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Jordan and Egypt Trip Report - Part 2 of an amazing family holiday


Mar 6th, 2012, 06:17 PM
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Jordan and Egypt Trip Report - Part 2 of an amazing family holiday

We (family of 4 – Mom, Dad and daughters aged 18 and 19) are not long back from an amazing holiday visiting France, Spain, Jordan and Egypt over December / January. Many thanks to everyone who answered our questions and posted their trip reports. Your input added to our wonderful holiday experience! This trip report covers our experiences in Jordan and Egypt; I have reported on France and Spain separately in the Europe forum.

We enjoyed our entire holiday, but when I push the family to choose just one place as the absolute highlight, the answers are “all of Jordan”, “Petra”, “Wadi Rum”, and “drinking Bedouin tea in the absolute silence of Wadi Rum”. So, the unanimous vote is for Jordan (a mere 6 days out of a trip of 7 weeks)!

Our itinerary was as follows:
Jan 1: Fly Barcelona to Amman, arriving 7:15pm. Overnight in Madaba.
Jan 2: Madaba mosaics, Mt Nebo, view of Wadi Mujib, Karak, to Petra
Jan 3: Petra – with guide in the morning, on our own in the afternoon
Jan 4: Petra – on our own
Jan 5: Petra to Wadi Rum (4 hour jeep tour) to Dead Sea
Jan 6: Dead Sea to Ajlun to Jerash to airport for flight to Cairo
Jan 7: Cairo Museum and Coptic Cairo with Egyptologist
Jan 8: Cairo - Pyramids with Egyptologist (Saqqara, Dashur and Giza)
Jan 9: Fly to Abu Simbel for guided visit, then fly to Aswan to start Nile Cruise (Philae Temple)
Jan 10: Nile Cruise (Kom Ombo and Edfu)
Jan 11: Nile Cruise (Day trip to Abydos and Dendera)
Jan 12: Luxor (West bank)
Jan 13: East bank of Luxor. Flight to Cairo.
Jan 14: Cairo – Citadel and Bazaars
Jan 15: Morning flight out of Cairo

We organised the Jordan portion of our trip with Petra Night Tours (http://www.petranightstours.com/ ), and were very happy with their service. They booked our accommodation, provided us with a car and driver, and organised a guide for us for half a day in Petra, for a 4 hour Wadi Rum Jeep tour, and for the full day that we visited Jerash. We had outlined what we wanted to do, how long we wanted to spend, where we wanted to stay etc. Whilst they provided us with input, they were happy to book what we wanted. We had a change of drivers in Petra and there were some hiccups with the changeover (first driver left without making sure of our pickup details the next day for the new driver). However, we had a 24 hour emergency number for PNT - called them (twice) and they sorted things out.
PNT were easy to deal with via email, and we would not hesitate to travel with them again.

We arrived in Amman after dark, were met airside by a PNT representative, accompanied through immigration and then driven to our hotel in Madaba. Could not see much as it was dark and it is not nearly as brightly lit as Western cities. We chose to stay at the Mariam Hotel (http://www.mariamhotel.com/index.html ) based on research and reviews on Tripadvisor. My husband was not really a fan of the hotel - perhaps 2 or 3 star hotel and more tailored to younger travellers than ourselves, although there were other families staying (mainly French). However, it was impeccably clean and the staff were helpful in getting us some dinner even though we did not arrive until really quite late.

I will never forget waking on my first morning to this eerie sound in the pitch dark. Struggling through sleep and the darkness, I looked at my mobile phone - 4am!?!?! What the heck was that sound? It slowly dawned .... these guys get called to prayer really early. I fell almost immediately back to sleep, only to be woken about 15 minutes later with the same “scary” sound. I woke hubby – he had to hear it too – to me this was the sound of the Middle East that jarred my western ears, but that I became very used to over the next 2 weeks. We dropped back to sleep only to be woke a third time, but this time by knocking on our door. Our daughters were ready for breakfast and wondering why we had not appeared. Oops! We had forgotten to change the time on my mobile phone when we changed time zones the previous day. The call to prayer had been 5am (not 4am as my phone had indicated), and now we were running late. It was a low fly to get to breakfast and ready for our 8:30am departure!! Breakfast at the Mariam Hotel is upstairs with big picture windows looking down onto the city. Our first real view of Jordan was from the breakfast table looking at the yellow dusty earth, the buildings around looking like they had never been finished, and feeling like we had really arrived in the Third World (not at all western in appearance). We have travelled to Africa before, but it was just much less developed than I had been expecting (guess I had not really thought about it before we arrived). We found later that Amman was much more western than down town Madaba.

Our first day was memorable – a really strong contrast to Europe where we had just come from. First stop Mt Nebo. Absolutely amazing views of the Jordan Valley. Unfortunately it was very overcast (a little light rain) which meant we could not see as far as on a clear day. However, it did not detract from the views, just added atmosphere. This is where Moses looked across into the Promised Land before he died. The views are not “chocolate box” views, but a barren, desolate, harsh environment. My daughter commented that Moses must have wondered if God could not have given something a little lusher for the Promised Land. From Mt Nebo we back tracked to Madaba to see the famous mosaics – historically very interesting, but perhaps not what I will remember Jordan for. We then drove down the Kings Highway to Karak, stopping to look out over Wadi Mujib (Jordan’s “Grand Canyon”). Whilst we did not stop tere long, the views of Wadi Mujib are awesome!! (one of those sights I will never forget!). Then onto the Christian crusader castle at Karak. We hoped to engage a local guide on site, but were unsuccessful in finding one. None the less, it was an interesting visit enjoyed by all, but especially by hubby. From Karak we cut across to the Desert Highway – less scenic than the Kings Highway but much quicker – and proceeded to Petra.

In Petra we stayed at the Amra Palace Hotel (http://www.amrapalace.com/cgi-bin/re...dan_hotel.html ). It is in the heart of Wadi Musa, and whilst not located at the entrance to Petra, we did walk back from Petra to our hotel one day. We found the hotel to be very clean and comfortable, the staff extremely friendly and helpful, the buffet breakfast and dinner with a wide choice, and easily located if you choose to eat in town instead of at the hotel. Great value and would happily stay there again if we were returning to Petra!

Petra was a definite highlight and we are so pleased we had 2 full days to spend there!! On our first morning we were driven down to the entrance by our driver and introduced to our local guide. There were people milling everywhere. Apparently there had been some sort of system malfunction / power failure and they seemed unable to sell tickets as a result. The guide sorted it out while we browsed in the local stalls. Finally we had some “manual” tickets, and we were instructed to go back to the ticket office at about 4pm to exchange these manual one day tickets for proper 2 day entry tickets (which we did later without any problem). We walked about 500m from the gate to the beginning of the Siq, and then about a further 1.2km through the Siq into the ancient city of Petra. There was plenty to see along the way, and our guide was very personable and knowledgeable. The first glimpse of the Treasury through the narrow Siq was spectacular and one can fully understand why it is a famous photo in so many travel brochures! Our guide was very good. He not only spent the morning showing us some of the main sights and giving us the history of Petra, but he also gave us excellent suggestions for the afternoon and again the following day. In the afternoon we headed off on our own to the Monastery (heaps of steps and more strenuous than our morning’s activities, but very worthwhile). On the morning of our second day we climbed to the High Place of Sacrifice (it was so windy we thought we were going to blow off!) and “behind the hills” around to the Garden Temple and finally came out somewhere near the Colonnaded Street. After a rest and some lunch, we climbed up behind the Corinthian and Palace Tombs – this was initially a well marked path with some serious steps, but eventually the path became much less obvious. We had some great views down over the Amphitheatre, and eventually some absolutely unforgettable views from very high looking down on the Treasury. As the path was not obvious by the end, we were trying to work out where we should be going – it would have been disappointing to miss the views after having done all those stairs and climbing! Then we saw two locals just sitting on the edge of an overhanging rock making tea. They signalled for us to come over. I was pretty hesitant – we were really high up and there are no such things as safety barriers, but they kept signalling for us to come closer. Well, if you can control your fear of heights (hard to do!) the views were worth a million dollars! Another one of those sights one will never forget! Petra is not just a fascinating place with its enormous structures carved into the mountains, it is also a place of great natural beauty! Definitely worth 2 full days!

The next day was quite a long day. We travelled from Petra to Wadi Rum where we had a 4 hour jeep tour through the desert, and then drove to the Dead Sea for the night. Once again, a really memorable day! The 4 hour jeep tour was special. The scenery is magnificent and we had plenty of leisurely stops for great photo opportunities and to walk / climb rocky outcrops. We had the option to visit some local Bedouins, but as I had read mixed reviews about this, we chose not to do so. There is not much one can say about this part of the trip, other than the scenery is magnificent and words really cannot describe it. We got some amazing photos (hundreds and hundreds of them!). We chose not to spend a night in the desert as I had read some less than favourable reviews (and to be honest, camping in the Middle East did not fit our desire for some basic standards of comfort). However, I can imagine that sunrise and sunset in the desert environment must be pretty special. Towards the end of our 4 hours, our guide stopped the jeep, collected some twigs, made a fire and brewed a pot of sweet, strong, cinnamon tea for us. The desert is absolutely silent – not a sound from a bird, a car, voices ..... just nothing. We sat, sipping piping hot sweet tea, in total silence amid magnificent scenery – something we will always remember!

We did not arrive in the Dead Sea until after dark, which was a shame as I imagine the drive down must be quite scenic. The Dead Sea is 400m below sea level, and the approach is quite steep - we could see the lights of Israel twinkling on the other side as we approached. We stayed at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel (http://jordandeadsea.com/default.htm ). The hotels at the Dead Sea can be rather pricey, so we opted for this one as a more moderate alternative. We thought it was a lovely hotel – very comfortable with very friendly staff. The hotel has a policy of no swimming in the Dead Sea after a certain time (cannot remember what time exactly, but probably around sunset), and not before 9am. As we arrived after dark and were leaving at 8am the next morning, we were very disappointed about this. So, we approached the front desk with a request to at least “paddle” – we really did not want to have come all this way and miss out on the Dead Sea experience. The staff were wonderful, and agreed that a swim in the Dead Sea was something not to be missed. They suggested a swim at 6:30am the next morning, but insisted that we were aware of the risks, and responsible for our own safety as there would be no staff on beach duty. As we come from a country of oceans, and are aware of swimming risks, this did not worry us. So, at sunrise the next morning, we slipped quietly down to the beach whilst most other guests were still asleep – bathers under our winter clothes. The sun was just rising and the place was deserted. After slapping on some Dead Sea mud (very sticky substance, available free on the beach), we slipped into the water and bobbed on top as the sun rose. Two things really surprised us. Firstly, how warm it was - both the outside air temperature and the water. I don’t generally swim because I don’t like “cold and wet”, but cold was definitely not a problem. Secondly, we were surprised at how “rough” the Dead Sea was. There was a definite current (we joked that we had to be careful or we may find ourselves in Israel) and the water was really choppy – I guess I just imagined an inland lake would be calm. However, it was more like the ocean, and I could understand why they have staff on duty when people swim there. Of course the water was very salty, and we were surprised how long we had to stand under the shower back in the hotel room to get rid of that decided tingling that came from the salt. A really special experience and we thank the staff at the Dead Sea Hotel for allowing us to break the rules for the experience! If I could have changed one thing about our Jordan holiday it would have been to spend a second night at the Dead Sea Spa Hotel and enjoy a proper beach day.

Our last day in Jordan was a visit to Ajloun and Jerash. We had a guide for the day, and he met us at our hotel with the driver the next morning. I cannot remember his name, but he was a lovely young man from Jersah who has worked with the Peace Corps in the past. He was knowledgeable, had perfect English, and provided both a wonderful historical insight to the day, as well as a glimpse into the lives of Jordanians, regional politics and religion.

Our day started with a stop at PNT’s offices in Amman to pay the balance of our tour costs. As we wanted to pay by credit card this was necessary. It was quite nice as it meant we got a glimpse of Amman that we would otherwise not have had. Our next stop was Ajloun Castle – a fortress built to protect the country against Crusader attacks from Karak. Ajloun Castle was enveloped in extremely thick fog when we were there, so we were unable to see any views, but the castle is a very impressive fortress well worth a visit. From Ajloun we travelled to Jerash. It is a large site and we found a guide very beneficial – not only for his knowledge of the history, but he also provided a logical approach to seeing the sights. For those keen on history, Jerash is definitely worth the trip – it was one of my husband’s favourite places in Jordan! From Jerash, we were transported directly to the airport for the trip home.

We are indebted to all those people we met on our trip in Jordan who made it such a wonderful experience, and especially to our driver, Issa, who safely, promptly and courteously took us from place to place, making sure we were checked into hotels without hitches and ensuring we knew when we were being picked up the next day. His gentle but competent nature made Jordan a very easy country to visit!

Egypt coming soon .....
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Mar 8th, 2012, 08:12 AM
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Thanks for the report - not too much on Jordan here. I, too, stayed at the Mariam, and agree that it's more back-packer territory. Looked like there was a newer hotel more in the center. However, I loved the mosaics in Masada - did you see more than just the map?

Also agree that you need at least two days for Petra - sounds like we saw the same places there - I had trouble with that disappearing track behind the tombs, too.
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Mar 9th, 2012, 04:37 AM
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PRLCH, thank you for your very informative report. I will be travelling to Amman touring northern Jordan independently (I have already been to Wadi Rum and Petra) in June. I was considering staying in Madaba as opposed to Amman as the hotels are a cheaper, the cheap hotels in Amman are hostels. Reading your review of the Mariam (which is the one I was considering) it sounds like it is more like a hostel also. Is this correct?

So you think Amman would be a better destination. I will be there for 5 days before going to Israel.
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Mar 11th, 2012, 02:31 PM
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thursdaysd - hope you perservered with that disappearing Petra track - the views really were worth it. Some of our best pictures and memories!

cambe - I would not say the Mariam hotel is a hostel, definately a hotel (2 - 3 star). As I mentioned, very clean, with helpful staff. I guess we are just at the stage of our lives where we like a little more comfort (although we are not 5* travellers by any means). Our daughters quite liked the hotel, and I did not mind it for 1 night, but hubby would have preferred a "vanilla" 4* hotel. I did love the breakfast room with it's picture windows - great first impression of Jordan. Good luck with choosing a place to stay, and I hope you have a fantastic trip!
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Mar 11th, 2012, 02:44 PM
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PRLCH - oh yes, great views! I ate lunch looking down on the Treasury.... (having eaten it at the High Place the day before - get your hotel to fix you a lunch box).

See: http://kwilhelm.smugmug.com/Travel/C...ast-2009/Petra
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Mar 11th, 2012, 08:31 PM
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The Egypt portion of our trip was organised using various people. We booked our hotel in Cairo (and airport transfers) directly with the hotel. In Cairo we arranged our time using Casual Cairo Detours (using both an Egyptologist and a Casual Cairo Guide). For Upper Egypt we used Lady Egypt.

We stayed in Cairo twice – 3 nights before we went to Upper Egypt, and 2 nights afterwards. We booked Superior rooms directly with Hotel Longchamps (http://hotellongchamps.com/ ), based on reviews on Fodors and Tripadvisor. On our first stay we were upgraded to Executive Rooms which were really very nice, and I would not hesitate to book them again. On our second visit we stayed in the Superior Rooms which I really thought should be called (sub?) standard rooms. The furniture was worn / tired, but in fairness the room was very clean and the bed linen nice. Our bathroom was tiny and there was not even a shower curtain around the shower tray. Had we tried to shower there we would most certainly have flooded the entire bathroom, so we ended up using the shower over the bathtub in our daughters’ room. We did like the fact that our room and our daughters’ room opened into a private courtyard, so we were able to slip between rooms without going through public corridors. The hotel common areas are all very dimly lit (mood lighting). We enjoyed the breakfasts, found the staff very helpful and liked the location of the hotel.

When we arrived in Cairo from Jordan we were met at the airport by a minibus that had been arranged by the hotel for us. Having 4 of us travelling together with 4 suitcases and hand luggage, transfers were important as it avoided having to use 2 taxis. When we left Cairo for the last time, our arranged transfer did not arrive! We had checked twice with the hotel during our stay to make sure that our transfer had been arranged, and were assured that it had, but somehow it did not arrive. The reception was unable to contact the driver providing the transfer, and when we could no longer delay our trip to the airport, reception gave us back our money for the transfer and suggested we take a taxi. The staff were wonderful, however, running down the road to find us two taxis (too much luggage for one) and giving instructions on our behalf. It was quite funny in hindsight. Neither taxi driver would turn the meter on – nothing to be done about it as we definitely needed to get to the airport ASAP. Then they drove side by side with the windows open exchanging mobile phone numbers, and even passing a cigarette between the cars. Then we took off in high speed Cairo fashion, turning 3 lanes of traffic into 5 ..... Mom and Daughter #1 in one taxi and Dad and Daughter #2 in another taxi. Our taxi had our suitcases on the front passenger seat, and Dad’s taxi had the suitcases on a roof rack ..... without any straps securing them in place (fortunately they were heavy so we never lost them in the Cairo traffic)! Of course the inevitable happened – there was a traffic jam with all traffic coming to a near halt. All is well that ends well however – we managed to get to the airport in time for our flight, even if it did end up costing us double what the transfer would have cost us (fortunately we had just enough local currency left to cover it).

We also had a “hiccup” when we left Hotel Longchamps for our early morning flight to Abu Simbel. When took the lift to the ground floor, we found the caretaker / guard could not unlock the door - no matter how he tried, his key would not work. We were locked in (with bars on all the glass areas), and our ride was outside waiting for us. (I was just glad we were getting a ride to the airport and not getting out of a burning building). Not much we could do, except wait and leave it to the locals. Fortunately within 10 minutes another man came rushing up outside with a spare key and let us all out!

In Cairo we used Casual Cairo Detours (http://www.casualcairodetours.com/prices.html ). Dealing with Debbie from Casual Cairo by email was very easy, and we enjoyed our days in Cairo with both our Egyptologist and our Casual Cairo Guide. We would certainly not hesitate to use Casual Cairo again!

We had our Egyptologist, Ahmed, for two days. On the first day we did the Egyptian Museum and Coptic Cairo, and on the second day we did the pyramids at Sakkara, Dashure and Giza. Having a guide at the museum was invaluable. There is so much to see, it would be impossible to know what to look at and what to miss on one’s own. Ahmed did a great job “setting the scene” for the rest of our visit, showing us things to look out for on our further travels in Egypt. When travelling in Upper Egypt we saw much that he told us to look out for, and appreciated the foundation knowledge he had given us. Ahmed also introduced us to Egyptian fast food (koshari) at a restaurant close to the Egyptian museum (http://www.tripadvisor.com.au/Restau...rek-Cairo.html ) - a nice meal and some interesting conversation about Egyptian life, religion and politics. Not being adventurous with food when travelling, I don’t think we would have ventured into the restaurant on our own. However the food was tasty and inexpensive and it is one of those “memory making moments”. (Our daughters even found a koshari recipe on the internet and made it for us back home).

We also really enjoyed our day at the pyramids with Ahmed, and found the trip to Sakkara and Dashure well worth it (Step Pyramid, Bent Pyramid and Red Pyramid). Three of us went into the Red Pyramid (one daughter did not as she found it claustrophobic, and she has knee problems). The entrance to the pyramid is a 60m long tunnel, about 1m high, which slopes downward from the entrance into the pyramid at 27 degrees. We made the mistake of entering the pyramid forwards (I am sure “reversing” in would have been better), and for nearly a week afterwards we suffered from very sore legs. The three of us had the Red Pyramid all to ourselves – not another tourist around!

We also spent an enjoyable day with a Casual Cairo Guide in Cairo. Melanie (a New Zealand expatriate) took us to the Citadel and both the local and tourist markets in Cairo. Melanie has 2 daughters similar ages to ours, so not only did she understand what interests families like ours, but it was really interesting getting her views of life in Cairo as a westerner. We particularly enjoyed the fresh food markets (took some great photos), and Melanie had endless patience with us while we shopped. She was also a wealth of knowledge of where to go. When we expressed an interest in seeing some alabaster, we wound our way deeper into the market to places where we certainly would not have ventured as tourists alone. We bought a silver cartouche from Gouzlan (who we had read about on Fodors). The salesman was very helpful, but his after sales service left a lot to be desired. He had promised us that the cartouche would be delivered to our hotel “no later than 9pm”! Needless to say at 9:20pm we called him (as we had an early flight out of Cairo the next morning). He apologised for running late and said the cartouche was on its way; allowing for traffic it would definitely be there before 10pm. At 10:15pm we tried calling again, but we were unable to reach him. Eventually at 11pm we asked the hotel reception to take delivery on our behalf if the missing cartouche ever arrived, and we headed for bed. At 11:30pm, reception called our room to say the cartouche had arrived and the delivery person refused to leave it with reception – he was insisting on seeing us. Needless to say, by this time we were regretting ever buying the cartouche!! Moral of the story – leave plenty of time when doing business in Egypt!

Our time in Upper Egypt was organised through Lady Egypt (http://www.ladyegypt.com/ ). Our initial email enquiries to Lady Egypt were rather slow, but with hindsight this was at a time leading up to the revolution, and perhaps there was more happening “behind the scenes” than we were aware of. After the revolution we put our plans for travel to Egypt on hold for some time. When we contacted Lady Egypt a second time, their response was always very efficient and comprehensive. I must say that we thought Lady Egypt runs a very professional operation, and we would definitely recommend them to others! Everything ran like clockwork.

We flew from Cairo to Abu Simbel and the guide there was knowledgeable and efficient. He got us (and about 6 other British tourists) from the airport to the site very promptly, so we had Abu Simbel all to ourselves until the rest of the plane load arrived. Even with the entire plane load, it was very quiet. I understand from the guide there had been about 40 busses of tourists there earlier in the day as part of the road convoy from Aswan. Flying to Abu Simbel meant we did not have the train trip nor the long bus trip from Aswan, and it was a good use of our limited time.

From Abu Simbel we flew back to Aswan for the start of our Nile cruise. We were met by our guide, a driver and a Lady Egypt representative. (We always thought having a Lady Egypt representative at various times along the trip was “over kill”, as the guide was very competent, but we just accepted it as local practice) Our guide for Upper Egypt was Emad, a really lovely man. He was very knowledgeable and accommodating, and also sensitive to the fact that it was a family holiday. So whilst he travelled on the Nile Cruise with us, we did not see a lot of him when we were not touring. When the girls asked why we were seeing many temples but not ‘palaces’ of the Egyptian royalty (where did they live?), he gave us the option of visiting a royal palace at Medinet Habu instead of the Valley of the Queens. One of the best things, in my mind, of having Emad guiding us, was that for 4 days we did not have to worry about constantly tipping people!! As tipping is just not part of our local culture, the tipping that accompanies almost everything in Egypt was really tiring, and I found it very hard to get my head around who to tip, how much to tip etc. Emad took care of everything, tipping whatever and whenever required. Thanks Emad!!

For our Nile Cruise, we spent 3 nights / 4 days on the Jaz Minerva, travelling between Aswan and Luxor. A large proportion of the other passengers on the boat were a German group travelling together – they had come up from Luxor on the boat and were travelling back again with us. We found the boat very comfortable and the food more than adequate – plenty of choice, tasty, and we did not suffer from any stomach complaints! All the staff were very friendly and helpful. My husband had been on a Nile Cruise more than 25 years ago and was keen to do one again. I was totally indifferent to cruising the Nile, but I must say that we had a most enjoyable time, and I would not hesitate to do it again if the opportunity arises.

We spent a night in Luxor after our cruise as we wanted to visit Abydos and Dendera. We stayed at the Steinberger Nile Palace hotel – very nice hotel and would happily stay there again! The visit to Abydos and Dendera was well worth it. We all enjoyed the temples – although we had certainly seen plenty of temples by this time – particularly as much of the artwork at these two temples was in colour (some original!) The day was also very interesting as we travelled into the countryside through non-touristy villages, observing every day rural Egyptian life in action. We travelled through a lot of road blocks where our driver and guide had to show identification and report who we were (generally the questions seemed to be “What nationality were we” and “where were we going”). At one road block we were turned back. I gather that some election results were due in one of the towns we would have been going through and large crowds were expected. The police did not want tourists around the crowds, so we were sent via the desert highway. This made our driver very happy as it cut our driving time considerably. We had not gone this route originally as it had previously been off limits to tourists. At another place we got stuck in a huge traffic jam – it seemed to involve a couple of tractors with trailers carrying large loads of sugar cane. It was interesting to see many of the Egyptians leaving their cars, and everyone having an opinion on how to resolve the impasse! To my eye it looked like no one could go forward and no one could reverse – but they managed to resolve it! It was probably the only time in Egypt I felt a little “”vulnerable” (not unsafe, just conspicuous). In the countryside we saw very few women in cars (and the few that were, were very traditionally dressed). I felt that we stood out as a car with 3 women, all with our heads uncovered, and men were often happy to stare at us. However, having said that, our driver had an aura of “authority” about him (hard to describe exactly why), and certainly I felt safe with him!

This is the most common question I see on the Fodors Egyptian board at the moment. I never had any reason to feel unsafe when we were in Egypt! A guide we had in Jordan gave us this advice “Keep away from crowds in Egypt and you will be fine”. I think that is probably very true. We never came across crowds, but had we done so, we would have avoided them (as our driver was directed to do when visiting Abydos and Dendera). A couple of times in both Jordan and Egypt we found young men would stare at our daughters, sometimes calling out to them. This made them uncomfortable, but they simply ignored it and stayed close to their Dad. I would not be happy if my daughters said they wanted to travel to Jordan or Egypt alone, but as a family together we had no concerns.

I think travelling with a local “on the ground expert”, gives one a measure of comfort. These people speak the language, understand the culture, and are in tune with what is happening. I certainly felt that all our guides and drivers could be relied upon to keep us away from trouble spots had there been any. I would not hesitate to travel to Egypt (or Jordan) again. We found most tourists that we met seemed to be form Europe (France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Eastern Europe), and an almost total absence of American tourists. It was really heartbreaking to hear how little work some of the tour guides have at the moment. These are people that have studied for up to 4 years to be professionals in their fields, and they are now finding there is not enough work to sustain them. I hope that Egypt can successfully transition to a full democracy, showing the world that it is a safe place to visit, so that all the many people in the tourism industry can get on with earning a decent living.
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