A lot of people posted their experiences and I really enjoy reading them. I also like to hear myself talk, especially about traveling. So here is my trip from October 2009 in Egypt and Jordan.
Warning: It is long.
Day #1: Fly Edmonton > Minneapolis > Amsterdam > Cairo
After spending an 8 hour lay-over in Amsterdam that I barely remember, we arrived in Cairo at 1am. We were immediately greeted by a cab driver who we made a quick negotiation with and headed to the Nile Hilton Residence. Our first experience in a Cairo taxi was SCARY, but we arrived alive.
We checked into our hotel and seen our massive 3-bedroom suite with kitchen, office, 3 bathrooms (all for $100 CAD). We had a 10% beer (Meister) and sat on the patio and enjoyed the lights and celebrated making it there.
Day #2 Cairo
I woke up early since I am a shift worker. I went for breakfast while my wife slept. Once she woke up we went for a walk down the Nile boardwalk and into Zamalek where we found the Blue Nile boat. We decided to stop there for a beer at Al Mawal which was open air overlooking the Nile and the nice hotels downtown.
Afterwards we tried walking to Abou Tarek for some Koshary, unfortunately we were unable to cross the Corniche El Nile. We just didn't have the guts the Egyptians did to cross inches away from speeding cars. I flagged a cab who drove us 2 blocks to the restaurant. Abou Tarek was very worth the effort to get there. Koshary is a new favorite vegetarian dish. We feasted for only $4 canadian. If you go, the street is full of mechanic shops so you get to see the blue collar part of Cairo.
That evening, after a dip in our hotel pool, we tried to go to Tamarai for dinner. You can read my review if you like, but simply put we made it and left quickly. Instead we went back to the Blue Nile boat and ate at Al Mawal where we had our first Sheesha experience. Great night.
Day #3: Drive from Cairo > Bawiti
This day was mostly on the road. We seen the pyramids for the first time over the horizon on our way out of town. We booked our camping tour through onthegotours.com. Our driver Behreh and our guide "G" was great. I got motion sickness (turns out sideways seating is my problem). Behreh had lemons waiting for me after I finished getting sick. But while I was getting sick I noticed the "rocks" I thought I seen on the side of the road were actually sea shells from when it was an ocean. That was amazing.
During the drive we stopped at a hot spring in a date tree farm. We relaxed and the farmers offered us some dates and a tour of their home. These were strangers who just welcomed us in very openly.
We checked into our hotel (Panorama Oasis). It looked like a dive, but was very comfortable and very friendly. We literally had the entire hotel to ourselves. The cooks and our driver prepared a feast for dinner. 10 different dishes, each one better than the last.
We ended the night by taking a drive into the desert and climbing a small mountain to watch Sunset. The hill was an old English Garrison which is now a ruin. It overlooked the entire oasis. That evening we were taken out to the camp where the Egyptian Rally drivers and crew were staying and checked out their cars and helicopters. Then we were invited to a wedding. Unfortunately the pill I took for being sick was knocking me out so we had to turn them down and go back to the hotel.
Day #4: Black and White Deserts
This day was lots of off-roading. We climbed a Volcano in the black desert and drove through some of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen. We stopped on the biggest sand dune we could find and made the hike up in 40C weather and slid down on our good old fashion crazy carpets.
We stopped afterwards at the "cold pool" which was still warm water but cooler than the other ones we got into. We washed as much sand out as we could and enjoyed the view before finding another great little restaurant who I driver happened to know the owner. Our guide and driver cooked us another feast. We really felt spoiled. Another group arrived and they had some chips and a few pieces of fruit. Our meal was all freshly prepared dips, breads, egyptian chili, veggie platter, hummus.
We made it to our campsite slightly before sunset and our guide and driver refused to let us help set up camp. Instead they forced us to go find a spot to enjoy the sunset. We found the highest peak we could and watched the nicest sunset of our lives. The White desert is a beautiful place. There is something about the sand and the isolation that just feels great to me.
Once again, dinner that night was cooked over the fire and was made up of 10 amazing courses which included dates, lemons, limes, and desert mint we picked that day. There was enough food for 30, all of which was delicious. I tried to clean my dishes (I just always try to pitch in) however they would not let me.
This night we sat around the fire, our guide pointed out constellations and told us about life in Egypt.
Day #5: White Desert to Giza
Woke up at 5am and watched the sunrise (my profile picture). We got some of the best photo's we've taken and realized sunrises are worth waking up for.
Then we drove back to Giza where we checked into Le Meridian Pyramids. Unfortunately, our guide "G" was supposed to meet us in the morning to introduce us to our next guide, but he never made it. So we never got to exchange information with him.
This day we sat around the pool during the day, and at night we took the taxi to Khan El Khalili. We used the taxi stand and managed to get the price down to 90 EGP which we later found out was still far more expensive. Our driver was great though and the car was very nice. He took us on a detour to his friends shop in the Giza market though, so at least we got to stop there.
Khan El Khalili was ridiculously huge and impressive. We wandered around for hours. Did some shopping and took lots of photos. We were expecting an unsafe feeling, but that was not the case at all. We seen the most impressive buildings here. After getting lost in the alleys we finally found our way to El Fishawi and had some coffee and sheesha. The atmosphere is why we went, and just to sit and relax amidst the chaos of the market was such a great experience.
Day #6: Giza
Today we took it easy and chilled by the pool. We met our group and had a few drinks and then everyone split up for dinner.
This night we went to Moghul Room in Mena House Oberoi. We didn't have reservations, but we were lucky enough to sweet talk our way in. We did have to wait for about 30 minutes in the lounge though. So we had some drinks and admired the amazing interior design of the hotel. Very nostalgic feeling, as if we were in a 50's movie about Egypt. The harp player added to it. Once we had dinner we decided this place was our second favorite indian food ever. Second only to Vijays in Vancouver which is known as the best indian food outside of India (we agree).
Day #7: Pyramids / Sphinx / Saqqara
We seen some of the worlds most renowned tourist sites. I don't think I need to elaborate on this since everyone knows what these are.
Day #8: Coptic Cairo / Mosque / Train
Today we seen some very important religious sites, and we also seen a mosque from the inside. A very impressive mosque to be exact.
We stopped and loaded up on snacks for the train and then waited on the platform for our train that was 2 hours late. We got sleeper cabins which were decent. The food came around and we didn't touch it. It looked bad, and since our entire group was sick the next day we felt safe assuming it was bad. Luckily we avoided that mess.
Day #9: Luxor (Start of Nile Cruise)
We checked into the Tu-Ya and then went on our tour of Karnak temple, and later Luxor temple. Karnak was the temple I was looking forward to next to the pyramids. It was great. Those pillars were unreal up close. Luxor temple on the other hand was beautiful but I was disappointed with the mosque built on top of the pillars. I didn't think that was right to build on that site, but it is a couple hundred years old itself, so the ruins probably had less preservation value at that time.
Day #10: Valley of the Kings, Queens, Colosee of Memnon.
We enjoyed getting back to our boat and having some ice cold beers on the sun deck and swimming in the pool. We eventually departed and made our way to Edfu and Kom Ombo.
Day #11: More temples
This was the day I found out I hate crowds. Unfortunately the country I loved and planned on retiring in was the home to some of the worst people we encountered. Italy in case you are wondering.
Tonight we got to see the water market that surrounds waiting boats. Very interesting. This night we had a party on board the boat, BBQ theme. We had to dress up like egyptians. It was fun, but we had a lot of gray hairs on our boat so the crowd made it about an hour past dinner than a few couples from my group were the only ones left drinking (as was the theme of our tour - at least my wife and I won the award for biggest bar tab).
Day #12: Aswan
We arrived somewhat early and there was a felucca ride. Seeing my weak stomach when it comes to motion I sat that one out and instead caught up on sleep that I was missing. My wife took some great photo's so I wasn't disappointed.
That evening we toured around the market. Unfortunately we were unable to buy a mask we really liked. It was a Nubian mask that had elephants, and lions, and zebra's carved into it. Unfortunately, everyone we found was broken or missing the tusks. If anyone happens to find this and can send to me, I will pay well :P
Day 13: Abu Simbel
Today we went to Abu Simbel bright and early. The heat was already 45C when we arrived and I was not happy in that heat. Luckily my wife knows me well and got me as much ice cream as possible which cheered me up like you wouldn't believe. Then we seen the most amazing temple. We were very limited on time, so back to Aswan where we caught the train back to Cairo. Worst train ride ever. Every 15 minutes the train slammed its breaks and things would go flying, no matter how well we secured it.
Day #14: Cairo
Checked into the Semi Ramis Intercontinental hotel. This place was ridiculously nice. While everyone napped from the lack of sleep on the train my wife and I walked to the Chili's on Zamalek. I was craving a burger like no ones business. I have to admit, that the Chili's there is better than any Chili's I've ever been to, and I used to work there while I was in college.
Before Chili's I forgot we did an early morning tour of Khan El Khalili. Same as the night time only less stores open, and much less people. We did all of our souvenir shopping this morning.
That evening we ate at the Birdcage in our hotel. It was a nice Thai restaurant with great food. We eventually made our way into the lounge and had our final drinks with our tour group. I have to admit I really met some people I think I will hopefully remain friends with on this tour. I guess we were used to Contiki tours with young hardcore drinking tours which we never usually got into.
Day #15: Fly Cairo > Sharm El Sheikh
We flew out early afternoon and arrived just in time to make the 30 minute walk to our room at the Sonesta Beach Resort and Casino. What a massive resort. We napped...
We woke up in time for a late dinner and stayed on the resort at an English pub. Oddly enough we didn't realize there was a boardwalk full of restaurants and pubs right beside us, so we got drunk at our hotel and didn't know any better.
Day #16: Sharm
We woke up early and went to the beach. Spent the entire day on the beach until the sun set. This was the day I realized how hot russian girls were.
This night we walked down the newly discovered boardwalk and stopped in dozens of pubs. We ate at an Indian restaurant whose name I can't find. Decent food, great service, cheap but good wine.
Day #17: Drive Sharm > Dahab
Spent the morning on the beach before catching a "limo" (Toyota Corola) to Dahab. Our driver was going 150km/h the entire way. However, the car had a beeping feature when you go over 120. So 2 hours of beeping gave me a nice headache.
We arrived late afternoon, just enough time to have a burger and a snorkel before the sunset. That evening, we ate at the hotel (Le Meridien Dahab) open air restaurant. It was right on the beach and had some very comfy couches. We sat here for the rest of our night before going back to our very nice room and going to sleep.
Day #18: Dahab > Aqaba
We woke up at 3am to catch the bus to Nuweiba, which was re-routed to Taba ferry port. Made our way into Aqaba where our ferry transfer really screwed us over. He let us out at the hotel and took off without saying a word. No one knew what to do, eventually we all decided to take off and found out later we had 10 hours before our guide would meet us. Some people hung out in the hotel since they were uncertain.
This was a new group. Everyone bonded pretty quickly over the dislike of the transfer and the disorganization of our guide. Aqaba was unfortunately a waste for us other than some shopping and Ali Baba restaurant which was a lot of fun.
Day #19: Aqaba > Dead Sea > Petra
This day we booked a private driver instead of taking a free day in Aqaba. We were picked up at 7am and drove to Wadi Mujib where we got to hike through a canyon up a stream full of waterfalls that we had to climb.
Mid way up the trail we came to a rope you had to pull yourself on to get to the next waterfall. The water was deep and powerful here. There was a girl ahead of us crying because she couldn't make it. I gave my wife the option to turn around, but before I could say anything she was in the water pulling herself up without a problem. She made it look easy. I made it first try as well, but it was not easy. I didn't show my struggle of course.
the trail ended with an amazing waterfall where we hung out and snapped some pictures. On the way out we slid down rocks over waterfalls into giant pools. Very cool stuff.
Anyone going to the Dead Sea should do this hike.
Then we made it to the Dead Sea Spa hotel. Spent a few hours in the dead sea, which again is a definite must see if in the area.
We took a crazy drive through the mountains to Petra and made it just in time to go see the night tour of Petra. Very cool, although there were some people shining flashlights in faces when you weren't allowed using them.
Day #20: Petra
Early morning with a full day of Petra exploration. Unfortunately we were sore from our hike up the waterfall. So mid afternoon we went back to our htoel and relaxed.
This evening we went to Petra Kitchen, which again I strongly recommend. Don't expect to do every single thing when cooking, just do your part to help and have some drinks. Very fun and great food and great way to meet people.
Afterwards we drank at the Cave bar in our hotel. We stayed at the Petra Guest House by Crowne Plaza which was yet again an amazing hotel. The cave bar is also a strong recommendation. How many people can say they drank in a 2100 year old bar.
Day #21: Petra > Wadi Rum
Today was a morning of exploring Petra on our own and finding some great pizza before beginning our drive to Wadi Rum. Our guide was completely useless, luckily a few people took it upon themselves to organize everything.
We did a Desert Eco Tour of Wadi Rum where we stayed in a nice camp and had a great feast of food cooked underground by the Bedouins. Another great sunset, and without hopefully looking like anything but vacation alcoholics, we drank and slept under the stars in front of the fire instead of using our nice tent accommodations.
Day #22: Wadi Rum > Sharm
A long day of driving, ferries, taxi's and we made it to Sharm just at sunset. We stayed at the Hilton Sharm Dreams this time around. It was a very nice hotel but we had an odd and not so pleasant check-in. I was standing near my electronics bag while my wife checked us in. However, one of the ladies working the counter politely told me to have a seat. We sat all day so I politely said "no thank you" and explained we had been sitting all day. She insisted and I insisted not to. Finally, she grabs my arm and literally pulled me into a chair. I stood up as soon as she walked away. Not sure what that was about, but it was extremely rude. Immediately afterwards a British family began screaming at each other until staff yelled at them to be quiet.
To top it off, we were going to go to our room after check in, but the baggage people said to wait for the vehicle to arrive and they would drive us and our bags to our room since it was far from the reception. After being on the Sonesta Beach Club and Resort we decided to make our lives easier and take the ride. The vehicle pulls up and the guy waved us over, the british family ran and jumped in. The supervisor seen this and came over yelling at the driver for allowing it. He asked the family to politely get out and wait for the next one, but they told him to "go screw himself". We told him we would walk if they took our bags in the next car.
We checked in, and our first room had a massive ant infestation. Thousands of tiny red ants invaded the bathroom. We asked for a new room, they gave us one right away which was very nice and after that every thing else was perfect. Just a bumpy start. Luckily we are pretty laid back and can take that sort of thing without it ruining our day or trip.
That night and the next we just strolled Na'ama bay and relaxed on the beach.
Day #24: Fly Sharm > Cairo > Paris > Amsterdam
Somehow I got ridiculously sick on the plane from Sharm to Cairo. I was in the bathroom the entire flight getting sick. The entire 5 hours in Cairo airport was the same. Then we got on Air France to Paris and I mentioned my situation to the stewardess who gave us a great seat right beside the bathroom. She offered me all kinds of pills. I took a couple sleeping pills, a blanket, an eye mask and slept the entire journey. I was asleep before take-off and woke up as we were deboarding.
My biggest worry was that our 36 hour lay-over in Amsterdam with friends who were coming from Thailand would be ruined. Fortunately I felt great on arrival.
After another cloudy night in Amsterdam we finally made it back home. A great trip, and I owe it all to my wife for organizing it all, as well as onthegotours.com for having great tours.