I first visited Egypt in 2007 for work and was spellbound. I came home and told my husband this was a place he needed to go, so when the opportunity arose in 2013 I found myself back in this astounding country.
Arriving into Cairo at 4am after very little sleep to be met by our guide who had our Visa was a blessing. It is a great idea to prearrange this beforehand as it saves you waiting in yet another queue and is handy if you do not have any Egyptian Pounds on hand to pay for it.
Collecting luggage was one of the more interesting airport experiences I have had. Everyone was standing around and then the carousel would start beeping and move about 3 or 4 bags before stopping. It proceeded to carry on in this manner for about an hour until eventually; we spied our bags and were bustled out into our air-conditioned (yay) van. At least the toilets were clean and I thought the airport looked a whole lot better than when I last visited, who knows they may have even repaired the carousel by now.
Racing through the early morning mayhem they call traffic is not for the faint hearted, especially as the Egyptians deem it unnecessary to waste time turning on their headlights (I guess it works for them). This is the stuff of wonderful photographic opportunities with sights that will have you turning your head back and forth like a spectator at a tennis match trying to take in everything at once. Six lanes of vehicles merged into four lanes of traffic (mostly) with success. Incorporate camels, donkeys pulling carts, goats and pedestrians into the melee and you have a wondrous conglomeration of life in Cairo where every vehicle sports the infamous “Cairo Kiss”
A lover of history I hung on every word as we absorbed the ancient culture and legends while marvelling at the monuments of this ancient city. It is imperative to have a knowledgeable guide bringing to life the incredibly fascinating and complex history, they know all the tips and tricks; the best bits to see in the immense Cairo Museum, where to get the perfect shots of the awe inspiring Pyramids and Sphinx and exactly where to stand for the cheesy ones.
A 3am start to fly to Abu Simbel, a place I consider the jewel in Egypt’s crown. There are no words to describe your first glimpse of this miraculous structure and to not only have built it in the first place to have shifted it as well is frankly unbelievable.
Traveling onto Aswan we took in more incredible facts and sights and boarded a cruise that would take us through Kom Ombo, Edfu, Esna and Luxor. Our local guide travelled on the same ship and shared his extensive knowledge of the fascinating artifacts along the way. A highlight was the Valley of the Kings and the endless steps to explore the underground tombs. Cruising along Egypt’s lifeblood gazing at the locals going about their lives was a relaxing way to finish our visit to this age-old country.
Clients often ask if a country is safe, especially given Egypt’s recent bloody past and political upheaval. I always felt completely safe, but did not take any undue risks. The beggars were especially vigorous particularly around the monuments, mainly due to the lack of tourists. Be prepared to tip for everything, these people are struggling as after the Suez Canal, their biggest income is tourism, and this has been decimated by the countries riots. I adored Egypt, it is great value for money, thought a week was the perfect amount of time to take in the highlights and would consider it the most amazing place I have ever been.