In 2015 my husband and I traveled to Egypt. It has always been high on my bucket list to stand in the presence of the Pyramids. To be able to stand on the pyramids was a life long dream.
We hadn’t planned on traveling to Egypt originally. It was my birthday and we were going to visit friends in Oregon. But when we went online we found ticket prices from Houston to Cairo for around $700! Why not go!
So we did our research of the area as we always do. Decided what landmarks we wanted to see and what local customs should be adhered to. And now…I get to share with you…
Before I begin, I want to tell you that some of what I might say about Cairo may turn you away, but please read through as this was one of the most amazing trips I have ever been on. Luxor was by far better then Cairo but you must see the pyramids, the sphinx and the Egyptian Museum.
Customs. Egypt is mostly Muslim and the women are very modest. I would recommend for women to choose clothing that is modest and respectful. No cleavage or shorts. If you do you will get “cat called” and I had heard that you could get grabbed at. Don’t push your luck and respect the country. I researched hijab or headscarves and women are not required to wear it. Wear comfortable shoes…closed in as sandles you will have sand everywhere.
Arriving at the airport late at night…we had not arranged transport to the hotel. Decided to “wing it”. Well that left us very nervous as many men were trying to hook us up with a taxi. We finally relented when we couldn’t look up what was good taxi’s vs bad. A reminder to always do your homework. They gave us the price to our destination up front and you pay upon arrival. This made me very nervous because they took us outside the airport and around the side of the building. Next time we will include the airport pickup with the tour company. More about the wonderful and highly affordable travel company later. We went to the Intercontinental Hotel located on the Nile River and only a couple of blocks from the Egyptian Museum. Upon arrival, we stopped out front while a dog sniffed the taxi for explosives, the trunk was checked and then we could pull up to the front doors. They put our luggage through an x-ray machine much like at the airport, they checked my purse and put us through a metal detector. After we checked in the room was very much the norm and we had a beautiful view of the Nile.
We had chose to go on our own for the first day going to the Cairo Museum. It was so close we decided to walk. Oh my. The smell of urine made me understand the scarfs. I used mine to cover my nose as we walked. Then as we crossed a road a really nice man laughed at us waiting on traffic and said we needed to walk like an Egyptian and proceeded to just walk as traffic stopped for him. He then told us his sister lived in Minnesota and he loved America, etc. etc. He asked if we were staying at the Intercontinental and proceeded to tell us he did all the artwork there and told us the way we were going to the museum was wrong. I was certain we were headed in the right direction but we followed him… right into his Papyrus Art store. Damn it. They had us sitting down, brought us Egyptian tea and then proceeded to lay all the papyrus art on the floor in our path to leave. They told us it was rude to not drink their tea but I was not about to drink something from a stranger. I began to panic. He then asked our kids names and we told him and he quickly wrote our daughters name on one painting in Arabic and gave it to us as a gift. Then he said something along the lines of “Peace be upon you and your family”. “No obligation to buy another painting”…yeah right! I asked my husband to DO SOMETHING! So we chose a painting…threw money at him… he wrote our family name on it with hieroglyphic and Arabic and we got the hell out of there. We walked around the corner and realized we were going to have to be a lot better at avoiding people even if we had to be a little rude. We passed by police behind a barricade with an automatic weapon (yeah that’s new for me) and wouldn’t you know it… we came up to the intersection and found that we had been walking in the right direction before. It was all a scam to get us to buy his art. So we walked up to the Museum, paid our fee and agreed not to use our camera. Security to get in was pretty lax but the security getting out was more intense as they were checking your luggage for items. Many items were not under glass or any security. I was amazed at some of the placards that had been hand typed WAY back in the day. Some of them looked like they had been typed in the 20’s. Everything is kinda thrown in there all mixed up and not really organized. But when you go upstairs and you see a bunch of mummies you forget about that. So interesting and can’t even begin to tell you. But the best part was the King Tut exhibit. Almost everything was gilded gold including the huge boxes (about 10’x 10′) that was found in his tomb and the matching 2 boxes that were originally in the big box, chariots, etc. You wont be disappointed if you like ancient history. One very important thing if you travel to the museum, put a roll of toilet paper in your purse. I learned the hard way that they have no toilet paper in the bathrooms. If you can help it, just hold it because their bathrooms were pretty nasty. I couldn’t hold it and had to shake it off.
Going forward was so much better because we hired a tour company out of Luxor to take us to the sites. You might think this would be super expensive, but for an entire week of our own driver and guide was only $500. Believe me, it was well worth the money.
The next day we were picked up at the hotel by our driver and guide and taken to the pyramids. I can’t even describe the feeling when I first caught sight of them as we drove on the highway. They are truly marvelous. We got to the sight and went through the same security measures as at the hotel. We planned to go inside the pyramids but unfortunately the lights weren’t working so we were unable to. They did let us climb up on the pyramids up to a certain point. Each stone is about hip high…. so they have an area where they built stairs because otherwise it would be very difficult. Our guide took pictures of us on the pyramids and also was very handy because she shooed away people trying to sell us stuff. What I did not expect was all the young girls that wanted to take their picture with me! Apparently American women are like celebrities….even when I didn’t take pictures with them, they were taking pictures of me. Lots of pictures. And they would hold my hand tight. Very interesting. When we went over to see the sphinx our guide advised me not to take pictures because there was about 50 girls and she said we would never get out of there.
The next day they took us to see some other pyramids south of Cairo, they were not as impressive on the outside, but we got to go inside and that was well worth it. The colors of the hieroglyphs are just stunning. For a tip they would have let us take a picture. We did tip but declined the picture. Keep in mind… a tip to them is 1-5 Egyptian pounds….this was around 12-60 CENTS American. So don’t be cheap, tip everyone. Then we traveled to a place called Memphis. This sight had some stunning statues including a very large one of Ramies the II, that….for a tip we were able to stand beside it and have our picture taken.
That night we flew to Luxor and it was such a big difference. Cairo was very dirty but Luxor was beautiful.
We were picked up at the airport by our driver and taken to the Nefertiti Hotel. I had chosen this hotel because it looked very authentic, had a VERY good rating on trip advisor, but was only $28 per night including breakfast and wifi. When we checked in the guy at the front desk spoke a little English, was extremely nice and took us to our room. There was construction on the ground floor and unlike America, you just had to be careful and not be an idiot. No caution tape there. The room was very plain but spotlessly clean, there was a small fridge and a TV on top of it but only one outlet to plug into, once we were alone I actually started to laugh. We could have stayed at a resort for $60 but I really wanted something authentic. The bathroom was kind of funny because you had to walk through the shower to get to the sink and toilet. I have to say, it didn’t take long for us to understand why the hotel had such a good rating, simply put the staff. It was the best customer service ever. It was the perfect place to stay. The tour company was also owned by the owner of the hotel. It was Aladdin Travels and the owner was Aladdin. The next morning we had breakfast on the rooftop terrace overlooking Luxor Temple.
At night we would always sit on the terrace and have dinner and try something new. The prices were so good. It was 65 Egyptian Pounds for the lamb. That was $7.80 American. And icing on the cake was the cat that would visit. The staff would try to shoo the cat away, but we like the cat. And it liked lamb.
We went to the Luxor Museum which was okay, there was a couple of mummies there. Our guide spoke very dramatically and I think it took him just a little bit to understand how my husband and I like to travel. Quick and to the point but don’t like to skip things. He would start to talk and then pause for effect. I would put a wide eyed emoji right here if I could. We also went to Luxor Temple which was right beside the hotel and it was impressive. Next stop was Karnack which was amazzzzzzing. Could have spent days there. It is so beautiful.
The next day we headed to the Valley of the Kings. I had no idea there were so many tombs. For admission, you get to go into 3 tombs. We really should have just paid triple and went to see more. The paint in the tombs is so bright and beautiful. You have to pay extra to see King Tuts tomb which is not very “impressive” as its only down about 10 feet or so, but the mummy of King Tut is in the tomb. This was full circle for us after seeing an exhibit in Denver and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. No pictures are allowed at all so I have nothing to share for this sight. We also went to see the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut. Most of this temple is reconstructed but it is still a beautiful site.
We spent our last night with a sunset felucca ride down the Nile. It was perfect. The son made us Egyptian tea and then I of course had to do my personal rendition of Titanic on the front of the boat.
All in all, we felt safe in Egypt with our guides. I would recommend going this route if you plan to visit. I want to go back again in the future and hopefully get to go inside the pyramids this time. Its sad how the tourist industry has plummeted over there. The Nile river boats are just sitting dockside unused. And I checked today and the Egyptian pound is worth half as much as it was when we were there. Its .06 cents American. I truly hope that things turn around in Egypt and it becomes a travel destination again.