just back from egypt

Old Jan 4th, 2010, 01:46 PM
  #1  
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just back from egypt

I wanted to thank everyone who helped plan our trip. we had a marvellous time thanks to the fodor's gang!

we are a family of 4 canadians, and the kids are 16 and 18. we wanted a mix of adventure and history and experiences, and we got that indeed.

xmas is a great time to travel to egypt weather wise- it could not have been better!

we started in cairo- we only had one day there, which was enough for us. we arrived on a thursday night, stayed near the airport at the novotel (adequate, reasonably priced, served our purpose but not special) we hired a guide through egypt quality tour ( a fodors member recommendation) and had a great day seeing the highlights with a well informed guide and driver.

we then flew to luxor (overnight at the sheraton, a lovely hotel) to begin our nile cruise. we went on the 3 night luxor to aswan cruise on sonesta moon goddess. we thought the boat was great. each room had a balcony, the food was v. good (lunches were terrific and dinners were good). our guide through the boat was excellent, and the groups were of about 15 people, so very manageable. the rooms were lovely, and it was such a great and enjoyable experience. i am glad we did the 3 night 4 day excursion- I am not sure what extra would have been had by taking a 1 day longer cruise. we actually organized our own felucca ride in aswan on the last day as this was not included, and nice though this was, it probably was not necessary after so much time on the nile seeing the lovely scenery etc.

we then flew to sham el sheikh, and stayed at the hilton shark hotel. this was a large resort, and all inclusive meals. not usually our thing, but it worked for us on many levels. firstly, it is a lovely resort. plenty of pools, the beach area has more than enough umbrellas and beach chairs, there is a well run dive centre on site for excursions, but most importantly for us, the snorkeling was great right at the hotel. it is on a cove, protected from the wind (an issue that time of year) with a great coral reef right there. what a treat! also, we did not have to go in to town for meals, and as we had a short time there and it is not really an authentic food destination but rather a touristy destination, this suited us just fine. we did one amazing excursion through "sharm excursions". we booked it from home, not willing to risk being unable to get on the tour, as we only had one free night. they provided a driver to the bedoin nighttime excursion, which included a 30 min camel ride, sunset hike up a hill, bread making demo and sampling (yum) dinner, dancing by the fire, and then a star gazing experience in the middle of the desert. they had 3 huge telescoped set up, and we saw a star, the moon and jupiter. fantastic. then an astronomer gave us the best astronomy lesson I have ever had. it was a great night and I highly recommend it. I think lots of tour companies offer the same program, and if you have several days in sharm it is probably safe to book when you are there- for us it was great to book ahead and be sure we could do what we wanted and when we wanted it!

we flew back later on the thurs evening to cairo, to prepare for our flight home friday morning. this time we stayed near the airport again at the fairmont heliopolis and WOW what a dazzling hotel. we paid $135/room, and there was free pick up and shuttle to/from the airport. the hotel was as lavish as you could possibly imagine, and the breakfast (not included) was amazing. we had a lovely dinner in their cafe, and it was reasonble and delicious. for a family, you should know that the rooms are huge (really huge) and the rooms with 2 double bed could easily house 4 people, and you could save a lot of money.

were there any hitches on the trip? sure. egypt air lost one of our bags in sharm el sheik, and I had to wear my husband's bathing suit and clothes for a few days! we called several times a day, as did the hotel on our behalf, and got nowhere. when we departed for cairo we decided to pop in to the lost luggage section to ask one last time, only to see the missing luggage was right there, and probably had been there all along!!
security was an issue as well. really, there is no security. every site has an xray machine for you bags, but no one looks at the machine. every site and hotel has the security scan for people to walk through, and almost every person sets off the alarm- but everyone is waved through and no one is checked. it is as if merely walking through the check point is the same as being checked, and the guards just want you to get through as quickly as possible.

money was easy to obtain- airports and hotels all had ATM machines, so it was easy to get egyptian pounds.

this was a terrific trip for us. interestingly, we met tons of europeans travelling to and around egypt, and it did not seem like an exotic place for them to travel (it is only 4 hours from heathrow.) we met very few north americans, and when we did tell people at home where we were going they thought we were nuts! I think it is a great destination though, and perfect for us.

thanks again to all who helped
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Old Jan 4th, 2010, 06:42 PM
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What did you see and do in Luxor and Aswan?

I take it you did not go to Abu Simble !

Sound like you had a whirlwind tour of Egypt and had a good time doing it.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 07:18 AM
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Our family just got back from Egypt too. Although we did 5 days in Cairo(museums,market,pyramids,Sakkara,etc.) with a sidetrip to Alexandria.We flew to Aswan and also did Abu Simbel followed by a 4 day/3 night cruise to Luxor. After Egypt we did a week in Jordan which we loved!

The weather was great although we hit a sandstorm in Cairo the first day we were there which resulted in a bad sinus infection for me.We also found that not too many North Americans were over there-felt like a movie star at times with the number of people who wanted to take my picture or my family(think that it was the blonde and redhair that stood out)?
We were there from Dec.15th-when did you guys go?
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 07:55 AM
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dutyfree,

Did you prefer Jordan over Egypt or vice versa? I'm thinking about going to either one in May 2010. Don't really know if I can do both in two weeks, unless I restrict my Egypt visit to just a ver few key sites the first week and then head for Jordan the second week.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 09:29 AM
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Jordan if you like the outdoors and natural beauty and sights.If you can do both I would but definitely include Jordan.
Jordan is relaxing and calming,great food and people,fabulous sights like the Dead Sea and Petra and basically a different vibe.It was so nice to be back in a country where we could eat the salads,brush our teeth with the hotel water,etc.The Jordians are very happy to see tourists and constantly tell you "Welcome" to our country!

Be sure to include Petra,Wadi Rum with the fabulous desert landscapes and the Dead Sea with possibly a stop at Aquaba on the Red Sea.
The Dead Sea was amazing along with surrounding areas like Mt. Nebo where Moses looked for the promise land and Bethany where Jesus was baptized.
Petra and Little Petra are definitely one of the great natural wonders of the world and are beautiful!
Wadi Rum on a jeep tour and a possible night there is a must see!
Although my husband,son and I all have a history degree and enjoyed Egypt's fabulous history,our family said that we would go back to Jordan in a nanosecond but would have to think long and hard about going back to Egypt(which I heard often at the airport from others).
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 12:48 PM
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we were there over the xmas holidays. did not get to jordan this time, but it is certainly something to plan for! I suggest a visit to israel for anyone interested in history and amazing sites, nature etc as well. we did not get to abu simble this trip- I was there 20 years ago, and it would have meant that we would not have had time for the red sea if we went on this trip. i have no regrets about missing it- while an amazing site, the kids had seen lots of amazing sites by then, and it was time for a different experience. 20 years ago i vowed never to go back to egypt- we were there in the heat of the summer with no money and were backpackers. it was a tough go. this time we all loved it. in luxor we did the usual valley of kings, queen's etc, and in aswan after the felucca we did the usual dam visit, granite quarry etc etc. i really recommend going on a cruise down the nile as a way of getting many of the major sites in , in a comfortable and interesting an low stress manner!
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Old Jan 8th, 2010, 01:12 PM
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Wow, this is just what we were thinking, but wasn't sure of a holiday in Egypt over Christmas. So you recommend it? Was it quite a bit more expensive? Also, did you go through a tour company, or just book individually? Thank you for the post.
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Old Jan 8th, 2010, 08:04 PM
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Would one be totally loss without a guide or being part of a tour group in Cairo? I've always book my trips independently but I've read that Cairo can be very intimidating to newcomers.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 02:08 PM
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Axel -
I can tell you that people here have posted reports of trips done independently in Egypt but my experience was that it would have been such a huge hassle and logistically difficult. I was thrilled to be there with a group (albeit a small one so it wasn't a big cattle herd type of trip).

The times we did things alone - took a taxi to different neighborhoods, for example - it was not impossible but there were challenges. Even if they spoke English they didn't somehow understand my pronunciation and it was a bit surreal trying to communicate. ZAmelek...ZaMELek...ZamelEK...no? nothing?. Anyway you could certainly manage it but a guide can provide such a lovely buffer to many of the difficulties that could crop up. IMHO a tour or at least a hired guide for just yourself would be very worthwhile in Egypt.
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 06:43 PM
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WE really enjoyed traveling to Egypt and Jordan over the Christmas holidays although our family's reason was that my mom had just died and we did not want to be home for the holidays this year.
It was fun and very relaxing-got my Christmas gifts in the mail along with the Christmas cards before we left on the 14th and felt stressfree! I took a little 5 inch fake tree in the suitcase with some cheap Christmas stockings(in case they got lost). Everyone had the duty to find a "treasure" at the market or wherever for someone else's stocking. My husband got two cans of Sakkara beer which was funny as it was hard to get but he hasn't drank beer in several years(wine drinker now) but was craving beer in the heat. But I digress...
We usually travel independently as we are an airline employee family.But this time we decided to bite the bullet and do the tour thing because I only had a month to do it in and it was high season We contacted Lady Egypt(worked with Amanda who is from NZ and great!) and they arranged a private van with guide and Egyptologist for just our family throughout Egypt with the Nile Cruise and Jordan.

Lady Egypt hooked us up with Desert Horizons in Jordan based in Amman. The driver to request at Desert Horizons is Yusef-wonderful driver,college grad in business and speaks perfect English.He made our trip in Jordan!

We had shopped around with several other tour companies on this board but some of the prices that were quoted were super high for what we paid for the same thing with Lady Egypt-there appears to be quite a markup with certain tour guides on this board as I saved almost $900 a person on our trip!I had tried to get our airfares,etc. between Cairo,ASwan,Abu Simbel,Luxor and to Amman and it seems that the cheaper prices come in to the tour companies.
If you do a tour company you can pick and chose your hotels and Nile Cruise. A wonderful recommendation from this board was the Hotel Longchamps in Cairo(#2 rated on tripadvisor and a wonderful oasis from the chaos of Cairo/Zamelek).We booked this ourselves and the tour agency was fine with that.

This was given to me by Casual Cairo from this board AKA Debbie who is a guide in Cairo.
If you have the time/months to plan, you could travel with her in and throughout Cairo and Alexandria as she does guiding by the day if you are interested.Because I wanted to do the Nile Cruise and then go to Jordan I could not plan with her this time but she is very helpful in her emails to her.
Wishing I was back in the warmth of the Middle East instead of cold Chicago tonight!
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Old Jan 9th, 2010, 08:03 PM
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dutyfree, who was your guide in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor?
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 12:08 AM
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She used Lady Egypt
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 12:18 PM
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Dear 4bams,

So glad you had a great time and thanks for the report. The cruise sounds fun!

We were also in Egypt over the holidays... Had a wonderful relaxing time. We spent a day in Cairo - loved seeing the pyramids, sphinx and boat museum. Then we just hung out in the sunshine in Sharm el Sheikh.

Next time we will do a bit more exploring as we were intrigued by a number of excursions, but the 10 days flew by this time.

Like dutyfree we are missing the warmth and sunshine. It's been cloudy and snowy since we got back

gruezi
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Old Jan 10th, 2010, 12:35 PM
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CC, I know -- I was wondering who her actual individual guide was.
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Old Jan 11th, 2010, 08:31 AM
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excellent trip! wasn't it too rushed?
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