Posted by: Tom Baker | July 11, 2009

my june tour to egypt


Monday, June 15, 2009

click on image to see more photos of my egypt tour

 

click on image to see more photos of my egypt tour

 

 

My June Tour To Egypt-amazing!

It has been a few weeks since my last blog but I have returned from a nile cruisetour to Egypt. I must admit that it was one of the most exciting trips I have taken in years.

Egypt is one of the few destinations filled with artifacts and a history going back more than 5000 BC. It is an exciting, rugged, harsh, hot, congested, but magical place.

I have only been to Egypt on three prior visits but this was my most comprehensive and complete to date. I am going to break this blog into sections to ensure I can cover the main components which are Cairo and The Pyramids, Luxor and The Nile Cruise, and the Nile Cruise Boat experience…
So let’s start with Cairo…

After arriving in a 12:40am on my British airways flight from London, I was very happy to find my transportation and local guide standing beyond the medical screening area (checking for H1N1 Flu) holding a sign and handing me my Egyptian Visa stamp to clear Egyptian customs. It was a seamless process. He took us to baggage claim and within a half an hour, we are off in our heavily air conditioned mini-van towards our hotel in Giza on the outskirts of Cairo. We were booked a the 5-star Sofitel Le Sphinx Hotel just less than half a mile from the Great Pyramids. Our ride took nearly an hour in modest traffic and I was surprised that the streets were quite busy as it was Friday and the Egyptian weekend. We arrived about 2:30am and off to bed it was. The Sofitel is one of the better resort hotels at Giza. There are only three for American Tourist consideration. They are the Movenpick, Le Meredien, and the Sofitel. These are the 4-5 Star quality. The other hotel property option across the roadway from the Great Pyramids is the historic and luxury hotel called The Oberoi Mena House. To have a more luxurious option, one must go to a high luxury hotel deep in the noise and congestion of Cairo and does not offer the same convenience to the Great Pyramids.

The Sofitel was just fine although it felt like a throwback to the 70’s with a few 21st century twists of decor thrown in for updating. It would not qualify for a 5-star hotel in the US (I give it a 4-star rating myself) but had a lovely pool area with attractive and beautifully landscaped grounds. My room had excellent and very comfortable European style bedding and great A/C. I was happy! While it is not advised to drink the tap water anywhere in Egypt, the Sofitel cleans and purifies its water three times before sending to a guest room. I used bottled water for brushing my teeth and drinking only. The hotel offered daily full buffet breakfast which was more European in style and filled with Egyptian specialties. I was really hoping for the Sofitel European touch, however, this property and its chefs are all Egyptian making the food closer to home than the Sofitel European standard. The food was adequate and plentiful in offering. The coffee was quite good. The Italian Restaurant seemed to please most of the guests and I thought it was just okay. A few of us ventured over to the Oberoi Mena House to its Indian venue called Mogul where the cuisine and service exceeded expectation. It was also quite pricey at $70 USD per guest including a nice wine-high for Egypt but not the US or Europe…It was worth every penny.

The next day our group of 44 was divided into two very nice motorcoaches where our two exceptional Egyptologists, both named Mohammed, would take us to deep into the congested, dirty city of Cairo-home to nearly 20 million inhabitants. Nearly 90% of the population are Islamic Muslims and practice the traditional robe and head covering for woman. The other 10% of the population are Christian and other religions. Cairo has thousands of Mosques and feels like a city torn on the edge of the 21st Century meeting the old world of 1000 years past. It is amazing and a cultural kaleidoscope. We won’t even go into old Egyptian history as that is something beyond anything that exists today. We visited the ancient Citadel overseeing the city on a very clear day, the Mosque of Mohammed Ali (not the boxer), and then into the city for the Egyptian Museum-one of the BEST in World. This is the home to most of King Tut’s Tomb artifacts and the great Egyptian history. It is a visit that is necessary but overwhelming. We had a short lunch on a Nile Boat and a visit to the ancient Bazaar of Khan El Khalili for some bargaining and shopping old world style, and then back the to Sofitel to beat the afternoon heat and a short rest before we took off for an evening trip to see the famed Sound & Light Show at the Pyramids of Giza.

The next day we were off early to see the ancient sites of Memphis, Saqqara. It was an amazing day and the Step Pyramid of King Zozer at Sakarra was the highlight for me. The weather in Cairo was hot with temperatures up to 96 degrees during the day but cooler at night down as low as 71 degrees. Later in the afternoon after lunch we had an afternoon visit to the great Pyramids at Giza where the group had a chance to ride camels in the barren desert. We had free time to walk around the great Pyramid of Cheops and then down to the Sphinx sitting at the foot of Cairo and the desert. It is amazing to see how the Egyptians have expanded the city deep into the desert. The land for about 80 kilometers around the Great Pyramids is protected desert to ensure that the area and tombs of this area are not built on. This is one of the Great Wonders of the World and worth a visit. No matter how many times one has been to Egypt, the Great Pyramids never seem to stop amazing even the most jaded of traveler. After this hot afternoon event, we headed back to the hotel to shower and freshen up for our dinner cruise down the Nile River complete with Belly Dancing and Whirling Dervishes…

Many of our guests who were first time visitors to Egypt were shocked at the prices for alcohol. As one must know, it is forbidden for Muslims to consume alcohol. The Egyptian government makes it difficult to bring alcohol into the country and thus, it is VERY pricey. A standard cocktail can cost up to $20 USD!

After our evening dinner cruise, we headed back through Cairo’s horrid traffic where the streets, shops, and restaurants were filled with many of this cities 20 million inhabitants. It was amazing though to have both coaches have a police escort back to our hotel making the ride a bit faster than it could have been…. Also, most tour groups and motorcoaches will always have an armed escort on the bus accompanying the group traveling to ensure their safety. After all, there have been a number of terror related incidents and Egypt is doing its best to protect its millions of annual visitors and chief contributor to its economy. I must tell you that I felt safe at all times and the people of Cairo and Egypt were friendly and never made me feel uneasy. I am. however, glad to know we had the added protection at all times.

PART 2 is coming Next with a trip to Luxor and The Nile Cruise….


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