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Trip Report And Photobook-Egypt- 5,000 years in 13 days!

Edited to add photobook
https://photos.app.goo.gl/ZbqEi9TkLDCq9EYU6

Pre-departure
We planned this trip on shorter notice than usual, six months really. Egypt had not even been at the top of my travel list, but in looking for an international trip, we decided to go since they had been open for tourism since July of 2020. This made it seem unlikely to us, that they would suddenly close their borders. We are fully vaccinated and don't mind complying with mask requirements or taking of Covid tests. We did have a considerable amount of stress in that Egypt required a QR code on our PCR test and it seemed that our town did not have a testing site that gave a QR code. On the day of departure, we got our test results and lo and behold, there was a QR code on the test. This is absolutely what was needed. Our vax cards were never asked for. We were good to go!
Other factors that played into our decision and a few people I would like to thank. Ellen (from the blog, Two Boomers Abroad), Valerie (from the Rick Steves travel forum, blog is Travels with Valerie), Marie (from Rick Steves forum) and Bettany Hughes (British historian whose show The Nile got us dreaming of cruising down the Nile on a dahabiya). These people made Egypt seem possible as I have to admit, this trip was a bit more intimidating for us. We had never been to a primarily Muslim country before.
We watched Death On The Nile, and watched 48 lectures on Ancient Egypt from the Great Courses, that we got from our library. This really did give us a solid foundation in our knowledge of Ancient Egypt.

Our tour company: Go Luxor Tours & Djed Egypt Travel
Sites and Activities
Accomodations
Food
Final Thoughts
Costs

Tour Company
Go Luxor Tours & Djed. I got three quotes from different Egyptian based companies. We knew we wanted a private tour, not on a bus with other tourists, although I did look at Odyssey's Unlimited and OAT. But, I wanted to customize our itinerary and choose the hotels. Plus, the tour companies all used the big Nile cruise boats and we wanted the dahabiya sailboat.

So we went with Go Luxor Tours and are so glad we did. Michael communicated with us via WhatsApp and responded always, within an hour. I got to wondering if he even slept, as I asked a lot of questions! We also talked via WhatsApp as well, and his English is perfect, no heavy accent. Each day we had a driver and Egyptologist/guide in a private vehicle with AC. During the course of our trip, we saw the big busses with tourists and almost felt sorry for them, as our vehicle was just a regular car and we were able to pull up to all the entrances of the sites and be dropped off. Michael went above and beyond when I left my charging cord in one of the vehicles we used. Since the car was on it's way to the Red Sea area, Michael called the driver, who dropped my charging cord off at the train station, then it was trained from Luxor to Aswan, where Michael went in the middle of the night to pick it up. Don't ask me how he coordinated all this, but it was much appreciated.
Djed-We booked our dahabiya with Djed, as they own four boats and guarantee that the boat will sail, no minimum. If your booked, your going! We did have a hiccup with them. We had our guide confirm our pick up at our hotel, the day before. On the morning of pick up, they did not show up. After calling them, we found out they had picked up another couple at our hotel, who said they were sailing on a dahabiya. Well, this was the wrong couple! They were on a different boat. An hour late, we were finally picked up and taken to Esna, where we boarded our dahabiya, Zakrayaat. But first, we took a walk through the local market at Esna. I found this to be absolutely fascinating and kinda weird to see backpacks with Disney characters on them.

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Sites and Activities
Giza

With limited time, we decided not to do Cairo with the exception of the Egyptian Museum. So after arrival we headed to Giza and the following morning saw the Pyramids of Giza. While it was incredible to see, my experience was marred a bit, by seeeing so many hard working, skinny horses, stray dogs etc. Now, I have been to third world countries before, so this was not entirely new to me, but seemed to effect my psyche more this time. It's hard being an animal lover in third world countries. I also think that because of Covid and the drop in tourism, that things are harder right now for people and the animals.

We choose not to go inside the pyramid or have a camel ride, but did have lunch at the new restaurant 9 Pyramids. This was incredible to have lunch in an open air restaurant with a fantastic view of the pyramids. The food was good too!

Saqqara, Dashur & Memphis
The next day we visited Saqqara, Dashur and Memphis all great sites which we enjoyed. We had a whole day for these sites, but choose not to enter any of the pyramids.

Luxor (East Bank)
Karnak & Luxor Temples

We flew from Cairo to Luxor and on our arrival were met and taken to Karnak Temple and Luxor Temple. Incredible places and Karnak was a highlight. Those columns!

Valley of the Kings (West Bank)
Three tombs are included with admission and lucky for us, were all close together as this place is huge and wow, the sun here was kicking our butt! No words for how incredible and amazing this place is. We paid extra to visit Ramses and this was so worth it.

Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, Valley Of The Workers & Colossi of Memnon
All incredible sites. We especially loved the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut and Valley of the Workers, where the workers who built the royal tombs lived with their families. They were not allowed to leave. Later, they ended up being some of the thieves who robbed the tombs.

Valley of the Queens: Tomb of Nefertari
Totally worth the $89 US dollars extra to enter this tomb. It is not to be believed that it is over 2,000 years old. Looks like it was painted yesterday! So glad we did this, as it was the best tomb of the whole trip. A must IMHO.

Valley of the Nobles & Medinut Habu Temple
Great sites which we enjoyed.

Abydos and Dendera
Abydos and Dendera are a 3 hour drive each way north of Luxor. Two of the best preserved temples in Egypt, although I was surprised to see that they had black soot covering the ceiling and some of the side walls. Apparently, people used to live in these temples and the soot is from the fires that they had. What was really interesting to me, was the drive there. Watching the local Egyptian people go about their daily life really is turning out to be one of my favorite things. We passed through several tourism police check points. At one of them, they decided we needed to have an escort. So they went ahead of us with lights flashing and I said to my husband, I'm not sure I feel safer with them escorting us. Seems to me, they are drawing more attention to us, that we are foreign tourists. Without an escort, we look just like any other car on the road. And then, they must have decided they had gone far enough, because they stopped our escort and we continued on our own. If you have an extra day, you should go to these temples.

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Dahabiya
The dahabiya cruise was one of the highlights of the trip. I had never heard of a dahabiya before, but we watched a show with Bettany Hughes cruising the Nile, and we knew we wanted to do this as well. There are tons of Nile cruise boats, but they can carry 100+ people and are just big and ugly. The dahabiya we were on holds a maximum of 12 people. There were only four of us. My husband and I, and a young couple from Seattle (my hometown). We had eight crew for the four of us! I loved sailing the Nile on this boat and watching local life pass by on the banks of the Nile. We did Edfu temple and Kom Ombo temple as our morning shore excursions and then relaxed on the boat for the rest of the afternoon. We were even served tea in the late afternoon. The only bummer is the winds were not in our favor and so the sails never were unfurled. A tugboat pulls the boat if it is not able to sail. We departed the boat in Aswan after 4 nights.

Aswan-Philae Temple
This temple is just so beautiful and the last one built under the Ptolomies. I have to admit though, that I was starting to feel a bit of temple burn out.

Abu Simbel
A 3 1/2 hour drive each way, this was the site I was looking forward to the most. The road was good and the scenery of the passing desert, was so cool. We had left early in the am to try to beat the heat and the crowds. This site was so awesome. I took the time to just sit in the shade and stare at it, knowing I would never get here again.

Egyptian Museum
After Aswan, we flew back to Cairo and went to the Egyptian Museum. The largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts anywhere and after hearing about King Tut's treasures for so long, I finally got to see them in person. Our guide showed us the highlights and masterpieces. It is in quite a state right now, as many of the exhibits are in the process of being moved to the new Grand Egyptian Museum, not open yet.

Accomodations

Cairo/Giza
Steigenberger Pyramids Hotel**
I had requested a room with a balcony and a view of the Pyramids and this is what we had. We love to have a balcony to enjoy our coffee in the am and our wine in the pm. The hotel was very nice, with a great breakfast buffet that was included in the price. I would recommend this place and stay here again. Just be advised there is nothing else restaurant wise in the area, so we had dinner both nights at the hotel, which was fine. We were here 3 nights.

Le Passage Hotel & Casino
We had a very early morning flight, so we had a few hours for a freshen up and nap at this hotel, but did not actually spend the night. It was fine.

Luxor
Hilton Resort

We had a basic room booked here, but when we arrived and saw our room, we decided to pay for an upgrade to get a balcony with a Nile view. Unfortunately, we checked in on a Thursday and this night they had a DJ blast music until late at night. Ugh, we like quiet, but I get that there is no nightlife in Luxor so the hotel tries to provide some entertainment for their guests. It's just that we go to bed early and don't really do "nightlife". Then, the following night on Friday they also had loud music blasting till late in the night! When I spoke to the front desk manager, she was very nice and so ended up only charging us for two nights for our upgraded balcony room. Still, I would not stay at this hotel on a Thursday or Friday if you want quiet, as they do these events every week. The following two nights were fine and we loved the view we had of the Valley of the Kings lit up at night! Fantastic! Also, watching the hot air balloons take off in the early am on the west bank (we are early risers) was fantastic as well. These two things made up for the noise issues we had. We stayed a total of 4 nights here. The included breakfast buffet was excellent!

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Aswan
Old Cataract
We think this may very well be the nicest hotel we have ever stayed at and historic too! Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie and Princess Di have all stayed here and we enjoyed a tour of the hotel. We had a huge room with the most incredible bathroom and a large balcony with an amazing Nile view! We do like our creature comforts! We stayed 2 nights here.

Food
Having done my research, I knew that Egypt was not considered a culinary destination. We found this to be true. While we enjoyed some of the food, I was not interested in eating most of the meat, so I was stuck to a mostly vegetarian diet while there. The best food was while we were on the dahabiya sailboat. I loved koshary and tahini, the lentil soup, falafel and Baba ghanoush.

We also love our nightly happy hour with our glass of red wine and while we tried the Egyptian wine, we found it not to be to our palate. I had packed a few bottles from home and we enjoyed those, especially since we celebrated a wedding anniversary while there. We also splurged and bought one bottle of imported wine.

We did both experience a bit of "mummy tummy", with my husband a bit worse than me. We got a bit stricter with our diet, no uncooked produce, eating yogurt at breakfast, bottled water only, no juices, etc.

Final Thoughts
We had an incredible trip! Egypt is just a fascinating place and the ancient wonders are not to be missed. We always felt safe and Go Luxor Tours took excellent care of us. We don't speak Arabic, so having a guide to tell us the history of the sites and be an interpreter for us, was so worth it.

The heat, as expected, was a bit of a challenge for us, especially being Alaskans. That sun is no joke! However, I had my arsenal of tools to deal with it. Hat and sunglasses of course, but I had a small spray bottle and wow, this was so great to have. Just a spritz and instant cooling. I also wore a buff around my neck, which I would get wet whenever I could and that helped keep me cool. Even with all this though, I was mostly dripping sweat all the time and was glad I packed a different outfit for every day, it was that bad. We also found that after a day of touring in the hot sun, we needed a rest at our hotel and would often take a nap.
The culture of course, is quite different from USA. This is what makes it fascinating for me, but I have to say that I have no desire to live here, unlike some other places I have visited. I'm going to venture to guess, that there is not a large, or maybe even small, expat population here like there are in some European/Latin American countries. We did see tourists, mostly at the sites, not so much walking around. We did take a few walks on our own, but did not explore as much on our own as we have in other places. Not because we were afraid, but the chaotic traffic and crossing the street looked like a skill that we did not possess. My husband who is a traffic engineer had never seen anything like it before. The Egyptian people were warm and friendly and strangers said "Welcome to Egypt" to us.

Costs

We used miles for airfare.
Dahabiya was $1,800 total (included all food and entrance to sites).
$3,234pp for 10 night hotels, entrance to sites + Nefertari tomb, 2 internal flights, private car/driver/Egyptologist guide and two lunches and bottled water while touring.
$600-$800 approximately for miscellaneous cash for tipping, food, wine splurge, upgraded hotel room at Hilton

Bottom line; Get Yourself to Egypt!!

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2133 posts

Thanks for the kind appreciation! I am so glad you went - it looks like you had just a fantastic trip. I am so glad we went over in 2017 and I’m always trying to get people to go check it all out. We still talk about our trip there - from the traffic in Cairo to seeing the Valley of the Kings, virtually empty.

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1553 posts

What a great review! We loved our tour of Egypt back in 2008. I remember the heat all to well. We went in August! What was I thinking? Every inch of shade was taken by Egyptian men no matter where we went. I thought I was going to pass out several times.
We did a camel ride and I went head over heels off when it was sitting down for me to get off. I wasn’t injured because we were on a sand dune, but I fell into centuries of dried camel dung! Hubby laughed far too long and was a bit miffed that he missed a video shot.
Ancient Egyptians were very busy building their temples, tombs, pyramids and sculptures.
Yes, get to Egypt. It’s a great place to visit.

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334 posts

Thank you for posting your trip report and so glad you had a great time. I would very much like to return to see that new museum! On my last trip some of us took a balloon ride and ended up flying over Medinet Habu and the Ramasseum. I had hoped for an aerial view of Hatshepsut’s temple, but the wind would not co-operate!

Lucky you to stay at the Cataract Hotel in Luxor……

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9675 posts

Wow! What a fun adventure you had! That sounds like a wonderful trip and you really did a lot of research and planning. (And I'm sure your library loves you, hahaha!!).

I really enjoyed your TR!

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48 posts

A great report! I had similar experiences last month. Just one comment though about Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT), they do indeed have a tour that includes a dahabiya cruise, and their boat we were on (cabins for about 20 I think, our group was 9) was wonderful.

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7672 posts

I enjoyed reading your report. You did a good job planning your trip. We also had an incredible trip. The only difference is that we really loved the food; the chicken in particular was outstanding.

Posted by
795 posts

Thanks diveloonie for the great report. I would really like to take a similar trip. I’ve bookmarked your thread.

Posted by
1787 posts

Sounds like you had an amazing experience! Post Covid-quarantine travel has definitely changed some of our destinations. Ha!

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2288 posts

Bookmarking your post. Egypt is on the list but we don't know when.

We watched Death On The Nile, and watched 48 lectures on Ancient Egypt
from the Great Courses, that we got from our library. This really did
give us a solid foundation in our knowledge of Ancient Egypt.

Philosophical question. I tend to be like you and immerse myself before I go as I feel it enhances the trip. But I was reading an article recently countering this tendency to over plan-over study, etc. to the point that nothing will be a surprise one you got there. 48 lectures seems like a lot-even for someone as anal as me. Would you say that many lectures enhanced the trip or in hindsight was a bit too much?

Posted by
1100 posts

Tammy thank you so much for your very helpful trip report! I am planning a 14 day trip to Egypt, with two friends in January 2022, arranging it with Djed Egypt. After reading your description of your experience, I'm glad that we have also decided to go with a personal tour with a small on-the-ground company. Your dahabiya experience especially sounds great - I can't wait! I have been hemming and hawing about whether to pay the extra $$ to go into Nefertari's tomb and your description wins me over! Also thanks for the letting us know how you dealt with "mummy tummy." I'm planning to go prepared, but it will be hard to bypass all fresh veggies, like tomatoes... Again, thank you for taking the time to share the highlights of your trip!

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@Allan, in answer to your question. No, we did not feel like watching the 48, half hour lectures was too much. It took us 3 months to watch all of them, but as you can imagine 5,000 years in 48 lectures, well, it helped us when we got to the sites because there are just so many gods and Pharaohs to keep track of! In fact, we would like to watch all the lectures again! My husband in particular seems very interested in Ancient Egypt, and is still reading about Egypt even after our return home.

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@jmauldinuu-I hope you have a great trip to Egypt. The weather should be more pleasant in January. I hope you come back and give us a TR as I would love to re-live our trip!

Tammy, first, thanks for the shoutout; I'm so glad your experience was a good as ours was and that Go Luxor didn't disappoint. Michael is indeed amazing! Your trip report helped me relive our trip and I loved reading about sites you visited that we didn't get to. I laughed when you said you got somewhat "templed out". As amazing as they were, we did too by the end. I think Dendera and Abydos were my two favorites; definitely worth the drive from Luxor. We want to go back to Egypt and we're waiting for the new Egyptian Museum to open in Giza. I took note of your hotel there. Thanks for a great report!

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14882 posts

Hi Tammy. I loved reading your trip report. Thank you so much for taking the time. I could picture some of the places in my mind. It's about the only way I'll see them, sigh.

A few days ago I started relistening to the Ancient Egypt lectures - audio only. Bob Brier is fun to listen to, as well as soooo interesting.

Where next?

Posted by
2095 posts

Tammy,
What a fascinating country, so glad you enjoyed it. It sounds like you made the right decision to take a private tour and avoid being packed in tight quarters with other strangers. Plus being able to choose your hotel and a balcony room, I love that!

The RS Turkey tour was the most exotic I’ve taken and I have thought Egypt might make it on my list after watching Rick in the three shows he did that aired last year. After reading your detailed report, I want to go.

Thanks for your report!

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1347 posts

Thanks Tammy for the report. It brought back some memories. I think I was in grade four when there was a traveling King Tut exhibit at the ROM. My parents took us, but I have no memory of it at all. I do however remember a King Tut necklace that they bought as a souvenir. It stayed on a little easel displayed in the china cabinet for decades. No idea what came of it.

I think I need to go to Egypt to get another!

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56 posts

Fantastic report! Egypt is in my top 3 and we will go within the next 2 years - I hope! Your report is a. Inspiration!

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417 posts

Thanks for the trip report and shout out, Tammy. I am so glad that you had a good trip.

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14882 posts

Tammy, I love your photo album. It's clever, creative and super interesting. Thanks.

BTW what camera do you use?

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2288 posts

Great photos! I'm envious of your patience and imagination to put it together. I love taking photos but lack the skills to do anything with them. I'm glad you added comments, I was looking at those photos of Nefertari's tomb and my initial thought was that the walls must have been repainted.

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Chani, I used my iphone a lot! You can only use an iphone inside all the tombs or you have to pay more and buy a photo pass. I did bring and use my Nikon P1000, which I used on the Nile cruise to get photos of sunsets, moon shot and life along the Nile.

Posted by
1715 posts

Thanks for your trip report. Egypt is indeed amazing! We were there in 2019 and hope to return once the new museum is open. We loved the food and never got mummy tummy from eating the food. My husband did catch some sort of bug en route to Egypt. I think he was exhausted from the long flight to get to Egypt from SFO and the 4 am arrival in Cairo and his immunity was down. I gave him Cipro and the ship’s doctor gave him another shot of antibiotics and he was good to go the next day. I hope more people travel to Egypt. It is indeed a bucket list trip not to be missed. Lots of “pinch me” moments for sure. And the Old Cataract Hotel! Yes, fabulous.

Posted by
9675 posts

Ohhhh, getting caught up with your photos! A forum friend is in Egypt right now and said the same thing about the guide and the photos, lol.

I love that you loved koshari! Pre-pandemic, the Farmer's Market in Moscow ID had a booth set up by a local who made koshari to his grandmother's recipe. It is absolutely delicious and I could eat it often! The said local has a PhD in Nuclear Engineering or something like that and of course has a day job at the University of Idaho, lol.

Loved your album. Thanks so much for sharing!

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2160 posts

Pam, how lucky that you can get Koshary locally. I wish we could get it here, but I feel like I live in food desert!

Posted by
288 posts

Now that is a TR! Well done. Fantastic presentation and your enthusiasm shines through. Happy that you two enjoyed yourselves on this special voyage.
I am done. The end.

Posted by
34 posts

Hi Tammy:

Loving your trip report & photo book! Reading yours & the other recent ones has moved Egypt up our bucket list & we are actively planning for a February 2023 trip now (3 couples). I'm thinking of a very similar trip to yours, using Go Luxor for the land portion & Djed for the Nile cruise. I love the look of Djed's smaller boats, rather than the larger cruise ships.

Did you also use Go Luxor for the after cruise portion of your trip? I see that Djed also offers Aswan/Abu Simbel tours & was wondering who you used.

Thanks!

Posted by
305 posts

Tammy, thank you so much for this wonderful trip report! I don’t know if I’ll ever get to Egypt, but I really enjoyed your detailed stories about your discoveries. We were able to visit the Egyptian Museum in Torino, Italy, in 2019, learning it was the largest collection of artifacts outside of the museum in Cairo. It was a very interesting visit, and almost as hot (100 degrees!) when we were there as you described on your trip! 🥵

I’ve used Kool Ties for beating the heat, and was interested to see you used a buff. Did the buff work well for you? It looked nice with your outfits!😊

Thanks for sharing your photo book with us. It brought your words to life even more…truly beautiful photos!! That photo book is a real treasure.

Laurie

Posted by
1462 posts

Awesome report, Tammy!

I have just booked my Egypt trip for September/October 2023. I'm doing it with OAT, back to back with their Israel/Jordan tour. Seems a long way off, but I have three big trips between now and then, so I'm making up for lost time.

Posted by
896 posts

What great pictures, thanks for sharing! Seems like you had the place to yourselves.