Trip Report to Egypt and Jordan

Jan 6th, 2012, 04:34 PM
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Trip Report to Egypt and Jordan

We returned last week from a quite wonderful quick, two-week trip to Egypt and Jordan. Longer would have been nice but Christmas vacation schedule didn’t allow for more. Hopefully we will return some day.

For those of you contemplating a visit to Egypt, I can only say to do it now as seeing the wonders at this time when many are not traveling is unique and special. There were places where we found ourselves alone when normally there would have been lines. Nowhere was crowded. Actually it is sad to see what has happened to tourism and what it is doing to the thousands of Egyptians who work in the industry.

At no time did we feel in danger or that our safety was in jeopardy, even in the area around Tahrir Square. At least during our stay, demonstrations were very localized and did not seem to have impact on the day-to-day functioning of society. We were able to have some very interesting discussions with many Egyptians while we were there—all of them very proud that they were able to actually vote in a meaningful way. Their opinions were all over the place in terms of what parties they were supporting and whom they wanted to prevail but they were united in their hopes.

In our short time in Egypt, we began with 3 days in Cairo, staying at the wonderful Mena House in Giza where gazing out our window on the pyramids was totally surreal. It was a pinch yourself moment.

We had been afraid that the Egyptian Museum might be closed due to its location on Tahrir but thankfully it was open. Amazingly, we were alone in the room with the treasures of King Tutankhamen and so had as much time as we wanted just trying to absorb the riches. A treat which I am certain not many people have experienced. Our tour guide and trip arranger, Ahmed Hamed Yousif, who had been recommended to us by a friend, had been one of the Egyptians who had protected the museum during the January revolution and who had some interesting stories about that time and in particular guarding the Tut treasures from looters trying to get in through the roof windows. It is fortunate for the world that the museum was guarded and protected as opposed to the disaster in the Baghdad museums.

While in Cairo we had time to visit the Old Coptic area, the fascinating Khan el-Kahlili—where I would like to have spent more time exploring, and a trip out the country side to the Step Pyramid which was the first of the pyramids. Ahmed, who was a meticulous planner, accompanied us on all our Cairo excursions which added to our sense of security. He is an Egyptologist and so was able to shed much historical insight into what we saw.

From Cairo we flew to the magnificent, not to be missed, Abu Simbel. The temples erected in the Nubian area by Ramses II—one for him and the other for his favorite wife Nefertari. These are the temples that were moved up the mountain at the time of creating Lake Nassar and the Aswan Dam. They along with other rescued temples would have been lost to the world if global efforts to save them had not been successful. Again we had a magical moment of being the only people inside these temples as they opened to the morning sunlight. In my opinion, a trip to Egypt would not be complete without going here. Ahmed had arranged for us to stay at the Eskaleh Nubian House which was a real highlight for us. It is a very simple, unpretentious, authentic small inn. We loved staying here even more than the glitzy other places of our trip. I highly recommend staying here if you plan your own trip or have a planner—unless you require luxury which this is not.

From Abu Simbel we flew to Aswan to begin our 4 night Nile cruise which was delightful. We were on the Sonesta company’s Moon Goddess which was very nice, although it is probably ready for a renovation sometime soon. We found the service to be very good, low key and pleasant. As with all of our trip, Ahmed had arranged a private guide which we appreciated as we could see things at our leisure rather than in the larger groups offered by the boat. We still had time to socialize and make friends during meals and evening activities. Our boy made several friends whom he now corresponds with on FB including a young lady from Singapore. I should say that all of the guides chosen by Ahmed were very knowledgeable, courteous and enjoyable and made us feel valued as clients.

The cruise ended in Luxor where we went to the Valley of the Kings, Karnak, Luxor Temple, Queen Hapshepsut’s Temple, Tombs of the Nobles and other lesser known places. Because we had a private guide we were able to do these places over two days whereas those using the boat’s guides did them in two sessions on one day.

We spent Christmas Eve and day at the Sheraton Luxor Resort which was very beautiful, overlooking the Nile—picture perfect. The hotel decorated for Christmas with lots of green and red and a decorated tree. We had brought a Christmas stocking and small gifts for our 13 year old so that he didn’t feel completely forgotten. Of course, he knew that this magnificent trip was his real gift.

From Luxor we flew back to Cairo and on to Amman Jordan and then drove to Petra. Again Ahmed made all the arrangements for us, including all domestic travel within Egypt and the international travel to Jordan. Our new guide and driver met us at the airport and was with us for the rest of the Jordan time.

What to say about Petra other than it is truly spectacular? I keep a blog and will be writing much more with pictures as so much of this trip is told in pictures rather than words. In Petra we had a wonderful time including riding horses through the Sig and donkeys up the hills on a visit to a Bedouin family. Great memories. We stayed at the Movenpick Hotel which is situated at the entrance to Petra.

From Petra we drove the King’s Highway back to Amman, stopping at a crusader fortress, Mt. Nebo and Madaba on the way. We enjoyed the landscape and getting a feel for southern Jordan which was quite different from the northern section we saw the following day.

Our last day we had a tour of Amman, a stop at the citadel and then the Roman ruins of Jerash, which we found totally fascinating. Having lived in Italy and been to many Roman ruins throughout the world, we were not expecting the extent and quality of preservation that is there. I am thankful that a friend encouraged us to include this in our itinerary and I encourage others to do so, too.

I know that many people have recommended Ahmed Hamed Yousif and that some have questioned why so many people say so many good things about him. The simple answer is that he is good at what he does. From the first contact made with him he is solicitous, determines what it is you want to do, the type of accommodations desired, etc. He offers suggestions, which are usually spot on, but is willing to bend if you want something more or different. For us he threw in some special surprises along the way—which I am quite certain is his usual M.O. His plans worked flawlessly for air travel, guides, hotels, excursions, etc. We did not have a single negative disruption or event. This can only be because of meticulous planning by someone who takes pride in what he offers. We were traveling in a country where many friends thought we were crazy to be at this time but our confidence in Ahmed (due to friends who had used his services in the past) was well placed. Ahmed can be reached at [email protected]

I should probably add that Ahmed does not only plan comprehensive trips but also can be contacted for simple tours of Cairo, etc. He covers all areas of Egypt, not just the parts we visited. We are very experienced travelers who typically plan our own itineraries. We have high expectations when we do work with someone else. Ahmed met our expectations and requirements which is about as high praise as I can give.
janelp is offline  
Jan 6th, 2012, 08:55 PM
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So happy you enjoyed your time and can now report along with so many of us that Egypt (and especially Cairo) are not dangerous or the war zone that CNN (and most other news agencies) would have you believe.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 12:41 AM
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Wonderful report brings back memories
Still always wise for me to monitor consular advisories
and looks like the Muslim Brotherhood
will win elecetions if ever held to me.
Odds are that will not be a good thing.
Happy Travels with an abundance of caution.
qwovadis is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 05:00 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to post your wonderful report. I have friends leaving for Egypt in a couple weeks and they are a bit concerned. Your report will certainly confirm what I have been telling them.
schmerl is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 07:33 AM
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qwovadis - please tell us what YOUR personal experience is that you can say that "odds are, that will not be a good thing" if the MB win the elections? What do you know about them and what they have done here in Egypt? What you hear on TV? Comeon - let's listen for a minute to the intellegent Muslims that tell us that the MB members are businessmen and won't be cutting their own throat by killing tourism. (I DID NOT SAY KILLING TOURISTS - I SAID KILLING TOURISM) Rather than scaring people. Let's give them 1/2 a chance. Please.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 09:06 AM
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Qwovadis... The threat in Egypt would not come from the Brotherhood but from El Nour which is an ultra-conservative group. From what I have read and in talking with Egyptians during our brief visit, the MB may make the country more Islamists but has no intention of moving the country backward or introducing repressive policies It is pro-growth and national maturity. El Nour on the other hand represents views that would lead to repressive policies and seriously damage the tourism industry. Fortunately, El Nour, while polling better than anticipated, is very unlikely to be successful

Yes, you are right that when traveling to a conflicted part of the world it is wise to follow State Dept information. As fas as trip insurance, that is always an individual decision based on many factors. We typically do not buy it.
janelp is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 07:38 PM
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janelp-Thank you so much for your report. We also hired Ahmed Mohamed Yousif. I started to write a report and I am embarrased to say never finished it. You were so lucky to have such a wonderful man organize your trip. We also stayed at the same small hotel in Abu Simbel. You are so right-It is not fancy-but the owners were wonderful. It was the best airconditioning on our whole trip.
Did you happen to have the guide Mohamed in Upper Egypt? If you did he was marvelous. In Jordan was you driver Bashir-Also a wonderful man.
I do hope tourism picks up for Egypt-we had wonderful memories and Ahmed made our anniversary & my birthday special.
BeniciaChris is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 07:46 PM
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Chris, we had Mohamed in Upper Egypt you know that name is not very definitive. Ours was a young man and very knowledgeable. We liked him very much. And yes, Bashar was our driver in Jordan we liked him, too. As with all the people Ahmed set us up with, these two men were excellent. Wsh I could figure out how topmost photos here, glad you liked the report. My blog address is if interested in reading more.
janelp is offline  
Jan 7th, 2012, 10:19 PM
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janelp - thanks for clarifying the difference between the MB (Freedom and Justice Party) and the Salafeen (El Nour Party). It is the Salafeen that are more of a threat, but I'm waiting to see if the MB will keep them under control.
I'm trying to be an optimist until I see actual signs of anything that could hurt our precious Egypt as we know it.
Casual_Cairo is offline  
Jan 8th, 2012, 09:31 AM
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Janelp, to post photos here, you first need to upload them to an online service or website, for example, picasa or shutterfly. Have you done that yet?
sf7307 is offline  
Jan 8th, 2012, 01:56 PM
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Thanks you for posting this excellent report. I expect it will be very helpful planning our own trip to Egypt.
Fra_Diavolo is online now  
Jan 8th, 2012, 02:08 PM
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Thanks for posting Jane.
Femi is offline  
Jan 9th, 2012, 01:12 AM
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Nice report, I'm happy for you
Maybe I'll post my report too
Travelline is offline  
Jan 11th, 2012, 12:21 PM
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I live in Luxor and was in Cairo at Christmas and I agree with everything you say...Egypt is as safe as anywhere else and now is an ideal time to visit. People should not judge a whole country by the events in a tiny area of a huge city
LuvLuxor is offline  
Jan 11th, 2012, 12:27 PM
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Re the muslim brotherhood. I was the first western women to talk to Luxors newly elected FJP representative and was very impressed. They are intelligent people not the ''bogey men'' the western press would have us believe. But then good news doesnt sell papers does it? Admittedly alcohol may be a sticking point re tourism but thats all. They aim to treble the numbers of overseas visitors to Egypt....hardly the views of a radical extremist party?
LuvLuxor is offline  
Jan 12th, 2012, 04:32 PM
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I think this may not be allowed but will try. Having done this trip report, I am also blogging our trip with pictures for those of you who like pictures (I do.) Maybe this will be deleted and that I understand. So far I've just covered Cairo but it will all be there in time.
janelp is offline  
Jan 28th, 2012, 10:03 PM
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janelp-Just popped in to see how Egypt was doing. Yes,Mohamed was young and quite knowledgable-and very protective of us. A quite hansome young man. He was our guide in Upper Egypt-the cruise also. I beleive he has family in Aswan. Both he & Bashir in Jordan really made our trip memorable. Thanks for your blog and pictures-Chris
BeniciaChris is offline  
Feb 14th, 2012, 08:03 PM
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Just looking at your blog, janelp, and that's "our" Mohammed, too! He was so good to us on our trip last March--patient, kind and willing to try to understand the "dunkoff americans" as I called us after our upteenth dumb question or comment, ha. It's hard to believe it's almost been a year since we were in Egypt... We are super satisfied Ahmed Hamed Yousif clients and hope to have him arrange another trip for us one day!
nola77382 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2012, 12:31 PM
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Some have wondered about travel in Egypt. Evidentally you felt safe, maybe with a group. Yes, I remember the wonderful museum and old Jewish section, step pyramid, etc. Petra truly a marvel in the desert. Didn't get to Luxor.
Bill in Boston
Ozarksbill is offline  
Feb 27th, 2012, 11:19 AM
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How much did your guide charge on markup, or how much did he charge you to plan the whole trip? I think it would help with my safety concerns if I had a guide but budget is tight since we are students!!
tlayton35 is offline  
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