We went to Egypt in January 2017, and I am kind of sad that I wasn’t blogging at the time that we went. Honestly, the internet there is better than the internet here on Grand Manan, so it could have been done!
I’m not even 100% sure when we decided to go to Egypt. Or why, even. We were looking at a trip with the company G Adventures and it’s extremely difficult to choose where to travel, especially when you want to see the whole world! I think it was down to Thailand, Costa Rica, and Egypt and of the three, Egypt was far more affordable, plus it’s been on my bucket list since I was a child. Finally, after much debate, Casey finally said “We’re going to Egypt.”
The most stressful part of the whole thing was trying to figure out what to pack. We ordered some awesome backpacks online on Black Friday, Osprey 45’s I believe. Casey will likely correct me. I went on travel websites and some of my trusted Facebook groups, and asked about it. Mostly I was told to pack warm clothing, since we were going in winter (pffft yeah right) and to dress fairly modestly (not a problem). In retrospect, if you’re going in January, you WILL actually be cold, so pack more than one sweater, even a warm jacket. Also, leggings are alright but some people will likely stare at you, especially in some of the smaller towns. Jeans are the best thing because they’re warmer and provide more coverage. If you don’t mind the attention/stares, wear whatever you want. I just find that in some cases, this can be really awkward (ie. if you wear booty shorts, kids/teens might try and take a picture of your butt).
I’ll start at the beginning. Honestly, the whole thing didn’t get off to a great start. We took off from the Saint John airport at 6 AM, only to have the plane turn back around and land 15 mins later. We had to wait in Saint John for another plane to be sent from Halifax, which didn’t happen until after lunch, so we missed our Toronto to Cairo flight. We had a few hour layover in Montreal and then flew to Germany where we landed at 6:30 AM and had a 5 hour layover there. I somehow fell asleep in the airport there for a couple hours, but after being awake for 28 hours, I’m not overly surprised. I really enjoyed the flight from Germany to Egypt, as I could see the Alps, the Greek Islands, and it was my first time seeing the Mediterranean sea. Not gonna lie, I might have gotten a bit teary. Oh, and the woman who sat next to Casey was drunk and fell asleep on him, and it was hilarious.
We were supposed to land in Cairo at 6:30 AM originally, and we had booked a tour to Alexandria for the day. Since we didn’t land until 7:15 PM, we missed that completely. We did, however, still have the guide meet us at the airport and help us get through customs and with our visas. He also got us a couple of SD cards (seriously the best thing you could ever do, we each had 3G of data for 10$).
I have to say that I thought I’d seen crazy traffic in my travels, but nothing could ever compare to the traffic in Cairo. It was absolutely crazy. There might be 4 lanes painted on the road, but that means there’s (ample?) room for 5-6 lanes of actual cars! People on motorcycles with babies, kids in the front seat, no car seats, all going 100-120 km/h. The nurse in me was terrified!
We opted to stay at the Intercontinental in downtown Cairo for our first night. I’m glad we had a nice place to sleep, as we were exhausted. We did get cleaned up (and peeled off my compression socks!) and went downstairs to one of the restaurants on the property. We had some sort of Kababs and some delicious veggies and some cinnamon rice. After that, a hot shower and sleep were extremely welcome!
We slept in a bit and went down for breakfast. It was a buffet style but you could find just about anything, including honey right on the honeycomb. We were able to check our bags into the hotel security and walk to the Egyptian Museum. There are a bunch of people on the grounds of the museum and you can hire them and they’ll walk you through the museum, as there isn’t much for explanations on the exhibits. Some of it is also in Arabic. So you can really only guess at a lot of it. We did hire a man for an hour but we felt like he rushed through too fast, and we wanted to look at everything. So, after an hour we decided to go alone and take our time. You pay extra to go into the mummy rooms, and you’re not allowed to take photos in there. The mummies of several kings, queens, and pharaohs were in there, all hermetically sealed to preserve them. It was really cool. King Tut’s mask was also in this museum, which you also can’t take photos of. It was beautiful though. Everything that was packed into King Tut’s tomb was there too, except for him. After seeing the tomb, it’s crazy to think all of the stuff was in there, it must have been packed from floor to ceiling! It’s hard to choose a favourite part of the museum, but I really liked this sarcophagus that you looked at through a mirror on the floor. The inside of it was beautiful and carved like the night sky.
We walked back to the hotel and decided to grab dinner there before heading to meet our travel group. Cairo is SO big. I thought New York was huge but Cairo is so much larger. It’s pretty diverse too, no one really stares at you, though a few try to get you to follow them. Not happening buddy thanks.
We took an Uber to find our hotel that we would meet our group at. This is where things got interesting. The driver didn’t speak english (although it only cost 2$ Canadian) so when the GPS said we were in the right place, we got out and started walking. We had no clue where we were but we found a bank and they didn’t seem to really know where the Pharoh’s Hotel was. They pointed us in a direction so we walked. It was dark by then and we found a hotel, hoping someone could help us and we saw a sign that said G Adventures Tour so we figured we found it! In we go and sit down with the group and the leader looks VERY confused. He does another role call and then figures out that we’re at the wrong group! What are the chances of running into another G Adventures group when we’re lost. He helped us find the way to our hotel, where we met Albert and the rest of our group. We then went out to a cafe for snacks or whatnot, and to get to know our group. Our room was quite chilly and obviously they had not really realized that we were a married couple but it was comfortable and we were tired so an early bedtime was great.
Day three is where the fun began! We had a little continental breakfast at the hotel, we packed our bags on to a bus and headed out. Our first stop was the Pyramids. I was a little bit scared that they would not be as amazing in real life as they are in books, but I was wrong. They were HUGE and magnificent. You can pay to go into two of them, we chose to go into the Great Pyramid.We walked around and took photos of it and then went inside. I was terrified. I am pretty claustrophobic but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from going inside. It was extremely hot inside and there was a woman in front of us who was trying to climb up in high heels, so it took forever. It was an extreme leg workout but we did it. The inside is just an empty tomb as it was robbed at some point. It’s where the Khufu would have been laid to rest. I’m sure it was packed full of treasure when it was sealed. It’s too bad, when you think about it, how many artifacts were lost in grave robberies.
The second pyramid was built by his son, Khafre. We walked around and took some pretty cool photos. Our guide, Albert, was always ready to help us take amazing photos! We paid the guy with the camel to just let us take photos. Albert told us not to go for a ride because they’re not really regulated and sometimes they will rip you off and not let you off the camel until you pay them more. Just a little travel tip.
The third pyramid was smaller, built by Khafre’s sone Menkaure. You can also go inside this one but we chose not to. One of the locals offered Casey some camels in exchange for me. Casey figure it wasn’t enough camels.
We drove over to a spot where we could see all three pyramids. It was amazing.
After, we drove over to the Sphinx. It looks super small compared to the pyramids, and when you look at it far away, but when you get closer to it, it really is quite big. It’s pretty amazing what the ancient people built!
We stopped at a beautiful papyrus shop, which showed us how they used to make papyrus paper, did a pretty sweet demo, and then we shopped a bit. We bought a gorgeous picture of the pyramids to hang in our living room, which was painted on home made papyrus paper.
Next we visited a market called Khan el Khalili. It was a very different experience for us. Tight quarters, different smells, food, vendors everywhere, a big beautiful mosque, and tons of people. We explored a bit then rested with our group at a Cafe, and ordered our first Hookah. I’m not personally a fan of smoking it, but I love the smell.
After that, it was off to the train station. After a exhausting day, I couldn’t wait to go to bed! I think the train was one of the things I was looking forward to the most, as I’ve never been on one. Let me tell you, it was an experience. The bunks were extremely small, I was freezing, and the bathroom was pretty surprising with a toilet that opened directly to the tracks below! I did not sleep very well, as we were speeding up and slowing down and the noises of other trains passing made me jump every time. It was an experience!
We were woken up on the train for breakfast, and enjoyed watching the small towns go by in the window. Breakfast was bread. Seriously. Like 5 different types of bread and fig jam. After getting off of the train, we walked a short distance to our hotel where we were able to shower and get changed. A while later we met at a bus to go visit Philae Temple. I think that this was my favourite of all of the temples we visited. Maybe because it was the first one, maybe because it was unique on an island in the middle of the Nile, maybe because it was an amazing mix of architecture from so many different periods. It was beautiful.
After this, we headed back closer to our hotel and took a boat around the nile and Elephantine Island, which has a sweet Nubian village on it. We played soccer with a few of the school children. They went easy on us and totally kicked our butts. They were so cute and such good sports to let us play with them.
After having our butts handed to us by a bunch of small children, we walked around the Nubian village. Dirt roads and paths, laundry hanging to dry, beautifully painted homes, tiles. It really was amazing. We had dinner with a local family and they spoiled us. We had a huge variety of foods, including french fries (which must be a staple because they’re everywhere). I don’t know about everyone else on the trip but I needed a good nights sleep after that!
Getting up at 3:45 am was NOT easy the next morning, but it was SO worth it! We had a 3 hour drive to Abu Simbel. One of the temples that Rameses II built. It was amazing. It’s a UNESCO world heritage site, and it was actually moved a couple hundred yards backwards because the dam that made Lake Nasser flooded the original site. It was a pretty amazing tribute to ancient AND modern manpower! The statues and temples themselves were phenomenal. You aren’t allowed to take photos inside them, but the outside was the best part.
On the drive back to Asawan, we stopped in the middle of the Sahara desert and took some photos. We were able to see a mirage too, which was pretty cool. We stopped at a shop that makes perfumes out of oils which was pretty cool. They gave us Koshari, which is a traditional meal of pasta, lentils, tomatoes, and chickpeas. It was tasty, but after a while my belly started to not feel great. We went back to the hotel to rest for a while.
After a couple hours we met with our group for a big dinner together at a restaurant. Casey tried pigeon and I had chicken I believe. You always get lots of pita bread and tahini sauce, as well as rice and veggies too. After, we explored the spice market, bought some spices and hibiscus tea from a local vendor, and then met our group again to watch a Football match in a hookah cafe.
The next day we slept in a bit and then went and boarded our Fellucca to sail the Nile for the day. It’s funny how you get an idea of how things are going to be and you think you won’t enjoy things. I was SURE I was going to hate this day, and I was SURE I was going to love the train. It was the exact opposite.
I LOVED the fellucca. It was such a beautiful relaxed sail on the water. It was a goregeous day. Not too hot, not cold. Just right. We stopped and stretched our legs on a big sand dune at one point. Casey jumped into the Nile. Not me! That was COLD! We had a support boat that we could flag and use the washroom and that’s where we ate as well. Lunch was pretty weird but dinner was fine. We were all so tired from the past few days that a super relazing day was just what we needed. There were canvas sides and a roof to the fellucca and we slept on the deck all night. It was the BEST sleep ever. I’m pretty sure we were all in bed around 8 PM!
We woke up pretty early on the felucca and had a bit of breakfast and then took the support boat over to the shore, where we hopped on land and our bus picked us up to head to our first stop of the day, Kom Ombo temple, built for Sobek the crocodile god and Horus. The area was a rich farm land and they had a problem with people getting eaten by crocodiles, so what do you do but build a temple to the croc god? The hieroglyphics on the walls were pretty amazing at this temple. There was also a crocodile mummy museum there.
It was a long drive from there to where we were staying in Luxor. We drove through a bunch of small towns with vendors selling every fruit and veggie, and every animal you can imagine. You wanna know where to get a pigeon? On the side of the road at a vendor!
When we arrived in Luxor, we had a chance to shower and get changed, and then headed out to Karnak Temple. An amazing temple which was added to by many of the kings. It was so much to explore and was beautiful. Luxor had a 3 km ancient road lined with Sphinxes between Karnak Temple and Luxor temple. It’s pretty incredible. There were obelisks still standing and really awesome carvings as well as so many hieroglyphics and the biggest kings bathtub ever. It amazed me how the pillars were so massive and heavy. It’s hard to fathom how an ancient people got them to stand but they were fantastic.
After exploring the temple until sunset, we took a horse and carriage tour around Luxor. That was pretty neat, seeing how the city has come up around all of these UNESCO heritage sites. We met as a group to get pizza and then went to bed for an early morning.
The next morning we woke up super early meet out bus for a big day. We drove a short distance to the Nile, and we got on a little boat which ferried us over to the other side. We caught another bus there and drove to a field where we boarded the biggest air balloons I’ve ever seen. It was absolutely amazing to soar above the Valley of the Kings and watch the sun rise.
After thatwe drove back to our hotel and got showered and changed and went for some breakfast. Next we took a donkey ride down the streets of Luxor. That was challenging. You can’t hold your legs around them you just have to relax. They have a mind of their own that’s for sure.
Next we went to see the Colossi of Memnon. Gigantic statues still being excavated. Pretty awesome.
After that we headed to Queen Hapshepsut’s temple. It was one of my favourites probably because the paint was still in beautiful colour and detail on the inside.
After this, we went to a pretty nice shop that made things from alabaster right there on site. I bought a cat and some scarabs. Next we headed to the Valley of the Kings. It was a highlight for me as well. You weren’t supposed to take photos in there. We went inside King Tut’s tomb and saw his mummy. We went into some pretty amazing tombs and the paint was still amazing. Next we drove to a place where were going to ride camels. That was kind of frightening but a very cool experience. My camel’s name was George Clooney. After a day of riding donkeys and camels, by bum was quite sore!
After our ride, we went on a drive through the countryside, which was beautiful, and then off to do a bit of last minute shopping. We also took a quick tour of the Luxor temple as well. Then it was off to the train station for our train ride back to Cairo. However, our train couldn’t get through to the station so we waited around for a long time and then went back to the previous hotel, and some went to bed, some hung out in the lobby and we went out to a cafe and had tea and something to eat. We found out at about 1 AM that our train wasn’t going to be fixed anytime soon so we all went to bed.
We were woken at 6 to say that G Adventures would be flying us back to Cairo that morning so everyone could make their flights. It was a quick hour flight and then we were back in Cairo for one more night. We relaxed at a hotel by the airport and tried to get lots of rest after a very busy week.
All in all, this was the trip of a lifetime. Our guide was AMAZING. Albert took such good care of us. He always made sure we had snacks, bathroom breaks, and lots of free time. We were so lucky to have him. The entire trip was worth flying halfway across the world for. Egypt is such a fascinating country with an interesting history. I highly recommend going on this tour. You can do it for a little more money and have nicer accommodations and fly instead of train. They have tons of options. G Adventures will take great care of you.
Full disclosure: I’m more than likely not spelling things right. Sorry!