from health factors it was way too cold for most of us. Overall it was a very enjoyable time and the most relaxing part of the trip.

THE PEOPLE
Except for one scamster who tried to cheat us (the usual trick of exchanging bank notes) we found everyone to be very friendly and we never felt afraid to walk around. In Alex, Cairo and Luxor we regularly walked to restaurants at night and the streets seemed to be always full of crowds of young friendly people of both sexes. You do get followed and asked for money or offered goods in all the more tourist filled places but learning a few words of Arabic to say no nicely is the best deterrent.

HOTELS
We would definitely recommend the Windsor in Alexandria as opposed to the Cecil. Half the price and twice the charm now that Cecil has become part of a chain.
Zamalek in Cairo is a nice neighbourhood to stay in. The Marriott is huge and the towers are ugly but at least there is some history in the old part. Rooms were very comfortable.
In Luxor we decided to stay two nights at the very nice Winter Palace minutes from the Temple and downtown. On our last night though we switched to the very picturesque El Moudira on the West Bank which has a lovely restaurant and an Arabian Nights atmosphere. I am glad we did. Three nights there would have been too far from the action for our tastes – one night was perfect.
Benben resort in Aswan – wow! Cross a Nubian house with a Greek village and place it on a rocky outcrop in between the two dams on the Nile with a view of Philae Temple. A lovely, very new, very unusual hotel.

FOOD
As a lover of middle Eastern cuisine I expected the food to be more exciting. We generally ate well but nothing to rave about and at times we ate better in the totally unpretentious places. We were not careful about fresh vegetables and ice cubes. We never got sick but we had been taking probiotics before and during the trip which helps.
Recommendations:
In Alexandria The White and Blue Restaurant. Great views, Greek influenced fish restaurant.
In Cairo: Abu El Sid in Zamalek nice atmosphere
In Luxor: El Shahaby Lane outdoor only rooftop terrace

THE WEATHER
If I go back to Egypt it won’t be in February. We were very cold in Alex and Cairo. It rained and temperatures were around 12° centigrade. All those lovely pools gone to waste! From Luxor down things definitely got better during the day but mornings and evening as mentioned were still too cold for our tastes.

SOME SIGHTSEEING NOTES
The Jewellery Museum in Alexandria is a little-known gem!
The Great Egyptian Museum in Giza is still not open to the public. The Old museum still has a lot of stuff in it but also a lot of packing cases and a general sense of disbandment.
We enjoyed the over-the-top Manial Palace in Cairo
If you can afford only one of the “extra super tombs” I would choose Nefertari over Thethi as to me it was more memorable.
The Museum in Luxor is small but has some exceptional pieces and very well displayed
We loved the Ramesseum West bank Luxor and we were the only people there which made it magical.


Sailing on the dahabiya El Nil










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Old Mar 14th, 2023, 12:29 PM
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OH YES, AND THESE ARE A FEW BOOKS I read which helped me understand the country and which I really enjoyed. Mostly by Egyptian authors :

Nobel prize winner Mahmoud’s CAIRO TRILOGY is a must for anyone interested in immersing themselves in the life 20thC Old Cairo

Al Aswany – THE REPUBLIC OF FALSE TRUTHS a moving fictional reportage of the events leading up to the Arab Spring

Also by Aswany THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING – was made into an excellent film available on YouTube

RED LAND BLACK LAND – Daily life in Ancient Egypt by Barbara Mertz – very entertaining and enlightening

Ahdaf Soueihf – IN THE EYE OF THE SUN – contemporary Egypt and THE MAP OF LOVE - a novel of 19thC Egypt

SUNSET OASIS by Bahaa Taher – set in Siwa Oasis
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Old Mar 15th, 2023, 07:05 AM
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Thanks for the lovely trip review! Sounds like a fabulous trip! And I'm SO glad that Mohamed worked out so well for you. He's such a lovely man and I'm glad he provided such good service.

Now I want to return! We found November to be a really good time of year to travel; moderate temps in Cairo while warmer (but not killer hot!) temps in Aswan and Abu Simbel.
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Old Mar 15th, 2023, 10:53 AM
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Thanks for sharing, carrom. Glad you had a good trip. Like progol, we thought November was warm and very comfortable, slightly chilly at night but fine with a sweater or light jacket.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 11:58 AM
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Enjoyed reading your report. Thanks to progol we used Mohammed for one of our tour guides. He was a gem, knowledgeable & personable. I'm glad he worked out for you too. We were in Egypt the last 2+ weeks of January and had pretty much perfect weather. Actually hot in Luxor and Aswan. I was so worried about being cold and we really lucked out. The weather everywhere these days seems crazy. The advantage of gambling and going in the winter is fewer crowds. Thanks for reporting back.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 01:50 PM
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I also enjoyed your report! We were in Egypt in January 2020 and it was very cold. We wore down coats and gloves, scarves to keep warm. But we loved it all, better than bring hot!
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 02:24 PM
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Sounds fantastic. I'll be going in November and the cruise portion will be on one of those big ships.
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Old Mar 16th, 2023, 03:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Songdoc
Sounds fantastic. I'll be going in November and the cruise portion will be on one of those big ships.
Can you switch? I think being on the smaller boat (dahabiya) is much nicer. I didn't even esp love the cruise down the Nile but I imagine it would have not been enjoyable at all on one of those bigger boats.
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Old Mar 18th, 2023, 01:17 PM
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yestravbel: Thank you for the suggestion.

I don't care much about the boat itself. I'm doing the cruise as a way to easily visit the pyramids and other sites along the Nile. The ship I'll be on has 70 cabins--not exactly huge--and the reviews are almost perfect 5 stars. Also, I am locked into the Monday departure and Thursday return in order to do everything else I have planned. So, I guess I'll be sticking with what I have and will hope for the best.
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Old Mar 18th, 2023, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by Songdoc
yestravbel: Thank you for the suggestion.

I don't care much about the boat itself. I'm doing the cruise as a way to easily visit the pyramids and other sites along the Nile. The ship I'll be on has 70 cabins--not exactly huge--and the reviews are almost perfect 5 stars. Also, I am locked into the Monday departure and Thursday return in order to do everything else I have planned. So, I guess I'll be sticking with what I have and will hope for the best.
I’m sure you’ll be fine. Bit i will me tion another advantage of the smaller boats with 10-12 cabins is they can go to spots the larger boats cant. Enjoy your trip! Egypt is incredible no matter how you see it.
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Old Mar 18th, 2023, 04:00 PM
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Thank you, yestravel!
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Old Sep 18th, 2023, 12:25 PM
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Thank you so much for posting this trip report! We are planning a trip to Egypt in December and I am made many notes as I read this trip report.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 12:57 AM
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We are going to Egypt just before Easter. We are well travelled so I think we can do Cairo without a guide but would need one for Luxor and Abu Simbel. Can we have Mohamed’s details? Can I also have some info on Alexandria? Was it worth the two days’ stop? We are southern Italians but love Greece and the story of the diaspora so are fascinated by Alexandria also because of its Cavafy and Lawrence Durrell’s heritage.

thanks a lot!


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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 09:48 AM
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Originally Posted by andreacavone7304
We are going to Egypt just before Easter. We are well travelled so I think we can do Cairo without a guide but would need one for Luxor and Abu Simbel. Can we have Mohamed’s details? Can I also have some info on Alexandria? Was it worth the two days’ stop? We are southern Italians but love Greece and the story of the diaspora so are fascinated by Alexandria also because of its Cavafy and Lawrence Durrell’s heritage.

thanks a lot!
May I suggest you consider guides here and there to better understand what you are seeing. We, too, are as you say well travel and generally DiY. I found guides in Egypt incredibly informative and they enhanced our understanding of what we saw
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 10:16 AM
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Originally Posted by yestravel
May I suggest you consider guides here and there to better understand what you are seeing. We, too, are as you say well travel and generally DiY. I found guides in Egypt incredibly informative and they enhanced our understanding of what we saw
thanks for the tip and agree, we also like to really get to know people and countries and guides are the only way to do that. I have read good reviews of Mohamed above and will contact him, is there anyone you would recommend? Also, is Alexandria worth a two day addition to the itinerary? We are really fascinated by its history and culture (Cavafy, Durrell) etc and we are also fascinated by St Anthony having read Darlymple’s book From the holy mountain where he visits. Thanks!
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by andreacavone7304
thanks for the tip and agree, we also like to really get to know people and countries and guides are the only way to do that. I have read good reviews of Mohamed above and will contact him, is there anyone you would recommend? Also, is Alexandria worth a two day addition to the itinerary? We are really fascinated by its history and culture (Cavafy, Durrell) etc and we are also fascinated by St Anthony having read Darlymple’s book From the holy mountain where he visits. Thanks!
we skipped Alexandria.
yes, we had Mohamed in Luxor and he is fabulous. Tell him Dona from DC says hi! We were with him last January.


Last edited by yestravel; Feb 18th, 2024 at 11:27 AM.
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Old Feb 18th, 2024, 12:59 PM
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Great photo, yestravel!

Alas, I don’t have one with him, but here Is his contact info:



Mohammed



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Old Feb 19th, 2024, 10:36 AM
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Thanks for your well done report! You have to return to visit Abu Simbel! I would to return to Egypt just to spend even more time there.
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Old Feb 20th, 2024, 03:32 AM
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Originally Posted by andreacavone7304
thanks for the tip and agree, we also like to really get to know people and countries and guides are the only way to do that. I have read good reviews of Mohamed above and will contact him, is there anyone you would recommend? Also, is Alexandria worth a two day addition to the itinerary? We are really fascinated by its history and culture (Cavafy, Durrell) etc and we are also fascinated by St Anthony having read Darlymple’s book From the holy mountain where he visits. Thanks!
Ciao Andrea,
We had mixed feelings about Alexandria (my husband didn't like it) but I am so glad we went. It is a fascinating city and the literary memories are alive in the coffee shops and restaurants, in the streets and the people. If you are travelling from Italy it is really easy and convenient to fly there. The old hotels are full of charm. I also agree that you don't need a guide for Cairo. If I go back I will not use a guide for anything.I wonder if the Cairo museum has opened yet?
Have a wonderful time!
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Old Feb 20th, 2024, 03:35 AM
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Originally Posted by HappyTrvlr
Thanks for your well done report! You have to return to visit Abu Simbel! I would to return to Egypt just to spend even more time there.
Thank you, yes we must. Will wait for the GE museum to open!
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