Customized Luxury Trip Report

Nov 24th, 2008, 05:31 PM
  #1  
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Customized Luxury Trip Report

My wife and I just finished an 18 day Egypt/Jordan trip. 14 days were spent in Egypt. After lengthy research on what we wanted to see and with the suggestions of ElizabethS and AZEB who we were introduced to both on Trip Advisor and Fodor’s, we chose to utilize the services of Ahmed Hamed Yousif [email protected] With more than five months of planning with Ahmed we still made changes to our trip once in Egypt. This was just one of the reasons why we chose him and would recommend him unconditionally. On previous trips we had trouble reaching our travel agent in the USA due to time zone differences. and

Day 1. Our plane arrives into Cairo on time. We were immediately greeted by Ahmed’s representative. Our luggage was retrieved for us with requests we not do anything. I gave the representative thirty US dollars and before our turn in immigration he returned with our visas. My wife was to experience the first bathroom attendant experience. We came prepared with one dollar bills for such occasions. From experience bring cash. There are no safety concerns and every room we had a safe. For tipping you should use dollars. If you want to purchase things use Egyptian pounds. American Express is not widely accepted. Check your credit card company if they charge they charge fees for international charges. Our air conditioned mini van was parked outside and we headed towards our hotel, The Mena House. I do not wish to get involved with the Great Cairo Hotel debate. Downtown vs. The Mena House. I will only say you can stay in any Hilton, Four Seasons anywhere in the world and it is almost the same. So why not stay in a little piece of Egyptian history and culture, for a twenty minute ride... We felt fortunate to stay at the Mena House. We were not concerned if we had a pyramid view or not. Much of the hotel is and will be under renovation so if you want reservations especially in the high season do it at least six months ahead of time or do want we did use Ahmed. We also spent very little time in our hotel rooms except to sleep during this vacation. Upon our arrival to The Mena House, all was taken care of and my wife and I were able to take a quick shower and nap. We were picked up at about 4 and driven downtown for our Felucca ride on the Nile. Seeing the city from the boat gave a completely different perspective of Cairo. Our ride lasted about one and half relaxing hours. Upon docking we were meet by our representative and driven to the Citadel View Studio Misr restaurant, in Islamic Cairo's Al-Azhar Park. The views of the city were breathtaking and the fresh hot bread kept on coming. I had already received several text messages from Ahmed concerning our status. Another reason why I chose him was his attention to details. Casually I mentioned that Ana was still getting over a cold. Upon our drive back to the hotel our van pulled over in front of a pharmacy where our representative went out to get some medication that Ahmed had ordered without my knowledge. I was told not to leave the van because the pharmacy would charge more knowing it was for a tourist. Ahmed said he would not pick us up till 10am the next day. I was concerned but he insisted saying we needed to rest after our long flight and the day ahead. I learned to take his advice.

Pictures go to www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur
Day1

Day 2. After a good night’s sleep and an Egyptian breakfast we were ready to go. Ahmed’s medication started to work on Ana and she felt better. Ahmed met us exactly at 10 and we were off to the Egyptian Museum. We learned during our trip that Ahmed had a keen sense of where the crowds were and when they would be light. Sure enough very few people were located in King Tut’s area. It was a delight. Being able to see the entire exhibit without feeling rushed was much appreciated. We also took in the exhibit of Mummy’s. We casually toured the rest of the Museum. Going to the Museum was a great idea because it gave us an overall history of Egypt. From the Museum we were off to see the Giza pyramids. Words can not describe the experience. Standing next to them only intensified the feeling. After arranging the perfect camel picture shoot and being driven to the perfect places to take pictures of the pyramids our day ended. It now made sense to come to the pyramids in the afternoon after the morning haze has a chance to burn off. Of course one last text message from Ahmed before bed. We used my Apple iphone during our trip with no problems. Make sure you have some access to SMS while in Egypt as it is the best way to stay in touch with every one cheap.

Pictures go to www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur
Day 2

Day 3. Today we began with our typical Egyptian breakfast and Ahmed waiting for us in the lobby. Off to Dahshur and Saqqara. If you do not plan on going to Dahshur you should think twice about it. First the drive there gives you a better understanding of what Egypt is all about. Second, very few people go there. When we went there was only one other car and they were leaving. What an experience. We climbed into and down the pyramid actually seeing the workmanship and hand craft of the slabs of stone and how perfect they fit together. The lack of ventilation and small size would have made this journey very uncomfortable if it were crowded. After the two sites we were off to a local restaurant where each guest is greeted with a fanfare. We chose the afternoon to get our shopping over with. We told Ahmed what we wanted, Cartouches for Ana and her mother, papyruses for Christmas gifts and maybe some perfume. Negotiation takes on a whole new meaning in Egypt. Think Turkey and Chinatown NYC. Ahmed directed us in the right direction and at the end of the day I was pleased with the quality and prices.

Pictures go to www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur
Day 3

More to come………
chorrin is offline  
Nov 24th, 2008, 05:59 PM
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Join Date: May 2005
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Great pics and report. Thanks for sharing. Looks like a great trip
matnikstym is offline  
Nov 25th, 2008, 02:48 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2003
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I followed AZEB's reports closely and would consider using Ahmed for a future trip. Thanks for posting about your experiences.
Femi is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 02:39 PM
  #4  
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Day 4. Changes made. Ahmed decided it would be better to fly back to Cairo from Jordan instead of doing a ferry. Plus we had changed some of our Jordan itinerary so this made it easier and a little more sleep. We also elected to do the caravan to Abu Simbel instead of the plane. Too many ifs with the plane. We also took advantage of this and took the second caravan and had Abu Simbel to ourselves by taking our time there. More later. In the morning Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Coptic Church, Hanging Church, and Ben Ezra Synagogue. Finally Khan al-Khalili market. It is here we said good-bye to Ahmed and one of Ahmed’s reps takes us to the airport and Aswan. Of course it was our luck that a rain storm hits the area near the airport which stopped traffic. Taking an episode out of Amazing Race we made it. More text messages from Ahmed. We are greeted as we get off the plane by our new representative. Our luggage being collected for us and we are off to The Basama Hotel. We are given a quiet room on top of the hill the hotel is located on. Did I say quiet? An hour after our check in the Nubian Wedding Celebration began. After a quick phone call to Ahmed’s rep explaining the situation a phone call saying someone was on there way to our room to move our luggage was received. At last sleep.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/ananadarthur

Go to Day 4

Day 5. Taking Ahmed’s advice we are in a caravan to Abu Simbel in the late morning. We have been told there were more than 5000 tourists on the early caravan. There are maybe 20-40 in ours. This is another place where if you have not planned on going you should. You have traveled thousands of miles to Egypt and not to come here would be a shame. Just to comprehend what it took to move the two temples is mind boggling. The temples are truly impressive and then there is the scenery from the lake. The light show here must be amazing. Next time. It is here that we learn that the Tourist Police and the local security will advise you where to take your picture for a small price. Remember you get nothing for free. If someone offers you something you are expected to tip for it. It is better to say no if you do not wish to be placed in an uncomfortable situation. After our drive back we checked into our Nile boat the Sonesta Moon Goddess. After checking out our room we have a quick dinner and return for a relaxing night on board. If you have an opportunity to take this boat you will not be disappointed. No matter how nice the boat is the staff is what makes it. Overall very clean, good food and not as dated as was led to believe. We got on the upper deck with balcony and the better side of the boat. All planned by Ahmed.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/ananadarthur

Go to Day 5


Day 6. Although the ship supplies guides for their passengers Ahmed arranged a private one for us. Due to overbooking of the boat he could not be on board with us but in the long run we preferred that. He met us at the two docking points and then he stayed in a hotel in Luxor. Mohamed was another of Ahmed’s gems. He presented just enough information and was able to answer any questions you might have but you did not feel that you were taking a history class and were going to be tested afterwards. All of this with a great personality. In the morning it was the Aswan Dam and the Philae Temple. The Philae temple is another place where you just scratch your head and ask how did they do it? Not only is it a spectacular site, but then you realize it had to be moved and some of it was underwater. Another felucca ride, but with no wind Mohamed must call for a motor launch so we do not miss our boat. Later that day Mohamed meets us a Kom Ombo. Dedicated to two Gods Horus and Sobek. Seeing the many medical instruments engraved in stone made you think even more on how advanced the Egyptian society was. Afterwards we were entertained by a Nubian folk band who insisted that I participate. The people here are just so friendly and respectful you want to take them home with you.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/ananadarthur

Go to Day 6

Feel free to contact me for questions or Ahmed Hamed Yousif at
[email protected]
chorrin is offline  
Nov 26th, 2008, 02:44 PM
  #5  
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Sorry typo on the link

www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur
chorrin is offline  
Nov 29th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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Day 7. Mohamed met us at the dock and off to Edfu we go. Temple of Horus and one of the largest temples in Egypt. It is very well preserved due to the fact it was covered by sand for over two thousand years. You ask yourself how many other temples and pyramids are still buried out there. We made a bet with Mohamed that we would come back when they find Cleopatra’s or Alexander the Great’s tombs. The reliefs here are magical. The rest of the day is relaxing on the ship and docking in Luxor early evening. This was another time that having Ahmed Hamed Yousif and Mohamed made a difference. When the boat docked Mini Van waiting, we were off to Luxor Temple. Seeing Luxor Temple at night gave it a wonderful glow. Temperatures were cool and the crowd was non existent. Mohamed felt at home explaining from the Avenue of the Sphinxes, the granite obelisk, the Abu al-Haggag Mosque, reliefs of Ramses II battle over the Hittites and giant column after giant column 14 in all and more. The story of the collection of sperm for fertilization was unique. After seeing all of the previous temples during day time at night is the way to go here. You miss no details only people. We stayed till closing. We never felt rushed at any time. Back to the boat where like I said earlier the boat is good but the people are the best. That night the ship had a Galabya Party. Even though we were well past dinner service hours and did not request it they waited for us. The staff did not break down the buffet till we served ourselves.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur

Go to Day 7


Day 8. We started our day early 4am in preparation for our balloon ride. Each balloon contained approximately 15 people and there were about 20 balloons taking off before dawn. My wife and I had been on previous rides and quickly realized the pilot was a true professional. About 15 minutes into the ride the sun slowly starts to rise over the mountains east of Luxor. The colors over the west bank mountains was indescribable. Hatsheput Temple looked small in comparison to later in the day on the ground. The only sounds were the fire exhausts from the balloons and the cameras clicking. Ages of the riders ranged from about 10 to 70. At no time was there any fear in any passenger. The highlight of the ride was the landing when we had to go tree top over a village. Houses with no roofs exposed sleepy children and parents alike. Many roofs were used by chickens and goats. Finally landing in an open field and five minutes to the Colossi of Memnon where we ate the ship’s prepared breakfast boxes. Mohamed met us with our van and off to the Valley of the Kings at about 7:30am. Out of more than 60 tombs only 12 are open. Tickets allow you three tombs of your choosing. Tutankhamen and Ramses 5 and 6 are extra. No photos of any kind are allowed. And they do mean no photos. We saw the freebies first Seti 1, Merneptah and Tuthmosis III. All gave you a small appreciation of what was done for the Pharaohs tombs. We knew Tut’s tomb would not be spectacular but we wanted to get a perspective of that. It was still amazing. The best to come was the last with a slight line Ramses 5 and 6. Great artwork still preserved and the ceilings. Again do not even try to take a picture. Next on to the Valley of the Queens. Smaller scale but overall better preserved colors and drawings. Much less lines. Of course Nefertari’s tomb was closed to the public, but while there some prince was visiting with his family and they were allowed in. Seeing Hatshepsut’s Temple now from the ground made you appreciate its size and splendor. After an ice cream break we visited one of the Alabaster factories. We saw a few pieces but could not come to terms so next stop Medinat Habu Temple. Ahmed placed this on our schedule and after a long day we wanted to thank him again. Very well preserved and some excellent colors remain in the reliefs. It was a pleasure just to sit inside and hear nothing but the wind and the birds. A truly special moment. Again not expecting it or requesting it and two hours after lunch was served the buffet was still open to us. Yes after this the Maître D did receive a nice tip.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur

Go to Day 8


Day 9 Started by disembarking from the Sonesta and dropping our luggage at the Nile Palace. We then met up with our convoy to Abydos and Dendara. This is a long trip for two Temples. Is it worth it yes, but it is still a long day traveling especially when we got back and it was dark. First Abydos. Another Egyptian Temple in the middle of town. Our first impression was all of the pyramids and Temples would be “out in the dessert” this just is not true. Abydos is the center for Osiris and is regarded one of the holiest towns in old Egypt. It is mammoth and more little things to see than your body and eyes allow. A bit to eat at the café with Mohamed and off to Dendara. Dendara is where Hathor gave birth to Horus. It was again another marvel to Egyptian art, architecture, and science. This was the only temple where we got to walk on the roof. Again this is a long day being in a van but at the end of the day I was glad Ahmed Hamed Yousif planned it for us. Checking into the Steigenberger Nile Palace brought us a rather slight surprise. Upon checking in we were inform that Ahmed Hamed Yousif had called and made special arrangements for us. As the Concierge guided us to our room we soon found out what he meant. We had a two story villa on the sixth floor of the hotel looking over the Nile. Dinner at the Thai Restaurant was excellent and a peaceful night of sleep after falling asleep on the outside deck came over looking the Nile.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur

Go to Day 9

More to come………
chorrin is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 06:46 AM
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I'm really enjoying your trip report! Thanks!
GoTravel is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 09:45 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Jan 2006
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yes, keep going I'm planning to write to Ahmed and want to have an idea of how many days we'll need.

Glad to hear you enjoyed the hot air balloon so much, it's high on my list.
kak113 is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 03:22 PM
  #9  
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Day 10. First thing in the morning we do Karnak. Many small temples make up the entire complex. After two hours of Mohamed educating us and taking more pictures it is back to the hotel. We left just as the tour buses from the Red Sea arrived. Again great planning. Now is a when we are even more glad to have utilized Ahmed Hamed Yousif. The next morning was when we were scheduled to climb Mt. Sinai. Ahmed had arranged for us to stay in the room till 7pm so we could relax and sleep now and climb later. American Express Platinum would and could never be so good.. Mohamed greeted us, gathered our luggage and off to the airport. All internal flights were booked by Ahmed. A short flight to Sharm el Sheikh. Greeted by our new guide. We drive directly to St Catherine’s Hotel arriving at about 1am.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur

Go to Day 10


Day 11. We have time to change and prepare for our climb. It is cold. Coming from Miami, I do mean cold. It is suppose to be cold on top not at the bottom. Oh well, warm cloths come on and Ana purchases two wool parkas. We meet our Bedouin guide. He was the greatest. Self educated 4 or 5 languages and one of the most respectful and polite persons I have ever met. Bedouin guides are mandatory and I do not know how but we were lucky to get him. I am in pretty good shape. But nothing prepared me for the cold and the slow decrease of oxygen. Remember Miami is warm and sea level. Ana did better than me she is from Bogota. After about two and half hours the summit. Did I say my guide got the privilege of carrying my backpack. Again we were in store for a little surprise. Our guide had the key to the mosque on top. Generally it is not open to the public. We were able to see the inside and took off my shoes to go inside. Little things like this are what you remember and on this trip we have much to remember. After sitting in the cold our guide had told us where to sit and prepare for the sunrise. We have seen some fantastic ones before but this was most spectacular. Thinking that this is where Moses stood and received the Ten Commandments. What more can you say! Many small groups of readings and singing during sunrise. A special moment for everyone. I am not saying that it is easy or hard but you should think about doing it. Down the mountain and Ana wants to buy rocks. Of course our guide who knew all the camel drivers and merchants helped us negotiate . He also had to carry them. Finally we make it back to the hotel. Sleep for one hour breakfast and off to St Catherine’s Monastery. There is nothing that can prepare you for this. No adjective describes it. Just go. Some time during our visit our guide brought us a used water bottle fill of water. He explained that one of the local church staff (not Monk) noticed Ana praying and thought she would like some holy water from the Well of Moses. He even refused to accept any tip. Yes it is the little things. This is a long day and we are off to our hotel in Sharm el Sheikh. Finally we check into the Marriott. No complaints. I decided our bodies needed a message so that night before dinner we both had the best messages of our life. Of course we really did need them.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur

Go to Day 11


Day 12. We arise with no muscle pain whatsoever. The day before we booked a snorkeling trip to Ras Mohammed. From 9am to 4pm three stops and a home made lunch
The fish the water, the fish, the water. Yes it was another great day. Upon our arrival to our room I noticed on my phone several text messages, several missed calls and two messages all from Ahmed. I did not tell him I booked this ourselves and he was worried about us. This was one of the main reasons we selected Ahmed. He was overly concerned for our safety. I do not know of any travel agency so concerned. Yes he even had the hotel trying to reach us. Early to bed, early to rise.

Pictures www.flickr.com/photos/anaandarthur

Go to Day 12

Still more….
chorrin is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 06:01 PM
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Join Date: Nov 2008
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Am enjoying your trip report. On your day 8 I read that you saw Seti1's tomb among several? Is this correct or a typo? If so, this is very exciting since it was closed for the longest time, since the early 90's I think. I hope it remains open long enough for me to see.
Lesuk is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 08:26 AM
  #11  
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I was interested to know why only so few tombs were open to the public and were told that they open some and close others periodically but no good reason why so few are open. Glad you are enjoying our report hope you had a chance to look at the pictures.
chorrin is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 03:34 PM
  #12  
 
Join Date: May 2008
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Thank you for posting such an informative trip report. I have really enjoyed reading it and I love your photos. I am going to Egypt in January, something I am very excited about.
jerseysusan is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 05:33 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 8
It's good to see your pictures. Those of the sun rise on Mt Sinai and the balloon flight were among my favorites. Floating over the houses and "kibitzing", seeing the local people rising and going about their lives early morning was very interesting. What size (focal length) lens and camera were you using to take the pictures of the Giza pyramids during the sound and light show?
Lesuk is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 03:32 PM
  #14  
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My wife is responsible for 90% of the pictures taken. She uses a Nikon D300 18-200mm 1:3.5-5.6 vr lens. I hope that helps. This was her first trip using the camera.I am glad you enjoyed her picturs.
chorrin is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 12:50 PM
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Day 17. We drive from Petra to Amman to catch our Royal Jordanian Airline. This was again Ahmed’s suggestion after we arrived in Egypt. Yes it did cost a little more money but we got to sleep later and more time in Cairo upon our arrival. We were very pleasantly surprised by the service of the airline. Not only that but they served a nice lunch in coach for a flight that lasted only about one hour. On the drive to Amman we made several stops for scenery as well as seeing the Spring of Moses. Raed made sure everything was ok at the airport as we said our good byes. We were greeted at Cairo Airport by another representative of Ahmed. After a relatively short ride we were back at the Mena House. That night Ahmed took us to the Giza Light Show. It had been cancelled for two nights due to private parties previously. It was the perfect way to end our trip. Ahmed takes us back to the hotel for our last night of the Trip made in Heaven.

Day 18. We are met early for our drive to the airport. Even thou there are long lines for Egypt Air our representative know the right people and we are whisked away through security to the airline counter. We say our good byes and shortly our plane takes off to New York.

We can not thank Ahmed Hamed Yousif [email protected] for the time and effort he put forth in planning and executing on this trip. We accomplished a lot in the time we were in Egypt and Jordan. In our hearts and mind we do not think we could have done better. Where there problems yes, but they were all handled professionally and timely to our satisfaction. We would recommend him unconditionally. If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
chorrin is offline  
Dec 10th, 2008, 04:11 AM
  #16  
 
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Art - great trip report and Ana's photos are lovely - so glad you had such a great time.
Elizabeth_S is online now  

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