Trip Report: Egypt

Old May 29th, 2005, 07:26 AM
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Trip Report: Egypt

My niece, who has been living in Europe this past year has sent me this funny trip report on a recent adventure to Egypt. It does containt some useful information as well as being a good read. Since it is a holiday weekend I thought that some of you might enjoy it, especially in light of the recent thread about people posting trip reports...the bottom line being, some of us will read anything about anywhere to get our fix and some of us don't read any of them.

So anyway, i was totally spontaneous and booked an 8 day tour of egypt
just 30 hours before the flight left edinburgh...samantha found an
excellent deal and the opportunity was just too much to pass
basically, all day friday and then saturday morning consisted of us
rushing around like maniacs trying to prepare for such a big
excursion...after living in the freezing cold for a year we didn't
have any warm weather clothes, let alone bathing suits or sunscreen!

we arrived in cairo at 2 am sunday morning..we had our tour leader
waiting for us to get us through customs and immigration (you have to
get a visa at the airport) and then we began the first of one of my
many terrifying experiences in egyptian vehicles...the driving is
absolutely out of control here...seatbelts are completely unheard of
and as far as i can tell, no traffic rules exist. cars share lanes,
change lanes by beeping their horns, and generally just speed along
weaving in and out of those aforementioned shared lanes. my knuckles
have never been so white, let me tell you! i finally understand how
all of you guys fit into one station wagon when you were kids, i saw
so many of those cars with the extra seat space in between the back
seat and backward facing seat..i couldn't believe it. the buses run
with the doors open and animals ride right with the people...and they
are jammed with people standing and leaning off the ledge where the
doors should be.

the poverty is obvious, but not overwhelming. what i mean by that is
that its clear i'm in a third world country but i'm not depressed
looking around- there aren't starving people on the streets or naked
kids running around barefoot(however, they are swimming in the nile at
2 in the afternoon on a wednesday, apparently school isn't
compulsory). the police are everywhere and they all carry huge rifles
with them, which initially scared me like crazy, until i realized that
since tourism is such a big part of their economy, they are all over
us to protect us from hagglers...they walk you through busy areas and
tell the hasslers to leave us alone, and they escort you through the
desert in convoys in case the buses break down.

i did a tour through a company called topdeck- they provide all
accommodation, most meals, and transportation in tour buses, plus a
guide at all the major sites. we started off in cairo, did the
eqyptian museum (i loved seeing all the artifacts found in king tut's
tomb), the pyramids at giza (they are completely amazing and
overwhelming in size) and the sphinx (saw richard gere there). cairo
is a funny mix of the ancient and the modern...standing at the sphinx
you look accross the street into a pizza hut and a kfc. its also a
huge, smoggy city- its the biggest city in africa, with a population
of 16 million with another 2 million commuting in and out of the city
everyday. it seems as if a good chunk of the male population there
spends their time walking around the streets looking for tourists to
take into the shops their friends run "hey, lady, you come to my
(insert name of papyrus, perfume, or jewelry store) i give you good
price..." i was completely shocked by the amount of western tourists
they have around...australians are absolutely everywhere, and germans
take a close second (there also is an abundance of camera-happy
japanese tourists, but they're an entirely different topic).

anyway, after 2 days in cairo, we took the overnight train to aswan,
in the south of was 12 hours of misery...we went first
class, and i'd hate to see what the other carriages looked like...the
train is basically a tin can on wheels and a really bumpy ride. we
took a felucca to elephantine island, and a motorboat to the philae
temple...we also saw the soviet and egyptian friendship monument, the
dam that controls the flood of the nile, and went to dinner at a
nubian (african resturant) on yet another island on the nile. the
next day was the biggest day of the trip...after a 3 am wakeup call
(you can imagine the state i was in) we took yet another deadly bus
ride to abu simbel, 3 hours south of aswan, right near sudan. the
reason for the early start was the heat...we arrived at abu simbel at
7 am and when we left at 9 am it was sorching hot...95 degrees with no
breeze to speak of. but it was gorgeous, we saw the temple ramsses
the second built and nefertari's temple as well and it was just
stunning. my pictures are being downloaded onto a cd, and ill send
them along as soon as i pick it up.

after a rest by the pool, we took a felucca to the east bank of the
nile, where the sahara begins- and that is where the camel ride from
hell began. i initially was excited, it sounded like such a cool
idea...we were riding for an hour through the desert into an african
village...well add in the fact that it was 115 degrees outside, my
camel was a bad litttle beast, and that i was absolutely terrified of
the stupid thing, and it became a disaster. you have to lean way back
when the camel stands up or else you go flying off, and its such an
odd sensation, you feel like your going to be flung forward even
though you're following instructions. i didn't talk to anyone for
that whole hour and i only looked straight ahead...other than when my
camel broke away from the group and trotted away and i had to get some
eyptian men on donkeys and camels to lead me back to the
pack...samantha fell off her camel when she got down and it was
probably the most fabulous and hilarious sight i have ever witnessed
(she was fine).

we moved on to luxor the next day, and honestly, even though we saw
two temples that day (luxor temple and karnak temple) i can't tell you
a thing about was 116 degrees, no shade, and i left my water
on the bus so i spent most of that time fantasizing about leaving my
group and going to the hotel for a swim...

the next day we went to the valley of the kings..again, an early start
due to the heat. it was great, we got to go into three different
tombs, and its unbelievable that a. these tombs were ever constructed
in the first place and b. that anyone ever found have to
walk up probably 100 stairs to get into some of them, they are
literally built into mountains and its scary to be inside thinking
that you're 4 flights of stairs down into a cave. however, the
drawings and designs on the inside were gorgeous, and at least them
tombs were nice and cold!! we then moved on to another temple- the
temple of the queen...but to be honest, i was a bit distracted since
our tour guide decided to tell us while we were on the tram to the
temple entrance that a couple of years ago egpytian snipers hid around
the temple and opened fire on the tourists on the tram, killing 60 of
them. good timing to bring that up!

after another night train from luxor, we arrived back in cairo, where
we did the step pyramids, went to the oldest church and mosque in
egpyt and then headed to a carpet weaving school. which essentially
was a child labor factory, i can't believe that they actually allow
tours for this place. basically, if a family is poor, they can send
their kids to these carpet schools, at the age of 4! i was appalled,
it was really depressing.

we then went to the big bazaar market in was completely out
of have to cover up, which is a good thing because even
covered the men are nuts- marriage proposals and all. "hey lady, you
made my heart drop", "hey lady, i marry you give you good life" "hey
lady, how many camels do i need to give your father to marry you?" and
so on...surprisingly, i developed haggling and bargaining skills and
left with some nice purchases and incredibly cheap prices.

that was the last day there...the experience overall was wonderful,
i'm so happy that i went and the tour group was the perfect way to do
it. i arrived back in edinburgh on monday morning to rain,
thunderstorms and the realization that i now live in a hostel...yuck!
however, i have just a week left of work in the nurseries, and then i
leave for spain on tuesday.
susanna is offline  
Old May 29th, 2005, 07:39 AM
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Amazing report! Thanks to your niece for sharing. I get the feeling she must be a lot younger than me to take on a trip like this!
Old May 29th, 2005, 08:01 AM
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aggiemom: yes, she is quite young...23. She got a visa to work and live in the UK for a year after she graduated from UC Davis, spliting her time between Ireland and Scotland, with lots of traveling while she was there. I would like to think that I had inspired her with my travels, but she has a love for travel and adventure all her own.
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Old May 29th, 2005, 08:34 AM
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Can I encourage you to post this report on the Africa/Middle East forum too?

I'm sure that the people who frequent that board will find your report both interesting & entertaining.

JJBhoy is offline  
Old May 29th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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What a wonderful trip report. I was there a number of years ago and although I did not experience the train journey do quite understand the white knuckle rides through Cairo. Egypt is a wonderful country with so so much to see and do.

cambe is offline  
Old May 29th, 2005, 08:57 AM
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Thanks for the nice comments...yes, I will post this on the Africa/middle east forum.
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Old May 29th, 2005, 10:14 AM
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Very interesting! Wonderful report, mixed feelings on wheter or not I would like to go to Egypt though. I would have been so scared on that camel. Please tell your niece thanks for sharing.

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Old May 30th, 2005, 02:30 PM
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Old May 31st, 2005, 06:02 PM
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SO funny and great to read!!! You write like you talk and that makes it terrific! Thanks......
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