I booked the Option 4 Day tour for June 18th for 2 people via email. It was easy and there was no language barrier. All terms and details were agreed upon in the email.
On June 19th, the tour guide was on time with our hotel pick up at the Fairmont Heliopolis (extra 10$ charge because it is close to the airport).
The guide, Mahmoud Ahmed, was immediately welcoming and pleasant. He explained everything that was included in the tour and provided snacks and water. The van was new and clean. The driver was deft at maneuvering through Cairo traffic, which is no small feat! We never felt unsafe.
We asked many questions about new Egypt and Ancient Egypt on our way to the Pyramids and Giza. Mahmoud was very knowledgeable and pointed out all monuments of interest on the way.
My mother, who has always been an avid Egypt-ophile had many in depth questions about the Ancient Dynasties and different Pharoahs. Mahmoud knew his stuff.
When we arrived at the Pyramids, it was not crowded, perhaps because of the continued international fear that Egypt is unsafe. However, it made for a very pleasant experience for us who have listened to the news and have asked natives about the situation and have divined that Egypt is QUITE SAFE for tourists.
Mahmoud asked us our preference to possibly entering the pyramid of Khufu. He explained the experience in terms of visual and locomotive experience so we could choose for ourselves. We declined in deference to claustrophobic/knee problems. We don't feel we missed anything!
Mahmoud gave us a quick yet knowledgeable tip-share and lecture on the ways of the scammers that surround any tourist attraction around the world. You just need to be firm with your 'NO's' in the end. All of the vendors and 'local color' types are licensed by the govt. to be near the pyramids and there, again was no feeling of danger.
We did feel sympathy for the people trying to make a living with the few tourists that were there since it was definitely slim pickins for them.
We went to 3 different points of interest close to and within the pyramid structures, including the Sphinx. All monuments were clearly explained, described and accurate histories told of each. Questions were answered knowledgeably!
At the end of the Vally of the Kings, Mahmoud bargained for us for camel rides.
Throughout our trip, Mahmoud was 100% congenial to taking photographs with mobile or my DSLR. No problems. He took good pictures. :-)
when finished with the Pyramid tour we were given the option to visit government regulated tourist souvenir shops. We chose to go to the Papyrus Gallery and Simas Perfumes. We were not disappointed and the prices were reasonable for the products.
Lunch was part of the tour and was served in a nice restaurant overlooking the Pyramids and Sphinx. It was so picturesque my mom and I thought the view was a wall mural at first glance!
After lunch we traveled to the British Museum and got a wonderful tour of the highlights of the collection including treasures from the Old, Middle and New Kingdoms. Seeing Tutankhamans mask and sarcophagus in real life was breathtaking!
It was a quick tour of the museum but after seeing the layout and extent of the collection it couldn't have been otherwise with a day tour. The hope is that the new president gets things together then funds a revitalization of the museum!
We spent too much time at some of our spots but Mahmoud did not rush us much. It was enjoyable. However, it did make for a very short trip to the Khalil Khan Souq. In the end, like all souqs, you need to go into the dark far corners to find that which is unusual and not made in China. So another trip for when you have ample amounts of time to explore.
All in all, it was 8 hours very well spent and enjoyed. It gave us a taste for Egypt and the country will stay on my 'To Visit' list forever.
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