A Practical Egypt Travel Guide

by - May 27, 2017

I did not want to start doing an Egypt travel blog. Not because I did not love it. It's definitely one of those places that you have to go to in your life. I do not want to do it because there are so many memories. The truth is that I want to leave some things that I learned there. I hope it can serve someone in the future.

Since I can remember, my mom had always said it was a dream for her to go to Egypt, the land of Pharaohs and Pyramids. For this year, while planning my vacation, I decided it was time to go. When I was planning the trip I had a million doubts. I want you to know that this is the first time in my life that I have done something through a travel agency.

In Egypt, I decided on the travel agency because I realized that it was the easiest way to do it all. In the end, I do not regret it. It is a country that is a little different from what we are used to. At least it saved me the problem of the transfers, who to hire for excursions, and the guides. I recommend that the decision be made according to what you think is best for you and not because you read this or that is very easy. Make the decision according to what you will feel more comfortable.

And as I said before, I always make my vacations without agencies, as the established plans causes me a bit of discomfort. After reading so many Egypt travel guides I had made a fixed plan in my head of what I wanted to do and this did not fit into any agency plan.

In the end, I decided to send emails to travel agencies in Egypt. I wrote what I wanted to do. My plan was to compare prices with the plans already established by the agencies and make decisions. The prices vary a lot!

The problem was which agency to choose. I chose a one who gave me a very good impression because they answered my emails quickly. They had a good price, and offered good motorboats and hotels. I went to another travel site, found people who had traveled with them and sent them messages and they recommended it to me.

Day 1 - Luxor

Finally came the day. We left London and took a Cairo flight for African lands in an Airbus. The cabin staff passes us a paper so we can fill it out. This form is to formalize the visa, thus expediting the movement of passengers afterwards in the immigration window. They give us the food with cucumber salad and mushrooms with cilantro and a choice between chicken with rice or veal with macaroni or a bread roll.

We have a quesito and strawberry tiramisu dessert and juices and soft drinks since there is no alcohol. The first impression was at the Cairo airport and there I began to see how different this country was. It is the main airport, with great movement and it has so many boarding gates and I think I saw maybe 10 satellites.

There was not much when I was there, but there were almost no tourists in the country. They ride us on a bus, and they take us to the connecting flight to Luxor in the same airport in Cairo. I did not expect it in a country like Egypt. We board the flight to Luxor (the latter surprisingly in first class without knowing it). And why start in Luxor?

I wanted to leave the Pyramids for the last. It was my dream, and I was afraid that if I saw them first, the rest of the trip would not have the same expectations. The turbulence begins and it starts to get dark. Through the window we cannot even see the sun. The flight is going well, with small moments of turbulence, but time goes by and we get closer to the destination. We have a coffee and a cupcake.

I see large cities through the window, but almost everything is of an absolute black color. At night we arrived in Luxor. There was clearly sand in the environment and heat. It was much hotter than in Cairo although it was almost 10pm. They picked us up and we slept on the motorboat.

Day 2 - Karnak

We are taken out of sleep by phone from the reception. We go super early to have breakfast and start our spectacular week. We put on some sunscreen and went to the Valley of the Kings and on the way, our first stop. The Colossi of Memnon (representing Amenhotep III) and then we saw a small temple built by Ramses II on the road.

We continue our way to the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut. The bus leaves us in an esplanade, in the parking lot. From here, a little train take us to the base of the mountain, where is the temple of this important queen. Deir el-Bahari is impressive.

It is very well reconstructed, but there are not many reliefs/hieroglyphics. It was empty, and we were the only tourists in the place. Our guide told us that since the political revolt about 3 months before, we were his first group.

In the visitor center, we can see a model of the original construction. And then, we go to the Valley of the Kings. Leaving the bus we went to the ticket office to get the tickets. The tombs of Tutankhamun and Seti I do not fall within this price and must be paid separately. With an impressive heat, without a shadow to shelter, it was refreshing to enter the tombs. We cannot take pictures, and the cameras had to be left in the car, but I will always remember the beauty of the tombs inside.

Being sheltered from the sun, they preserve colors very well. When we get the impression that we take is not very good, but once we enter the tombs we fall in love with the site. We entered only 3 graves. I was eager to see others, but the time was short and we had to continue. We crossed the Nile to go towards the Karnak Temple. With almost 70 hectares, it is the largest temple in the world behind that of Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

In the visitor center, in addition to a model there are some pictures of how they found the temple which I loved to see the contrast with today. We see of the ancient history of this town. We left Karnak to visit the Luxor Temple. It is in a better state of conservation than that of Karnak. Originally both temples were united by the Avenue of Sphinxes, which is now in excavation.

There is only one obelisk at the entrance when there should be two. The guide tell us that one was given to France and is in the Place de la Concorde in Paris (and that by the way is seen in better condition than the one left here).

When the Egyptian temples were abandoned by the Catholic religion, they were filled with sand until they were covered. It also allowed them to be preserved. Here we see a more modern construction on top of the Luxor temple since everything was covered in sand.

This is how the first day ended. Even though in my country we are used to the heat, nothing prepares us for the desert. And that was not the hottest time! Before dinner we negotiated with some men who had their small rowboat tied to the motorboat selling djellaba, tablecloths and napkins. We bought a djellaba. After a very good a la carte dinner we go straight to sleep as we were very tired.

Day 3 - Edfu

We wake up, this time not so early. We have slept very well even though the ship has been sailing during the night. The truth is that nothing is felt, neither engine noise nor boat movements. We enjoy a good breakfast today without much trouble. We got off the boat to take the much-talked-about horse carriage. They are humble people, who have a horse pulling a chariot that it is not in the best conditions in the world. We go to the first temple of the day to Edfu temple, which is dedicated to the god Horus.

This temple was without a doubt my favorite after Abu Simbel. Karnak is big, so big that we did not see everything. But Edfu is very well taken care of. The reliefs are beautiful, and well preserved. The hypostyle hall (columns) complete with everything and ceiling in which colors are still nice.

Personally I liked it very much for how well preserved it is. Not only the construction is well preserved, but it also has hieroglyphs that are in excellent condition. We see areas where we can still appreciate colors. From the moment we arrive, we can observe the pill, beautiful with all the discernible figures, and even some colors. At the entrance there are two statues of the god Horus (here the best preserved of the two).

The patio is well wide, surrounded by columns that are also very well preserved. The Hypostyle Hall (columns) has up to its ceiling where it can be seen that it was black and painted / drawn with stars.

The way light penetrates I think it was one of the things that fascinated me the most. They had several places where it entered through some space. They say that before there were alabaster stones where the ray of light arrived, in such a way that the whole room was illuminated. It must have been spectacular!

We returned to the ship and set sail to continue our journey to Aswan where we would arrive at night. We pass the Esna lock and stop to see the Kom Ombo Temple, dedicated to Sobek, the crocodile god and to Haroeris. Towards the back, there are salons that served as a school.

When finished, we return to the cruise to continue sailing towards Aswan. The dinner was on the deck, with beautiful night views of the river bank. We have gone down to dinner dressed in the djellaba. In the middle of the dinner, the waiters and the cooks with their Egyptian songs have come out. It has been very beautiful and we all started dancing in the center of the dining room.

We go to the disco bar. We took a bottle of Johnnie Walker, which we brought and took it to the terrace. Once up, we are joined by the guys with whom we talk about travel and life in general. Once again we dance and we have had a great time dancing. We go to sleep. The ship travels to Aswan, while we dream of more stone, more sand, and more Egypt.

Day 4 - Aswan

We get up early! The sky is a beautiful blue. One of the days we dreamed about was waiting for us at Abu Simbel. When leaving the motorboat we take two boxes each with breakfast and a lunch. It is night so we do not see anything and everything is dark. There is no light anywhere and the few street lamps are left behind. After waiting for the entire convoy to form, we went through the desert and could see the beautiful sunrise.

After a long trip, at a speed that sometimes scared me, on a long road in the middle of the desert, we arrived. The first thing we see is the beauty that creates the contrast between the blue of Lake Nasser and the desert sand. In the distance, we could see some other transport, but they are not the caravans we had heard about. There are souvenir shops, banks and we see an ATM.

We walk, and suddenly they appear in front of us of an incredible sensation that I will never forget. When we see the facade, the colossi, we can only think of the greatness of ancient Egypt and the greatness that Ramses II wanted to project, who definitely achieved it. After hearing all the history and meanings of what we would see our guide recommended us to start at the temple of Nefertiti dedicated to Hathor.

Since all the people go directly to Ramses II we could enjoy this small temple alone. It's definitely small, but beautiful. We left fascinated and went to the temple of Ramses II. It's one of those things to see sometime in life. It's a pity that we cannot take pictures, but it's a small price that we have to pay to keep the beauties inside.

In the temple of Ramses II, the details in the bas-relief of the Battle of Kadesh are incredible. So many times I have seen it in books and in documentaries, that now I see it in front. Just for a moment, all these centuries have disappeared. I was there with it, in its time, in its moment. It has been a magical moment. Although it is not even 9 o'clock in the morning, there is already more than 30 degrees.

We then rest up a bit in one of the restaurants in the area and return to Aswan wanting to see mirages. We got on the bus and started the return trip this time to the north. The sky is clear during the whole journey. We have not seen a single cloud. In the parking lot there were only three buses, although it has capacity for many more. Our guide tells us that before the Arab Spring this is not what it was.

Along the way we saw stables with camels. Our guide tells us that Sudanese camels are very appreciated for their meat. We also see military barracks with tanks and many checkpoints. Every once in a while we see some school. In the distance we can see pyramid-shaped mountains. Here it's all pyramid-shaped.

Upon arriving in Aswan, we went down to eat. I eat a little bit of rice and meat. We go down to the lobby to go to the Nubian Village. The Nubians, are very dark skin, but features and hair are different. They take out their drums and started singing and we followed them. In a surfboard they attached themselves to the boat and tried to sell us something too.

In the middle of the river, we change boats. We move to a more modern outboard motor boat, which has taken almost the charm of the excursion. With this new transport, we keep going through stones, some quite large. There is little wildlife on the river, but only a few waterfowl. On the shore, on top, we can see the castle fortress of an Egyptian character.

We continue navigating between smaller channels. We have left the largest branch of the Nile behind and stopped at a small beach where we take a good swim and we jump from the top of the boat. We had a very fun time. At the time of getting on the camels, the discussions between them have returned to see who we were going up with.

Once the waters calm, we climb the camel and our pilgrimage to the town begins. After about 20 minutes, riding on a camel, we arrived at the Nubian Village. The Nubian Town, whose name is Gharb Soheil, is a rather small town, located on the riverbank. It will not have more than 50 buildings and in many of them, over the doors of the entrance to the houses, we see mummified crocodiles.

Once on land we enter a typical Nubian house, where we are offered karkade, water, a Hibiscus tea of ​​various flavors and some refreshment with some pastas. They show us their house where they had in a cage live crocodiles and in a fish tank a couple of young ones. It is impressive to see these animals so closely.

We walk until we reach the school, where the teacher shows us how the numbers are written in Arabic, also as they are pronounced in Nubian. At 7:00 pm we go by boat to the motorboat. It is already night and the pleasant breeze turns around. We go through the Elephantine Island. Here the boatman shows us the elephant shape that this great rock has that makes up the island.

When we arrived at the jetty, we shower and have dinner. Today we have an Egyptian specialty. We eat Molokhia and some desserts like the baklava. After dinner, we left for the city. We pass through little-traveled areas of the city, where we are greeted as we pass by, especially children. Some houses are very abandoned. It gives the feeling of sites devastated by some catastrophe, but we see that this is the general trend.

This is an area little frequented by tourists. So they are almost surprised more of us, than us of them. The stores and businesses are in the purest Egyptian style. In some of them it seems that time has not passed and modernity has not passed by. There were and donkeys pulling cars. There are goats, sheep, chickens, cows, bicycles and pedestrians everywhere.

We soon reached a square. We get off the horse drawn carriage and sit down in a quite cafe. There people see a football match. They put us an apple-flavored shisha. After a while, we take the buggy and stop at a spice shop, where after a chat with the store owner, we make the corresponding purchases.

The main salesman, spoke to us of a spice, took a little between the fingers, pressed it against the palm and passed it so that we could see it and smell it. This has been done with several spices, commenting on the properties and the use of each and the possible mixtures. There were two more assistants, who repeated what the boss did.

The store was very beautiful, with antique furniture and many showcases with hundreds of jars where the spices were. The smells mixed; It smelled like cloves, saffron, turmeric and a lot of different species, many of them would not even know how to differentiate them and even less to name them. It was an enjoyment for the senses. He wanted to sell everything to us. All the spices had the same price, except the saffron and I do not know what other spice.

We ride in a carriage to the jetty and on arrival we go straight to sleep for the last time in the motor ship, since the next day we left in the night for Cairo.

Day 5 - Agilkia Island

Before going down to breakfast we leave our luggage at the door of the room. The staff of the motorboat is to take them to the lobby. After some negotiation, we take a video. The jetty is very close to one of the main streets, full of banks and shops. We got on the bus.

We visited the Unfinished Obelisk. Our guide explained how they were manufactured and how it was transported to the river, where it was taken to the temple under construction. Then we go to the Aswan Dam, a place that is definitely not very nice per se. It is a dam, but our guide took the opportunity to explain not only about its construction but also about the process of rescue and mobilization of the temples.

Some of they were totally covered by water. From the dam we can see the Temple of Kalabsha. Later we went to the Philae Temple. It turned out to be one of my favorites because of the majesty with which it is seen on an island in the middle of the water. We see the blue of the water and the fact that there is vegetation give it a unique life.

This temple also had to be mobilized by the floods by the dam (initially it was on the Philae island). Moreover, this was one of those that was submerged in water and there are walls on which we can still see the level where it was covered. On the same island were several temples, including the one of Imhotep.

It represents the importance of this character in Egyptian history. There are beautifully conserved reliefs and bas-reliefs and others in which the passage of the Catholic Church by it is evidently evident. And my favorite building is the Trajan's Kiosk. Some say it was here that Scheherazade counted the One Thousand and One Nights.

We arrived at the pier. The sellers sell very cool stones. They are rock crystals that are green, blue and white. The seller tells us that they are exclusive to the northern part of Sudan, so we will not find them anywhere else.

We returned to eat and collect our bags in the motorboat and they took us to the train station, where we would take the sleeper train to Cairo. This is particularly an experience that I do not know if I want to repeat. It was a bit difficult to rest and during the day with heat the air conditioning did not work well.

The only good thing I can say is that I lived something different. But if I repeat the trip, the flight will be the means of transport that I will definitely choose. And that's my opinion, but two of my group were about to get off at some station to sleep in a hotel and get a flight as soon as possible.

Day 6 - Cairo

We arrived very early in Cairo and went to the hotel there. Although it was not the check in time they allowed us to go up to the rooms to bathe and change our clothes. We go towards Giza. This was one of the most anticipated things of our trip. Undoubtedly. And just because of this we had left it towards the end.

When we were preparing it we imagined that if we saw the pyramids at the start (which was our dream) the rest of the trip was not going to be that exciting anymore. And so, we saw them appear in front of us. I was impressed by how close they are to the city! We see them appear between houses and roads. But definitely they are so impressive that nothing with the most modern architecture can be matched.

We could observe several more rudimentary forms of pyramids in the surroundings, mastabas and, in the distance, more pyramids this time higher. For those of us who do not know much about Egyptian history, that is something I did not expect. I did not know that in addition to the Pyramid of Sakkara or the famous Giza there were so many. I see them in the distance as they filled the panorama.

Here there is the option of entering the Great Pyramid of Giza also known as the Pyramid of Khufu or the Pyramid of Cheops or the Pyramid of Menkaure. The main attraction is taller than I imagined and is with other smaller pyramids (of wives and children) that I didn't know existed. They welcomed us and we will never forget them.

Behind the Pyramid of Cheops, there is a small elongated museum, where the Khufu ship, found in front of the Great Pyramid, is exposed. On the same side is the pyramid of Khafre. And just in Giza we had another of those unexpected things that our trip was full of and that were wonderful. It was a camel ride!

At first we were a little scared but the experience is second to none. It was like being on a roller coaster and something I recommend to all those who physically feel fit. We take the bus that take us to the small pyramid of Menkaura. After the ramp there is a landing and a little further on turning to the right is the place of rest of the pharaoh. Of course we tade some pictures of the mummy. The pyramid inside is empty. It has no paintings, and it does not have a sarcophagus.

I've been wanting to visit these places all my life. The views from the area where the small Pyramid of Menkaura are extraordinary. From there we take again the bus that leaves us in the precinct of the Sphinx. And what about the sphinx? Stone by stone I do not know what to say if I like a pyramid or the Sphinx more. I can only tell you that what fascinated me the most is that it even has a tail! Just something I did not expect.

Next to the Sphinx, they were setting up a stage for what would be a light and sound show. We do some shopping and left again by bus to see the papyrus museum. It is very interesting an exhibition of how the papyrus plant is made and how it worked. Of course I ask for a sample. We left for Memphis, the capital of ancient Egypt which is about 25 km away.

The first thing we see is the Mit Rahina Museum. This museum, almost all outdoors is very interesting. In a closed enclosure is a giant statue. It was found in a semi-buried river, hence the difference between both sides of the body. After this visit we went to eat at a restaurant with Falafel and Hummus and the typical beer.

The waiter brings a mini barbecue in the table with chicken and sausages and lamb. There is a little meat stuffed cabbage rolls like meatballs, elongated meat minced meat with grilled spices, aish, typical bread, and Turkish coffee. The food was delicious. Afterwards they offered us shisha, but we did not want much and we did not have much time, as always.

We left Memphis to go to the nearby Saqqara, which is only 3 km away. The first thing we visited in the area was the Imhotep museum where there are some interesting things. It is small, but more organized and definitive than Cairo.

From there to the stepped pyramid of Djoser, the truth was fairly preserved and there were great works of reconstruction. Sakkara is a necropolis. Here we had the opportunity to enter the pyramid of Teti, which was an unrepeatable experience. It will not have been one of the great pyramids of Giza but I think it is an experience. So, we go down our narrow staircase, unable to lift our heads to reach and observe the interior.

But undoubtedly what I liked most was the Mortuary temple of Djoser in the area because the stone is completely polished, which gives it an incredible glow. This makes it unique. Looking to the south we can see in the distance, the red pyramid, and the Dasnur area.

After this long day, we returned to the hotel which is on the banks of the Nile and very close to the famous Tahrir Square. It is that square where the Egyptians met to achieve democracy in their country. We went out to see the nightlife in Cairo. We understood how close the Cairo Museum was to a state building. The center is crowded, with streets full of stores with international brands. This is an expensive area, and it's called El Maadi.

We went through the 6th October Bridge, one of the bridges that separate Giza from Cairo. We passed the Cairo Tower, and an equestrian club. Walking back to the banks of the river, we had the opportunity to witness a beautiful sunset. We enter the Bab al Futuh, one of the gates of the Citadel. The city at night has a charm and a mystery. We decided to go for a walk in the area and look for our dinner.

It turned out to be quite an odyssey since no one understood what we were looking for. It was not until we saw a delivery motorcycle pass that we managed to get the address from the delivery guy. By the way, it was only about two blocks from the square.

The menu, based on falafel, rice, hummus and typical local dishes is very rich. After dinner, we ride on the minivan and return to the hotel. Our guide went to his room with two girls waiting for him in the reception. His night begins and our day comes to an end. We arrived at the room to rest.

Day 7 - Coptic Cairo

We had breakfast in the hotel in a beautiful dining room and excellent food. After breakfast we headed to the Cairo Museum. Here I do not regret having had a guide. There are so many things in this museum! The beautiful façade does not match what we find inside. Unfortunately it is not organized as one would expect.

It is the main museum of the country and, above all, with so much history and so much tourism potential. In the end, thanks to the guide we could see in an appropriate way the most important ones. We could associate it to all those temples, and tombs that we had already seen. I liked that we had seen it at the end because that way we understood everything better.

There is a room dedicated to Akhenaten, the father of Tutankhamun, with some statues which are the ones that I liked most in the museum. We cannot take photos inside, and leave the camera outside. So I dedicated myself to buy postcards of what caught my attention in the museum shop to have a small souvenir.

From there, we go to Coptic Cairo. I really liked seeing the different religions mixed in a small neighborhood. There we can see the Sacred Crypt where Mary and Joseph were during their flight. The Catholic Church is beautiful. Its decoration is very different from what we usually see in Western countries.

The influence of Arab culture can be felt. In the Synagogue (which we could not take photos) we could also see that beautiful influence in the decoration. Then we visit the citadel with the Mohamed Ali Mosque. It is a very beautiful place. It is on top, and has good views of the city. We can see the contrasts of the different areas of this megalopolis. The background is impressive and majestic with the pyramids.

The day was coming to an end and we headed to the Khalili Bazaar. It was already the last day to go shopping, but we wanted to experience the atmosphere and buy some more gifts. Here we make a stop and have a tea and a shisha. And so ended this wonderful week that I will never forget in my life. It is a country we should see sometime in life and left us wanting to return but we had to take our flight although the holidays barely started.

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