Traveling through Egypt with OAT

Jan 31st, 2009, 01:17 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 754
Traveling through Egypt with OAT

My husband and I have just returned from a 17 day trip to Egypt with Overseas Adventure Travel. This is not so much a trip report as commentary and observations on the country and OAT. After all, what more can be said about the Great Pyramids, etc that hasn't already been said on this forum!!!

This was our 3rd OAT trip (one was with Grand Circle) and for the most part we were quite satisfied. I might add that we were traveling with my cousins who have taken over a dozen OAT trips and have been very pleased.

We departed on January 10th from JFK airport on Egyptian Air. We had upgraded to business class and were immediately discovered that there was no champagne or any other liquor on the flight. This was because Egypt is predominantly a Moslem country and does not offer booze! We both enjoy wine with dinner but were not able to have it in most restaurants.
Looking out the window as we were about to land, everything was in a monochromatic sand color. This was our first impression of Egypt.

Day 1:
We were met at the Cairo airport by an OAT representative who took care of our baggage and getting us on to the waiting minibus outside where our guide Tarek was waiting. We then went to our hotel, Le Passage Heliopolis located just across from the airport. Although it is a lovely hotel, it could not have been in a worse location! Roughly 45 minutes from downtown Cairo. It was about 4:30pm and we wanted to venture into the city. Tarek seemed to discourage us from going. In fact, he did not even tell us that the hotel had a free shuttle service. We decided to go in after all. We were dropped off at Tahir Square (Independence Square) and we walked over the bridge and looked at the Opera House and other museums. This reminded me of Lincoln Center in NYC, but nicer. We then had a wonderful dinner at Sabaya, a Lebanese restaurant at the Intercontinental Hotel. They called a taxi for us to return (we agreed on the price beforehand) and this was truly the cab ride from hell!! The driver got lost - had to stop to ask directions no less than 10 times - found his way into the cargo area of the airport - drove backwards on the highway - apologized to us each time he got back in the cab - and finally got us back nearly an hour and a half later! Then had the nerve to ask for his baksheesh! We now have a great taxi story to tell!!

Day 2:
We met our fellow travelers who will be with us on this pre-trip to Alexandria and took a train to the city by the sea. (I must note that on the minibus and all throughout the trip we had an armed security guard with us.)

This 2 1/2 hour ride took us through countryside as we watched farmers pull their donkey carts, people in the field tending to their crops, an occasional water buffalo, goats, children playing and garbage along the ground. The color was the same - beige, beige and beige. Except for the fertile green of the farmland, the trees and shrubs had the color of overcooked broccoli.
We finally arrived in Alexandria and were met b8-10 armed guards who escorted us to another minivan.
We had lunch at Gad's, the Egyptian equivalent of McDonalds, where we ate falafel sandwiches. The traffic is not to be believed - they don't follow, or evidently believe in traffic lights. Cars go anywhere they want, whenever they want. They use the horn excessively. It seemed to be organized chaos. The buildings are mostly made of concrete that seems to be falling apart. The salt air, plus the fact that they probably don't have the money to periodically paint adds to their apparent decay.

We stay at El-Salamek Palace Hotel, once the summer residence of King Farouk. It is a beautiful location and we stroll the gardens and grounds. We have dinner at Housni restaurant - no wine but ok. No desert or coffee is offered.

Day 3:
We leave for the Catacombs of Kom El-Shuqqafa, discovered in 1900 - the largest known burial sight in Egypt. There are 3 levels and my hubby inadvertently followed another tour group! I think our guide should have counted heads before he went on - once I realized DH was missing I went to look for him myself.

We then went to the Roman theater - a smallish coloseum and ruins that are still being excavated.
We then visit Ft. Qaitbey, a beautiful fortification built in 1480 on a small peninsula. There are lots of people strolling and vendors hawking their wares. They are not too pushy - just a little. All the women are in their galabeyas and headscarves. The men mostly in western clothing. Children laughing and playing as children do.

On the way back the 4 of us (we call ourselves the Intrepid 4) decide to get off the bus and walk back to the hotel. We ask Tarek how far a walk it is and he says 25-20 minutes. We get off and stroll along the corniche looking at the beautiful Mediterranean. Two hours later my cousins decide to take a cab back. But DH and I decide to continue the walk. But by now it is getting darker and colder. One hour later we give in and taxi back to the hotel. The next day after talking to Tarek we realize that there is a big difference between Egyptian time and western time!! It then becomes a running joke.

Dinner is on our own and we go (roundtrip taxi ride 70 pounds or $14) the The Fishmarket - a lovely restaurant on the water - wonderful food but no wine!! Many locals are eating here. We have various mezzes (appetizers), bottled water, 4 entrees. Total bill for the 4 of us was 193 Egyptian pounds - roughly $40 per couple.

Day 4:
We see the Alexandria National Museum, housed in a former US Embassy building. This small facility does an excellent job relating the history of the area from the Old Kingdom through Pharaonic era and Greek-Roman and modern times.
Then we see the spectacular Library of Alexandria - a modern building built in 2002. It houses the largest open reading area in the world.
Lunch is at Qadorna, a fish restaurant in a little side street. Supposedly this is the best restaurant in the area, but since OAT is buying lunch, we get a set menu - ok, not great. We stop in a local coffee shop for drinks as our guide smokes the shisha, water pipe. We play with local children who are eager to speak English.
We enter the market area and are fascinated by the hustle and bustle of the locals buying everything from spices to shoes to clothing. All the time, the armed guards follow. Dinner at hotel - good and yes, we have wine!!

Day 5:
We leave Alexandria by bus and stop at Wadi Natrun to see the monastery Deir Anba Bishoi in the desert. As we continue the drive back to Cairo we catch a glimpse of the Pyramids in the distance and we all get excited - after all, isn't this why we came here??
We arrive at the Hilton Pyramids Golf Resort in Giza
and meet the rest of our group. This is a lovely hotel, but also, not exactly in walking distance to anything.

Day 6:
Finally - what we all came to see - the Great Pyramids of Giza. As I said earlier - what more can be said? If you want to feel insignificant, just stand by these massive structures and think about how many years ago, (2600 BC) how long it took to build (20-30 years), how many laborers were used (100,000) and how exactly it was done (ramps). It is truly amazing. A local security officer is eager to take a picture with our arms seemingly embracing the pyramid - baksheesh of course expected.
The Sphinx seemed smaller that I expected, but grand.
We took the optional excursion that OAT offered and visited Saqqara, location of the step-pyramid of King Zoser and the tomb of Mereruka - an excellent display of hieroglyphics. Saqqara is a funerary complex that includes tombs of slaves and workers.
We get back to the hotel just in time to quickly change for the optional Sound and Light show at the pyramids. This 50 minute show dramatically lights up the pyramids along with a commentary of the history.
We sat under the stars and were impressed.

Day 6:
Another beautiful day. Weather has been absolute perfection - no clouds, no humidity, no wind - temperature around 72.
OAT's optional tour is called Spiritual Cairo. It should be included - too important to miss.
We visit the Citadel, built in 1176 to fotify the city against invaders. There is a beautiful panoramic view of Cairo. The dominant feature here is the Mosque of Mohammed Ali. When inside our guide gives us an informative talk about the religious aspects of Egyptians and we learn about the 5 pillars of Islam.

We see the Hanging Church, the church of St. Sergius and the Ben Ezra Synagogue. It is thought that the baby Moses was found in the nearby stream by the Pharaoh's daughter.

We have lunch at Naguib Mahfouz coffee shop, an exquisite place beautifully decorated by the Khan al Kahily market. We leisurely walk thru the market and buy galabayas for the party on the ship. The vendors are very aggressive and will follow you around. But if you say NO vehemently, they will leave you alone. I loved watching everyone - the man selling baked potatoes, the woman balancing her groceries on her head, the man pulling a cart loaded with oranges.

We have dinner at the home of an upper-middle class family. The home is quite modern, in a gated community and the grown children are eager to chat with us - but the man of the house, a retired general is not to be found. His wife finally got him from upstairs to come down to greet us and socialize, but we got the impression that he couldn't wait for us to leave. It was rather uncomfortable. The food was ok, but I was afraid to eat anything. As it was, several people in our group had come down with mummy's tummy and I didn't want to join them. Have Cipro, will travel!!

Day 7:
We had free time in the morning and walk around the hotel grounds where there is a golf course and beautiful homes surrounding it.
We ate lunch at Raoucha restaurant in Cairo.
We later went to the Museum of Egytpian Antiquities and saw King Tutankhamen's tomb and other impressive shrines, coffins etc. This was awesome.
We had a snack at the Nile Hilton, drove around for a while before taking an evening flight to Aswan.
I think this day was poorly planned by OAT. I would have much rather gone to the museum in the morning and then fly to Aswan, check into the Hotel Basma and spend the rest of the day in Aswan.

Day 8:
We visit the Old Dam and then the new Aswan Dam completed in 1971 forming Lake Nasser. Interesting, but I don't get too excited about these kinds of things.
We took a short boat ride to Philae Island to see the Temple of Isis. This would have disappeared under the water as a result of the dam, but it was disassembled, moved and reassembled to it's new location on nearby Agilkia Island. It is incredible to think how massive a chore this was. The majestic pillars are a sight to behold.
We lunch at Nubian House overlooking the water - good (no wine or beer).
Every tour includes visits to a carpet factory or something similar. This was no exception. We see the Papyrus Institute where there is no high pressure - we make a purchase.

Day 9:
We wake up at an ungodly hour (4am) for our optional flight to Abu Simbel. For anyone who is contemplating going here and is concerned about the additional cost - don't give it a second thought. It is worth every penny. This is yet another undertaking of a sight that would have disappeared under water had it not been moved. The 2 temples, honoring Ramses II and his queen Nefertari seem to rise over the cliff. If you have the opportunity to go here - don't miss it.
We fly back, have a short break and take a motorboat to Elephantine Island where we had a wonderful picnic -style lunch. We pass many feluccaa, beautifully decorated motorboats, birds etc. This island is the largest on the Nile. We walk through the spice market and soak up the atmosphere once again of these wonderful people.
This was the day that Obama got sworn in as president. Because of the time difference, we planned to have dinner at 8 so that we could watch the inauguration and his speech. As we continued on our way thru Egypt, vendors and other people seemed to be happy about Obama and would give us the thumbs up sign when then realized we were Americans.
Dinner was at Makka - simply terrible.

Day 10:
We leave our hotel and visit the Nubian Museum - a wonderful place describing the culture of the Nubians. We visit a local market to purchase ingredients that we will need for our cooking lesson on board the boat. (This turns out to be more of vegetable chopping than actual cooking - but fun anyway). We are broken down into small groups, given $ and told what to buy. We have to find the ingredients and haggle about price. I think all these vendors know of OAT's mission here and play the game. They all knew we needed okra!!
We board our boat - the Royal Orchid - not exactly the Monarch of the Seas, but I'm not a cruise person anyway. It is well-appointed and clean. We have lunch buffet style and get familiar with our home for the next 4 nights.
We take a felucca ride to the Botanical Gardens - a lovely setting. By the way, about baksheesh (tip) - everyone always has their hand out. What you would think would be done as a courtesy - forget it. Even if you just ask where the restroom is, baksheesh is expected. So be prepared - have plenty of 1 pound notes (equivalent of 18 cents)handy or just ignore people. Also - ladies - try to always have some toilet paper with you.
Dinner on the boat is fine the service is good and they are very accommodating - and WINE!!!

Day 11:
After a good night's sleep and a good breakfast, we leave the boat for a small motorboat that takes us to our next means of transportation - a camel ride to the Monastery of St. Simeon. I mistakenly wore sandals and spent the time flexing my feet trying to keep them from falling off. This was my first camel ride and I had a hard time balancing myself - I was afraid of falling off as the camel went down an incline. But I later got used to it and felt as if Lawrence of Arabia would come rushing past me!!
The monastery is a fortress like structure erected in the 7th century surrounded by the desert. We got back on our camel and rode 1/2 hour more to a Nubian home for tea.
Back to the boat for our cooking(?) lesson, and then we continued to sail until we reach Kom Ombo and the temple set overlooking the riverbank. This is a wonderfully preserved double temple with huge columns and perfectly symmetrical.
Tonight was the galabaya party - most of us dressed up and looked pretty good. After dinner there were games in the lounge, and I must say that I never laughed so hard in my life. It was lots of fun. Some people did not dress up - maybe they were too uptight, or just didn't want to buy the outfits, but it was an opportunity to let loose and have a good time. Now we will have what to wear for any costume party we may go to.

To be continued.......
Lolo12 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 01:48 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,601
I am having a hard time getting my mind around that it took 3 days to get you to Alexandria and to see the few sites they showed you. Did you know it was going to be that slow when you signed up for it? How much extra did you pay for that part?

It sounds good for anyone that does not want to see too much in one day or wants a slow pace.

I know if I wait to read it all, I'll get the answer to this question, but I'm curious how many days the whole trip was? 10? 14?

Also, you are right on about the location of the two Cairo hotels they've mentioned so far -
L O U S Y!

And it's interesting they seem to have found a new family to sponsor the Meal at an Egyptian home. It makes sense that they would find one out in 6 Oct if your hotel is out there, but it could not have felt all that Egyptian did it? So many of the villas out there are not that different from any house in America - unless they have decorated it with all typical Egyptian furnishings - ie: too much gold leaf and what we call Louis-Farouk furniture. LOL! It would be different though than what is normal for you, so I'm sure it was interesting. I'm sorry you didn't try the food though. I'm sure it was safe and delicious.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 07:17 AM
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We arrived in Alexandria after a 2 1/2 hour train ride - it did not take 3 days. And we did see several sights as you can see from days 3 and 4.

Now - to continue......

Day 12:
We sailed to Edfu, a town roughly half-way between Aswan and Luxor. The main attraction here is the well-preserved Temple of Horus. Construction began in 237BC by Ptolemy II and was completed nearly 200 years later by Ptolemy XII, Cleopatra's father. In the mid-19th century Auguste Mariette excavated the site as it had been under sand and rubble. The carvings on the columns and walls depict life in those times.

Back on board for lunch and the cruise to Esna.
We spend time on board relaxing and listening to our guide's talk on modern Egypt. It is eye-opening to think that what some consider to be a democratic society, is really not. Mubarak took office upon the assassination of Sadat in 1981 and he never appointed a vice-president. There are no elections, just opportunities for the people for vote yes or no. He is grooming his son to take over but the people are worried. Any challengers fear going to jail, as some have done in the past. This country is, in effect, a dictatorship and the people have serious concerns for their future.

Day 13:
The Intrepid 4 walk for a bit in the morning in Esna but there is not really much to see. However, I continue to enjoy watching how the locals live - it gives me the flavor of the people of Egypt going about their daily lives.

We continue to sail to Luxor and we 4 are eager to enter the town for the 1-2 hours we have free. Since we did not get any suggestions or guidance as to what to do or where to go, we kind of wandered around aimlessly, but still soaking up the atmosphere. We agree that OAT should have made some suggestions available.

Later, our guide brought us to the Luxor Temple - a magnificent structure consisting of massive columns and statues dedicated to the god Amun and his wife Mut. As the sun began to set and the lights came on we relished walking through this historic place in twilight.

Back to the ship for dinner. Afterward, a birthday cake appeared and Tarek took my hand and led me to the buffet table where it was placed. I said that it was not my birthday (it would be shortly after I was due to come home) but he said that it was for all those who had birthdays in January - a nice touch on the part of OAT.

Back in the lounge for the evening's entertainment. A man came and did a whirling dervish dance, then left. That was it - nothing else. If you blinked, you missed it.

To be continued.....
Lolo12 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 07:34 AM
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Posts: 754

Day 14:
We awoke at 4am for the optional balloon ride. Although several years ago my husband and I took a balloon at sunset over the canals in Burgundy, we wanted to experience sunrise over the Nile. There were 7 people from our group as we joined many others from other tours on the motorboat across the river to a van that took us to the balloon. The balloon lifted effortlessly as we floated 1500-1800 feet into the air. We looked down on the fertile area of the Nile before it becomes the sandy desert. We saw the Colossi of Memnon in the Valley of the Queens. As the sun peeked out and sent its rays upon us, we enjoyed watching the silhouettes of other balloons. The ride lasted roughly 45 minutes and we softly landed as men on the ground took the ropes and guided us to land adjacent to the van that would bring us back. Ballooning is an expensive adventure, but it was worth it.

Back to the ship for breakfast, debarking the ship and the visit to the Temple of Karnak. This is really a vast complex of temples dedicated to Amun. We saw the 100 foot high obelisk, the largest in Egypt, made from a single piece of rose granite. We learned of Queen Hatshepsut who declared herself Pharaoh upon the death of her husband. The beautiful hieroglyphics on the columns and statues is very impressive.

We were originally supposed to visit a school, but they were closed for holiday. Instead we went to the Animal Care of Egypt hospital. For no charge, locals can bring in their donkeys, horses etc for treatment and education. They don't know about animal abuse as they were never taught. Education begins with children and this facility does an excellent job. We saw horses that were just abandoned with their tack on, and sores all over. This is a very well-run place by very caring people.

We then checked into our hotel, the Winter Palace in Luxor for 2 nights. The Intrepid 4 spent some free time walking about and doing a little shopping. We find humorous the various things that are shouted out to us - for example - "I don't know what you are looking for, but I have it", "Come into my shop and get a free Egyptian husband", "We love Obama"......

gotta go - will finish later.........
Lolo12 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 10:34 AM
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 1,601
I know how long the train trip is. I see though that they took Days 2, 3 and 4 to get you through Alex.
You went up on Day 2 and didn't leave Alex until Day 5. That is a LONG time to take to see the sites you saw. It must have been very relaxing.

Which animal care hospital did you visit in Luxor? Brooke or ACE? They both do good work. I'm curious which one OAT is promoting visits to.

I'm anxious to read the rest of your report.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 12:28 PM
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In Alexandria we spent the better parts of days 3 and 4 sightseeing. Day 2 was more of a relaxing day once we arrived at the hotel. We didn't feel rushed, nor did we have too much free time.
We visited the ACE hospital.

Now for the rest......

Day 15:
We left the ship at 5:30 am for a motorboat ride across the river where a van took us to a very small Nubian village. The locals prepared a breakfast in a small clearing overlooking the Nile and we were able to see a spectacular sunrise. it was very picturesque.
Then we had the opportunity to enter a typical home. On the rooftops were corn, dates and other fruit drying in the sun. Also some concoction made of natural fertilizer that is used in the over for heating - kind of like charcoal briquets.
After the delicious breakfast (omelets, etc) we took the minibus to the Valley of the Kings where our entrance ticket entitled us to enter 3 tombs of our choosing - we opted for the tombs of King Seti, Tuthmoses and Ramses IV. Ramses's was the best with the most beautifully preserved painted hieroglyphics on the walls and ceiling. It certainly felt strange to be in these places - so many hundreds of years ago - feeling like an interloper. To view the tomb of Tuthankamen required an additional ticket - we opted not to see it as we had already seen so much of the findings there at the museum in Cairo.
We then drove around the Mountain of Thebes to the Valley of the Queens. We were disappointed that the tomb of Nefertari was closed for restoration, but we saw 3 others - tombs of Ramses's sons Amunherkhepshef (the most colorful) and Khaemwaset and that of his royal wife, Titi.

Since the massacre in 1997, visits were no longer permitted at the Temple of Hatshepsut so we stopped just to take a photo.

Then on to the Colossi of Memnon - 2 large statues of Amenhotep III 90 feet high. They were partly destroyed by an earthquake but are somewhat restored now.

Then lunch at Thebes Urban Village (same old buffet food- decent, not great, not bad) and back to the hotel.

Three of the Intrepid 4 decided to venture out on our own to yet another souk to do a little more shopping. As we did, we spoke with various shop owners and learned more of their way of life. One young man said he was planning to go to Canada to study social work as he could not make a significant living in Egypt. Another man, a lawyer, helps out in his father's shop.
I found that when shopping at these souks, it is impossible to even touch something without the full-court press imposed. I like to look, browse, touch before I decide if I want anything and that type of shopping can't be done at the market.
Finally, when I decide to buy something, the negotiations begin. First they want to know whether to quote in dollars or Egyptian pounds (I prefer pounds) they start ridiculously high and I start rather low. And the game is on. We go back and forth until we agree! The funny thing is, when you think you have struck a good bargain, you wind up seeing it at the duty free shop at the airport for less money!! Lesson learned - start even lower!!! This type of shopping is not for everyone - some folks love it, some hate it - I am somewhere in the middle.

Later in the afternoon we all gather for another optional excursion to visit the very elegant and modern Luxor Museum filled with many impressive objects. This smallish museum is very well done displaying the relics found in the city's temples. The Wall of Akhenaten is composed of nearly 300 pieces of sandstone called "talatat" depicting the daily life during Akhenaten's era.
After the museum visit we all take individual horse-drawn carriages (called hantoor) and ride through the back streets of Luxor passing the local markets of the lower class. Children rush up to the carriage with live chickens - we see people eating, shopping, shouting and just living their lives. Clothing hangs from rope across the road ready to be sold. Some of us in our group did not like the dirt on the road, or the seemingly squalor, but I enjoyed to view yet another aspect of local life. This excursion included a stop in the market for tea, but instead the Intrepids left to walk back and have dinner at Kebabgy across from our hotel for another good meal (with wine).

Day 16:
We left Luxor in the morning for our flight back to Cairo. We arrived at the same hotel we started at in the beginning of the trip, the one by the airport at about 1pm. The rest of the day was discombobulated due to poor planning on the part of OAT. The hotel was so far from downtown we could not take advantage of the free shuttle because we would not have time to get back in time for dinner. And we (the Intrepid 4) didn't want to chance another disastrous taxi ride. OAT provided a van going into town, but not back. Since we didn't want to go to dinner in the same clothes we were wearing all day, we opted to stay at the hotel, relax at the pool and have some wine. I guess we could have tempted fate, gone into town and taxied back, but we were not quite that intrepid.
We plan to contact OAT about this in our critique.

Our farewell dinner was at the Blue Nile, a touristy place on the river. Not bad, but very noisy.

Day 17:
Fly home. Our guide got us to the airport and made sure we were properly checked in. He went as far as he could with us seeing to it that we were fine.

Comments on OAT and the trip and Egypt in general:

OAT did a pretty good job, but were lacking, or at least the guide was lacking, in organization and judging time. They should have chosen a hotel in Cairo that was much closer to downtown. Our guide, although knowledgeable and personable, did not offer suggestions as to what to do with our free time. Also, in several places, such as the Nubian Museum, he would tell us what time to meet, but neglected to mention that there were very interesting sights on the same grounds. He never introduced by name our various bus drivers, nor did he teach us to say several common phrases. However, his enthusiasm for his country's antiquities was contagious and his knowledge unending. He was personable and enjoyed a good laugh.

As for the country - I don't know how it is that there aren't more automobile accidents. The traffic system is unbelievable - there are hardly any traffic lights ( not that they would be obeyed), drivers don't adhere to lane designations, constantly beep their horn when they want to change lanes or make turns. It is not uncommon for a car in the far left lane to beep-beep-beep while steering across traffic to make a right turn. And at night, many cars don't even have their lights on. Pedestrians crossing everywhere, many of whom are wearing all black. It is a wonder they aren't run over. But it seems to work for them, so who's to say?

The Egyptian people are friendly and seem to be very pro-western. They have the good fortune to live among fabulous ancient sights - but I wonder if many of them have actually been to see them. These are mostly poor people struggling to make a living. Times are a-changing and they realize the value of education - but many children of farmers do not go to school. They depend so heavily on the tourists to earn money. There were children selling bookmarks 10-12 for a dollar. And 10 postcards for a dollar.

So how did I like Egypt?
I loved to see the different culture and to stand where kings and pharaohs stood. I felt so insignificant next to the pyramids as I stared in awe of them. I loved the opportunity to visit faraway lands and see the things I have only read about. I sort of loved the fun of negotiation. I loved trying new foods while hoping I would not get sick. I loved sailing down the Nile dreaming I was Cleopatra. I loved listening to the calls to prayer imagining dozens of people rushing to the mosques. I loved recalling Jo Stafford singing "see the pyramids along the belong to me". To sum it all up - I loved Egypt.

Lolo12 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 01:27 PM
Join Date: Nov 2008
Posts: 25,535
Since the massacre in 1997, visits were no longer permitted at the Temple of Hatshepsut so we stopped just to take a photo.

Apparently, you have another complaint for OATS, because the above is simply not true. We visited the Temple of Hatsepshut in August of 2008.

This one, right?

Regarding the traffic, I've said in several posts that it will be one of our most enduring memoriies!! And as another poster said (an American who lives in Cairo) cross the street, go with the oldest person around you. Not because the drivers are deferential to older people, rather because they didn't get old by being stupid !
sf7307 is online now  
Feb 1st, 2009, 03:38 PM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,515
You need to post your review on the OAT website.You can post it so others will have an idea of what they are going to get on the trip. We just finished the OAT Red Sea tour and were quite disappointed on the quality of hotels, etc. I posted and so have several others who appeared to feel the same way. If enough people post, they will change things. Thanks.
southeastern is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 04:11 PM
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Southeastern - how can I do this without rewriting everything? The only hotel that was not of good quality was the Hotel Basma in Aswan. The ones in Cairo were good, just located in the boonies.

sf307 - it's possible that I misunderstood our guide about the temple. But I didn't see any people around the sight.

Lolo12 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 05:44 PM
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 10,823
Lolo12 - just copy and paste. It may be easiest to have 2 different tabs open (one with Fodors and one for the OAT site) - but it's easy to do. OR - copy and past your Fodors report into a Word document and then copy and post on OAT.

It does sound like OAT did a pretty mediocre job - especially with the hotels. What horrible locations!

like sf7307 - I am flabbergasted that OAT gave you that line about Hatshepsut's temple! We were there in 2001 and 2002....and our kids were there again in 2004 and 2005! The only "change" that has happened since that horrible massacre (Debbie - correct me if I am wrong!) is that tour buses cannot go directly up to the site. They have to park further away. We were there the Thanksgiving after 9/11 and while I loved basically having the whole place to ourselves (some great photos) - we could see the toll that the lack of tourists was having on the vendors and it was just sad.

As for the Egyptian driving ....well, it's just one of those things that you have to experience yourself. Because NO ONE would believe it otherwise! DH was fine driving around town and to other places (Sharm, El Gouna, Fayoum, El Alamein, etc), but I refused to venture our of our little suburb.
Grcxx3 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2009, 06:17 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 2,047
Hi Lolo12 - glad you enjoyed Egypt. I returned a few weeks ago from a GCT tour of Egypt that I loved. I guess we had many similar experiences - you can read my report if you are interested. Boy do I sympathize with you regarding your camel riding experience. I too felt like I was going to fall off.
jerseysusan is online now  
Feb 1st, 2009, 06:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2006
Posts: 842

Thanks for an enchanting story about your travels. While you did have some "less than perfect" experiences, you and your group seem to have kept your sense of humour with you. Congratulations on a lovely trip and welcome home.

teacherCanada is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2009, 05:10 AM
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Posts: 754
As I review my notes and conferred with my husband, I think I was mistaken about what I was told about the Temple of Hatshepsut. It might have been that it was not on OAT's itinerary, not that it was closed. So - sorry for the misinformation.

I began this thread by saying it would not me a trip report, but I guess that is what it turned out to be afterall.

Other than putting us up at remote locations in Cairo, and a few other details, I think OAT did a pretty decent job. One of the major advantages of using them is the small group and I like that. On a scale of 1 - 10, I would rate them an 8 1/2.
Lolo12 is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2009, 05:36 AM
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 1,515
Please try and post your report on the review section of the OAT site. As some one reported it is very easy to do and takes only a minute. I know others that are considering the trip would enjoy reading your report and some of them don't use this site.
southeastern is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2009, 01:59 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,619
Thanks for the report, Lolo12. I have friends that left yesterday for an OAT trip to Egypt. Having been there in 2002, I noted that many of the things that were a part of our tour are now optional on hers. We visited Hatshepsut's temple on the 2002 trip, so it's probably the local guide that was making an excuse for not stopping. My friend was disappointed in the hotels that were selected for their tour, the same ones you list. They aren't the ones that were listed in her original brochure; beware of "or similar", I guess! I agree that you should let OAT know about those things that you weren't happy about. You should have or be getting a survey form from them. Be detailed in your reply.
ShayTay is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2009, 02:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 8,675
We were in Egypt in '99 and Hatshepsut was open and welcoming visitors. Hard to believe it's 2,000+/yrs old, with architecture you'd see in the 21st Century. But there was security everywhere, on the ground - agents in plain cloths with weapons beneath, and in the hills above the temple - agents on camels and weapons obvious. Shame that you didn't stop here.

We were also fortunate to visit the Tomb of Nefretari, which was jaw-dropping (almost a living thing), but so delicate I can understand why it's again closed. But the extra $30 for this tomb was well worth it.

Great report.
sandi is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2009, 05:44 PM
Join Date: May 2008
Posts: 32
Hi Lolo12
I have enjoyed reading your posts. We were in Egypt last year, in Feb.-March and visited many of the same sites you did. We did visit Hatshepsut's Temple and entered Nefretari's tomb in the Valley of the Queens. Conservation of the tomb was completed several years ago. The tomb is not open to the public but is open to a limited number of visitors with special permits. It quite simply is the most beautiful tomb in Egypt. We also loved the Temple of Abydos, another must see.
Thanks for posting your detailed account. I agree with you,.. Egypt is wonderful!
baracuda2 is offline  
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