Just back from Egypt & Jordan - AMAZING!

May 29th, 2008, 08:33 AM
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Just back from Egypt & Jordan - AMAZING!

After a year of planning and obsessively reading this forum I finally got to Egypt! I can't say enough about how fabulous our trip was - it really was the trip of a lifetime (so far anyway).

We went with STI (Sakkara Travel - based in Cairo but with a US office in New Jersey). They did an outstanding job in every respect. Hotels were 5-star; the reps that we dealt with at every airport were perfect -- so helpful with our luggage, getting us through customs, checking us into hotels, etc.; our tour guide that was with us the whole time was excellent - lots of knowledge and a wonderful personality, too.

The ship we were on for the four night Nile cruise portion of the tour was the Mojito. I think they call it 4-star; not sure if I'd go quite that high. It was very nice, no problems, but maybe not quite at the level of "luxury" ship. But really, more than fine.

I was very careful with what I ate (no raw veggies or fruit I couldn't peel myself for example) and used only bottled water even for brushing my teeth (which probably in a 5-star hotel is not necessary) -- but even so I got a little case of mummy tummy. Luckily I got on their meds right away and only missed half a day of touring. Antinal is their over-the-counter solution for that and corrects the situation fast. People in our group that used Immodium ended up not really seeing any result for days and days until they learned about Antinal.

Our group was small -- mainly 6 people but for some of the trip 6 other people were with us then they went off in other directions. It was great having so few people -- really got to hear & see everything our guide was showing us; never had to wait for large groups to use restrooms, etc. Also, we always had more than one row of a shuttle bus per person so it was very comfy traveling to different sites.

I was pleasantly surprised with the weather. It seemed like May might be too hot, but it actually was perfect. In Cairo & Alexandria, temps were almost cool at times -- 70's. I wore a cardigan some of the time. Then, down in the south in the desert it was hotter but only 80's or low 90's so it wasn't unbearable. And because we were moving around to different sites, getting in and out of air-conditioned buses, in air-conditioned hotels or the ship -- it was never any great length of time that you were standing out in the baking sun. Also, a lot of the touring is earlier in the morning and then later in the afternoon -- not when the sun is at its peak.

I was glad I had my running shoes - ended up wearing them most of the time. Not a fashion high-point but very good for walking in sand or gravel, down into tombs, up into pyramids. My mom wore sandals a lot and was constantly dumping sand out of them.

Anyone planning a trip that can add Jordan on as an extension, I would highly recommend that. Petra and Jerash are both incredible - I'm so happy we were able to see them and some other great spots in Jordan (including a brief float in the Dead Sea - very unique feeling!).

We also had planned a felluca ride with Debbie of CasualCairo and that was a great time. She fixed us a lovely picnic and we were on the Nile - just the two of us plus Debbie and the ship captain -- sailing along and catching a breath-taking sunset. Thanks Debbie!

I would definitely recommend STI - we had no problems at all and felt completely safe & cared for in their professional hands. I don't think I could've asked for anything more from them. And one plus I should mention is that they guarantee a tour will go forward with no minumum number. Unlike the Smithsonian who we originally had booked with but since they didn't get 16 people signed up they cancelled our tour, pretty much at the last minute leaving us to scramble for plan B.

The friendly people, the fascinating culture, walking in the steps of time-- really all contributed to making this such a special trip. I plan to go back someday - hopefully in the not too distant future.

I hope everyone planning has as great a trip as we did and would love to answer any questions that I can.

Leslie_S is offline  
May 29th, 2008, 09:10 AM
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So glad you had a good trip! Egypt is just a magical place!!!!
Grcxx3 is offline  
May 31st, 2008, 08:20 AM
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"The friendly people, the fascinating culture, walking in the steps of time-- really all contributed to making this such a special trip."

Leslie_S,

This is why the Middle East is my absolute favorite region of the world that I've visited (even above East Africa)and why I keep going back. So many in the US don't get it - I'm glad you do. It sounds like you had a wonderful and perhaps life-changing experience

-doo
doohickey is offline  
May 31st, 2008, 10:13 AM
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Yes, it was all of that & more. Magical, life-changing, and is already calling me to come back.

I feel sorry for people I've described my trip to who only responded, "you're braver than I am, I'd never go there."

We have such a skewed perception of other countries - the media in the USA just feeds feelings of fear and mistrust. So odd.

Oh well, there won't be as many US tourists crowding places that I want to go...
Leslie_S is offline  
May 31st, 2008, 12:22 PM
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Leslie,

You have the exact same sentiments I do about reactions to your trip and the US media feeding fear and mistrust - not to mention certain politicians - but I'd better not get into that I'm acually almost desperate to change the opinions of those who question my travels to what they think are dangerous countries. The fear they have is so pervasive in everything they do and how they view the world and the future of our country. It's really scary.

The first time I went to the Holy Land (before ever going to Egypt or Jordan) I was SHOCKED about how different Israel and Palestine were than all the stuff I'd been reading, watching and hearing about in the US media, even novels (Exodus.) Truly shocked.

I took the time to get to know locals and came away with a whole different perspective. Isn't that what travel is all about? Not just seeing the sights but really delving into the culture and people - not to mention the food

I still hope to visit Syria, Lebanon and more of Jordan in the not to distant future. And then there's always Northern Africa...Tunisia, Morocco, Ethiopia...

-doo
doohickey is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 04:26 AM
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Yes, doo, so many places, so little time.
I'm looking at Morocco or India next - I know the reactions will be similar to the going-to-Egypt look of befuddlement.
I try to keep in mind that these are people who have only ever been to Disney World and the Jersey shore for vacaction.
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 22nd, 2008, 12:51 PM
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plr
 
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Leslie, I'm amazed at your description of the weather. I was thinking winter would be the only comfortable time to go. Which trip did you do with Sakkara? (I haven't fully explored their website yet).
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Jun 25th, 2008, 10:17 AM
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I'll bet most,, if not all, of the people who thought you were crazy to go to Egypt were people who hadn't been there and didn't know the difference between Iraq and Egypt.

For all of you who are planning a trip here (Egypt) and are getting negative comments, ask how many of them have been to Egypt or can tell you anything about it -- where it is, must women be veiled, etc. I'll get your answer to all these questions is "no I haven't been there" or "I don't know" or just plain wrong.
sunshine007 is offline  
Jun 26th, 2008, 06:30 AM
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plr --
Yes I was really shocked that it wasn't hotter. The only time I felt I was baking was on the top deck of the ship in the middle of the day. And there was plenty of shade up there so that was my own foolish choice to roast.

I've seen pictures of the sites during the cooler peak season where it is wall-to-wall tourists and we did not have to deal with that.
When we went to the Temple of Hatshepsut we were just about the only tourists there, for example.

The Sakkara (STI) tour we took was 12 Day Egypt in Style plus 4 day Jordan extension.

I chose May for a few reasons - had originally thought March or April but there is the windy season to consider and I didn't want to worry about that.
I also wanted the experience of cruising the Nile to be hot not cool. Some trip reports I had read talked about needing jackets, etc. and I definitely didn't want that!
Leslie_S is offline  
Jun 26th, 2008, 09:51 AM
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Jul 23rd, 2008, 09:05 AM
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In Jordan, is Sakkara Travel the right company to contact? We will be there for five days and are looking at day trips from Amman? Any advice or language and communication? Thanks.
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Jul 23rd, 2008, 11:24 AM
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ematthew - we used Sakkara (STI-travel.com is their website I believe) for an Egypt + Jordan trip. But I think they just subcontract out trips outside of Egypt so the company we actually had for the Jordan portion was Dakkak. They weren't bad but not as good as Sakkara and I don't know if they'd be the best to use.

I looked at a couple others for day trips while we were there - Petra Moon was one. They get good reviews but I ended up not using them so I can't say personally. Check tripadvisor and frommer's also for Jordan recommendations.

Your hotel in Amman also would set up day trips for you -- I think most do that anyway -- you may want to email them to find out what their price is like. Our hotel said don't even set it up ahead of time just wait until you get here. I didn't want to do that so I ended up booking with a private guide - but it seemed like no big deal to the hotel to provide day trips.

Almost everyone we dealt with in Jordan spoke excellent English. One of our Dakkak-provided drivers, not so much but we were able to communicate okay.

If you have a free afternoon in Amman, you can easily do the Citadel by yourself -- cheap cab ride there & small museum admission fee. Also there are 2 little museums by the Roman theater in Amman which were charming.

Leslie_S is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2008, 11:44 AM
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Thanks so much. Perhaps we’ll contact Dakkak - at least for some further information. We're more interested in Jordanian culture and local life, less from a tourist point of view.

Thank again for this info.
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Jul 24th, 2008, 04:26 AM
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Good luck and enjoy Jordan. The people there were extremely friendly and gracious hosts. No baksheeshing - that was a nice change after time spent in Egypt where you're constantly tipping.

One thing I didn't know anything about beforehand was the excavaated Roman city of Jerash. I know you said you're not so much looking at the tourist angle - but Jerash is amazing. Highly recommend visiting it while you're there - I think it was maybe an hour from Amman.
Leslie_S is offline  
Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:07 AM
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Thanks for the information on the Peru posting trip.

I have now seen your pictures of Egypt and Jordan.

Very Nice.
It is always nice to see pictures of other that have gone to Egypt... because you can re-live your own memories when you were there.!

Thanks Again
Percy
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Oct 23rd, 2008, 09:33 AM
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Thank you, Percy.
Time to plan the next trip!
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Oct 23rd, 2008, 01:24 PM
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Okay ,where are you planning on going next !!?

let me see...Egypt in May 2008 ..then to Peru a few months later.

When do you rest !!
Percy
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Oct 24th, 2008, 12:17 PM
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Italy, Turkey, & Greece next spring -- we can rest when we're dead!!
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Oct 24th, 2008, 12:55 PM
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Okay , go for it !!

I was to all three places 18 months ago.

Make sure you see the Five Major places in Istanbul!

Happy Travelling

Percy
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Oct 25th, 2008, 03:14 PM
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And where are you headed next, Percy? Seems I'm following in your footsteps!

Leslie
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