Once again, I have been amazed in my travels, this time in the country of Egypt. While Egypt has some beach resorts, most of you reading this will go there to tour historical sights. This is an active tour, so be ready for early mornings to beat the worst of the crowds and the heat of the day. I recommend coming in a day early to adjust to the time difference, so that you are ready for your first early morning.
My trip was in February and the weather was cool at night and in the morning. Once the sun hits you, the day warms up quickly, so wear a light jacket that you can remove. The trip included a land portion and a river cruise on the Nile from Luxor to Aswan. Each day we had new experiences – most of which we learned about in school, and now, after seeing them in person – they come to life.
We landed in Cairo and were whisked to our hotel in the downtown. The driving is crazy, so if this makes you nervous, be ready to look to the left and right and not straight ahead. There are no painted lines, so a three-lane road becomes a five-lane road. Horns are blowing constantly. THIS IS NOT A CITY IN WHICH TO RENT A CAR! Our first full touring day was to the Pyramids of Giza. Every picture or movie or video I ever saw of the great Pyramids don’t do them justice. I was awestruck by the marvel of these 4000-year-old structures built as tombs for three of the great Pharaohs of Egypt – Korfu and his son and grandson. I paid the extra money to go in inside the Great Pyramid. It was a narrow path with very low ceilings, and it was hot inside, so keep that in mind if you want to make the trek. There is an area where you can go that has a great view of the three Pyramids, and here you can get an amazing picture of yourself with a fabulous backdrop. This is also great spot to ride a camel. Be prepared to tip! In fact, tips are expected everywhere, and they are not afraid to ask you for one. The road around the Pyramids circles around to the Sphinx. The best spot to take a picture is before the parking area. Once there, they have locals offering to take your picture in different poses with the pyramids and the Sphinx; be prepared to tip again. We came back in the evening to see the light and sound show; seeing the Pyramids and the Sphinx by night was amazing. Just know that the show itself is just okay; maybe go to a bar across the street and watch from their roof top instead.
On day two we flew to Luxor (an early morning flight) and visited the temple of Karnak. The new Avenue of the Sphinxes that leads between Luxor and Karnak has only recently been uncovered from the desert sands. The Temple of Karnak is impressive; I loved the 62 columns in the colonnade. The carvings and colors that have stood the test of time were just amazing. Make sure to also see the Obelisks. Your guide will share how they were erected from one solid piece of granite. Plan for 1.5 hours to get through this temple, then head over to Luxor, located right on the Nile. Both temples are from the middle kingdom period of Egyptian history.
After touring these temples, we began sailing the Nile on our river boat. All meals onboard were included, but drinks were extra. They had a sun deck that was the best way to watch the Nile go by. I found myself in awe that I was cruising the Nile. This was a very special moment in the trip.
On day three, we had another early start to the Valley of the Kings. You will want to go early as it gets crowded quickly. The standard ticket includes three tombs but not the top tombs, so for an extra Egyptian Pound only, you can see Ramses V and VI, but Seti I and King Tut’s tombs were extra. The first two are well worth paying extra. Here you get a golfcart ride from the parking area where all the tombs are located. Each of the tombs are decorated based on that King’s style and preferences, and they say that some of the tombs still contain remains or at least part of the sarcophagus. The Valley of the Kings is a highlight of any tour of Egypt. The colors inside the tombs, protected from sunlight and wind will take your breath away when you realize the paints are over 4000 years old. Because you are still in the dessert, wear tennis shoes or similar as your feet will get dirty. In the afternoon, we headed to the Temple of Hatshepsut. She was a well-known Pharoah, because she was female, and her presence is felt in this fabulous temple built for her.
On day four we continued cruising the Nile and visited the Temple of Horus at Edfu. We took a horse and carriage ride to get to the temple. A warning – they drive those carriages like they are going to a fire! This temple entrance has a fair amount of walking. The structures and statues have been subjected to some vandalism. The temple ceilings have been burned and many of the faces have been damaged during the Byzantian period. The restoration efforts show the great story of Horace and the evil Uncle Seth. In the evening we visited Kom Ombo Temple and learned about the tools used by surgeons back then. This temple is also an unusual double temple dedicated to two different gods. The southern half of the temple is dedicated to the crocodile god Sobek, and the northern part is dedicated to the falcon god Haroeris. This temple complex dates from the Ptolemaic period, about 400 BC.
On day five, we were up at 3:00 am for the 3.5-hour drive to the temples of Abu Simbel located on Lake Nasser. Ramses the Great and his wife each have their own temple; his, of course, is larger than hers. These temples were physically moved when Lake Nasser was flooded. Just looking at them will give you a sense of how complex this effort was. The statues of Ramses here at Abu Simbel are world famous and no trip to Egypt is complete without seeing this temple. The temple is constructed and placed in orientation to the sun so that it shines directly on the faces of three statues deep in the interior of the temple. Right next door to the temple of Ramses is a temple dedicated to his wife, Nefertari. The statues of Ramses and Nefertari in this temple are the same height; this was apparently very rare, as Pharoahs were always portrayed as larger than others. These temples are from the middle kingdom period, around 1700 BC.
Day six was our last full day. We disembarked in Aswan and visited Philae and the ancient Granite Quarries. To get to Philae you take a boat as it is an island temple. This is a temple from the Greek and Roman period, constructed around 400 BC. The temple was originally dedicated to Isis and was later used as a Christian church. The mix of architectural styles make this temple unique and interesting.
On day seven we flew back to Cairo and visited Memphis and Sakkara. Memphis was the capital of the old Kingdom of Egypt. The highlight of Memphis is a sphinx with the face of Hatshepsut (who we have seen before) and a colossal statue of Ramses. This site was a bit underwhelming, and as we paid extra for it, I was disappointed; however, the second part of this extra tour was a visit to Sakkara. The Step Pyramid of Djoser (not related to the bad guy in Ghostbusters!) is the first stone structure built by humans that has been found. The pyramid dates to 2670 BC, about one hundred years before the pyramids at Giza. This is a hugely significant site. An additional bonus is that you can see over 15 pyramids from this one site. Your guide will tell you stories about why some are in better shape than others and why one is called the bent pyramid. This was an optional tour and while we were very tired at this point, we were glad we included this in our tour.
I decided to lead a group to Egypt and ended up with 24 in my group. We were combined with another 14 so we were 38 in total. I would have preferred a smaller group, so next time I will be sure to limit the size, to allow for quicker and timelier progress. One thing is for sure – you really must do Egypt as a guided tour and get an early start to beat the crowds. I would be happy to help you with travel – reach out to email@example.com or call 770-339-9961. Visit our web site at Condortoursandtravel.com for amazing travel packages.
1. Bring lots of $1 bills for tipping.
2. Convert some, but not all, of your money into Egyptian Pounds. You need five Egyptian Pounds to use most restrooms. You also need extra Pounds for most sights, as they are not set up to take credit cards.
3. Your shoes will get very dirty. Bring some old tennis shoes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Hat, sunscreen and sunglasses are a must have.