Just back from Intrepid Pyramids to Petra!

Jun 2nd, 2008, 05:05 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
Just back from Intrepid Pyramids to Petra!

Hi,Fodorites.I just returned from a wonderful 19 day Intrepid trip in Egypt and Jordan,followed by six days staying independently in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.What a trip!When my brain fog clears,I'll post a report.This may have been my best trip yet(Sorry India,I still love you!)
massagediva is offline  
Jun 2nd, 2008, 10:07 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 788
Welcome home! Looking forward to your trip report -- we're hoping to do this Intrepid trip some time in the next few years.
MyDogKyle is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 06:43 AM
  #3  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
Ok,Here goes.This was a 26 day trip,so I hope it doesn't take that long to write this report!
About us:

I am a 44 year old woman,massage therapist by trade.I've used Intrepid for several adventures over the past few years,India,Southeast Asia,Australia,so I felt confident that this would be a fantastic trip.I invited along a colleague and person I have known several years,but not at all well,Gemma,who is 61.She was up for the challenge,but a little worried about the mix of ages on the trip and the level of activity,as she has an issue with a herniated disk.
We live in Baltimore,but left on May 6 from my most hated airport,Dulles.How do I hate thee,let me count the ways:Takes forever to get to,terrible traffic,slow security,have to get on those stupid shuttles to get to the gate,slow customs on the way back,etc.Believe me,I researched flights from other airports,but it just came down to Dulles.We flew on Lufthansa in the Deep Vein Thrombosis section.The flight left one hour late and arrived in Frankfurt about twenty minutes late.We had about 40 minutes to make or connecting flight to Cairo,which was enough for us,(but for our bags?)Arrived in Cairo on time at 2:15p.m.We had ordered a car to take us to the hotel,and when we came through our arrival gate,were happy to see an Intrepid sign waiting for us.We thought it was our driver,but it was actually someone from the Tourist office there to walk us through Passport control,help us get our visas,etc.What a nice touch.The visa process was straightforward,and then we came to baggage claim,but you guessed it,no bags.This man took us to the counter to file a claim,then led us outside to find our driver.
It was a beautiful,sunny,polluted hot day in Cairo,and we enjoyed the ride into the city.I didn't see a single woman that wasn't very ,if not fully covered,which surprised me a bit.I expected to see a bit more variety.It's always a bit of a shock to begin your time in a place that is so clearly a man's world.In short order I would adjust,but it's jarring at first.We arrived at the Hotel Capsis unscathed,which is amazing considering the traffic-lots of really old taxis and seemingly few rules.Not quite India,but not too far off!
massagediva is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 06:57 AM
  #4  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
About the hotel: This was a typical Intrepid big city hotel.The location was serviceable,a block from the Orabi Metro station.It's about a fifteen minute walk to the Egyptian Museum.There is a decent lobby and the rooms are clean,as is the bathroom,but nothing fancy.There's lots of information posted in the lobby about places to go and things to do.Good places to eat within walking distance,esp.great cheap felafel!

Gemma and I had arrived a day before the start of the trip,as I usually do so that I've at least had a good night's sleep before we start.We checked in at around 4p.m.,and settled into our rooms for a nap.We woke at around six and were ready to do a little exploring in the neighborhood.The area was quite interesting,loaded with little shops,street markets,and lots of auto parts dealers!When you see all of the old cars on the street,you understand!I have to admit,it was intimidating at first being such a conspicuous woman in Western clothes and gathering so much attention (blonde hair,too.)Just like in other countries I've visited,at first we felt like we were animals in a zoo,but that passed quickly.The area was a bit of a labyrinth,so I used my few operating brain cells to try to get my bearings.Gemma is directionally challenged,so I was in charge here.

After we returned,we went to the hotel's top floor restaurant,which has a nice view of Ramses Street.We had a couple of salads.In trickled a few people who looked like they may be our fellow travellers(you know,kind of tentative,like they'd just arrived) so we said hello and invited them to our table.One was a Canadian woman and there was also an Aussie couple who have been living in the UK.Very nice folks,which was a good omen for the rest of the trip.We were all tired,so turned in early.
massagediva is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 07:30 AM
  #5  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
Day 1,Intrepid trip:
The trip officially starts with a group meeting at 1,so Gemma and I have the morning to ourselves. Just a block or two from the hotel is a very modern looking petrol station with a cafe,"On the Run Cafe."For some reason Gemma wants to go there for coffee and a pastry,and I'm pretty easy to get along with,so off we go.We each had a cappuccino and pastry. The place was impeccably clean and slick and the people working there were very friendly and happy to have us.There was a great looking magazine rack,and several young exec.types having their morning jolt.

Now,off to the Citadel.We finally found a taxi driver who understood where we wanted to go,then were off in the cloud of dust that is Cairo.According to the Lonely Planet guide,the protocol for paying a taxi fare is this:
1.Know what the going rate is for the ride.
2.Don't discuss the rate with the driver.
3.When you arrive at your destination,get out and hand the money to the driver.O.K.
Our LP was a couple of years old,so we had to guess at the fare,but this system worked,much to our surprise.

The Citadel is quite impressive and provides sweeping views of the city.I was hoping to hire a guide,but surprisingly enough,no one offered their services.There were several large groups-one Italian,a couple of French,one German and the guides seemed to all be engaged with them.No matter,we wandered around on our own.We enjoyed the mosque,and avoided paying the 10 pound feesomeone was trying to charge us for putting bags on our shoes to enter.We were happy to carry our shoes.The mosque was lovely,the first of several we would have the chance to see on this trip.Then we meandered over to the Military museum(free entry with Citadel ticket)which was intereting and filled with lots of statues,busts,and other important war-type memorabilia.There was a room dedicated to the "Islamic Time" which I realized is what in the West we would call the Crusades.It's all a matter of perspective.We came back in time to wash up before our orientation meeting with our guide and travel partners.
massagediva is offline  
Jun 5th, 2008, 08:20 AM
  #6  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 701
Loving your report and can't wait to read more. My husband, 12 year old and I are planning a trip to Cairo for 2009. I'm reading your report with great interest.

Please continue....
traveljunkie28 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2008, 04:20 PM
  #7  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
We met in the lobby for our meeting with guide Esam.The group was great-six Aussies,five Americans and one Canadian woman.Intrepid groups usually contain lots of Aussies,as the company is Australian.I've found this to be a bonus,as most of the Australians I've met on these trips are easy going and lots of fun.Some stereotypes are true!

After receiving the rundown on the company,info. on the upcoming trip and introductions,we headed to Al Azar mosque.Intrepid uses a group leader,who acts as administrator,problem solver and all around advisor to the group,but also hires local guides throughout the trip.We had an Egyptologist in Cairo and Giza for this leg of the trip.Ahmed gave us a good intro into the 5 pillars of Islam and helped us to understand the common ground shared among Christianity,Judaism and Islam.We had some time to explore the mosque and take photos.Gemma and I found the women's section and slipped in the back.This was great,as in most conservative countries I've found that visitors have little opportunity to interact with women.There were young women with cell phones,older women,and everything in between.It seemed to be a real social scene(tucked in the back of the mosque.)

At this point we were just across from the Khan al Khalilli bazaar. Esam and Ahmed gave us directions for getting back to the hotel then left.Intrepid has an iron-clad policy against group leaders or guides earning commissions on shopping trips,so they usually prefer to remove themselves from the whole endeavor.They're happy to recommend good shops and vendors,but they'd rather not be around while you shop.Four of us had fun wandering through,but we weren't really tempted by anything.Lots of atmosphere,but also lots of junk.I did find a store selling traditional medicines and bought a jar of honey for a beekeeper friend at home.I've bought him honey in Australia,India,Thailand and now Egypt.(I would regret it a bit at the Tel Aviv airport,but that's many days later.)
massagediva is offline  
Jun 6th, 2008, 04:32 PM
  #8  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
We headed back to the hotel,had a little time to rest,then wash up for dinner.As we walked to the restaurant,Esam pointed out internet cafes,markets for buying snacks and water,and various other places of interest.We went to GAD for supper,a super crowded casual place.We sat upstairs at a window and had a great view of 26th July Street.Cairo really comes alive at night,and there was lots of activity below.Food was cheap and tasty.We had a good time getting to know one another,sharing food and stories.I had a cheese and spinach pastry item,which was much too cheesy for me.A big pile of cheese!Gemma had chicken kabab,which was divine and lemony.I have a Great Aunt Dot at home who we call GAD,so I took someone's sandwich wrapper as a souvenir. I'll put something silly in it and she'll love it.

Afterward,several of us decided to head to the internet cafe,as a couple of people are writing blogs.It was located in a little alley across from an historic cafe and sheesha hangout.It was absolutely beautiful with beautiful frescoes on the walls.When I finished with my e-mail,I came out to find some of my fellow travellers blissed out on sheesha tobacco.They tried to cajole me to join in,but I decided to give my lungs a break(but would I acquiesce another time??hmm,we'll see...)
massagediva is offline  
Jun 9th, 2008, 08:45 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 701
Still enjoying the report. Look forward to more!
traveljunkie28 is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 05:32 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
Saturday morning we jump out of the bed-Today's the day we visit the Pyramids!We head upstairs for our included breakfast-eggs,toast,tea and the ever-present Tang!Everyone is excited for the day.For me,the inspiration for the trip was to see the Pyramids,then everything grew from there.Boy,did it grow!

After breakfast we all met in the lobby. Steve,one of the Australians,is lugging his dijirdoo and plans(hopes)to be able to take it so that he can have a photo taken of him playing in front of the Pyramids.Our hotel is a block from the Orabi metro station,but we walk to Ramses Square to catch the subway.It's a very nice,colorful station,quite modern looking.I'd been reading about the women's only cars in the Cairo metro and hope to ride on one while I'm here,but not today.Our group was quite a curiosity for the other passengers and we attracted a lot of friendly attention.We rode several stops to Giza.When we emerged,we were in a dirty,dusty suburb with lots of traffic and noise.Someone in the group said "The Pyramids don't look at all like I thought they would."Ha ha.We made it to the main road where Esam ushered us onto a local bus,which took us to the site.(This is one of the fun things about Intrepid,using all kinds of public transportation,but with the assistance of someone who knows how and where to use it.)

We're all so excited to be here,but have to wait a few minutes to be briefed about how to avoid the many touts-camel minders,the guy who will put a cloth on your head as a "gift"then demand cash,post card sellers,people who will point out a great view,then want baksheesh,etc.We're all chomping at the bit to explore.AFter we all go through security(Steve has to play the dij for the officers),we make it through.It's a great moment,something we've all dreamed of.The simplicity and power of the form can't be denied.Here we have our local guide from yesterday who gives a bit of the history of the Pyramids and Pharoahs,so that we have some idea of what we're seeing.It's still early,maybe 10:30,but it's bloody hot already,and feel like my brain is baking as he's talking.(foreshadowing of the Karnak temple in Luxor!)

We have ample time to wander and take photos.Most of us buy the ticket to enter Pyramid #2,but claustraphobia got the better of me and I only made it about 75% of the way in. When I came out,one of the drink vendors offered me a can of Pepsi.I said no,but he insisted and wouldn't let me pay.That was a nice surprise!

A note about photos:I lost about 15 pounds on this trip.We were so active.I look back at the photos of myself from this day and can't believe the difference!


massagediva is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 05:41 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
We all took photos of Steve playing the dij in front of Pyramid #1,which attracts a lot of attention.The Egyptians are fascinated by the dij,and Steve lets some of the kids give it a try.Esam spends a little time each day trying to learn to play,but never quite gets the hang of it!

After we walk down the hill to see the Sphinx and take our fill of photos,Esam leads us through the Sphinxside gate and through the town to a terrific little local restaurant.We have a delicious meal-a bowl filled with lentils,pasta,chickpeas with a tomato sauce and hot sauce if you like.The meal was 4 pounds including a can of Coke Light.
massagediva is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 06:00 AM
  #12  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
After lunch,we take taxis to the Egyptian Museum,where we have some time with our Egyptologist.
This museum is filled with so many treasures.It reminds me a bit of the museum in Naples.Dusty and old,but housing some of the most incredible things you can imagine.We all enjoy seeing the loot from King Tut's tomb.Knowing that he was a lesser pharoah,a pipsqueak even,it's hard not to imagine what the tomb of Ramses II must have held!

I spend another hour or so here,and vow to return later in the trip,as we will be back in Cairo for a day later in the trip.I didn't do that,but next time I'm in Cairo,I'll spend more time in the museum!

Gemma and I walked back to the hotel to relax and pack up our things,as we leave in the evening on the overnight sleeper train to Aswan.In the evening we ride in taxis to the main train station.(A random thought about luggage-I always struggle with what to use for each trip,I'm searching for the perfect bag.I used a Deuter backpack which was great for walking and moving from point to point,but only opens from the top and botttom,so you have to pull everything out.My friend brought a bag with wheels,which in theory was great,but going up lots of stairs-like in Jerusalem-is a pain.)
massagediva is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 06:18 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
I'm always excited to ride a train,it's something I try to do in each country I visit.I'm expecting the worst-I spent a couple of nights on a dirty sleeper in India and I'm guessing that that's about what we'll experience.What a nice surprise we had in store.Our group of 13 occupied most of the car.Each unit held two passengers quite comfortably and the design was very efficient.There were two comfortable seats with a table between,a nice large window,and a tiny little closet to hang a couple of things.At night,though,everything converted:there was a nice little basin for washing up and the seats folded down to form a lower bunk and an upper came down for the second.We had a lovely man,Aladdin who was our attendant.He served us a respectable supper of fish and vegetables.We treated ourselves to gin and tonics and settled in for a cozy evening.We all visited each other,enjoying the journey and the companionship.
massagediva is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 07:24 AM
  #14  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
I would recommend this train as a really comfortable and fun way to make it to Upper Egypt.
I was on the upper bunk and didn't sleep too well(not uncommon for me,)but was excited to wake up early to see the scenery outside of our window.I peeked through the curtain at 6am or so(Gemma was still sleeping) and the view was very different from Cairo!We were traveling along the Nile with the most lush,fertile land I've ever seen alongside.Date palms,neat little plots of vegetables.Just beautiful.Just beyond,though,maybe 50 feet,was desert and mountains .I've never seen anything like it.Imagine your idea of an oasis and stretch the ends.Now add some donkeys,it's starting to look downright Biblical!
massagediva is offline  
Jun 13th, 2008, 08:18 PM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 701
massagediva, great descriptions! I would never make it even 75% of the way into the pyramid. Good for you!

I look forward to reading more!
traveljunkie28 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 02:25 PM
  #16  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
Thanks,traveljunkie.It's always helpful to know if someone's reading what I'm writing!

Something that I couldn't help but notice as we rode toward Aswan in the morning was that there were more signs of general prosperity than I had expected.Almost every building had a satellite dish on top,the roads seemed to be good and there were lots of decent looking trucks and cars.Not the newest and fanciest,but serviceable vehicles that looked clean and well-maintained.I have visited places like India and Cambodia in the last couple of years,and what I saw was far beyond the norm in those countries.I'm not saying there is not poverty in Egypt,just that the standard seemed to be a bit higher than I expected.

We were met at the Aswan station by drivers with SUV's,and were excited as we headed to our hotel.This is the town of Agatha Christie,the gateway for our Abu Simbel visit,and our time for visiting Nubian villages.We checked into the Keylany Hotel,a decent place with a pleasant rooftop cafe.

After checking in,I crossed the street with Jess,a newly graduated med student and her mother.We wanted to check out the pharmacy for cheap over the counter meds!I have trouble sleeping,so bought some Xanex,which really came in handy.Jess and Diane got some great anti-diarrheal meds that would come in handy later in the trip.I returned to the hotel for a shower and to settle in.About two hours later we met in the lobby to begin our Aswan adventure.We walked the two and a half blocks to a dock on the Nile to meet our Nubian boat captain.We spent the rest of the day on a lovely motor boat with comfortable benches and a canopy overhead.There was a delicious meal of pan fried Nile perch,a tomato and cucumber salad(yes,I ate it,no,I didn't get sick.)Also I believe we had rice,bread and some beans.We were all had that happy glow of enjoying home cooked food and feeling totally relaxed in a beautiful place.The Nile really is lovelier than I had imagined. We saw some other boats of the type we were riding,several feluccas,the curved-mast sailboat,and also several of the large Nile cruiseboats.They reminded me of Mississippi riverboats without the paddle.
massagediva is offline  
Jun 15th, 2008, 04:38 PM
  #17  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 701
massagediva, I have a sensitive tummy and have been hesitant to travel to places where the food is iffy. Any advice on this subject? Although one can get sick anywhere.



traveljunkie28 is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 01:56 PM
  #18  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Posts: 1,469
Hi,traveljunkie-
Excellent question,and one worth tackling,as some of the most spectacular places in the world are a bit "iffy" when it comes to food.

Before I went to India 2 and a half years ago I met with a travel doc.(living in Baltimore,home to Johns Hopkins School of Public Health,there's one on every corner!)I've since been to India,Cambodia,Thailand,Vietnam, Egypt,Jordan,Israel and Australia(not much of an issue in Oz!)and done very well.Some of her advice I've heeded,some I've completely ignored.I'm one who has a nervous stomach,so I've really given it a lot of thought.Here's what she said:

1.Eat hot foods hot.
2.Eat cold foods cold.
3.Avoid dairy,as it may be unpasteurized.
4.Avoid raw fruits and veggies unless it has a thick peel you can peel yourself.
5.Drink only bottled H2O.

I have basically followed #1,2 and 5.I have eaten lots of street food,which scares lots of people,but it is usually cooked on the spot under high heat(usually fried.)I also am a big believer in the power of yoghurt and eat a lot of it while away.
Usually I eat very lightly the first week(of a month trip)to see how I do with the local food-and to watch how my travel companions are doing,too!Then as I become more comfortable ,I venture out a bit.I always bring Immodium and Cipro.I've never used the Cipro,but it makes me feel better knowing I have it.I had one morning of the dreaded d in Egypt,but after ONE pill of Drotazide,which can be bought over the counter there,I was perfect.Sometimes I also think people get sick from heat,dehydration and fatigue and attribute it to food.It's normal to be kind of obsessed with the whole thing,but you really have to get over it to enjoy yourself,and enjoy the culinary treasures of your vacation.

massagediva is offline  
Jun 16th, 2008, 06:07 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 701
Thanks for the great advice. We have travelled to many places but mostly Europe and Australia where I didn't worry about the cleanliness too much. I had worried about a trip to Mexico a few years back but had no problems. i basically followed the guidelines you pointed out.

I've had friends who come from India go back to visit family and come back with some horror story about having some parasite that took months to get rid of. Makes me shiver but it won't stop me from travelling. Good way to lose some weight...lol. By watching what I eat and eating very little.

Thanks for taking the time to answer and I'm looking forward to reading more.
traveljunkie28 is offline  
Jun 23rd, 2008, 04:47 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 118
will be in cairo next april very interested in the cairo musuem. how much entrance fee for seniors and how much for the king tut exhibit your trip report was great thanks for any further information you have
fpsoley is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 03:20 PM.