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Keep watching the news and DON'T believe my trip report

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Jan 22nd, 2016, 10:38 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Mar 2009
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Keep watching the news and DON'T believe my trip report

Am I crazy?
Could I really be putting my family at risk to satisfy my travel obsession?
What about going back to Hawaii for December?

Family & friends hounded me no-stop after knowing that we were off to Egypt for 2 weeks. I didn't tell anyone for almost a month after booking our trip. Then I shared the news and 2 weeks later the Mexican tourist bombing happened. And then the Russian aircraft incident. I started getting antsy about the trip. We traveled before to some "supposedly not so safe" destinations before I was worried not as much about security but about whether our flights would get cancelled.

We had a fabulous 2-week trip to Egypt over the holidays in December. I'm not very good at writing creative stories about my trip but I hope all the details will help some future travelers to plan their trip better. And I absolutely cannot stress enough about how safe we found Egypt. There was never a moment where we feared for anything. In spite of the title of my report, please, please don’t let the news scare you into not going. Now is the best time to go!

Our final itinerary: Cairo – 3 nights – Mena House
Alexandria – 1 night – Hilton Corniche
Cairo – 2 nights – Marriott Omar Khayamm
Aswan – 2 nights – Movenpik Hotel
Dahabiya – 3 nights
Luxor – 3 nights – Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa
anitavuyyuru is offline  
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Jan 22nd, 2016, 01:14 PM
  #2
 
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Glad it went well for you! Congratulations on ignoring the nay-sayers.
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Jan 23rd, 2016, 03:13 AM
  #3
 
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Happy to hear you had a good time. Interested in your impressions of the country as we've never been.
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Jan 25th, 2016, 06:22 AM
  #4
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so sorry about the delay. Getting back to real life is getting harder and harder. I need another vacation again very soon

Next up......
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Jan 25th, 2016, 06:27 AM
  #5
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Background: I got the idea about traveling to Egypt after reading Welltravbrit’s excellent trip report in Fodors. It was definitely on the bucket list but something that I was putting off to visit other destinations. She struck the chord first and then I happened to meet someone at work who is Egyptian and he pushed me to making the final decision.

So I called American Airlines to check if there was any possibility of getting tickets using miles. I really didn't think it would happen since I was looking to travel over the holidays and for not one but 4 people. But I think Egypt 2015 was in my destiny! I managed to snag 4 business class seats to go from Los Angeles to Cairo and from here on there was no turning back.

Others: after I got our one-way tickets to Cairo I then told DH and the kids that we were going to Egypt for winter break. I'm really not into giving them choices
The kids are my 13-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter and since I've been doing this all their life, they’ve learnt to go with the flow. We typically take 2 big international trips in a year so they're pretty good travelers.

We’re going to Cairo and then What?

This is where my my obsessive tendencies play out in full force. I devoured every trip report I could find on Fodors and Tripadvisor. Spent waaay to much time going though all posts to come up with my ideal plan. Sent out enquiries to about 5-6 travel operators that are widely recommended on these boards. I’ve hardly ever used an agent for our trips(Kenya was an exception) but it seemed like one might serve us well for a country like Egypt and I was NOT wrong. Welltravbrit (Angela) highly recommended Djed travel and talking to the owner Ayman Simman nailed it for me. I highly recommend Djed. They were good about last minute changes to make our trip more flexible.

Cairo: 3 nights at Mena: I initially thought this might be too much since we were planning to do the Pyramids and Darshur, Sakkara on the same day but Ayman convinced me and I’m glad I followed his lead. The first night, by the time our flight landed it was almost midnight. Djed Travels Taariq was right there to get us and navigate us through those crowds at the airport. He was invaluable and a lot of fun. Our driver Mr.Cadillac was with us for the next 5 days and we really enjoyed his company. Not very talkative but when prodded had a good sense of humor and was very knowledgeable. By the time we finally settled down for the night at Mena, it was 2am. We had planned for a pretty late start the next morning so this was perfect.

Day 2: A 10:30am start gave us enough time to feel well rested and enjoy our Mena House breakfast. Today was a full day with the Pyramids, Solar Boat Museum, Sakkara and Darshur. The museum at Darshur was small but I really enjoyed it.
I thought all these were too much for one day but since we hardly had any people around we managed to breeze through all these sights. Lots of picture time and walking included.

It was a very very long day but it suited us just fine as we were just trying to get over our jetlag. 7pm light dinner at the hotel and off to bed.
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Jan 25th, 2016, 10:44 AM
  #6
 
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Keep it coming... Egypt's on my list too.
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Jan 25th, 2016, 06:05 PM
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Day 3: Old Cairo & Egyptian Museum: We woke up at 4am which is never fun on trips but we learn to deal with it. Luckily we were starting out at 9am this morning so we were ready early for Hedar. We first went to Islamic Cairo with him. Salauddin’s Citadel, Sultan Hassan Mosque, Al Azhar mosque, the narrow alleyways of Khan el Khalili markets – we walked and walked and were enamoured by the sights and smells all around us. A short break at El Fishawy to give our tired feet a break was just perfect. We were in no hurry to get through an agenda and I think that really made it even more enjoyable.
But I can see how for someone it might be very very overwhelming.

So, as per our plan, Egyptian Museum was on the agenda for the afternoon. But our morning was pretty busy and the kids were DONE! And to be honest, I was close to it too.
So we talked to our guide who talked to someone else and said “absolutely no problem, we’ll do it another day.
And this is where we came to really appreciate Djed. Absolutely no qualms about switching up our schedule to make it work better for us. In our guides words, “it’s better to not go to the museum at all than go when you’re tired and hate it”.

Our guide and driver took us instead to a hole in the wall favorite restaurant of theirs and it was here that the kids and I began our love affair with Koshari 
Our evening was spent walking around the beautiful Mena house grounds, having a good dinner at the Mughal restaurant and going to bed early. PERFECT!!

Day 4: Today we check out of Mena and drive to Alexandria.
Another active day checking out the Catacombs, Pompeys Pillar, the Citadel and the Bibliotheca and finally checking into our hotel for an overnight stay – The Hilton Corniche.
Relaxed for a few hours and finally ventured out again for dinner. A friend of mine highly recommended Balbaa Village so we walked there from the hotel and must say we loved it. There was just one person there who spoke a tiny bit of English but we managed to go pick our fish and get it served to us in an utterly delicious fashion. A whole lot of food that we possibly could never finish but we polished off the fish to the last bone.

Hindsight: Ayman, the owner of Djed travel highly suggested that we stay in the main part of town in Alexandria, specifically the Cecil Steinberger but I didn’t listen. My husband is a Diamond member at Hilton so I thought we could get away with booking the cheapest rooms and getting an upgrade so I wanted to do that. Plus, I wanted to give the goods some excellent in room wifi so they don’t grow up hating Egypt (and me!).
Well, we did get upgraded to a couple of beautiful suites and had excellent wi-fi but the rest of it was pretty bad. And it was pretty far away from all the action.
If you’re in Alexandria for just a day or two, I highly recommend staying at the Cecil or nearby area.

Day 5: Got a late relaxed start and headed back to Cairo. We halted for a bit at the Natrun Monastery and it was really nice. Enjoyed the peace and quiet and the very nice tour given by an Erithrean Coptic priest. My younger chatty daughter kept asking him all kinds of questions about leaving his family behind and not marrying. He didn’t for a second seem offended or anyting but very humorously and patiently satisfied her curiosity.

It was around 5pm by the time we got through Cairo rush hour traffic and to our hotel Marriott Omar Khayyam. Beautiful property and excellent staff. Check in was a breeze and we got upgraded becoz of hubby’s elite status. The Executive lounge had more than enough food for our dinner and we relaxed there with drinks and wifi till late in the night.

Day 6: After a heavenly breakfast we started our free day to wander around and explore Cairo by ourselves. We took a cab from the Marriott to Coptic Cairo and did it all by ourselves using the Lonely Planet book. Just like all the other sights, we pretty much had the area to ourselves so took our time. I especially loved the underground streets with the tombs. Most people we noticed seemed to skip this part of town but it was a must-see for us. The whole area took us about 3 hours by which time we were ready for lunch at yet another koshari joint and then off to the hotel for a siesta.
Evening was spent just wandering around the streets in Zaamalek. We really enjoyed window shopping for antiques and just in general getting a feel of the place. Perfect way to end our last evening in Cairo.

Day 7: Breakfast and checkout out of our hotel for our afternoon flight to Aswan. But first we still need to finish the 1 place that we left out – the Egyptian Museum. Our guide Hedar joined us again today and he really brought alive all the history and the story of the place. The Mummy section (costs extra) was a big hit with all of us. And again, I’m amazed at how uncrowded the place is. We were all alone in the King Tut section for over 15 minutes so got to take some brilliant photos. Btw, photos are now allowed to be taken in the museum, supposedly to encourage more tourists to visit. But they are still not permitted in the Mummy rooms.

Flight to Aswan was pretty uneventful and we checked into our hotel Movenpik. Again Djed did a brilliant job with organizing pickups and transfers.
Dinner tonight was at El Dokka that we had heard very good things about. While we really enjoyed the boat ride to get there, the food was pretty average.

I think I'm going to concise this report from now on or I'll never finish it.
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Jan 25th, 2016, 06:19 PM
  #8
 
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Brilliant!! What was your favorite part of Cairo? How were the markets? We especially like them in the Middle East.
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Jan 26th, 2016, 03:24 PM
  #9
 
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So delighted to read more about your trip and so happy that it worked out so well for your family. Given how quiet it is it's an amazing time to go to Egypt, I was amazed that we could stand in front of the Tut mask on our own and we also had the temples at Abu Simbel entirely to ourselves which was one of my all time favorite travel moments.

Like you were blown away by all of it, the history, the sights, the quality of the guides, the welcome and I suppose the gap between how people think Egypt is vs what you find in person.
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Jan 28th, 2016, 11:01 AM
  #10
 
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Good for you, Anita.

I have always wanted to see the Pyramids and have visions of sailing down the Nile in a paddle steamer a la Hercule Poirot. Nice to think that i still might get to do it one day.

Really enjoyed your TR, BTW, and thanks for the tips about things you think you could have done better - there's nothing like learning from others' mistakes!
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Feb 8th, 2016, 09:14 PM
  #11
 
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I'm enjoying your report. Considering a return trip to Egypt, so I'm very interested in recent experiences.
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Feb 12th, 2016, 07:21 AM
  #12
 
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Great report. We are in egypt right now.

It is extremely crowded at most major sights. Yes, you read that correctly.

My advice: do not plan a trip here during egpyts school holidays. Do. Not. Do. It.

Thousands of kids at the pyramids today. Pissing on the rocks. Camel and horse ding everywhere.
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Feb 12th, 2016, 09:32 AM
  #13
 
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Signing up for this. I was in Egypt in 2011-2012 when there was all the initial action. And likewise I took the chance, ignored the naysayers, and enjoyed every moment. Visited most of the places you write about in Cairo and waiting for more! Next time I want to go to Alexandria. Have read and reread the Alexandria Quartet and it has been on my list for ages.
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Feb 12th, 2016, 10:22 AM
  #14
 
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We encountered a school group in Luxor at Hatshepsut's temple. It was like a tidal wave of noise and motion that swept in and swept out. After they left the place was almost silent.

Jannan - you may find other sites are not as busy as the pyramids but I'm very curious to hear if that's the case everywhere?
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Nov 29th, 2017, 04:41 PM
  #15
 
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Anita-
So loved reading your report! Is there a part II, can't leave us hanging like this?
Our trip is coming up in less than a month! just a concise report will do : O)
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Nov 30th, 2017, 05:29 PM
  #16
 
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This almost two years old.
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