Long Trip Report - Gate 1

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Jan 26th, 2005, 11:25 AM
  #1
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Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 102
Long Trip Report - Gate 1

Hello!!! At last I got this wrapped up. Thanks to everyone for making this dream a reality! - I really dont think we would have gone had I not had those encouraging words while planning. Anyone in debate - dont hesitate!!! GO!!! The Egyptian People are great - I was a bit worried about being an American - not to worry. The reply was always "welcome".

Trip Report using Gate 1.

We traveled to Egypt over Thanksgiving Week using Gate 1. I poured over this board in my preparations, so I thought I’d contribute our experiences. Our trip didn’t start out too well as we tried to check in at Portland OR, for our nonstop flight to Frankfurt only to find out it was cancelled! No one was at the Lufthansa Counter, just a sign to call the 800#. It seems the flight only had 25 people booked, so they just simply moved everyone to the next day. Not going to work for us as we had inter-Egypt flights and Abu Simbel to see the morning after our Cairo arrival. I could go on and on about our ordeal, but will try and move on to get to the Egypt part. Luckily we arrived 4 hours early and insisted they reroute us, which United obliged. Our concern is getting word to Gate 1 that we would not be on the original flight, as we needed to know where to be for the next day’s itinerary. We were met at the airport and we were so relieved, however he was not the Gate 1 rep and knew nothing about the next morning’s protocol. So, we knew we had a 5:30am flight to Aswan, so we make our way back to the airport at 4:00am and tried to get on the flight our tickets indicated. Let me tell you about the Cairo domestic airport. You are a nobody if you don’t have a rep getting you a boarding pass. We stood in sort of a line, with all the other agents huddled over the ticket agent getting their dozens of boarding passes for their groups. When we finally pushed our way up front, the agent kept nodding and saying no, and wrote 6:15 on our ticket and handed back our luggage. We were horrified. Now what? We will NEVER hook up with the right flight/group. We sat in the waiting area with a couple of hundred other tourists and their groups. I finally went back out to brave the huddle once again, and the ticket agent pointed to a man with our names on a sheet of paper. He was with Gate 1. At last. Sure enough, he took care of us and got us boarding passes and had us wait while he got our tickets to Abu Simbel from Aswan. We started relaxing a little, but didn’t see how we would make our connection since the later flight stopped in Luxor too. For some reason we ended up with Business class tickets down and back, which was a nice little extra after our flights from #[email protected] prior!

We arrived in Aswan and sure enough there was a man with a Gate 1 sign, and a group starting to gather. We made some quick introductions and the group of 7 who signed up for Abu Simbel got their instructions and boarding pass and we were off. After that point in time everything clicked like clockwork. I don’t think I can blame Gate 1 for our initial experience, it was trying. Abu Simbel is amazing, as everyone has said before. Not a bad 1st temple/site to view. Our admission included a guide, who spoke about the temples prior to us going in, and then would wait outside while we looked at our leisure. Two hours was enough time to view the temples and make our way back to the small Abu Simbel Airport for our quick flight to Aswan – about 25 min.

We were met at the Aswan Airport and piled in a van with our luggage already loaded. The drive to the boat seemed to be about 20 min. We gathered as we got all checked in, got to our cabin, which was the last cabin aft. I have read of the noise and Diesel – but boy that was unreal. May have been from the neighboring boats that we were lashed to as well. We requested a different cabin, and was moved the next day after some passengers had left. Much better – closer to the center of the boat. Several members of our group moved inward. The boat “King of Thebes” was adequate – not especially luxurious, but clean and suitable. Had no real complaints (after we were moved). The crew was always friendly and helpful.

After finding our rooms, we found the buffet line! – We were starving after not really having a meal since..well…two days prior! I found the food very good. My husband is a little more meat and potatoes; he did find something he could eat each day as well. I LOVED the vegetables. The things they do with Zucchini! The buffet line was never crowded except for our last day as clearly a new group was boarding. We were assigned tables – two for our group and we mixed and matched throughout the cruise.

After lunch, having not much sleep – we had to find some, we put earplugs in and slept for about 3 hours – missed the felucca sail. After dinner we walked along the Nile when we saw two of our group making their way to the “Old Cataract” hotel. We joined them and after paying the guard a few EGP, were lead through the garden to the riverside bar. There was a 55 EGP/person min. for non-guests – which meant two bottles of wine. So we obliged. Had a wonderful visit and left via the hotel, took a taxi back for a couple $.

Next morning we met our Guide Abdoon – he talked while traveling to the high dam, which I could have missed very easily – nothing to speak of really. Then we were off to Phileae Temple of Isis. Abdoon gathered us up in a corner to do his speech, and then took us AROUND the temple; we barely got to peak in. This was the way it was to be at each temple, and being slow to learn, we just hung with him. Abdoon was so long winded and repetitive we grew to dread each prelude to each temple. I don’t think he did a very good job of pulling out what was important at each temple. We also realized his whole tour was about avoiding crowds. We missed important tombs at the Valley of the Kings because of this I’m sure. I can only blame myself for not keeping my guidebook out and realizing it all to late. But once you have a guide you really have faith that he will be sure you will see the most significant sites. Abdoon was a nice man, but clearly on the take – we witnessed several occasions that left us scratching our heads – and I know this is more the norm as well. One instance was giving us entrance tickets that had already been torn and used. Interesting. In any event we enjoyed the temple of Isis and had a little free time.

On the way back to the boat, we stopped for a quick look at the rock quarry with the unfinished obelisk. Back on board to set “sail” to Kom Ombo – we arrived after dark and it was neat to see the Temple all lit up. We had to pass thru about 10 boats to reach shore. We practically ran through the market on the way to the temple – no time to shop – coming or going. Abdoon kept us way longer than he was supposed to, as we “missed” our boat and had to wait on a neighboring boat – which we had to find one that would allow us to wait, several would not. Finally our boat was tied up in place and we were able to board, but caught the tail end of dinner and missed Egyptian Night entirely – no time to change or even buy. The rest of the boat was all dressed to the nines and having a blast with their Egyptian outfits. Wished they would have saved that nite for when we sailed all day.

The next day we sailed to the Temple of Horus – We caught horse and buggies to the temple. The driver took our pictures for us and demanded baksheesh. We had all given abdoon $15 to cover all the tipping. I did offer the driver a couple pounds, but he refused, it was not enough. We then told him to see Abdoon. It was a fun little ride in to the temple. The temple was well preserved and fabulous – no free time here. No time to shop either. The buggy ride back was a traffic jam – interesting to witness the interactions of the buggy drivers. It was worth recording. They are very passionate people.

The rest of the day we sailed the Nile and enjoyed from the top deck the passing sights of farmlands and fishermen. It was a little cool; we were in our jackets (lightweight). We arrived in Esna just before the locks and got in line. We had very little time on shore – had to be back by 4:00pm. We walked to a close temple, but Fred and I got side tracked shopping. We let the group go ahead and we had a blast finally doing a little bargaining. Very fun. WAY better than Mexico. You both feel good when the deal making is done. They suddenly are your best friends. Got back on board in time for ?. We didn’t move until midnight. Don’t know why you had to be back on board, we would have loved more time to shop- of course we had no idea when we would sail – so we stayed on board.

It would have been nice to watch going through the locks, but while in bed, we finally are moving around midnight. We are awake around 3:00am, we have the sliding door open and we hear the chanting as we approach Luxor. Very odd at this time of nite. It goes on for miles fades and then gets loud. With the full moon, it was really neat. I ask Abdoon and he thinks maybe a 24 hours celebration of a wedding? – but for miles?

Another member of our group had requested a hot air balloon ride in either Luxor or Pyramids – and our guide recommended Luxor, and I have to agree. We had several from our group sign up, including myself (it has been on my “list” for years, why not over the Valley of the Kings?”) $150.00/person. We meet in the lobby and did the paperwork around 6:00am (I think), then were quickly loaded onto a waiting small boat with several other passengers. We motored across the Nile and was loaded into vans and taken to the balloons. We were loaded into the balloon, which I ‘m guessing held about 18 people. This whole process was done in about 20 min. They wasted no time in getting us up in the air. Our “captain” was young and had a very sharp sense of humor; he spoke with a British accent and made fun of our American Accent. The Ride was fabulous; sun was just coming up – great views of the green valley below and the abrupt edge where the green stops and dessert starts. We viewed Queen Hatshepsuts Temple, The Ramesseum Complex, the Local dwellings, farmlands. Fabulous. I think the Pyramids would be rather dull after viewing all that is in Luxor. The landing was very gentle and well placed in the middle of a sugar cane field where the farmer had left an area still unplanted. The farmer was there barefoot watching us land, I would guess they have an arrangement. Vans picked us up and took us to the Colossi of Memnon – short drive. There we were dropped and waited for the rest of the group to come. The Cruise Boat had arranged for box breakfasts as we departed, so we sat and ate our breakfast. We were there maybe 20 min before our group came by and picked us up on the way to the Valley of the Kings. Having a guide, we skipped any lines here – we jumped on the tram that takes you up to the tombs. Abdoon takes us to three tombs. Two of which are on our * list in the books. The third was very disappointing. We asked why there is such a crowd at one of the tombs and he replies, its just first with a bigger sign. Well, it was one of the Must Sees – and we didn’t. My fault for not getting the book out. Once again, all about avoiding crowds. He also lost two of our group by leaving without noticing they had not come out yet. We “found” them when we left; they had to go to another two tombs, as we were not there. On to the Valley of the Queens, we viewed all the open tombs here and had a set meeting point. We had to leave our cameras with the guards at these tombs. Neferatari’s tomb was closed for an indefinite amount of time.

Next, we go to Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple. Very crowded, they are still assembling the temple as there are hundreds of “fragments” that are grouped and gathered on either side. I cant even imagine how they can know what is what. Here we had free time and had a set meeting time, which was nice, wish we had that at each temple. Upon exiting, there are some “shops”, we buy a few knick-knacks. On the way back, Abdoon takes us to an Alabaster Factory. I don’t think anyone buys a thing. We head back, and I was surprised how much longer it was to go via vehicle verses a quick across the river boat ride

Although our tour is set for the Temples of Karnack and Luxor tomorrow in the morning, our group decides to do it this afternoon, leaving tomorrow on our own. Temple of Karnak is truly amazing, as they all are. We entered Luxor at dusk, and it is full to see all light up – definitely a different feeling than daytime.

Sat, Day 7 – a day on our own – yeah! . We hook up with John and his two young boys and he commandeers a horse and buggy for the morning, as we have to be back to check out of the boat and move across the street to the New Winter Palace. We go to the Luxor Museum, which is really a nice and interesting museum. Pictures are allowed here except the mummies, which requires a baksheesh – then OK. We find our driver and request he takes us local. We find the local market with fabulous veggies/fish – neat. Then we request somewhere to smoke Sheesha – boy did we find local here. Back alley, the Sheesha pipe was held together with wire and duct tape. It was a kick, mine was a bit like potpourri, the boys was a little stronger. Next stop – McDonalds. Yes, McDonalds, the boys were in heaven. We bring our driver burger and French Fries – He likes the potatoes.

Back to the boat to move across the street. This took a little longer than you would think for such a quick move. We check in, and find the New Winter Palace pretty average – a bit run down, however the views are neat. We walk around the grounds of the “Old Winter Palace” I check about reservations to eat; the prices were amazingly good for a fancy smanchy place. We had the Night Show at Karnak to view; dinner would be just too late. We enjoy drinks and relax. Some of the group decides to go with Abdoon, (turns out it was just to his kickback shops), we stay and I get a manicure. What a hoot, I was the only tourist in the place. Very interesting hour.

We meet Abdoon for the Karnak Light Show. It was neat to see the temple lit up. It was a cold evening, I was so tired when the sitting part of the show came, I literally fell asleep. I don’t think I missed much. Thought it was kinda cheesy. Wished we would have eaten at the Old Winter Palace instead.

Sunday
On the move again for our flight back to Cairo, all of our transfer work smoothly. We check into the Ramses Hilton, We are put on the 23rd floor, with quite a view of the Nile and area. I’m just starting to feel my stomach is not right about now. We hook up with John and his two boys and grab a taxi to head to the Hard Rock Café for Lunch – I know, I know, but I collect shot glasses and we are ready for a good American lunch. The traffic is unreal – as has been reported before. Very entertaining as long as you are not driving! I’m not able to eat much – darn it. Our driver returns and we ask what we should see. Everything he suggests is on our itinerary tomorrow. We wondered how on earth we would get all of it done, we debate going to the Museum since we didn’t think we would have much time there tomorrow. Decide not to do that. (wish we would have). We go to the Hanging Church, which another tour mate suggested. It’s a neat Christian area of Cairo, we see where Mary, Joseph and Jesus reportedly stayed for 4 years. The Hanging Church was Ok, but I didn’t think it was must see. We head back to the Hilton and crawl into the most fabulous king sized bed ever, complete with feather comforter. I’m really not doing too well by now – Mummy tummy has hit.

Last day, we meet our new guide in the lobby at 9:00ish, he is AWESOME, as slow and boring as Abdoon was, he is Fast and interesting. Wish we had him during our cruise. We are off to the Egyptian Museum for a whirlwind tour, hit all the highlights (no cameras allowed) we felt literally like we ran through it. Off to the Citadel, the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. Glad to see all of ladies in our group has thought to cover their heads – hats or scarves. A few panoramic photos and off to lunch near the pyramids. We stop for a nice outdoor lunch close to the Pyramids – I cant eat, I’ve never had such bad stomach ache in my life, luckily it wasn’t the kind I had to be close to the bathroom – that waited till we got home thank goodness!

Pyramids are as grand as one would expect, we have enough time to climb up a few blocks (as far as they will allow). Take photos, move on to another panoramic site, where a few including my husband take a brief camel ride. We ask if we can go to the boat museum, no one else knew about it, but everyone ended up going in. It can be a quick visit although we had a “guide” which we didn’t really understand most of the time took us through. Glad we saw it – like I said, doesn’t have to be a long visit. We then are taken to the Sphinx area, a few more photos, and one of Pizza Hut just across the street…that is just wrong. Then we are off to the Khan a Khali Bazaar for an hour of shopping. We decide to skip that and are able to be taken back to the hotel. We shop a little, across the street from the Hilton, and turn in early as we had to be up to catch a 4:30am flight.

All in All, I would recommend Gate 1 – for the price, they did deliver what they promised. I was disappointed in our Nile Guide, but had a great one in Cairo (albeit for just a day). The Hotels were nothing great, but sufficient and clean - The Ramses Hilton was above average I thought.






jeepsterchick is offline  
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Jan 26th, 2005, 05:22 PM
  #2
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 2,549
Thanks for the report!
welltraveledbrit is offline  
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Feb 4th, 2005, 02:40 PM
  #3
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 304
Thank you very much, for posting about your trip.It sounds like you had a great time over all.
I am going to be going, in about a month. I can't hardly wait!

We will be going to most of the places you went.What kind of clothes did you take? I don't have a scarf, but it sounds like I should get one. Or can I pick one up there? Did you dress up a bit, for evening meals or is casual ok?

I am also wondering about money.Is it true that some places like US dollars? I Have been told to take a lot of $1 bills.

Thanks a lot
Dottie is offline  
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