Two Amazing Weeks in Egypt

Old Mar 7th, 2020, 12:51 PM
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Two Amazing Weeks in Egypt

We just returned from a two-week trip to Egypt. As usual, Fodorites were so generous with your advice before we left and it helped tremendously. I'm starting to wrap my brain around all the history we learned and the thousands of photos we took! The trip consisted of my husband, our grown daughter and me. It was the first time in Egypt for all three of us. Here are a few initial thoughts.

The country suffered tremendously after the Arab Spring demonstrations in 2011 (they call it the Revolution). The tourism industry almost completely dried up and they're working hard to re-establish it. From people we talked to, the current president, el-Sisi, is liked and is evidently doing a good job of getting the country back on its feet.

We spent about five - six days in Cairo, divided between the beginning and the end of the trip, about four days in Luxor and two days in Aswan. With travel between cities, it was 13 days in country in all. All in all, we felt that it was the right amount of time in each place for what we wanted to do. We wanted to pack in as much as we could, so there was little time for relaxation and we didn't take a Nile cruise, although we saw dozens of those boats along the Nile. We felt we saw as much as we could possibly have in that time.

I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting, but it was somewhat different than I thought it would be. Fascinating - yes, definitely. But also more "third world" (is that even an accepted term these days?) than I expected. The poverty is stunning, especially in the countryside. Our daughter said she's never seen so many donkeys in her life. We were told that some children, especially in rural areas, don't go to school because they're expected to work on the farm. I know that's not unique to Egypt, though.

We had been warned about the hassling, especially from shop keepers. It was unrelenting, but that's their culture and I don't begrudge them. It gets tiring, though, when it's ever-present and some even follow you out of the shop after you've told them no. But again, it's the culture. Customer service was mixed; some was excellent but there were many times and places where it seemed like an afterthought.

We hired Go Luxor Tours for drivers and Egyptologists. I can't say enough about them; they were outstanding! They met us at the pre-determined times and the drivers were outstanding especially given the chaotic traffic in Cairo and the condition of the roads in the rural areas. We had Egyptologists in each city who were knowledgeable, friendly and spoke excellent English. I don't think you could go wrong with them.

We booked the Ramses Hilton in Cairo on points. It's a huge hotel on the Nile right across from the Egyptian Museum, although that's scheduled to relocate to Giza later this year. It was OK; a little tired and in need of a face lift, especially in the public areas, but the biggest complaint we had is that it's located at the intersection of several streets that make it all but impossible to take a walk out of the hotel! We would have liked to stroll along the Corniche by the Nile, but we couldn't cross the streets to get there!

We also stayed in the Hilton in Luxor which was a totally different experience - amazing! A beautiful resort literally on the banks of the Nile. Everything was first-rate and we could have easily stayed there longer than four days.

In Aswan we stayed at the Movenpick on Elephantine Island. It was also a very nice hotel. It's a three-minute boat ride from the mainland but the hotel provides constant shuttle service across the river at no charge.

And of course, there's the incredibly rich history of Egypt. It's really overwhelming and there were many "pinch me" days. So many of the carvings in the temples and tombs have preserved their original colors, the hieroglyphics, the stories that were told, and the feat of building those magnificent structures is mind-boggling. We felt so fortunate to finally be able to see and learn everything we did after wanting to visit Egypt for many years.

February was a perfect time to go. We didn't see a drop of rain and the temps were in the low 70's. I see that Aswan will reach 100 this week. I know it's dry, but still...the sun is strong.

Like any other country, you need to be aware of your surroundings, but at no time did we feel unsafe in Egypt. We were given armed escorts while driving in a few places in the countryside.

I write a travel blog and have just published the first two posts. I get no money from it; it's purely a labor of love. If you'd like to follow, it's www.twoboomersabroad.com. I'm going to break the posts into short segments so with all that we saw, there will be many more published over the coming weeks.

Again, it was an incredible experience; thanks to all of you who provided information and advice!

Ellen







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Old Mar 7th, 2020, 02:40 PM
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Thank you so much for your report, Ellen. I'm in the middle of planning a trip to Egypt for this coming November and December. We're thinking about a similar length of time and visiting the same places you visited, with perhaps the addition of Abu Simbel.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 03:16 AM
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tripplanner, we also went to Abu Simbel. I couldn't find a hotel there that caught my eye, so we stayed in Aswan and drove down.. Are you planning to sleep in Abu Simbel? I'd love to look at your itinerary when you have it done.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 05:20 AM
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Thanks for the highly informative report, ellen. I have been toying with the idea of a trip to Egypt [which I would do as a tour rather than by myself] but never really found one i liked. Your report should help.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 07:51 AM
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Thanks Ellen. Right now Iím thinking:

Fly into Cairo, stay 4 nights
Fly to Abu Simbel via Aswan, stay 1 night
Fly or hire car and driver to go to Aswan, 2 or 3 nights
Travel on a dahabiya from Aswan to Luxor, 3 nights
Luxor, 4 or 5 nights

How was visiting Abu Simbel as a day trip? Were you on a tour bus?

How are crowds at the major sights these days?

Iím hoping the Grand Egyptian Museum opens by the time we go too.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 08:21 AM
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tripplanner, 4 nights in Cairo sounds right depending on what you want to see, but generally it should give you enough time.

Are you thinking of staying in Abu Simbel when you visit Ramses' temples? I couldn't find any hotels that were attractive, so we stayed two nights in Aswan and used that as the base for both Abu Simbel and the Nubian village. Abu Simbel is a very small village! We felt that two nights in Aswan was adequate, although we weren't able to see the Aswan High Dam which we would have liked to see.

We had a driver and drove from Aswan to Abu Simbel and back in a day. It was a long day, but not a problem; we were back by dinner. Many people leave at 4:30 a.m. in order to arrive in the morning (it's a four-hour drive). I'm not sure why. By 8:30 you've missed the sunrise and the busloads of tourists passing us en route indicated that there must have been crowds in the morning. We arrived around 12:30 and had it almost completely to ourselves. It's possible to fly from Aswan and a lot of people do, but we didn't want to pay the high fare. And it was fascinating to see the desert between the two cities, so driving one way would be a good option in my opinion.

We stayed four nights in Luxor and we could easily have spent one more night, especially since the resort was so beautiful.

We had almost all the tourist sites practically to ourselves. We saw the most people at Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. I take a lot of photos for our blog and it wasn't hard to get them without people in most places. There were also quite a few people at the Pyramids, but it's such a huge area that it wasn't an issue.

Our guide in Cairo said that the new Egyptian Museum will open in October or November. I'm not sure how solid a prediction that is. The Egyptian Museum was amazing, but there's a lot of opportunity for displaying their artifacts more effectively. I'd love to see the new museum.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 08:25 AM
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annhig, as I mention in the original post, I'm starting to publish posts on our blog. It will take several weeks for all of them to be written and published due to everything we saw, but taking a look at it might be beneficial for you in planning your trip - there's so much to see! It's https://www.twoboomersabroad.com/.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 08:55 AM
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Thanks Ellen. This is very helpful. Yes, Iím thinking about a night in Abu Simbel when visiting Ramsesí temple.
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Old Mar 8th, 2020, 10:01 AM
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<<annhig, as I mention in the original post, I'm starting to publish posts on our blog. It will take several weeks for all of them to be written and published due to everything we saw, but taking a look at it might be beneficial for you in planning your trip - there's so much to see! It's https://www.twoboomersabroad.com/ >>

Thanks Ellen, I'll look out for it.
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Old Mar 9th, 2020, 02:53 AM
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Originally Posted by tripplanner001 View Post
Thanks Ellen. This is very helpful. Yes, Iím thinking about a night in Abu Simbel when visiting Ramsesí temple.
Staying there will make your trip easier. Please let me know what hotel you decide on! The trip to and from Aswan was pretty amazing - four hours each way of nothing but desert. We even saw mirages!

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Old Sep 13th, 2020, 12:03 PM
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DH uttered the magic word "Egypt" this morning, and this was the first place I came to read about it. Your trip sound wonderful Ellen, I'm going now to check out your blog. Thanks for the Go Luxor Tours recommendation; I tried to plan an Egypt trip a couple years ago with a private guide, but the cost was too high. Drivers from A + B and guides in each place sounds much better cost-wise.
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Old Sep 14th, 2020, 03:34 AM
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xyz99,

Our trip was indeed amazing and we're so glad we were able to get it in before everything shut down. Go Luxor Tours was not the least expensive quote I got (I think I got three quotes); if you want the names of the two other companies I contacted, I can try to find them. Go Luxor got such excellent recommendations that I felt confident choosing them, and they were indeed excellent.

We're actually seriously discussing returning. We felt we didn't get as much time at the Pyramids as we would have liked and we'd like to see the new Egyptian Museum after it moves to Giza. You won't regret going, and don't hesitate to ask more questions. And I hope you enjoy reading the blog articles!

Ellen
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Old Sep 14th, 2020, 08:21 PM
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Thanks for your report. Egypt is definitely on my list.
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Old Sep 29th, 2020, 09:53 AM
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Hello Ellen, we were in Egypt for 10 nights about a year ago - previously, many years ago, on a trans-Africa trip (my home was on a maize and tobacco farm in Zambia when I was a kid) I spent more time in Egypt and on to Sudan, Ethiopia etc...
I desperately want to do more of Egypt soon, I just loved the atmosphere: the problem is Covid, what is the situation on Covid in Egypt at this point in time, seeing as you have recently been there, I would appreciate your input? Thanks
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Old Sep 29th, 2020, 05:46 PM
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Thanks Ellen, we are seriously considering Egypt for early 2022, just waiting to see what happens with Covid. In the meantime I am taking copious notes and planning days. And....the way it always goes....what if we add Petra/Jordan? And now we're talking about a 3 weeks trip, not 2...we'll see. I was originally considering a private guide, but the quotes I got were astronomical, and after reading a few TRs I realized I can do this myself. We can get individual transfers and individual guides though hotels or through companies like Go Luxor Tours, and for a fraction of the price.
I read and saved your blogs, and I think I remember you dad 1 day for the pyramids? How long do you think you would've liked? And organized how? Thanks.
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Old Sep 30th, 2020, 03:00 AM
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xyz99, we did Saqqara and the pyramids in one day. Our guide debated about which to do first and due to the fact that he thought it might be hazy/foggy in Giza that morning, we started with Saqqara. It was amazing and we spent quite a bit of time there. After lunch and buying a carpet, we ended up with not a lot of time at the pyramids, probably about two hours. It's a huge area and we felt afterwards that we just hadn't spent as long as we wanted to. If you want to go into the pyramid, you'd need more time, too; we didn't do that.

And of course the sphinx is there also and you'll want at least 45- 60 or more minutes to marvel at it. If (when) we return, we'll plan to spend at least a half a day there. I would also recommend learning as much as you can about them before you go. I did The Great Courses and it was so interesting and helpful.

I think a lot of people combine Egypt with Petra and if you did that, I'd strongly recommend three weeks. Two weeks in Egypt, especially if you include Aswan and Luxor, is not too much.
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Old Sep 30th, 2020, 03:10 AM
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particiabrogan, we were actually in Egypt the last two weeks of February. We felt so fortunate that we got in under the wire, just before the world shut down. I know they've opened back up to tourism but my understanding is that everyone entering the country needs a negative Covid test to enter. It sounds like you were there not long before us, actually. We're not considering returning until Covid is much more under control. So frustrating!

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Old Sep 30th, 2020, 01:23 PM
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Based on your comments and others that I read, I think 2 days (one for Giza and one for Memphis and the old pyramids) is a good allocation. Then another 2 maybe for the museum and islamic Cairo. With Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel, 2 weeks is not even enough...
But we have lots of time for planning, thanks!
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Old Oct 1st, 2020, 04:08 AM
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I think your time allocation is good. Are you interested in Coptic Cairo also? If so, that's another half day at a minimum.

Do you know where you're staying yet in Luxor? I talked about our hotel in the blog article and briefly here on Fodors. I think I could live at that hotel!

Egypt is such an incredible country and you'll have so much fun planning your trip to say nothing of experiencing it!
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Old Oct 2nd, 2020, 05:47 PM
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I'm still gathering info, but yes, Coptic Cairo is of interest, too. We'll need some time for it too.
No idea about hotels yet, I guess that will come last. Depending on how long this whole trip will end up to be, we might be able to splurge on nicer hotels (or not).
Which company did you use for the balloon ride? Thanks.
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