Egypt– the enchanting country that we have seen in movies since childhood. Such films capture the pure essence of history, love, & betrayal. Its probably most people’s dream to visit the Great Pyramids one day! For me, that day came… This is my experience:
People / Safety Part 1
I will start with the very topic that is on everyone’s mind. When I mentioned to some of my friends and family that I was going to visit Egypt, the consensus was that “I was crazy” because “now is not the best time to go there”. Basically because of any political discord and news of terrorist’s incidents (anywhere). But I knew that It was deeper than that. Because of all the terror attacks performed in our country and abroad, the media has portrayed a world where people of Muslim faith simply hate Americans and Christians. Let me not be a hypocrite and say that for the most part, I also believed that this was true. At least because of the repeated theme that terrorists chant when committed evil acts which is that they are doing it in the name of ‘Islam’ or ‘Allah’. So does the media help shape this belief? Yes. Not to mention that TV Shows and Movies also use this theme to sensational drama in a story. But what about in Real-life? You be the judge…
Upon arrival to Cairo, I will admit that I was nervous and since the flight aboard Turkish Airlines, I was already thinking of every Aikido technique that came to mind to try and disarm or take out anyone that threatened me or the innocent aboard the plane. Yup, that’s what watching too many moves do! It sounds crazy, but this is what I was thinking about on the flight and upon initial arrival. The first thing that I saw that shocked me and sent chills down my spine was seeing Muslim women completely covered up. I mean they were dressed in all black and only their eyes were visible. This was a scary sight for me because it’s what I have seen in movies previously. Typically, this would be the woman that has a bomb strapped to her underneath. So this was the surreal moment for me. (of course such perceptions are unfounded)
As I waited for my driver, I saw more covered up women and some of the men dressed in their traditional clothing which resembles a robe of sorts (also what I have seen in movies). As we began the drive to my hotel I can see more of the common people and their surroundings which I thought to be very poor. The makings of a 3rd world were clearly apparent to me. With that realized, myself & the driver could not communicate- he didn’t know English and I don’t know Arabic. It was a relatively silent drive to the hotel.
As we pull up to the hotel, which was the Le Méridien Pyramids Hotel & Spa, I can see the Great Pyramids in a very close vicinity to the hotel (therefore Its why I chose this hotel). So seeing the pyramids immediately from this distance was exciting and I can see that Méridien was a luxury hotel. But wait, our car had to have the trunk searched and a bomb sniffing dog had to make its round as well. As you can imagine, like you, I’m not used to seeing this, so I wasn’t sure what to make of it except to just accept that its always better to be safe than sorry. As I walk into the hotel, yes you guessed it, I had to put my luggage through an X Ray machine and walk through a metal detecting machine. More security? You think?
Immediately, all the staff there, were friendly, smiling, all telling me “Welcome”, Welcome”. I checked in and went up to my room. The room was still from the 1980’s.. but hold it there. That was my fault, I wanted the view to the Pyramids. The renovated suites are on the other side of this huge hotel, with beautiful lobby, 2 huge pools, etc. I sacrificed some luxury in order to have these views. Here is the view from room # 4030:
Ok now that I described my arrival as the introduction to this blog, let me back up for 2 short points (I will return to the safety topic, Muslims, and the people of Egypt shortly…
Because of a decline in tourism and their own internal political matters, currently here is the conversion: 1 Egyptian Pound = 0.112630 United States Dollar
This is of course a great benefit to travelers.
While you can find most of the fast food chains and American entrees in Egypt, I don’t think that they are a “Foodie” country. We visit for the history and the people and not really for the food. So that should probably not be a focal point of interest of traveling to Egypt.
You need a very simple Visa, which is nothing more than paying $25 at the airport.
Yes, Uber exists in Egypt. So if you’re already accustomed to the comfort of using Uber, go ahead and continue.
Booking & Flight info
I typically always travel by using Expedia. The combination of booking Flight + Hotel together does save money. However, Expedia is only good for 1 destination trips. So if you want to get creative and jump around country to country, Expedia becomes difficult to use- it goes counter to their business model. Keep that in mind… 1 country, 1 hotel, go Expedia.
The flight was about 11 hours and stopped in Istanbul, Turkey for 3 hours or so.
Now about tours & sightseeing, there are 2 types of travelers:
1. The one that likes researching points of interests, likes to rent a car, take public transportation, find their way around the city to the sites. Basically use a map to “figure it out”.
2. This traveler likes to operate on a set and organized schedule. This means that hiring a tour company is the way to go because it typically includes transportation, English speaking guide, more safety, and more activities per day since its all prep scheduled in a tour program.
Which of the 2 travelers am I? Yes, that would be “B’. I am a highly organized person and structure is what I prefer. I don’t like any downtime in the day time when I am traveling. I want to see and do as much as I can and with as much ease as possible – I don’t want to struggle with anything or anyone. If this sounds like you, then book a tour.
For my Egypt Adventure, I hired Ramasside Tours and it was the best decision I could have made. They are ultra-professional, responsible, and highly rated by travelers on TripAdvisor. But I will let you read those reviews on your own. The part from me, that deserves honorable mention and why my time is Cairo and the touring was so great, was because they gave me a great tour guide in Mr. Waleed Elakbawy. His English was perfect, he explains clearly, is very knowledgeable and is totally invested in your experience. Beyond the service he is provided, he is kind, and just an all-around nice guy. So far away from the pretense of an evil terrorist or anything of that nature 😉 This is Waleed:
If you want to see more of my travel photos from my Egypt adventure, feel free to visit my Facebook page here.
After 3 days of visiting all of the main sites- Great Pyramids, Spinx, and others with Waleed in the lead.. it was time to catch a flight to Luxor to experience the Valley of the Kings & Karnak Temple and other temples. Here I met another star of a tour guide- Mr. Shahhat Wannan. He is a scholar of archaeology and really knows his stuff! Also fluent English, great personality, and all so kind. How can I get lucky twice? Well, I did. I only have great things to say about this tour company. So I recommend them and these 2 tour guides without hesitation!
And here is Shahhat showing the international symbol for Appreciation:
Let me share with you my Tour Itinerary:
Day 1: Cairo Photo Tour
Tour guide will pick you up from your hotel to start your photo tour in Cairo which includes the best photos stops you can make by the Pyramids, The Sphinx , old pretty mosques and old churches.
Visit the old streets of Cairo and tour Islamic Cairo; old mosques, houses, and palaces while passing through local markets including the famous Souq Khan al Khalili. Then transfer back to your hotel.
Day 2: Old Cairo (Islamic and Coptic)
Start your tour visiting the Citadel of Salah El Din, The Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque, after that you will move to Old Cairo to visit the Hanging Church, Abu Sirga Church and Synagogu, finally move to your hotel in Cairo.
Day 3: Luxor Day Tour from Cairo by Flight
Pick up by your Ramasside Tours Representative from your hotel in Cairo by air conditioned vehicle to Cairo Domestic Terminal at the Airport to fly to Luxor, upon your arrival our guide will be waiting you with sign of Ramasside.
From the moment your tour starts, your guide will give you full attention. Once in the car, your guide will talk to you about all the things on the way as well as other aspects of your tour that will interest you
Travel by air conditioned vehicle to visit the magnificent Karnak temple the largest temple ever built, Walk through the Avenue of Sphinxes, visit the Hypostyle Hall with its 134 gigantic columns, see the Obelisks of Queen Hatshepsut and Tutomosis III, and witness the temple of Amon, adorned with exquisite lotus and papyrus designs.
Followed by the world famous Valley of the Kings, original burial site of the boy King Tutankhamen where the magnificent Tombs were discovered carved deep into the desert rock, richly decorated and filled with treasures for the afterlife of the Pharaohs, and have the opportunity to visit three Tombs. (The three tombs visited are determined by the Egyptian Government as to preserve them from the large flow of visitors, therefore are rotated throughout the year and cannot be confirmed as to which tombs prior to your visit. King Tut’s tomb is with extra ticket purchase only.
Continuing on to visit Hatshepsut’s Temple at El Deir El Bahary. This impressive Temple was dedicated to Queen Hatshepsut the only female Pharaoh, which rises out of the desert plain in a series of terraces and merges with the sheer limestone cliffs, On the return journey stop-off at the Colossi of Memnon, 2 gigantic statues representing Amenophis III facing the Nile.
Then transferred to Luxor Airport for your flight back to Cairo and transfer to your Hotel.
People / Safety Part 2 (conclusion)
Egypt is considered a conservative Islamic country. So most people observe the more traditional ways of being a Muslim. I was told that there was a certain aggression towards women tourists in Egypt because of their attire. I personally did not witness this at all. However, you have to be smart and know where you travel to. If its a conservative Islamic country, it would be disrespectful to wear booty shorts & etc. So be smart and dress comfortable without being revealing. Then, when you get back to your hotel with your man, you can let it all hang out! But lady in the streets and freak in the bed is the way to go in Egypt! ( actually everywhere 😉
You may encounter hustlers and scam artists trying to confuse you with currency while you buy something. But this happens in every country. You have to be alert and use your currency conversion app so you don’t get fooled.
So in closing…
Life is so short. We have to spend it wisely. Not hating, being angry, being jealous, or being afraid- we don’t have time for that. We have to spend our time loving, being kind, and exploring beyond the barriers of our own land. We have to know what awaits us to learn from, awaits us to be.
Before this trip, I was apprehensive of Muslims in general. What we hear on the news is so terrible that it leads us to a place where we generalize an entire religion- millions of people for the vile acts of a few. I will be writing about this in detail in my blog soon, so I wont go further on that now, but an example of why we need to go out into the world and learn things for ourselves is this trip to Egypt. Where a kid from Miami can be Indiana Jones for one day just because he decided to be brave and explore another side of the world. In this short life, we have opportunities. We just have to embrace them.
So I recommend the country of Egypt to any friend or family member. And if I can answer any questions, please feel free. So I thank you for allowing me to share the photos from my experience with you.
Deepest Thank you,
Disclaimer: I don’t claim to be a safety expert or scholar on international relations. You have to utilize caution when traveling anywhere. You should always do your own research and contact the American Embassy for any specific questions. The positive experience described here is simply my own.