Pyramids, Tombs and Diving in 7 days

Reply

Feb 1st, 2013, 06:44 AM
  #1
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Pyramids, Tombs and Diving in 7 days

Its been a week since my 7 day trip to Egypt with my boyfriend, and I better write it all down lest i forget! The trip included 2-3 days in Cairo, 2 in Luxor and 2 in Hurghada. I think the amount of time i spent in each place was quite enough (though a bit more in Hurghada to relax would have been good too). This was the closest-to-perfect holiday i have ever had

Key highlights include: Pyramids (ofcourse, but only Giza), Village of the workers in Luxor (my personal favourite, even over Valley of the Kings), a hot air balloon ride over luxor west bank to see the sun rise, diving and snorkelling in the red sea!

Major takeaways: Get a good driver/guide for one day tripsfor the pyramids, one day for west bank. Local guides at the temples in Luxor/ Cairo museum are quite half hearted and not value for any money you may be able to bargain for - best to rely on a pre arranged guide, or just walk around with a book. Carry enough change for tipping (cant stress this one enough!!) Dont get stressed over touts
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 1st, 2013, 07:49 AM
  #2
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
A little bit about us:
Me: 22, Indian (we passed off as arabs in most places unless we were required to speak or had a camera in our hands - this helped a lot!), living in London. Very very active, never get tired, don't think much about dicomfort, get easily stressed out about small problems but never want to miss out on anything. This leads to hectic, jampacked holidays - the kind you need a holiday to recover from afterwards

The bf: 22, Indian, living in India (long distance....sigh...) Very laid back, calm, lazy and unwilling to make too much of an effort - takes the kind of holidays I would want AFTER my hectic one.

This being our first big holiday together (though we have been together for six years now), i was worried it might be a recipe for disaster. However, his calmness was essential for a trip across a chaotic country without a permanent tour guide, and my never-give-up-ness essential in planning it
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 1st, 2013, 09:15 AM
  #3
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Day 0:

With a "snowstorm" in London the previous day, I was quite worried about my Austrian air flight taking off. Reached the airport at 2 am for a 6 am flight in case i needed a contingency plan (i had booked backup refundable tickets through Paris!). However, we were up in the air with some minor delays, and I got acquainted with an entertaining lady on the way to Vienna, who placated my fears about missing my connecting flight to Cairo.

Flight to Cairo was long, but the lack of inflight entertainment had a great outcome - I made first Egyptian friend: a chef working in Copenhagen, visiting his family in Cairo. On landing, he insisted he drop me halfway to my hotel since the taxis were charging duoble the reasonable fare. I spent the next one hour in the company of 3 egyptian men, who had great restaurant recommendations and food suggestions
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 2nd, 2013, 01:16 PM
  #4
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,182
Enjoying your report & looking forward to more!
Leslie_S is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 5th, 2013, 12:54 AM
  #5
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Im back! Was in Madrid for the weekend (another trip report in the making maybe!) and just got some time off work as my boss is off sick (woohoo)

Day 0 Continued:

We had booked a hotel in Zamalek - Hotel Golden Tulip Flamenco - since we wanted to stay in a safe area a bit away from Tehrir in case of any problems (a good idea, as you will find out towards the end of this report...)

The hotel was in a quiet residential area, but close to nice restaurants (the kinds recommended by locals, not guide books), but still only 8-10 EGP from high end hotels for a grander dinner experience. The hotel itself was definitely good, 3-4 stars in my opinion, good rooms, great breakfast.

However, checking in was one of the most exasperating experiences I had in Egypt - one that would be repeated in EVERY hotel i stayed at!! Because i was travelling with my boyfriend, the hotel automatically gave us twin beds instead of a double bed. They even specifically asked what our relationship was (to which i eventually resorted to saying fiance to get them off my back). At one point, he was referred to as a "colleague". Twice we checked into a hotel, reached the room, and then had to go all the way back to get it changed!!

Anyway, back to the happy bits - dinner! We went to Zooba, a small local favourite, on 26 July street. It was recomennded by many websites, as well as my friend from the flight. The Koshary, Hawashi and Juices were great - a must try in the area, with great decor as well

We still had not booked a taxi for our trip to Saqqara/Dashur/Giza the next day, and call Aton Amon (recomended by lonely planet). He was available, and agreed to take us for 250 EGP. Details on next post!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Feb 6th, 2013, 03:50 AM
  #6
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,182
We found checking in to hotels to be a real hassle too in Egypt and I was with my mother not a man! The check-in took FOREVER at every hotel. At the Hyatt in Cairo after taking an hour to get checked in when we finally got up to our room there was a woman already in it - -fumbling for her robe as we unlocked & opened the door. Very upsetting for her and majorly annoying for us as we had to then wait half an hour to get to the front of the reception line again to explain the problem which then took another eternity to deal with. No apology - they looked at us like we were lying - luckily the woman had also come down to complain.

Sorry to hijack your report but it just brought that memory flashing back!
Leslie_S is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 17th, 2013, 10:55 AM
  #7
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 567
Waiting for more..looks like it's been a month, please do post. And tell me how did you find the food(I'm an indian too,so concerned if I'll get enough vegetarian,tasty food).
ashwinb is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 01:44 AM
  #8
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Thanks for the reminder Ashwin. Ive been lazy, shame on me. However, note that Im not vegetarian (not even close, i eat all meat). Zooba did have good options though, and vegetarian egyptian food is quite tasty

Anyway, lets get back to this!

I had been quite lazy regarding booking a Taxi/Guide for the pyramids. however, Casaul_Cairo had some great tips. I called up Aton Amon (suggested by Lonely Planet), and was pleasantly surprised to find him available (the situation in Egypt is clearly bad if a lonely planet recommended giude is free the night before....). As suggested by Debbie, I ask Aton to take us in Chronological order of the Pyramids. He understood immediately, and suggested we begin at 8:30 am.

Day 1: Up at 7 am, the breakfast at the hotel was fantastic (our best in Egypt TBH). The restaurant was on the top floor, and the view of the river was quite nice. After stuffing ourselves, we headed down to meet Aton. He was a very friendly man, and greeted us with two small scarab beatles shaped stones, as a sign of good luck

Saqqara: Home of the first stone monument - the Step Pyramid. We reached quite early, and the place was quite desserted. Aton came along with us and guided us along the monument. I found this very helpful, and would recommend not going by yourself, unless you have already read exhaustive guides (which we did not!)

Note: As suggested by Casual_Cairo, we skipped Memphis as it is not very impressive and is flooded with shops where we would feel obliged to purchase something....

Dashur - home of the first pyramid, as well as some rather amusing attempts at pyramids Aton suggested we go inside this pyramid as it would not be crowded at all. It was rather eerie, and I would not recommend it to anyone who is even the slightest bit claustrophobic. However, we both really enjoyed ourself (except for when the boyfriend kept hitting his back on the ceiling while climbing up or down - ouch! pays to be short )

Lunch - the most underwhelming part of our day TBH. Aton took us to an overpriced restauarnt which clearly survives on tourists being taken there by their guides. the food was so-so, but old looking (so many flies ) but, we had a view of the pyramids of Giza behind us!!!

Giza - Aton asked us if we would like to walk/camel/horse it. While I am a keen horserider, the boyfriend is not, so we went for 2 camels so that the difference in comfort levels was not too stark (im so nice). We stopped by at a souvenir shop to arrange the camels. Aton had given be a rough idea of how much they should cost but he left the haggling to me! I *think* we settled for 250-ish for 2 camels.

We left for the panorama spot from where you can see all the 7 pyramids (yes, 7! i didnt know )After some corny photographs (the guides were so enthusiastic, we did not have the heart to say no, though some photographs are great and Im really happy about them)We then started from the smallest and headed to the great pyramids. We were not very keen on going inside, having already done it once. We headed to the Sphinx, which was the only crowded place we saw all day! Again, the posing, and then back!

I'd like to stop here and talk about another issue we faced in Egypt - Baksheesh. While we were obviously prepared, and this concept is widespread in India also, Egypt was just unbelievably inconvenient because of this. We had the constant tension of making sure we had enough small change, and whether we were giving out the right amount!!


Anyway- to happier things. We headed back around 4 pm. Aton suggested we either go home and relax before heading to the Grand Bazaar, or he could drop us there himself directly. We opted for the former, as we were quite tired.

I had read some trip reports which talked about a souvenir shop "Nomad" in Zamalek, near the Marriot. We hailed a taxi around there, and it took us about 20 minutes to find the place! IMO it was not worth it, as neither of us bought anything (it was very clothes-centric, stuff you can get in India frankly)

We were unable to find a single taxi to take us downtown, and we finally gave up and headed for dinner at the Sofitel - there restaurant (Kebabgi i think) was FANTASTIC! the food was amazing, i love mango juice, we were right on the Nile, and the hookah quality was very good. One of the best dinners I have had

We then headed back to prepare for Day 2!!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:14 AM
  #9
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Day 2: Breakfast, and then off to the Egyptian Museum!
The taxi ride was uneventful (good tip, *always take the run down metered taxis - they are less comfortable, but are much much cheaper and theres no haggling involved!!!*)

We hired a guide for 2 hours, and he took us to the usual hit-list - Tuttenkhamen's treasures, the Mummy Rooms etc. The museum lived up to my expectations - full of treasures, but way too chaotic to navigate - epitomises Egypt perfectly

The guide was decent enough, but he got a bit lazy towards the end and kept saying time was up even though half an hour was left! We stayed back and roamed around a bit longer, and then headed to the Grand Bazaar.

Maybe it was the situation in Egypt, or maybe it was the day of the week. But the grand bazaar was desserted and nothing like i imagined it (Having been to Istanbul's version of it, I had high expectations)

We did not really buy anything, and headed back to zamalek around noon. We stopped at Cairo Kitchen for lunch. It was a small but nice and airy place filled with upmarket locals and had great food (Ashwin - the vegetarian food was fantastic)

We then walked to our hotel and took a cab for the airport - only 60LE by meter!! (we tipped him an extra 10 because we were so pleased at him not conning us)

<>

We landed at Luxor and took a taxi to our hotel - El Luxor. the Taxi ride was a pain (way too much haggling, and we definitely got conned - 80LE, and the airport is not far at all!)

The hotel was really grand, but they had no internet in the rooms. They also took us to twin beds despite me confirming with them about a double bed. hmph..

Anyway - our drive/guide from the pyramids (Aton) had recommeded a friend for the West Bank at Luxor. We gave him a call to make arrangements for the next day, including a guide and a driver. We were keen on going for a hot air balloon ride, but he said that would be at 3:30 am - so we declined!

Day 2: Luxor West Bank and Luxor Temple

We started at the Valley of the Kings. Our guide was really great, and the work in the tombs was exquisite. We went inside 3 of them, including the longest one.
We then headed to Hatshepsut temple (really different architecture and interesting history), and Medinat Habu.

We then visited my personal favourite: The Village of the Workers - i would NOT miss this - the tombs were small, but the work was more intricate and really well preserved - no tomb raiders here!

The Valley of the Nobles was really interesting as well, as was the Ramesseum.

We spoke to our guide regarding a hot air balloon ride at an earthly hour the next morning, and he agreed that 5:30 would be perfect to see the sunrise.

After heading to our hotel, we left for the Luxor temple which was beautifully lit up at night. We walked around a bit, before heading to the maret for some much-needed souvenir shopping. we ended up buying some papyrus paintings (of the Judgement day which we both really liked) and a bust of tuttenkhamen. Dinner was room service - we were quite exhausted!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:15 AM
  #10
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Oops, Luxor West Bank was Day 3 - Apologies!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:28 AM
  #11
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Day 4: Hot Air Balloon Ride, Karnak Temple and Taxi ride to Hurghada

The hot air balloon ride was beautiful. the view was great, especially now that we had been to all the sites on the west bank! it is one of the highlights of the trip for me. (Heard about the accident there recently, quite scary!)

After a LONG breakfast at the hotel (so-so, Cairo was nicer), we went to the temples of Karnak. Made the not-so-smart decision to walk there. we didnt realise how far it was!

The temple was awe-inspring. One feels like a dwarf walking around the giant columns! Did the customary walk-around-the-scarab-beatle-7-times-for-good-luck.

We had arranged for a Taxi to take us to Hurghada, and spent the rest of the afternoon driving through dunes.

We arrived at about 5 pm at the Marriot at Hurghada. We had opted for the service apartments which are much cheaper, and got a beautiful sea facing room (point to the reception for no awkwardness around an unmarried couple!)

The hotel was beautiful, and we walked along the private beach (completely desserted) and made arrangements for scuba diving the next day! I called up a few places to make sure prices were ok, and then opted for Aquarius diving, which had an office at our hotel.

Dinner was at the hotel, the hookah was abysmal, food was so-so.

Day 5: Diving and snorkelling!

Spent the whole day on the boat (quite crowded, with about 10 Koreans getting their open water certification). The weather was a bit chilly, but the view was fantastic. The boyfriend does not dive (Yet - he has promised to learn on our next vacation) and so i went on one dive with a group while he did the "Discover Scuba" thing.

The fish were quite great - saw some sting rays, lion fish, alligator fish, etc.

After lunch on-board, I decided to skip another dive to go snorkelling with BF. The water is really heavy, so we didnt have to swim at all, and it was just the two of us snorkelling. Really really nice, very pretty, just as much sea life (almost) - another trip highlight

Headed back around 5 pm. decided to try the italian restaurant for dinner - i have never had such bad italian food ever! Ah well, it was a great day anway
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:31 AM
  #12
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Day 6: Relax, flight back to Cairo, say hello to protestors

We spent the whole day playing table tennis, pool, cards, chilling by the pool. some much deserved R&R

Our flight to Cairo was at 5 in the evening.

Day 6 happened to be 25th of January - the second anniversary of the revolution. While our hotel was in Zamalek (same one as before), we had to drive close to downtown. the roads had been blocked by marked protestors who were stopping cars - we were quite worried at this point. However, our driver immediately turned around and took us through another route.

Dinner at the hotel - didnt want to venture out frankly!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:31 AM
  #13
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Day 7: Relax
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:32 AM
  #14
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
We decided to skip our plan for the day (Coptic Cairo) due to the protests. Instead we spent the morning at the hotel, making full use of their buffet breakfast and watched some movies in our room.

Headed to our respective flights in the afternoon. Trip was over
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 02:33 AM
  #15
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
A big thankyou to this site for helping plan this (could not have done this otherwise), especially to Debbie!

Any questions, drop me a line!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 18th, 2013, 05:38 AM
  #16
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 1,182
Thanks for finishing your report
Leslie_S is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 19th, 2013, 06:44 AM
  #17
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Shame on me for taking so long! I have now decided to sit and write down reports for all my trips in 2012. Hope you enjoy reading those!
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 20th, 2013, 09:57 PM
  #18
 
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 567
Nice report,enjoyed reading it, and quite relieved that protests dont really affect your travel plans. Was scuba diving/snorkeling at like really good? I too am not sure if I should do scuba diving, was the snorkeling good enough( how would you compare the two)?
ashwinb is offline  
Reply With Quote
Mar 20th, 2013, 11:34 PM
  #19
Original Poster
 
Join Date: Jul 2012
Posts: 119
Hey ashwin. If you are a scuba diver, you should not miss it. The sea life was quite good. However, you can see about 75% of it from snorkelling as well, and snorkelling is a pleasure because the water is so dense (I personally am not a fan of snorkelling, but I loved it here).
Most places that offer snorkelling would have diving as well, so it is all down to whether you and your partner can dive or not. I did both because my boyfriend doesnt dive.
Rushil is offline  
Reply With Quote
 



Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On


FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:45 AM.