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Egypt for a Week
August 26, 2010 3:12 AM   Subscribe

TravelFilter: A week in Egypt in November with the folks; organised tour or solo? Cairo + Cruise? Luxor? Any tips or recommendations appreciated.

My Girlfirend and I are intending to travel (from London) to Egypt with my parents for the first week of November. so 4 adults.

I've never done an organised tour before but I guess was considering it as well its Egypt and my parents are along for the ride. I'd say everyone involved is 'moderately' well travelled.

I was thinking of taking a felucca cruise on the Nile for a few days, but others have suggested its a bit pointless.

I would imagine that there are easy tourist 'day tours' you can jump on to see all the major pyramids around Cairo right? or should one just take a taxi?

Is all the accomodation 'Hotel' style or do they do Riad style B&B accomodation similar to say Morroco? I enjoyed staying in the Riads in Morroco moreso than Hotels.

And yes I have read all the older Egypt Tourist Asks - but most are quite specific.
posted by mary8nne to Travel & Transportation around Egypt (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
Cairo:
Personally, I found Cairo a bit hectic (and I'm fairly well-travelled). Definitely more hectic than Morocco: tourism is HUGE business in Egypt and people are very well versed in the art of separating people from money. It does, however, feel safe: our friend who lived there said that people will happily rip you off left right and centre but if you leave your wallet in a taxi chances are the driver will try all he can to return it (and then demand a massive tip, but hey, that's business). If you have no plans to go back to Egypt then you have to do Cairo though - at least Giza and the museum of Egyptian antiquities.

When in Cairo, we just took a taxi to the pyramids at Giza. The driver was organised for us by our hotel, but we still had to haggle when we got there and he still tried to convince us we needed to hire camels to find the pyramids (when we could actually see them). I can't talk about the farther pyramids as we had a friend drive us there.

Luxor:
Luxor has a higher density of tourist-trap stuff (camels, horse drawn carts, general trinket salespeople, etc. etc.) but a completely different pace of life. I loved it. You'll do Karnac and the valley of the kings (because you have to). We did the Valley of the Kings by hiring bikes, which was great fun coming back but rather hard work getting there (hills, you know), but if you're fit-ish you should manage it fine. Don't miss the Ramesseum on the way.

Like you we were pushed for time, so we did the felucca thing with an hour or so trip at sunset - I think if you had ages a long tour on the Nile might be fun but not if you've only got a week.

When I go back I plan to fly out to Luxor then back from Cairo, which will give a bit of time acclimatising to the "being in Egypt" thing in the more laid-back environment of Luxor - this would be my recommendation to you too, particularly if you only have a week.
posted by handee at 4:02 AM on August 26, 2010


The Dashur pyramids are an hour outside of Cairo (depending on traffic), and the drive will give you a glimpse into the daily lives of villagers. No matter how much the cabbies laugh or attempt to make you feel bad, the cost is 300 EGP (just over $50 USD). This includes the ride there AND back, with a 2 hour wait at the pyramids themselves. If a driver scoffs at your offer, think nothing of it, walk away and go to the next one.

I know it may sound crazy to go all the way to Egypt and not see the Giza pyramids, but if you had to choose one set, Dashur is amazing as there are NO tourists.
posted by gman at 4:20 AM on August 26, 2010


I went to Egypt in April of this year. My uncle organized it and he hired an amazing Egyptologist who not only was a great tour guide, but a great caretaker (I got heatstroke and my mom had a stomach thing). Yes, we still went to carpet, perfume and papyrus stores, but we expected it so it didn't feel as pressured or annoyed that our time was being spent there.

Her name is Noha Faoud Sedky and her e-mail is saoud@tedata.net.eg. She also once e-mailed me from her son's address because hers got wonky but you could reach her that way too at wankeez@hotmail.com. I think I have her mobile somewhere but I have to find it. Let me know if you want it. I cannot recommend her highly enough. If you do e-mail her, tell her that Cheryl from her Filipino family says hello!

We did go on a felucca for an evening cruise and I thought it was fun. Until the wind died and we were waiting a little over an hour for a motorboat Noha kept calling on her cell phone to assist us back to shore. I mean it was pretty relaxing but we were hungry at the end.

Noha told us about adventure felucca tours where you travel down the Nile in the boat, sleep in sleeping bags either in fields or wherever the felucca driver decides, eat what the felucca driver makes and bathe in the Nile. But since you are traveling with your parents, I think a cruise down the Nile is a better option. The cruise ship we went on was the Princess Sara.

We started on the Princess Sara in Aswan and the ride down it itself was a treat. The stops we made were Kom Ombo, Temple of Sobek and Haroeris, Edfu and Luxor.

I can't really help with the hotel stuff because we stayed at a hotel just outside of Cairo (Zamalek) and then was on the cruise for the rest of the time.

I would suggest doing a hot air balloon ride over Luxor. We went through the group Sindbad. My fiance and I opted to buy the video - don't buy the video, it is boring.

I would skip the sound and light shows too.

Check out Islamic Cairo. We were short on time so we just drove past the Citadel of Saladein, Mohamed Ali Alabaster, Bab Zuweila and the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, but we got to go inside the Madrasa of Sultan Hassan which was amazing.

We took a quick flight from Aswan to Abu Simbel to see the Great Temple of Ramses II.

(within Cairo) I liked all the food at this restaurant but it also had the best baklava I've ever had:
Naguib Mahfouz Café
5 Sekket al-Badistan
Khan al-Khalili
Tel. No.: +2 02 590 3788 or +2 02 592 2262

(within Cairo) This place had really great pigeon dishes. My favorite was the pigeon stuffed with millet (I think - it was a young grain).
Abu al-Sid
45 Road 7, Maadi
Tel. No.: +2 02 2380 5050

We had a pyramid day that was pretty grueling, but exhilarating. In the morning we did Dashur (Bent Pyramids and North Pyramid), Memphis (Ramses II, Alabaster Sphinx) and Saqqara (Step Pyramids, Serapeum) and in the afternoon we did Giza (Great Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops), Pyramid of Khafre (Chephren), Pyramid of Menkaura (Mycerinus), Solar Barque Museum, Sphinx and a Camel Ride. Wear good shoes if you plan on going inside.
posted by spec80 at 7:08 AM on August 26, 2010


My boyfriend and I were in Egypt over the past winter for a week's vacation. We found Egypt to be fairly tour-group oriented when it comes to tourism... for example, it was really hard for us to get train tickets (they have to be paid for in cash at the station; our email for advance tickets was totally ignored, which apparently is common for solo travelers, and since it was peak tourist season many of the trains were already sold out by the time we were there to be able to buy tickets in person).

If I were to go back, especially with parents, I would most likely do a tour or cruise instead - and I say this as somebody who prefers non-tour group travel. I was stressed out a lot in Egypt and I think this kept me from 100% enjoying the experience.
posted by warble at 8:12 AM on August 26, 2010


I've been to Egypt three times, never with a tour-group, and I'd say handee has it just right.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 1:02 PM on August 26, 2010


thanks all for advice. I've been doing some more research on it. really not sure what we will do. but the Luxor -> Cairo idea makes a lot of sense to me. but will depend on flight availability I think.
posted by mary8nne at 3:57 AM on August 27, 2010


probably too late now as its slipped off the front page: but on a related note; what "must eat" foodstuffs are there that are representative of traditional Egyptian cuisine?
posted by mary8nne at 4:08 AM on August 27, 2010


Pigeon
Om Ali
I don't drink alcohol so I was really happy with all the tea and juices available especially strawberry juice.
I didn't like ful mademes, but I am glad that I tried it.
Lamb kofta
Fresh, hot off the grill/out of the oven pita
Baklava

You will find more western food on the cruise ships. They will have a few meals that are mostly Egpytian, but there will always be familiar western dishes even on those nights.

I would also recommend purchasing mini packs of toilet paper or tissues, sanitizing handwipes and amassing as much small change as possible.

Just really be aware that tipping is a big deal. Like a BIG DEAL. I couldn't go into the bathroom at the Egyptian museum without giving a guy 1 egyptian pound first. At a rest stop in Cairo, we had to pay women outside of the toilets for toilet paper. They aren't mean about it. It's just what is done. I think if I didn't research the culture before I went and I was constantly being hounded for tips and not prepared, it would have made me hate my trip.
posted by spec80 at 8:06 AM on August 27, 2010


Thanks, yeah I generally try and avoid eating anything but local cusine on holidays. So Ful Madames, Pigeon, Felafel etc. sounds great.
posted by mary8nne at 2:02 AM on August 28, 2010


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