Had a wonderful trip to Egypt !

Aug 2nd, 2011, 09:20 AM
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 67
Had a wonderful trip to Egypt !

We arrived back from Egypt after a wonderful 10 day trip. Our private tour was arranged by Mohamed Kamel at Lady Egypt. We had planned our journey over the course of the year and Mr. Kamel was very responsive to my requests. He also managed to navigate through a number of Egypt Air flight changes and cancellations. Our guides, Mohamed in Cairo and Mohamed in Upper Egypt, were excellent. They were very knowledgeable, personable and professional. I would recommend them whole heartedly. We were very happy with the staff at Lady Egypt that helped us along the way (except for one driver who overcharged us for 2 bottles of water; we deducted the amount from his tip). They seemed quite proud to present a service that allowed us to focus on the enjoyment of our vacation without the hassles.
Overall, we found the people of Egypt to be quite friendly and welcoming. We did not feel threatened in any way. Vendors in the markets were very happy to see tourists. I had read much about the reputation of caleche drivers in Luxor, and was happy to have had a positive experience. Yes, they were persistent, but not rude and aggressive. The caleche drivers in Aswan however, were the opposite and this might be a reflection of the desperation that exists there. Some vendors in the Aswan market were literally pleading for us to look in their shops. We obliged, and they were very happy when our boys bought a few trinkets. The touts at the sights were, for the most part, not overly aggressive. A simple "la shokran" was all that was required. Those that were too persistent were simply ignored. For us that seemed rude, but they eventually walked away.

I'll continue my report in awhile.....
ggrace is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 10:33 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,535
I'm glad to hear Lady Egypt and Mohamed Kamel are still in business! Mr. Kamel helped us plan our 2008 trip, and yes, he was very responsive. We did the entire thing by email over a period of two months (long story why we had to do it so fast). We, too, had a great trip.
sf7307 is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 12:11 PM
  #3  
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Posts: 67
Money and Tipping:
After getting our visas, we exchanged currency and requested some 5 and 10 LE notes and 1L coins. At the time I didn't realize that the smaller notes were not going to be enough for all the tips we had to give. We quickly learned that pharmacies are well stocked and can easily change larger bills for smaller ones. All we did was purchase something inexpensive to start. The quality of bills didn't appear to be an issue. I arrived in Egypt with crisp, clean bills as well as some worn notes. As long as they weren't torn, they were easily exchanged without fuss.

We tipped both in US dollars and Egyptian Pounds, depending on who was the recipient. For example, we tipped our guide in US currency as it was not a problem for him to exchange the money. Hotel staff were tipped in Egyptian pounds.

In the markets, many vendors will gladly accept your Euros, dollars, Swiss francs, etc. They all seem to know the current exchange rates.

We did not always tip the "guides" at the various sites. They would try to show us the tombs or offer to take our picture. For this "service" they would request a tip. We noticed that many people did not tip.

My son wanted to ride a camel at Giza. We agreed to a price and he was on his way. The tout wanted to be paid immediately, but we said he would receive his money when our son was returned to this spot, safe and with his belongings. We had read that sometimes if they take a picture with your camera, it's an extra fee to get it back!

When negotiating prices, be very clear what service is being rendered, for how many people and the total price and currency. Caleche drivers would often call out "only 5 pounds." It could be 5 pounds Sterling per person if you're not careful.

Hotels and Meals:

In Cairo, we stayed at the Talisman Hotel de Charme. It is a beautiful boutique hotel in an excellent location downtown off Talat Harb Street. It had all the amenities necessary for a comfortable stay. Across the alley was a small convenience store where we purchased our water (5LE for a 1.5 litre bottle). We ate at GADs, about a 5 minute walk from the hotel. The food was delicious, the portions were generous and the price was very reasonable.

We stayed overnight at the Seti Abu Simbel so that we could see the sound and light show there. The Seti's grounds were beautiful--right on Lake Nasser. We thoroughly enjoyed a dip in their pool. Sadly, we were the only guests at the hotel and they were funtioning with a bare-bones staff. Our 4 course dinner was very tasty and the staff very friendly. The Seti could use some minor repairs and an updated look, but without tourists, that may not happen. One positive note: We enjoyed having the temples all to ourselves. We had arrived by car in the afternoon and all the tourists had already left. It was sublime.

We stayed at the Movenpick in Aswan before embarking on our Nile cruise. We were greeted by friendly staff and again, enjoyed the lovely pool. There was a nice spread laid out for breakfast with a chef preparing eggs to order. For dinner we ate at Salah el-Din, a floating restaurant on the Nile. The staff were welcoming and the food was excellent.

Our cruise ship was the Princess Saraah. Again, the staff were very friendly and welcoming. We were always greeted with a smile. Most of the food was good, not great. The salads were very tasty--perhaps because I had avoided salads up to this point in our trip. We had enquired about uncooked vegetables. We were told that the ship has a special water filtration system and also uses UV light to keep uncooked food safe. We had no problems.

In Luxor, we stayed at the St. Joseph Hotel because of its great view of the Nile. The pool was also a hit with our kids. The hotel could use an update, but it is well located. Down the street there were several restaurants, so we didn't have to go far. We were getting tired of the same type of food and yearned for something closer to home. We ate at Roma.it twice because the food was very fresh and very good. Another night we ate at A Taste of India, which was also good. For lunch we ate koshari (a dish of pasta and lentils in a hot tomato sauce) bought from Elzaeem, not far from the tourist and Egyptian bazaar. We purchased our water from Arkwrights, a small convenience store near the St. Joseph
Hotel, for 3LE (large bottle).

On our last day, we went for a hot air balloon ride with Hod-Hod Solimon. I booked online and paid $100 per person. Ali was our balloon pilot--very professional. There were only a handful of balloons in the air. Ali explained that many of the pilots went to Cappadocia in Turkey because that's where the jobs are. I hope that business picks up for their sake.

This trip was a dream come true for me. We really enjoyed our tours, the warmth of the Egyptian people and the worry free service that Lady Egypt provided. While the constant tipping and haggling would wear us down because we are not used to this way of life, we did try to keep a sense of humor about it. We also understand that many are just trying to earn a living. I'm sure we overpaid for many of the items we purchased. We didn't try to drive down the price to score a coup. For all the purchases we made, we probably overpaid by about $20 or so--a miniscule amount when you've spent thousands on the trip itself. We spent when we wanted, for what we wanted. Haggling, while tiring, for the most part was an enjoyable exchange. We learned to take it all in stride and it made for a very enjoyable trip!
ggrace is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 01:28 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 3,902
I love Lady Egypt too. Just wondering who your guides were. Ours were fabulous - Hamdy in Cairo and Alexandra and Aamer in Luxor and Aswan.
MissGreen is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 04:19 AM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
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Your trip report is great. I'm very happy to hear you stayed at the St. Joseph's and used Hod Hod for your hot air balloon ride. You made THE BEST choices with this for sure! Good value for the money at the St. Josephs, and the safest balloon ride, by far! Hurray that you had such a great time!
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 08:45 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,535
We liked our Lady Egypt guide very much, too -- his name is Mahmoud. He was with us in Cairo AND in Luxor and Aswan (reason: he's from Aswan and was heading home for Ramadan)
sf7307 is online now  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:12 PM
  #7  
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Posts: 67
MissGreen, our guide in Cairo was named Mohamed. Our guide in Upper Egypt was also named Mohamed. He was with us from Abu Simbel up to Luxor. With all the time we spent with him, he seemed almost like family. He also became quite comfortable once he got a taste of our sense of humor.

I just ordered the pictures from our trip and can't wait to share it with family and friends!
ggrace is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 06:37 PM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 646
Great to read your report - thank you for sharing. We are off to Egypt with Lady Egypt in January and looking forward to it very much.
PRLCH is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 09:00 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 29
Glad u enjoyed your trip. I just came back from a 16 day vacation - 11 in Cairo and 5 in sharm el sheikh. , it was the best time of my life and am so disappointed I'm back I want to go back to Egypt as soon as I can.
winterbaby is offline  
Aug 7th, 2011, 01:20 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 492
Your trip report brings back wonderful memories. I have to admit I keep returning to this board just to relive our fabulous vacation in Egypt - living vicariously
jahlie is offline  
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