Our Fabulous Private Five-star Egypt Vacation!

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May 7th, 2012, 04:02 PM
  #1
MD
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Our Fabulous Private Five-star Egypt Vacation!

Hello! I just want to report on a fantastic visit to Egypt by my wife and I in April-May 2011.

First, we decided to visit Egypt, and started planning, with a very short time to go. We decided in January (2012) to see if we could visit Egypt this year. Due to scheduling, my wife could not go in the fall. Everything we read said after about April, it could get too hot. It was now or next year. We settled on late April as the best compromise. Thanks to Aeroplan (Air Canada) points and scheduling, we could book April 13th to May 2 as the time to visit.

Next was - how would we do this visit? We have always been "do it yourself" type travellers. Our only actual fully guided tour was 2 years ago in Tibet, where an accompanying guide was a legal requirement. However, others who had visited Egypt strongly suggested NOT trying to wing it on our own. This turned out to be very (very!) good advice, as I will explain later.

The next step, we looked at options and browsed various travel forums and talked to a few travel agents. A group bus tour is not our style. We have memories of following a lady with a new hip and new knee up and down the stairs of York Minster tower... 2 weeks of that sort of travel with 30 or more such people would drive us crazy. Plus, we like to take our time in some places and bus tours were usually rush, rush, rush. Finally, most package tours did not list a lot of the sites we wanted to see.

In internet searches we found names to follow up with. We sent out emails to a select variety of possible trip organizers. Ahmed Hamed Yousif ([email protected]) was one, of them, and for example, a company in Egypt was another, and a company (recommended by a co-worker) with offices in New York and Egypt. I specified what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go, laid out a rough itinerary, sites, etc...

One replied with "we can help you. Please tell us where you want to go." Did they not even read my email? Another replied "here is a suggested itinerary" and appears to have pasted a tour plan from their brochure without reading our email! (We had said "we do not want a Nile cruise" and their reply included one.) Mr. Ahmed was the only response in half a dozen that was actually a response. He had read our email and replied in detail to it. Because of this response and the many positive recommendations we had found on travel forums, we decided to make our plans with Ahmed Hamed Yousif and we were extremely pleased with the result.

Ahmed helped us in a number of ways. We had a number of back-and-forth emails to finalize the details of the trip, but on such short notice, everything was arranged perfectly. He lives in Cairo and also knows the rest of the country, which was a lot more helpful than dealing with a travel agent sitting in an office back here in North America.

We had originally thought that 3 or 4 star accomodation was sufficient, but found that 5-star did not change the final price too much. We were very pleased with the result. The rooms were always clean; the beds were comfortable and back-friendly; the plumbing was modern. All hotels included breakfast buffet, and this too was first rate. When we left too early to have breakfast, we got "breakfast boxes".

We relied on Ahmed's knowledge of the hotel options and we were not disappointed. In Cairo, we stayed at the Mena House Oberoi, a historical establishment with a pyramid view. Note - that one side of the hotel faces the Cairo street traffic instead, and so there is a big difference in 5-star price and view; Ahmed made sure we got the good rooms. In Aswan, we stayed at the Mövenpick on Elephantine Island with a fantastic view of the city and the Nile west bank. In Luxor, in the Steigenberger, we had a room with balcony in the inside courtyard, so the hot setting sun did not shine into our room. In fact, we could watch the Lebanese restaurant's floor show dancers each night from our balcony. In Sharm el Sheik, Mövenpick had just bought the hotel from Sofitel and it had private beaches with reefs and a fantastic view of Naama bay. In Petra (or, Wadi Musa) our Mövenpick hotel room was across the street from the entrance to Petra.

We had seen a very good review of the Kempinski Nile Hotel, a downtown hotel in Cairo. We thought it would be interesting to stay in the downtown. Ahmed told us (correctly as we found out) that a downtown location would make travel through notorious Cairo traffic difficult and that there was not a great deal to see in that area of Cairo anyway. We agree with him now that a room next door to the pyramids is much more desirable, since when you think of Egypt, you think pyramids.

Ahmed also arranged our flights - to Abu Simbel, Aswan, from Luxor to Sharm el Sheik, to Amman, and back to Cairo. I have to say that Air Canada could take a lesson from Egypt Air and Royal Jordanian. They always left on time (and twice, left early once everyone was boarded!) We were at first concerned that he had not given us a flight itinerary right away, but he mentioned that due to low tourist volumes, Egypt Air was cancelling, combining and rescheduling flights; a week before our departure, one flight was altered again. The day before we left Luxor, that flight too was again rescheduled. When the entrance to the Luxor airport was blocked due to some labour dispute we were taken to the military gate and driven by bus to the terminal - and still left on time! (Are you hearing this, Air Canada??)

Ahmed is a licensed Egyptologist and did our Cairo area tours himself; he speaks excellent English and has been guiding and arranging tours for 15 years. He has contacts and made arrangements for the guides, drivers, airport pickups, etc. as well as hotels for the entire trip, including our side trip to Petra in Jordan. He was continually phoning this staff to ensure all was going smoothly - and it did. Everyone Ahmed arranged for us spoke good English and was very helpful and honest. Ahmed even got a local SIM card with credits for my phone so we could call or text if any issues came up. He was available 24 hours a day and replied right away.

The tours did not disappoint. Others have mentioned this, but I have to repeat it. In our trip to the Cairo Museum, Ahmed bypassed the crowds at opening and took us straight to the King Tut room while everyone else in the big bus groups was getting the guided tour leading up to it - so there were about 5 people in the room when we got there, and then for about 10 minutes we had the room with King Tut's gold mask, gold sarcophagi, jewelry, etc. all to ourselves! After that, we worked our way back to see the rest of the collection. This was a pattern with all of the sites we visited - for example, lucky for us, sad for the industry, we had Abu Simbel temple all to ourselves, as the only other tour group at the time began their tour with a video presentation, then went to the lesser temple first; while our private tour guide took us directly there. Ahmed had arranged for our guide and driver to drive from Aswan to Abu Simbel, so they could drive us to the temple, and we could bypass the rest of the plane-load of people that were taking the bus from the airport. We arrived shortly after the morning caravan of buses had departed back to Aswan, thus leaving us alone at Abu Simbel. Since we drove from Aswan to Luxor, we arrived at both Kom Ombo and Edfu temples at a different time than the passing cruise ships.

As our trip progressed, my wife kept reminding me - "you wanted to do this on your own! How?" Egypt is not like Europe. Because everyone does tours or has guides, nothing is simple for a westerner on their own. Public transit is poor, supplemented by many microbusses where discovering routes and negotiating prices is an art that requires the local language. Signage is mostly Arabic. Even if you could drive (you don't want to!!) you would not find your way. Getting a taxi and negotiating the price is also an art, and assuming the taxi driver even speaks enough english to understand where you want to go, do they know where to go and will they actually take you there? Saqarra and Darshur, the second and third most important pyramid sites, are down poorly marked country roads through small villages. I shudder to imagine dozens of large busses driving these when tourism was busy. The narrow streets of old Alexandria leading to the catacombs were equally challenging. The hazard with unknown or untrusted drivers or guides the Hotel might arrange just for the day - how do you know what you are getting? True, all certified Egypt guides need to have taken university courses on history, etc., but asssuming they are certified, quality of an unknown is luck of the draw, and locals can also make as much in commission by delivering you to the tourist shops as they could make in tips. With Ahmed and the rest, we never went to any tourist shops unless we agreed (We went to the "Leather Museum" when I needed a belt because I had forgotten to pack one).

Same with the internal flights - it was one thing to look on Expedia and see "oh, we can book these flights from A to B in Egypt". How and where to check for sudden changes to those flights? I am glad Ahmed was looking after this for us. Similarly, we had thought that a leisurely trip to Alexandria could be done taking the train. First there's the delay getting to and from the train station in Cairo traffic. Apparently this train is not reliable, especially these days where demonstrations and strikes often seem to block or delay it. (Our Aswan tour guide said the return from Cairo recently took 20 hours instead of 13 because someone had blocked the tracks; and his return train to Aswan was cancelled the day we flew out of Luxor.)

So unlike Europe, Australia, NZ, or even China - we did not do it on our own. We were driven wherever we went in a clean, private air-conditioned minivan; a guide collected our tickets for us and showed us through the sites, then leaving us a bit of private time to look more or take pictures. Coming or going from the airport, someone met us and a private vehicle picked us up. I could certainly get used to this sort of touring. The best part of having Ahmend Hamed Yousif organize this tour was that we saw what we wanted to see and covered almost everything. He was accomodating to last minute changes.

We saw the Cairo museum and its many highlights; we saw old Cairo and Coptic Cairo; we saw 3 most important pyramid sites, Giza, Saqarra and Darshur; we saw 13 temples from Abu Simbel in the south to Abydos north of Luxor, with many interesting road trips in between, including Hapshepsut's temple and the Karnak complex. We saw Valley of the Kings and went into 5 tombs, including the (extra cost) tombs of King Tut and Ramses V/VI. We saw tombs in the workers village, and tombs of nobles; we saw the unfinshed obelisk in Aswan and took a balloon ride near Luxor. We snorkelled in Sharm el Sheik, and climbed Mount Sinai to watch the sunrise; we visited Petra and floated in the Dead Sea, we saw the city of Alexandria.

Basically, we covered almost everything we could. We can't sing the praises of Ahmed Hamed Yousif enough ([email protected]). Everything we had read online about his services we experienced first-hand. (Apparently half the men in Egypt are named "Mohammed" and half the rest are named "Ahmed", so to identify someone you have to use the full name). We found Ahmed because a lot of others posted positive comments about him on multiple sites. We are posting too now, because we enjoyed the trip he organized and executed. He was accomodating to last-minute changes. We also want to mention him because he is charming, honest, and a warm and friendly guy; we were very sad when we had to leave him. The personal service and excellent job is something a lot of people in the same position could do - but in all our internet searching only Ahmed's name came up consistently - anyone could do this, but only Ahmed does it. We cannot praise enough the job he does. It includes the personal touches, like calling in favours to help when we thought our camera was lost, or arranging (unrequested) for a birthday cake during our stay in Cairo, when he noticed the date on my passport.

Finally, let me add one more advertisement for the people of Egypt. They were all so incredibly happy and friendly. Since the revolution, and all the bad press, tourists seem to be afraid to visit Egypt. When I told people at home where I was going, half said "that's my dream trip too!" and half said "don't get shot!". When we drove through Tahrir square and there was nothing - about 4 tents and a few banners, but otherwise nobody to see and traffic just zipping through. There was a major (peaceful) demonstration one Friday while we were there, but no evidence of problems where we were or any tourist sites. The day after we left, a bunch of masked armed men (likely former secret police enforcement thugs) attacked a peaceful sit-in outside the Defence Ministry and killed about a dozen people, which has sparked follow-on demonstrations, but there was no evidence of this sort of trouble where we were and this sort of event has zero impact in any tourist areas. Cairo is a huge city of 20 million; much of the trouble occurs around a few small areas by government offices, well removed from tourist hotels or sites. Cairo seemed much safer than North American cities. I did not feel threatened; the carriage drivers in Luxor may have been annoying and persistent in their sales pitch, but at no point was I feeling physically in danger. Ahmed or our other guides accompanied us at each attraction, so there were a lot fewer harrassing souvenir sellers, and we never felt intimidated by anyone and a local guide can understand if a situation is difficult enough that it is time to leave.

Tourism has suffered to the point where many attractions are almost deserted - our gain but the people's loss. When we were at Valley of the Kings, there used to be big line-ups to go inside every tomb, but we went into each with no delay, including the 2 extra. There is no reason to avoid Egypt. Whatever you may hear about politics in the months ahead, the country is safe to visit, and the best way to see the country is with someone local.
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May 7th, 2012, 04:53 PM
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Great trip report. I was in Egypt at the same time as you were and I do think that being amongst the only few tourists was an advantage. No crowds or lineups.

Although on a tour with a dozen people, I too felt that our guides were wonderful and well educated. In Cairo, during our free time, we hired a private driver, Fareed,through the hotel who would drive us to take a fellucah, to the khan-an-khalili bazaar and restaurants while staying close and drive us back for very little money.

I felt safe everywhere in Egypt (I did take a nile cruise and loved it)and there are tourist security in white uniforms everwhere just keeping a lowkey eye to make sure your visit stays that way.

Now...how about that Cairo traffic?
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May 7th, 2012, 06:02 PM
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MD
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We were lucky in that some of our days in Cairo were the Coptic Easter/spring Holiday, so traffic those days was very light - but still challenging.

The complaint by some locals is that the police do a lot less since the revolution, they are afraid to throw their weight around. Not that this is unsafe, just that where even seatbelt and speeding laws were strictly enforced, now it's more of a free-for-all. Where regular highway checkpoints used to carefully check papers, the police just sit and watch the traffic go by.

The amazing thing is that with all this laxity, in fact things are as calm, peaceful, law abiding and safe as always.

But yes, the toruist police are at all the sites, and the sites have remained safe and undisturbed and intact. When you consider what happened to the Baghdad Museum, this is all the more amazing and a tribute to the Egyptian people.
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May 7th, 2012, 06:13 PM
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Thank you I enjoy your Trip Report very much.
Brought back some nice memories.


Glad everything went well.
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May 7th, 2012, 10:48 PM
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Yes, while everyone considers Cairo more chaotic and dangerous than before - it still is AMAZINGLY safe. We are now, at a "more chaotic and dangerous" stage, about the same as any other International large city. It gives you some idea how safe it was here before.

MD said - "The amazing thing is that with all this laxity, in fact things are as calm, peaceful, law abiding and safe as always."

Cairo has always had a bad rep with the western world simply because it is in the Middle East. The reality is that it was MUCH safer than most other big cities for tourists. Now it is about the same.
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May 8th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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<<>>

We were there in 2008, well before the upheaval, and saw NONE of the above (and we were driven from Aswan to Luxor, as well as all around Cairo, both in our private van, and in taxis). In fact, I'd have been disappointed (although I wouldn't have known any better) had we NOT had to deal with Cairo traffic --- it's one of my enduring memories of Egypt!

Regardless, great report!
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May 9th, 2012, 03:38 PM
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MD
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Hmmm... We actually had to stop at one checkpoint between Luxor and Abydos. Maybe the comment was the sort like "Mussolini made the trains run on time", nostalgia for when things were more controlled. We saw a lot of very young kids driving motorcycles and scooters, for example. Several people mentioned that since the revolution, people seemed to assume the old rules did not apply. Between our trip out to Abydos and the return to Luxor, someone actually chipped a trench in the highway asphalt as a speed bump. Apparently a lot of the speed bumps are simply made by locals since the police don't stop them.

We also saw a convoy of police vehicles and front end loader equipment. Someone suggested it was police going out to enforce building permits. Since the revolution also, people had decided that building permit laws did not apply, and the police have to knock down unauthorized building. On the highway to Alexandria from Cairo you can see one building under construction where the pillars have been broken to collapse it - another unauthorized building I assume.

Not that there's any serious lawlessness, as I said before. Things are very calm. Just things like building permits also include fees and taxes, apparently, and some have taken advantage of the chaos to escape paying the fees.

Obviously in the relatively slow traffic of Cairo, things are not dangerous, just crazy. Everything works in the end because all the users of the road, from big cars to donkey carts, understand the reality. Yes, the traffic is really quite enjoyable, especially the way everyone makes their own lane as necessary. Just thanks to Ahmed, we did not have to do the driving!
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May 11th, 2012, 04:47 AM
  #8
MD
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Good grief, I must have still been jetlagged!!! The trip was April-May 2012, not 2011. I can't believe I proof-read that and did not catch the error. Sorry folks!
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May 26th, 2012, 02:00 PM
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Thank you for a very nice report. We are considering Egypt for vacation this yes, but won't be able to go until after late September. I think it will begin cooling around that time, or at least I hope so.

I've been reading that Egypt is very economical presently. Did you find it to be such? Thanks.
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May 27th, 2012, 01:17 AM
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CarolineC - Yes, October is good weather, but November is perfect weather, if that is a good time for you to travel.
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May 27th, 2012, 07:36 PM
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Thank you for the wonderful report. We too hired Ahmed on our trip fall of 2010. He is a prince-our trip was perfect-he made sure our anniversary and my birthday was special. We too went to Petra and Alexandria but did the Nile Cruise-This was a trip of a lifetime and Ahmed made it flawless.
PS I'm glad you did a report-I'm ashamed to say I did not so thank you -Chris
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May 27th, 2012, 08:52 PM
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MD
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All things considered, yes, it is economical.
If you are expecting very very cheap, no. I strongly recommend that you go with at least a private tour guide. The prices for these and organized tours have not come down a great deal; but the good tours, the entrance fee is included. The "el cheapo" tour operators may try to take you to "souvenir opportunities" where they get a commission.

On the other hand, a 5-star hotel like Mena House Oberoi where we stayed is listed on Hotels.com for $200/night roughly - around the corner from the entrance to the Giza pyramids. Keep in mind the cheap rooms may not be facing the pyramids... However, Cairo Ramses Hilton averages $115/night ; hotels in Luxor look painfully cheap, even the 5-star.(both based on random dates in mid-September).

Round trip flights - I check and Cairo-Luxor is $239 (round trip); Cairo-Aswan $271. So you can see flights are not outrageous either. Just go to Expedia or whatever and price out whatever your rough plans are. Keep in mind that if tourism continues to be way down, EgyptAir is likely to be consolidating and rerouting flights up to the last minute - another good reason to have a tour organizer watching these details for you. Our flight from Luxor to Sharm el Sheik was rerouted to via Cairo just before we started our vacation, and then the 8PM flight was consolidated with the 6PM one the day before.

Train travel? I have heard that blocking the tracks is a favourite attention-getting trick for striking workers and others with grievances since the revolution, so beware the overnight trains unless things settle down by then. Our guide mentioned getting from Cairo to Aswan took an extra 7 hours; his train home from Luxor to Aswan after we left him was cancelled that night due to "difficulties".

A Note: if you want to go to Abu Simbel - it's 3 hours by car, 45 minutes by air. Each way! I plunk the round trip (same day) into Expedia and it's $176.

However, it is safe. This is not Syria, or even Greece. CNN may make it sound chaotic, but the country is very friendly and at no time did we feel worried or insecure. Their first round of the presidential election was extremely peaceful, went off without a hitch.

Food? All our hotels were "breakfast included", a good idea. Eat enough at the start so you won't worry about the day. Most buffets in the 5-stars included (very good!) omlets cooked to order, and a massive selection of fruits, pastries, and standard breakfast items like pancakes, sausages (beef, chicken, no pork!) and cereals. We were typically too exhausted to do more than order room service at the end of the day; a typical meal, club house sandwich or burger, is around 50LE or $8.

We went to the Ritz Restaurant just a block south of the Steigneberger hotel in Luxor for one meal - recommended by our guide. Simple but very tasty local food, I had the Stegan beef stew and my wife had chicken savyardo (stuffed with cheese and mushrooms); each of those again, about $8; total bill 2 drinks and a plate of garlic toast was 152LE (plus tip) or about $25 for 2 people. I'm sure you can find fancy restaurants where you pay a lot more... that's not what we are into.

As for temperature - we read stories about sneakers and luggage wheels melting on the pavement in 40+C heat in Aswan or Abu Simbel - but in late April the worst we encountered was about 38C in Luxor; the day we visited Alexandria, April 30th, it was probably below 20C in the breeze on the waterfront - it was chilly. (At the top of Mt. Sinai I almost froze my fingers, even though I made the climb in a long-sleeve T-shirt.) In Aswan, it went from about 36C to cool with sandstorm, but I understand sandstorms are more of springtime thing so you should be OK in the fall.

If you are concerned about cost, a word of warning. Many of the tourism workers expect and rely on tips. Everyone expects a tip from the washroom attendant and hotel maid to the driver and tour guide. The local bank branch in our hotels was able to give us small bills (a huge wad of 10LE (=$1.60)) or, if you are American, bring a huge wad of nice crisp $1 bills. Nobody likes to give change, and nobody likes to break big bills. The number of tips may seem annoying, but it's their livelihood and times are very tough recently.

Plus, there's the other nickel-and-dime aspect; if you arrange a complete tour, all transport and guides and pickups and airport trasfers, you will not be countinuously encountering surprise additional charges for airport transfer, arranging guides last minute, or trying to negotiate fares or explain destinations with taxi drivers who may not speak English, etc. The taxi drivers in Luxor, according to internet comments, have a great reputation for tricks like taking you to a hotel that pays a commission, instead of the one you want to go to; or telling you that hotel is closed and offering a "better one".

Read up on the comments on these sites to get a good idea what you are likely to encounter.

It was the best vacation we ever had; we'd do it again. It's unique an special.
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May 30th, 2012, 09:55 AM
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Just happened in on this forum and saw your trip report. Really brings back great memories of our trip with Ahmed Hamed Yousif a couple of years ago now. We left 6 weeks after the end of the Revolution and, despite everyone's fears back home, had an amazing vacation. I will always remember walking into our room at the Mena House Oberoi, laying on the bed, and gazing up at two pyramids! Egypt is great, has lovely people and amazing sights. Ahmed was a wonderful guide and we will hopefully go back one day...
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 07:15 PM
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I read a report like yours and I feel good about it, then I turn on the TV and hear the news of the day and I am tempted to go elsewhere. We're thinking of going in late September and I don't know how I could go about planning that far in advance when it's so volatile. It wasn't very reassuring that another couple of American tourist were kidnapped this week even though they were released quickly. I wonder which time they aren't going to be so cooperative with respect to letting them go as they normally do. I have to admit it's disturbing and we're very experienced worldwide travelers.
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Jun 3rd, 2012, 08:24 PM
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MD
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The current biggest issue seem to be demonstrations about the presidential election. The top 2 candidates were from the Muslim Brotherhood and a former Mubarak minister, 2 extremes - so the moderate middle is not happy. These 2 will run off against each other in mid-June, so the election should be settled and things working fine by September. There will still be an elected parliament, so it's likely that either one will see the need to compromise if they are elected. Sometimes things get a little out of control, but this usually happens a long way from tourist areas; plus,your guide should hlp warn you and get you away from anywhere that looks like trouble.

As for the bedouins - they are too smart to hurt any tourists, it is guaranteed to bring the army down on them. They simply want to draw attention to their grievance - if I understand, they don't see why their tribal leader should go to jail over details like bank robbery. In all cases, it seems the tourists are released in a few hours once the bedouins have made their point. I joked with our guide that most tourists have to pay to have tea with the bedouins in the desert; these few got it for free.

They tried this a few times with tourists going to Mt. Sinai in January; when we were there in April it had stopped because tourists travelled in convoys with armed escort. This latest kidnapping happened near the Israeli border. These areas are a long way from anything else that happens in Egypt, and do not invilve regular egyptians, so the rest of the country is fine.
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Jun 4th, 2012, 03:25 AM
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I really don't see where a "quick release" is comforting when considering going to some of the areas where this stuff is happening. I would avoid those areas...lots of other places to see without such a bedouin presence. I think a prospective traveler to Egypt has to expect the see the destination in world news for a long time to come...many changes and clearly not all in Egypt are going to be happy. If reading these things makes you very nervous probably not the place for you.
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Jun 5th, 2012, 04:50 AM
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Loved your trip report. Brings back memories of our Sept 2010 trip. The Mena House Oberoi is one of my favourite hotels. Loved the atmosphere and friendliness.

We too travelled with private guides arranged through Lady Egypt and like you experienced, we felt it made a huge difference when checking in to hotels, restaurants or other sites. I'd say we got a room to a suite in Egypt and Jordan about 50% of the time. When we were at the Cairo Museum the King Tut Mask room was off limits as there was a President from another country visiting and in the room with his possy. Our guide spoke to them to complain and we got in straight away.

We still speak regularly to one of our guides, Aamer and he tells us how hard some people are doing it without the tourist dollars. It is such a beautiful country it is such a shame.

Thanks for your trip report. Loved it.
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Jun 9th, 2012, 12:24 PM
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MD
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MissGreen - thank you. I'm glad you enjoyed your trip too. It is a marvellous country. I would go back there immediately if I could.

turaj - the point is, first the Bedouin problem is in the more remote areas of the Sinai. The only place where this seems to have intersected with normal tourist travel is the road to St. Catherines (Mt. Sinai) and the coastal road to Eilat and Aqaba. Most of the encounters and gunfire I've heard in the news are closer to Gaza and Tel Aviv than to Sharm el Sheik.

FOr the Mt. Sinai trip, the risky areas are now travelled by convoy with police escort - not that there has been a repeat there, but this makes sure there is not. I suspect the same thing will apply to tourist traffic along the Aqaba Gul coast now.

But - it's more like saying, if you heard there was trouble in the Bronx, would you refuse to visit Manhattan and Times Square? The must-see sights - Giza, Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel - these are a long way from Bedouin problems; It's more like saying "don't go to New York because there's trouble in Chicago..." Sharm is I think about 6 hours drive or more from Cairo, and Mt. Sinai another 3 from there; and the police escort only lasts for the first hour or so near Mt. Sinai.
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Jan 2nd, 2013, 07:00 PM
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Could you give a ballpark figure of the cost of this trip? We are planning a trip to Egypt in March, 2014. We had originally thought to use travel agent/AAA guided tour, but was wondering if your way wouldn't give us more for our dollar in addition to a more personalized vacation.
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Jan 3rd, 2013, 06:54 PM
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MD
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Hi: you can find a discussion of different prices we looked at on this page of my trip report:
http://bloggage.me/about/egypt-2012/planning-our-trip/
I don't mention the trip price we paid, but I do mention what we found for sample "group tours" along the same line.

Sorry, I don't want to get into specific prices because ours was a custom itinerary with specific options. Plus, we did not ask for or receive a breakdown. We looked at the overall price and said to ourselves, "yes, we can live with that!"

Plus, it was after a year of lean tourism, so I don't know how much of the price was a "desperation discount". Luxor and Sharm seemed to have a modeerate (but not a lot) of vistors, but at times I wondered if there were more than 3 or 4 other guests at the 5-star hotel in Aswan, for example. We had Hyundai 8-passenger vans most days; if you go when tourism picks up, will that be as available? It beats sitting in the back seat of a Passat.

Another example, our guide (the fabulous Ahmed Hamed Yousif, mentioned in the first post) made sure we got pyramid-view rooms; there's a $200-night price difference for the rooms with street view vs. pyramid view. There's the rest of the personal service aspect, and the follow your own timetable - beats being in a tour with 30 others!

If you read the news today (Jan 3) Egypt's economy has hit another speed bumb (so many speed bumps in Egypt!) Exchange rates up, gas going up soon, gas shortages, food prices going up... Prices could change in a year - for the better or worse for a tourist, I don't know.

Finally, our tour price included all 5-star hotels, all air fares except getting to and from Cairo and especially, it included Jordan - car, driver, 2 nights in a 5 star hotel at the entrance gate to Petra, a dip in the Dead Sea at a luxury resort. To clarify - Jordan is not cheap. Compare that the entry fees for the Great Pyramids at Giza are 100LE, or about $16; a ticket to Petra is 50JD or $75; Jordan likely added quite a bit to the total. We read horror stories about using the ferries to get there, or trying to cross via Israel, so we flew in and out of Amman.

So I really don't want to list a price that scares people off if it includes items they are not considering.

I suggest you price out your itinerary. There's no cost for asking. Send an email to someone like our tour organizer Ahmed; or several other tour companies mentioned on this board. If you have a rough idea what you want to see, how many days, etc. you can get a sample itinerary and price to see if it is in your league or not. No harm in asking, worst case it's too expensive. Best case, you have the trip of your life, like us.
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