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Egypt Itinerary Critique

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Feb 18th, 2013, 09:01 AM
  #1
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Egypt Itinerary Critique

My wife and I are considering a trip to Egypt in November, not certain yet but leaning that way.

Our interest is in seeing the antiquities, and we enjoy slow travel. By that we typically stay a minimum of 3 full days at one location before moving on, often longer, in order to minimize time spent in transit. In some cases this means skipping some famous locations altogether. Here is the outline of our preliminary itinerary:

- Fly to Cairo, transfer to hotel near Giza pyramids. We prefer to stay there rather than central Cairo.

- Spend 4 nights in this hotel. Tour Giza pyramids, Saqqara, Dahshur, perhaps Egyptian Museum.

- Drive to Bahariya Oasis in Western Desert, spend one night. Continue on to Farafa Oasis for a camel trek in Great Sand Sea. Trek concludes in Dakhla Oasis.

- Drive to Luxor (which is now closer than Cairo).

- Three nights in Luxor, tour TBD selected sights.

- Five night Nile Dahabeya cruise to Aswan.

- Fly to Cairo, one night near airport, fly home.

Feedback welcome. Thanks.
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Feb 19th, 2013, 12:33 AM
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Some people do prefer to be out in Giza near the pyramids, but before you come, consider that the pyramids are located in what would be considered (in any other city) the ghetto area. The only nice things about this area are the Giza Pyramids themselves (and some people would debate that fact in that they are overrun with touts that will tell you just about anything to get you to part with your cash), the Mena House Hotel and the Meridian Hotel. If you stay at one of these two hotels you pretty much need to stay within the walls of them to enjoy yourself. That means every meal needs to be taken inside the hotel, OR you need to pay for transport to get to the few decent restaurants out in that area or come into the city.
Alternatively, I highly recommend considering the area of Zamalek. It is by far the nicest area for tourists in Cairo. It is the area where about 70%+ of the worlds embassies have chosen to locate, making it very secure and very International. It is an old area on an island in the Nile (with lots of bridges over to it from the Cairo side and Giza side) which I also often refer to as the Cultural Center of Cairo. It has the Opera House, Art Galleries, loads of restaurants, bars, cultural centers and shops. You can walk the whole area safely and there are hotels of every star level there to choose from. If, as you say, you want to spend a few days in one location, this is much better for being centrally located to do and see more with a *lot less transport time. If you want a view of the pyramids, pray for good weather and ask for a room on a high floor of the Gizera Tower at the Marriott..facing south.

*every time you want to do something other than look at pyramids, you will have a 60 min car ride into town and another 60 min back to your hotel.

Just my opinion for a better location in Cairo.
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Feb 19th, 2013, 07:42 AM
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Thanks very much for that advice, Casual_Cairo. I was hoping to hear from you!

OK, will definitely take that into consideration. My wife really wants to see the pyramids, and we thought staying out there would be satisfy that. But I hear what you are saying.

The rest of the itinerary looks decent to you?
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Feb 20th, 2013, 06:37 AM
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I am not really an expert on what is going on out in the desert these days. I don't have contacts for that like I used to. All I know is that some oil company Americans have been told NOT TO GO TO THE DESERT due to security issues. They are often overly cautious, but I can't say one way or the other if they are being that way this time. I'd say do your research on the desert portion of this trip and find a company you like to take you if you will move forward with this bit.

Also check and make sure the Dahabayia sails from Luxor to Aswan. I think you may end up being towed the whole way since you will be going against the current. I may be wrong, but make sure you know what to expect so you aren't disappointed once on the boat - since you pay premium prices for Dahabayias. If there is no wind, it could be disappointing. (I was in Luxor last week. There were 3 Dahabayias tied up on the west bank that I could see. I heard one of them was the one that Kent Weeks owns. )
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Feb 20th, 2013, 08:13 AM
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Thanks for your reply.

The camel trek is actually the whole reason for the trip. For many years my wife has wanted to go on a long camel trek in the desert. Don't ask me why, perhaps a deeply buried Bedouin gene hidden behind blonde hair and blue eyes.

I have read some relatively recent desert trip reports. In virtually all cases people say it was a highlight of the trip. There are some stories of driving in convoys, or having guards in the vehicles but nowhere any issues that I've found. I check Lonely Planet and TripAdvisor forums, as well as general web searches. When we first started think of this trip some years some years ago we were looking at Sinai, but then Jan, 2011 happened and now Sinai seems off limits except for the coast.

Here is the trip we are considering, slightly customized to continue to Luxor at the end rather than returning to Cairo.
http://www.selectegypt.com/safari-to...sis-egypt.html

And the Dahabiya cruise.
http://www.selectegypt.com/dahabiya-cruises.html

I did wonder why they were going upstream. One Dahabiya page I found says says: "Engines will only be used if wind is insufficient to sail ...", so maybe that’s the answer. But I will inquire.

Confess I had to look up Kent Weeks, so that is funny if he was stranded! Coincidentally last week I happened to check the Great Courses website and their History of Ancient Egypt series was on the 70% sale, plus another 10% online coupon so I bought a copy. Weeks might be mentioned in the series.
http://www.thegreatcourses.com/tgc/c...l.aspx?cid=350

We are concerned about the general situation there (perhaps you saw my other posting here), especially reading things like Tom Friedman’s column today in the NY Times or Dan Murphy’s in the CSM, makes it sound like the place is about to fall apart. So we’ll see.

Anyway, thanks so much for your time, really appreciate it.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 09:46 AM
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The Great Courses series is indeed great. Prof. Bob wears the same outfit/uniform pretty much the whole way through and by the end you will have some of his stock phrases and pauses memorized. You will like the series.

As to hotel, I agree with Casual, At different points, I've stayed at Le Meridien Pyramids and the Cairo Marriott. I would definitely choose the Marriott over Le Meridien from a tourist location standpoint. We walked to a couple good restaurants close to the Marriott. The last time I was at the Marriott was summer 2010 and I know restaurants are notorious for changing, so more current info is important.
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Feb 20th, 2013, 04:57 PM
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Favor, thanks for the info. If we do the trip then we'll look into Zamalek instead of Giza, as you guys suggest.

Looking forward to the Great Courses Egypt series. We have been using them before traveling to a destination for about 5 years now. They always add to our enjoyment of the trip. We also watch them just for fun and education. Great indeed, there's only been one that we were lukewarm about.
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Feb 21st, 2013, 02:11 PM
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Hello Nelson. The western desert is safe with no problems there. I'm planning for a trip next May to tour the oasis area. I know a friend there and he says things are ok.

I hope you enjoy your trip.
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 01:00 PM
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Thanks Wella_f1. We are excited about doing this trip, but are a bit concerned with the situation in Egypt. Hard to say what will happen in 8 months, but we are still very interested and doing research. From what I've read it's possible the desert will be the highlight of the trip for us.

Regards from Colorado, USA.
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 01:16 PM
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The night sky will leave you speechless all by itself.
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Feb 22nd, 2013, 01:54 PM
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No doubt! In fact we are planning the trip so our time in the desert is around the new moon.
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Feb 23rd, 2013, 08:19 AM
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On new moon nights the stars come right down to the sand and seem as close as the next dune over. You can see satellites plod across the sky and lots of shooting stars. It really is an incredible sight. The pictures you'll bring back will only be a suggestion to your family and friends of what you'll have seen.
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Feb 23rd, 2013, 10:21 AM
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Dear Nelson

I have read you tour and I hope you enjoy it 8 month its too early to let you know will be ok in Egypt or not no body know but we hope it will be ok for the desert will be nice you will enjoy it and you will enjoy the camel too 3 nights in Cairo its ok fair enough then one night in Bahiray its ok too then Farfra one night is fine but you need to visit the white desert you will enjoy alot Dakhala one night is ok but you need to stay in Kharga one night before you go to Luxor its about 5 hours drive stay three nights in Luxor then you will go by Dahabia will you join other people on Dahabia or will you have a private one hope this will help you while you search for your tour shold you need anything just send your request
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Feb 24th, 2013, 07:53 AM
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Thanks vacationstogo. I can add one more night after our camel trek. We can use that to move on to Kharga. I see the drive from Dakhala to Luxor is at least 7 hours according to Google. That might be too long for one day.

Our Dahabia is not private. It could be a small group.

Thanks for the info.
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Mar 1st, 2013, 07:14 PM
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I also suggest staying in the city of Cairo and at the Marriott. Other than the Giza pyramids the area is not much to see. 1 night at the Mena house would be enough for me. We used Lady Egypt for a private tour (2 of us) and were thrilled with them. I've posted a trip report too. We had a fabulous trip!
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Mar 2nd, 2013, 10:20 AM
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Tuni01, thanks much for the info. Based on what Casual_Cairo told us above we decided that staying at Giza was a bad idea and that Zamalek was better. I just checked and that's where the Marriott is located. Our plan is now to stay somewhere around there.

I read your report and it was great.
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Mar 2nd, 2013, 12:39 PM
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The best hotels in the area are as follows:
5 star - Cairo Marriott http://www.marriott.com/hotels/trave...hayyam-casino/
3 star - Longchamps Hotel http://hotellongchamps.com/
Hostel type - Mayfair Hotel http://www.mayfaircairo.com/

This list covers all budget ranges and all 3 hotels are some of the best in the city in their catagory. Being located on the island and in Zamalek makes them top notch!
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Mar 3rd, 2013, 07:14 AM
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Thanks once again Casual. To be honest we don't often stay in 5* hotels and not just because of the price, but we'll check things out.

Appreciated.
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Mar 3rd, 2013, 07:33 PM
  #19
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We are getting our flights booked! Now this is the proposed itinerary:

1 Arrive Cairo (Zamalek)
2 Cairo (Zamalek)
3 Cairo (Zamalek)
4 Cairo (Zamalek)
5 Drive to Oasis Bahariya (~5 hours) (Bahariya)
6 Camel Trek: Draa Mariam (Camp 1)
7 Camel Trek: Bir Dakar spring (Camp 2)
8 Camel Trek: Ghard Abu Muharrak (Camp 3)
9 Camel Trek: Sabaa Russ (Camp 4)
10 Camel Trek: Sukkak (Camp 5)
11 Camel Trek: Harrafish (Camp 6)
12 Camel Trek: El Ghard El Malfuf (Camp 7)
13 Camel Trek: El Selim (Camp 8)
14 Camel Trek: El Qasr (Dakhla)
15 Drive to Kharga (~2-3 hours) (Kharga)
16 Drive to Luxor (~5 hours) (Luxor)
17 Luxor (Luxor)
18 Luxor (Luxor)
19 Luxor (Luxor)
20 Nile Dahabiya: Esna-el Hegz Island (Cruise 1)
21 Nile Dahabiya: Edfu Temple (Cruise 2)
22 Nile Dahabiya: Gabal el silsilah (Cruise 3)
23 Nile Dahabiya: Kom Ombo, Kopania (Cruise 4)
24 Nile Dahabiya: Aswan (Cruise 5)
25 Aswan (Aswan)
26 Fly to Cairo (Cairo Near Airport)
27 Fly home

We think it will work for us. Open to suggestions of course, and thanks for the previous advice.
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Mar 3rd, 2013, 11:47 PM
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If you don't want or need 5 star - my recommendation for Cairo is the Longchamps. I feel this hotel is far and away the BEST value in Cairo.
In Luxor, I like the St. Josephs for the price. It is across the street from the Sonesta and offers good views of the West Bank from all rooms 4th flr and up.
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