We are back from 8days/7nights Egypt vacation. We were a group of 4; my husband, me and our boy ( 9 years old ) and our daughter ( 7 years old ). We purchased our plane tickets from Istanbul/Turkey ourselves. And had the rest of the tour through a local agent of Al Nahar, called Randa Rady.
She is perfect. She organized our tour in such a perfect harmony. Her drivers and guides were always perfect. She was always on the phone with us asking whether we are feeling good, whether there is anything we are not satisfied or anything she could do more. For the ones who are coming to Egypt, I recommend them not to be stuck in huge groups of big travel agencies, try to trust Randa Rady, be sure what you want and how you want and go with the flow with her. She will take good care of you. Her mail address is: email@example.com and cell no is: +20122720224
Our itinary was:
Arrival to Cairo at 1:00pm. We have already got our visas from the Egypt Embassy in Turkey, however you can always get it at the airport as well. It is 15$. And if you are Turkish and either younger than 20 or older than 40 years of age, you don’t need a visa. When we arrived the Cairo, we were picked up by Ibrahim, Randa’s Cairo rep. He is perfect. We just loved him, he made everything that he could do to make us more than happy and comfortable. The driver and Ibrahim took us to Egypt museum and there, we met the guide, Iman. She, absolutely is fabulous as a person and in Egypt history. We had our tour in the museum and also paid for extra entrance to get into the royal mummies section which is 100egp per person and 60egp for children each. Museum is fantastic. If you want to see every piece in it, it can take days so my advice would be that you choose your major points of interest in the museum and tell it to your guide and see them first and at the remaining time you can walk in the corridors along with your guide to where she takes you. The museum itself is an experience, the high ceilings, sunlight making rays on the walls, showcase cabinets from the 60’s. Even the smell and the atmosphere of the museum is a unique experience. After the museum we went to Khan el Kallili market. Being Turkish and loving to walk in the unique and fantastic closed bazaar of Istanbul whenever I have the chance, the market wasn’t any special treat to me. However, it is nice to see it, get lost in its narrow streets. One not to miss in the market is to sit at the local café and refresh with a wonderful hibiscus juice and coffee. There, we also had dinner at a restaurant run by the Oberoi Hotels management, we ate kosari which is a traditional Egypt dish and we all loved it. In the evening we went to the train station to catch our sleeping train to Luxor at 9:30pm.
Many says that there are no connecting cabins in the sleeping train, don’t listen to them. THERE ARE. If you are a family travelling with your kids, insist on asking for the connecting cabins. It was so comfortable and feeling safe for us to be 4 of us together literally in 1 cabin ( we had 2 cabins with a connecting door ). If you are so involved with clean sheets, they are clean but the color of the pillow cases are a bit greyish. If you are a kind of person who can’t sleep on a brand new, clean looking pillow case, than bring your pillow case with you.
If you can’t sleep smoothly when you are rocking and shaking sometimes, train is not for you. 4 of us were very happy with it. Although my husband and I woke up at the very strong shakes, it took me seconds to go back to sleep again and the kids never woke up, not even once. Dinner is served at the train. It is a meat plate+chicken plate+rice+salad+desert. On the way back in the tray there was also fried fish and yogurt instead of salad. I didn’t like the meat, and chicken was a bit hard to chew. Fish was great.Bread is served in the tray as well so, I had a fried fish sandwich which was great. Big bottle of water at the train is 5egp and coca cola/sprite… is 10egp on the train. In the morning, breakfast includes bread, cream cheese, butter, jam and assortment of bakery. Bakery is not fresh however tastes good. You can choose coffee or tea for breakfast.
Going to Luxor or coming back from Aswan with the sleeper train, we were very comfortable, we didn’t have any delay and the city reps. took the mobile number of the train car employee ( sorry I don’t know the exact terminology for him, but in Turkish we call Conductor) so when we arrived to the station our driver and guide was always there waiting for us. The conductors on both ways were very gentile and polite, speaking English very good and they took care of us perfectly. Trains are not like the ones in Europe of course, If you are too picky, than use the flying alternative, otherwise it is comfortable, budgetwise economical and a lot of fun to be on the train as well.
We arrived to Luxor around 7:30 am. Randa’s Luxor rep Tareek came to the station with the driver to pick us up. We went to the Valley of the kings rightaway. A must see place. With the entrance ticket you can see 3 tombs, however if you want to get into the Tutankhamon’s you must pay extra for it. After the valley of the kings we went to the temple Queen Hatshepsut. We loved both places. There are caffe area at both ones for you to refresh when you feel tired. Thay ask 20 egp for coffee, 20-25egp for ice-cream and crazy but 15egp for water which costs 2,5egp in the grocery. It is hot and when you do all the action by foot, you get thirsty so bring and have your water with you at all times. Than, we went to check-in to our cruise ship M/S Beau Soleil. On the way to the ship, our guide took us to the stone factories to show how they produce stone statues and vases, gifts. DON’T buy anything from the factory shops. Or if you think you will feel yourself guilty towards your guide and the shopkeeper, buy very limited. It is a money trap. You can find them 1-2/10th of the price at the souks, and if you are clever enough and have a good eye catch on which one is real natural stone and which one is fake, than buy them from the Souks. The shops are very expensive, besides the guides taking you there have a very high commission on the shopping you make. Give them a satisfactory tip and don’t loose your time and money there.
M/S BEAU SOLEIL
It is a not a big ship, for 120-130 people. Thanks Randa, our room was on the upper deck and at the front side of the ship, away from the engine room. The rooms are a bit small, but enough to settle down. Housekeeping is perfect, they are cleaning and tidying up the room several times a day. Well maintained however a bit old ship. Restaurant service is perfect, food is international and very good. They have varieties of fresh fruit all the time. They also have tea time at 16:00. Everybody working on the ship is very nice, trying their best to make you time as perfect as possible. However, the sundeck is dull, no fancy decoration and even if they say they have 5 decks, it doesn’t mean that they have 5 different decks. They are all on the same level. It is only 1 deck actually. They have 5 sections on the deck, such as pool area, sitting area, sunbathing area, fitness area and the bar area. The bar area is very poor, nothing fancy. But you don’t need any fancy as you are always out for sightseeing or in the restaurant for lunch/dinner. The morning tours are early so you don’t spend a long time on the ship. If you are planning to stay on the ship, being on a motor ship is not a good choice at all. Because they are always docked side by side and we were on the ship for 4 nights, and sailed to Aswan only for 1 day. At 23:00pm we started sailing and in the morning we were in Edfu and 12:30pm we sailed again. From edfu to Komombo. We arrived to Komombo at 17:30. And that night sailed again to Aswan and around 23:00pm we were in Aswan. When you are docked, you hear the choir of the engines of many ships docked together as well as their fumes. It is not even possible to see the river Nile when you are docked. You can only see the other ships’ decks. When docked, the ships are side by side, 50 or 60cm max. inbetween. The only time you enjoy being on the ship is the sailing time which is very limited, you can enjoy it for couple of hours as most of the sailing is done at night time. Even if you have a huge balcony overlooking at Nile, you are not able to open your curtains as you are stuck inbetween other ships when docked. No daylight in the room at all. So if you want more sailing or not want to be docked inbetween the other ships and feel free, CHOOSE DAHABEYA, or stay at a hotel and join the cruise only for 1 or 2 nights just for the sailing time for your transportation in-between cities as well as experiencing the cruise. Otherwise it is not a cruise ship, it is a hotel with very limited facilities.
See the Luxor temple when illuminated at night, if you have the chance also go to the sound and light show at Karnak temple. We were impressed with both temples. We also went to the souk, had coffee at the Nubian coffee shop at the souk. If you have limited budget and can only afford 1 fellucca ride, don’t in Luxor and save it for Aswan.
Randa’s Aswan rep. Waleed and the guide Ahmed Hassan welcomed us. They were both very nice people, they did their job perfect. Beautiful city, islands and feluccas on the Nile. Very peacefull and river Nile looks blue. We went to Philai temple ( great panorama ), Nubian village and the Nubian market and the High dam. Aswan is very pitoresk, quite and peacefull. We very much enjoyed. We stayed 2 nights in Aswan and than took the sleeping train again 2 cabins with the connecting door back to Cairo. The train departed Aswan at 16:00pm and arrived to Giza at 5:30am and Ibrahim was there waiting for us.
BACK TO CAIRO
We went to Sofitel Mercure rightaway to leave our luggages and freshen up. Sofitel Mercure at Giza was a wonderfull choise for us. Good breakfast, rich variety of food. The hotel provides a lot of facilities which is wonderfull for families travelling with kids. First of all, they have beautifull gardens, crossing the garden on the way to your room, you can smell the fragrances of different flowers. There is a childrens playground, billard game, a big enough outdoor pool which is maintained perfectly. Every morning you can see them cleaning the pool and putting chemicals in the water, cleaning every sun bed and the floor with chemicals. And the hotel is very close to the pyramids and you can see them by the pool area as well. There are lots of restaurants on the street which you can walk easily.
At 7:30am that morning, we went to Sakkara to see the temples and the pyramids and around 11:00am to the pyramids at Giza and the sphenks. We were absolutely amazed being there. I believe that to go and feel them is a must do thing in a lifetime. We went to The Caviar restaurant for lunch which was included in our tour. It has a very good panorama of the pyramids but if you don’t go there you don’t miss anything. I was so bored eating grilled chicken or meat at the cruise ship ( they always try to serve you international), we preferred to eat more Egyptian. Go to Felfella and try Egyptian. You are in Egypt, may be you will not have this chance again, so don’t be afraid to eat Egypt dishes. Get the most, feel like an Egyptian.
The next day, we had a rest and had a late check-out from the hotel for extra 50$. In the evening we had our flight back to Turkey.
NOT TO FORGET
1. For your travel to Egypt, don’t forget to take straws, disinfectant wipes and antibacterial gels. Toilet seat cover paper, mini toilet paper roll
2. If you like to cruise on the Nile sailing, either choose a dahabeya or ask for the sailing date and check-in to the cruise ship just for the sailing days.
3. Don’t pay a very high amount on a ship to have a window or a balcony as you can use it only for 1 day. But try your best to get a cabin away from the engine room, if you can’t than it is worth changing the ship to even a less category. Being beside the engine room at the very best cruise ship can be a nightmare, rather I would prefer being on even a moderate cruise ship away from the fume and the shake.
4. Don’t pay a high amount for a ship for having night shows as at the end of the day you are very tired and there is a new tour starting early in the morning. So you will want to sleep earlier than usual.
5. Keep in mind you will be paying too much for the items that you buy from the factory shops.
6. We didn’t brush our teeth with tap water, we always drank bottled water, however I never said no to coffee and the hibiscus juice which could have been prepared with any type of water. When we ate fresh fruits at the ship, we either washed it with bottled water or peeled the skin. Never ate green salad. However, we drank sugar cane juice ( not in a glass but had it in nylon bags ) and ate grilled sweet potato ( of course we didn’t eat the crust ) which you can only buy from the street vendors. However, I wasn’t courageous enough to try the other varieties of the street vendors
7. Don’t make your vacation a nightmare for you by putting too many limits to yourself. Just knowing your body and its weaknesses try as much as you could push your limits however, never feel upset or shy to say no to a drink or a food offered to you if you don’t think it is suitable for you. Always keep your straws with you.
8. Take little treats with you when you are traveling such as candy bars, biscuits, packs of gum, may be pack of cigarette ( Egyptians smoke alot) to give along with the tip as a gift to the housekeeping, driver … Be sure, you will need them and it makes them very happy to get gifts as well. It is their tradition to give and take gifts.
9. If you are sensitive to polluted air and dust, take and wear a mask. Air in Cairo is really polluted. I mean it.
10. Every traveler has a medicine pack of his own, don’t forget to put basic allergy pills in it even if you know that you don’t normally have allergy. Different climate and different flora can stimulate the allergies.
11. Take lots of 1$bills with you for basic tipping or giveaway
12. The exchange rate was 1$=5.73egp at the exchange offices.
13. Don’t be rude however don’t try to be polite as well and don’t try to answer every offer saying no I don’t need help, no I don’t want taxi, no I don’t….. sometimes be deaf. Don’t hear them. Everbody will offer you anything you can/can’t imagine. Be straight. Make your plans before going out on the street, or if you are confused at some place, don’t look around hopelessly, sit at a local coffe shop, there plan your next moves having a drink and getting a rest. They can do anything to get your attention to start a neverending conversation. This is your vacation of a life time, don’t get stuck.
14. If you want to buy spices, try to buy the kinds that you can use after washing such as the vanilla strips, hibiscus leaves…try to avoid dried powder types such as powder ginger, cinnamon. The drying process can be too dusty and when you buy the powder you can never be sure that you are getting 100% pure of that spice. Sometimes they can make tricks and the spice can be mixed with cheaper powdered anything to make it weight more. When I came back, figuring out that green and red peppers I purchased from the spice market have been artificially dyed, I threw away them to trash. It made me very angry about that vendor.
15. After you purchase something from a stall/shop, watch them wrapping your items and be sure that they are putting every item in the bag. When we returned, we found out that there are missing items among the shopping although we paid the price for them.
16. For a peacefull vacation, be and act moderate, way of talking, ways of clothing. Don’t be on the peaks. Don’t act like a spoilt rich tourist, it is really hard for them to live their poor life with so little income and food while seeing the tourists having the most fun/joy and the richness of their own country.
17. Take your Egyptian spirit with you, GOOD LUCK & HAVE FUN