Home From Egypt - Fantastic!!! (Long)

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Nov 17th, 2005, 08:30 AM
  #1
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Home From Egypt - Fantastic!!! (Long)

After having a good night's sleep, I will try to put into words my impressions of this wonderful trip. We left Nov 1st and returned last night for a 15 day private tour arranged by Egyptian Highlights. Everything went like clockwork, from the meeting on arrival to our departure. A representative and driver were at every step of the way, and it was a pleasure to sit back and relax as I am usually the navigator on vacations.
We arrived on the last night of Ramaden and the streets were full of people celebrating. What I did not realize was that then there are 3 days of holidays after that, so we saw lots of celebrating and crowds.
Day 1- arrived and were driven to the Le Meredian Pyramids hotel in Giza - a pyramids view room! Within 3 hours I acquired a bit of "mummy's tummy" - this after not even having anything to eat or drink since the plane. We were very careful, using bottled water for everything and avoiding lettuce/tomato containing salads which was difficult as they are beautiful! Nevertheless, both of us had touches of "m-t" in the first few days.
Days 2-3 - spent one day touring pyramids areas. Memphis, etc and the other in the city. We linked up with another couple for this with our wonderful guide, Ayman. He took very good care of us and was very knowledgeable and fun to be with. Took the night train to Luxor.
Days 4-8 - Nile cruise with usual stops to explore temples and sights. We arrived at the Esna lock about 5 pm on day 4 and were greeted by 12-15 rowboats full of people selling goods which they would fling up to the ship's deck and then you bartered over the side and threw either the goods or money back to them. They stayed until dark.
Day 9 - flight to Abu Simble and then a flight back to Cairo; this time we stayed in the city at the Nile Hilton, very well situated.
Day 10 - on our own. We did some walking across to Zamalek area and took a cab back to the market to get some souvenirs for the grandchildren.
Day 11 - to the oasis and desert. We were picked up at 7 and drove about 4 hrs to the Bahariya Oasis. We toured tombs, temples, and a museum there and stayed overnight.
Days 12-13 - toured the Black desert, Crystal mountain, and camped out in the White desert. We really dithered about this - we are not campers, and like our creature comforts, but am I glad we went. My husband, who had to be talked into this, and I agreed that this was definitely one of the highlights. Back to the Hilton and out for a dinner cruise on the Nile - excellent.

Days 14-15 - Alexandria. What a contrast! A typical Mediterrean city, white-washed buildings and the beautiful sea. We had excellent fish meals here.
Day 16 - up at 3:30 ugh! for the trip home.

Some comments:

Favorites: (not necessarily in order) White Desert, Karnak, Aswan, Alexandria, Step Pyramid (maybe because it was the first pyramid!)

Security - Tourist police with machine guns everywhere. At first it seems odd, but it becomes part of the background. I NEVER felt uneasy or as if I had to clutch my handbag, or look behind me. Heavy security at the hotels - the first one had a dog sniff all around the car and a policeman with a metal detector also go around it; then you went through an airline-type metal detector when you entered.

Food: In the hotels and on the ship, not that different. They had Egyptian specialties, but mainly chicken and fish type dishes, most served with rice. Many small restaurants where you could get more common Egyptian food. Seemed particularly good in Alexandria. Camp food was cooked over the fire - yummy, and the oasis meals were very tasty as well - a bit spicier than we had in Cairo.

Do take tissues - the toilet paper handed out in public restrooms is not Charmin!

Everyone was extremely friendly. Most people who strike up a conversation on the street have a brother/uncle/father who owns a perfume/papyrus/jewelry shop to which you are invited. vendors are evrywhere at the sites, but our guide quickly dismissed them.

I am sure I have forgotten to mention many things. My bottom line is that it was the trip of a lifetime and EH did a super job. For those of us who are a bit older, having a private tour was perfect. It was adjusted to your pace and we saw many extras as well as meeting two great Egyptoligists.

My thanks as well to all on this board who gave me such great advice. If you have any questions, you can post here or email me at [email protected].
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Nov 17th, 2005, 09:18 AM
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Dear Conlet! Welcome back!!! What a wonderful report.. so glad you loved Egypt. Sorry about the "MT" it may have been something on the plane.. I read a report about the water tanks on aircraft that would curl your hair... at least it didn't seem as if it spoiled your trip in the least.
Welcome back!T
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Nov 17th, 2005, 09:45 AM
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Conlet, does Egyptian Highlights have a web site? I googled it and came up with nothing! Thanks.
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Nov 17th, 2005, 10:37 AM
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www.egypthighlights.com should get you there!! Thyra
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Nov 17th, 2005, 11:28 AM
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Thanks for sharing your trip report with us Conlet! It sounds like you had a wonderful time -- your trip report is making me wish we were leaving for our December trip today! We will also be staying at the Le Meridien Pyramids, and I asked Walaa if we could get a pyramids view room -- she told me that it there was a $16 per person surcharge for that. If you don't mind asking, did you have to pay the surcharge? Could you see the light show from your room? How were the hotels overall? We paid for 5-star -- but I am wondering if we will get what we paid for. I'm also not used to having someone else take care of everything, so my inner travel "control-freak" is itching to take over and make sure we get what we want. What boat did you cruise on? Please let us know what you thought of it. Thanks for posting!!!
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Nov 17th, 2005, 12:05 PM
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Travelaw - yes we did pay extra for the pyramid view. Our room overlooked the pool and pyramids and I felt just like I was in the middle of a movie scene! This will probably be our only trip to Egypt (not that I wouldn't like to return), so we opted for the view there and a Nile view at the Hilton. The Hilton was, as others have said, a little faded. It would probably not be a 5* in NYC. But the staff was great - greeted us by name when we returned, had a great breakfast buffet. We stayed 4 nights there, but left for other places inbetween. Each time we returned, they upgraded us - the last room was a corner suite with balconies overlooking the Nile and the Egyptian Museum. I had requested the Hilton and Le Meredian when we booked; I think EH usually suggests the Cairo Sheraton. We walked over to that one day and it looked a little spiffier, but we liked the Hilton.

Our boat was the m/s Carmen (www.mscarmen.com ). It had about 50 cabins spread over 3 decks. It was not the biggest nor probably the most plush, but everything and everybody was great.
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Nov 17th, 2005, 12:45 PM
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Wow, sounds like a great trip. I agree on Karnak -- to me, it was the most amazing sight, perhaps even more so than the pyramids.

I like the Nile Hilton -- a bit faded, but great location, and suited my needs.

Sounds like you had a wonderful time.
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Nov 17th, 2005, 01:59 PM
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Thanks for the info Conlet! We are staying at the Le Meridien, then taking the overnight train to Aswan, we'll be on the Nile Cruise for 4 nights and back to the Le Meridien when we get back to Cairo -- so no Hilton or Sheraton. Sounds like the surcharge for the view at the Le Meridien is worth it though! We're also going to do an extension to Jordan with Egypt Highlights. Looking forward to that, too, but of course, with the bombings last week we are being urged to cancel -- but I just can't do that!
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Nov 17th, 2005, 03:40 PM
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Conlet:

Welcome home.

Thank you for your good report.

Having just returned home from Egypt 4 weeks ago... I can picture all those lovely places you mentioned.

Wish I was cruising the Nile again.!!

Yes, aren't those early morning flights out of Cairo something !!

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Nov 17th, 2005, 04:39 PM
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Welcome back Conlet. Good to hear that you had a great time. I am working with EH at the moment prepairing for our trip next year. Since this was a private tour for you, did you choose all the hotels where you stayed at? we are also going to be staying at the Le MEredian and opted for a pyramid view room. did you have your own tour guide at the nile cruise as well? i know that cruise ships provides the guide for you but i am opting for a private guide rather than sharing one guide with a lot of people-- although i am not sure what the ratio is. when did you have to pay your full balance to EH?
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Nov 18th, 2005, 01:01 AM
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Italy2005 - yes we did have our own guide on the cruise. Mohammed was great - we arrived at 5 am in Luxor on the train and were taken to the ship to deposit our luggage. Our guide was to meet us at 8 and our cabin was not ready, so they gave us the use of another cabin to take a shower and rest a bit. After the train, it was a really good thing to be able to do. We did not see Mohammed that much during the non-touring part of the cruise - mainly at meals and sometimes on the deck, but he was always available to answer questions.
We paid half of the cost about 2 months before the trip by wiring the money, and we paid the remaining half in cash to Magdy at the hotel.
Yes, we also chose the hotels - I wanted to stay in the Giza area and in downtown. They suggested the Cairo Sheraton, which looked very nice when we stopped in their lobby, but I thought we might want to return to the museum on our free day, so we opted for the Hilton which is right next door to it.

Travelaw - I'm glad you are still going to Jordan. We were looked at in amazement when we declined to cancel after the blasts at Sharm last summer, and even our children kept asking if we were still going! I just can't live afraid of what might be - it could happen anywhere, and has.

I should have included the driving in Cairo as one of our favorite spectator sports. It is amazing. Any 2 lane road has at least three lanes of traffic, very few traffic lights, no stop signs - everybody just goes, jumping lanes constantly. We are used to driving in Boston traffic and have managed the CA freeways, NYC, Paris, London, etc., but no way would I ever even attempt to drive in Cairo! But it's fun to watch, and we never saw a collision!
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Nov 18th, 2005, 01:07 AM
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An additional thought- if you need to have laundry done, try having it done on the ship. It was very inexpensive. We also had some done at the Hilton - when we left for the desert for 2 nights, we stored our luggage there and left laundry to be done and it was ready and waiting when we returned.
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Nov 18th, 2005, 07:58 AM
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Conlet - thanks for the response

How much did it cost you to do your laundry in the Cruise ship?

Before departing the US, did EH send you any paperworks (e.g. proof that you paid 50%, hotel reservations)

The prices that EH gave me was very good. I gave them all the hotels where we would like to stay. EH said that they will book at out chosen hotels. I just want to make sure that when we get there, they will NOT put us up in a different accomodations. As I have heard from the forum here that this happens.

Thanks again.

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Nov 18th, 2005, 06:56 PM
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I am in the process of booking my tour with Egypt Highlights-they have asked for %100 payment up front. i have organised this quite late-we arrive in Egypt on the 23rd dec-maybe this is why they are asking for all of the money. I just want to confirm that I am dealing with the same company you have been. Could you post their email address for me and also their website once more so I can confirm this.
Thanks to all for the info-my intenary is looking fantastic-I am travelling with my family inlcuding 3 kids and we cannot wait.
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Nov 18th, 2005, 07:22 PM
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skitrees - this is the info i have for EH: http://www.egypthighlights.com I've been dealing with Walaa and she's been very helpful and responsive. They are asking 50% downpayment for our trip but then again we are not going until next summer. That is probably why they are asking 100% down since you are departing next month. Please post your experience with EH when you get back. Enjoy your trip....

P.S.

Which tour are you doing?
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Nov 18th, 2005, 08:54 PM
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Italy2005 - the laundry we had done on the boat was about 40 Egy pounds - about $8. They even got a stain out of a pair of jeans that I had been unable to get out!
I did have a copy of my itinerary with the price and stating which hotels, but nothing directly from the hotels. I guess I could have checked with their websites to see if we were actually booked there, but I did not. I also had an emailed receipt for the money I had wired. EH is a franchise (?) or part of Bourak Tours in Egypt - not quite sure of the connection - Thyra - do you know? We also thought it odd to deal in cash, but we had never done a guided tour before, and from what I read, dealing in cash is not unusual in Egypt. We were completely satisfied with all the arrangements made.
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Nov 19th, 2005, 06:20 AM
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As I understand it, Bourak Tours is a large "umbrella" company . Motivated Reps can work their way up to running their own "franchise" if you will, or sub division of Bourak. Magdy (from EH) is one such Rep who used to be a tour guide, but who managed to move up and start his own "brand" within the Bourak family of tour companies. In this way, we found many Egyptians, very like American's, enterprising and entrepreneurial.. nearly every one we met had a plan to move up.. one Rep was starting his own import/export business... we've travelled to other countries in Africa and the people in Egypt seemed really into achieving success through business ventures.. made you feel right at home.
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Nov 19th, 2005, 01:48 PM
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Conlet: How long before your trip when you received the itinerary w/ the prices from EH?
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Nov 19th, 2005, 02:08 PM
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If booking a trip/tour (land package) within 60-days or less of arrival date, most every tour operator wants payment in full. This is so, regardless where you may be heading off to - Europe, Asia, Austrailia, even in the US... whether paying by credit card or cash. And cash is the most requested form or payment for travel to Africa, especially if dealing with an in-country tour operator.
 
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Nov 19th, 2005, 11:48 PM
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We have 2 weeks in Egypt and have our own itenary. We start off 2 days in Cairo then head to Luxor for 1 day exploring on our own before we sail for 4 days from Luxor to Aswan. We are flying to Abu Simbel and then go back by train to Cairo where we have another day on our own before heading off to the Bahriya Oasis and overnight desert camp in the White desert.
Thyra-you recommended doing the camel ride at Giza-was this sunset or sunrise??? Any suggestions for our free day in Luxor (perhaps going somewhere that is not included in the Nile Cruise) or perhaps a place that you could have spent more time at-eg, Valley of the Kings???? Thanks for all of your contributions toward our trip. Much appreciated. Have also been told that %50 dep ok-makes me feel more confident-perhaps I should be better organised next time and book a little earlier.
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