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Before you embark on your Egyptian trip it is best if you can read up on the culture of the country, as it is rather unique. Many travelers, who have visited the majority of the world’s countries, find that their “I’ve been everywhere so know all there is to know” attitude takes an enormous blow once they arrive here. Why, well let us see if we can explain.
Egypt is an Islamic country, though about 15-20% of the population is non-Muslim, with Coptic Christians making up the majority. Throughout the world Muslims are regarded as people who do not drink alcohol and are virtual non-smokers … until you come to Egypt. Not only is alcohol tolerated here, not only is it, reasonably, easy to purchase, you will often find yourself in the company of a Muslim who is enjoying a beer and a cigarette; often finishing them in enough time to go and pray in the local Mosque.
Where else in the world will you see a man; sitting on a cart being pulled by a donkey; dressed in a dirty looking galabeya (the male frock that you will often see worn in Egypt); either selling fruit and vegetables or going around the street collecting certain refuse; and then reaching inside his apparel to answer his iPhone! To all intents and purposes this man is no better than a beggar back in your own town, someone who can hardly afford to rub to pennies together, yet he has a piece of technology that you maybe do not own.
Many people have the impression that Muslim women have to have their heads covered, either by a scarf or by wearing the all-enveloping cloak known as a burqa, yet once here something catches their eyes; many, many, women have their heads uncovered. Again, this is something which Egyptian women have been doing foe many years and is perfectly acceptable. Granted, some of these women will be Coptic, but vast amounts of Egyptians have decided not to wear head coverings, and many of those who do are doing it for a non-religious reason: they do not get advances from men when dressed like this!
Here are some hints and tips that should help you throughout your stay in Egypt:
WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER CAIRO AND A CRUISE AS A GOOD WAY TO SEE EGYPT FOR THE FIRST TIME
The Pyramids of Giza, and the Great Sphinx, have watched the rise and fall of every great civilization and empire for over 5000 years and this longevity has made them one of the biggest magnets on the planet. Mention Egypt and the mind’s eye automatically visualises these ancient limestone edifices and so, when the opportunity rises, they are a “must see” for every visitor to Egypt. So why does almost every tour company have packages that combine a Nile cruise with a visit to Cairo?
One of the major reasons for this is to look after your welfare. The minimum Cairo/Nile cruise package tends to be about 7 days/6 nights long and for many people, especially those from colder climates, this is too long to be expected to walk around in the Egyptian heat continually. The heat of the sun, added to physical exertion, can have a damaging effect on the body and so it is best to be able to rest, even in the sun, to allow your body time to repair itself; hence the cruise.
After having to endure the 24/7 madness of Cairo’s traffic as well as the queues and hordes of fellow tourists at the various sites, the thought of a 3 or 4 night 5 star, or 5 star deluxe, cruise, and in some cases a 7 night one, is like an oasis in the middle of the desert: no traffic; no queues; no pressure; just a few days of self indulgence, with a couple of excursions to prevent laziness from taking over. Why a 5 star, or 5 star deluxe, cruise? Well, you do want to be able to enjoy yourself without stomach problems do you not!
Thanks to the Internet, and the many search engines available, finding cheap flights is a simple as typing in “cheap flights to Egypt”. No matter where you live in the world there are companies offering discounted flights; and please do not ignore charter flights either. You may think that because they land at airports out with Cairo that they are no use, but any good and reliable travel agency will be able to either change a package to suit or even compose a special package for you. Do not be scared by the latter idea, a tailor made package is not the millionaire’s playground type of package; you will find that the prices are very comparable with pre-made ones.
Though you may be keeping to a strict budget, sometimes it is best stretching this slightly further for your health’s sake. One thing we never do is book cruises below 5 star standard and we are often asked why this is. This is because experience has shown us that more people suffer from stomach problems on sub-5 star cruises and so, because we want you to enjoy every possible minute of your trip, we just refuse to book these cruises. No every 4 star cruise does this, there are many superb cruises of this standard, but we simply will not put our customer’s health at risk.
We are often asked what the difference between 5 star and 5 star deluxe cruises are. Well, the star ratings get higher as the facilities and overall standard of the accommodation gets better and so it is easier to imagine 5 star deluxe (or any suffix added to 5 star) as being 6 star; something that those who fix the star ratings seem feared to utilize. Better amenities; better menus; larger and more luxurious cabins; masseurs and masseuses; Jacuzzis: the higher the star rating, the higher the standard!
So please, if you can, ensure you get yourself booked on a good standard of cruise boat.
So, now you have bought your package and you should have an itinerary supplied by your travel agent. Here is where a very important part of your planning comes in: read the itinerary! This may sound like a stupid thing to say, but that schedule has been composed to help you and can hold many hidden ideas for you.
You have a Nile cruise; so straight away you should be thinking of what you will require for this ... swimwear and casual, but smart, clothing for dinner are two things you will need.
You are visiting all the major sites; good comfortable shoes will be needed, not new ones that will cause blisters on your heels ... break them in first.
So go through your itinerary and work out what you will need to take with you, and start putting them aside early, do not wait until the last minute when panic can cause you to forget that all important item:
Your camera need batteries so make sure you have some spare ones (even though you can purchase them in Egypt).
It is going to be hot, so pack your cotton clothes, and underwear, which prevents irritations that man-made fabrics can cause.
If you are on prescribed medication, make sure you have enough for your trip; again you can get prescriptions filled in Egypt, so bring it/them with you.
Make up a mini-medikit with plasters, headache tablets, mosquito repellent, sun cream, safety pins etc.
Once you have everything ready you will find it is easier to relax before departure and you will not have that last minute run to the shops to get something. This will now give you many opportunities to start memorising the itinerary so that you know, once you get here, where you are going. Oh, and do not forget to pack the itinerary ... it is always handy to have with you.
Ideally the best time to visit outside sites is during the forenoon, when the sun has not yet reached its zenith. Sadly though being ideal is not always possible, especially on a tight schedule, and so the following is a good idea for when sites should be seen Please note that only the sites which are referred to as “usual tourist sites” are included in this list. For advice on sites not given here, you should contact your tour agent.
Giza Pyramids and Great Sphinx:
The Giza plateau has very little shade, and even the pyramids do not offer that much due to their shape. Though the site is open all day long, it is advised to visit here in the morning.
Again, this site is very much open, but at least it has some mastabas (tombs) to enter which gives an escape to the sun. There are also some nice high walls which allow some good shade, if you can get near them for the vendors! Therefore it is possible to enjoy Sakkara in the afternoon.
The Colossi of Ramses II is inside a building, which keeps you out of the sun, and the gardens with the various statues and other artefacts are well shaded by tall trees. This allows this site to be visited safely in the afternoon (which is why it is often twinned with a visit to Sakkara).
Being inside this museum allows you to stay shaded all of the time, so it can be visited at any time, morning or afternoon.
Citadel of Saladin:
Though it is exposed to the sun, the majority of the little streets within it are shaded from the sun and the main places you will visit within the Citadel, the Mosque of Mohammed Ali and the Museum, are interior visits. Morning or afternoon is fine to visit here.
The only time you are exposed to the sun is when you are walking to each of the buildings, and the streets are shaded in the afternoon, so another visit than can be done at anytime of the day.
The old market is well shaded so there will be no problems visiting here at any time.
Valley of the Kings:
Though people do visit here from opening to closing time, the ideal period to visit is in the early morning. The tombs are cut into the limestone mountain and rock does conduct heat very well, and it also retains it, so as the day progresses and the hot sun shines down on the valley, which is actually a sun trap, the rocks start to heat up. This heat is slowly given out into the actual tombs, which gradually become hotter and hotter. Add to this the heat generated by human bodies and it is quite obvious that by the end of the day, the valley is filled with little ovens, waiting to bake the next intake. This is a definite morning visit only, unless you like being baked.
Deir El-Bahri (Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut)
This has to be one of the most beautiful buildings of the ancient world still standing. It is located at the foot of the mountain which has the Valley of the Kings on the other side and also has a tendency to become hotter as the day progresses. A.M. visits are best.
Valley of the Queens:
Only a few tombs here, but rock cut as well so needs the same warning as the Valley of the Kings: A.M. visit!
Colossi of Memnon:
These 2 gigantic statues are located on the road leading away from the sites of the West Bank and are not close to the mountains; they are actually on arable land. This site only takes a few minutes to see, so can be visited at any time of the day.
Luxor and Karnak Temples:
The high columns, pylons and walls give each of these two buildings their own natural interior shade. Karnak does have huge areas of exposed land where the sun relentlessly beats down, but these are punctured by walls and pylons, giving a short respite. A.M. or P.M. visits are suitable.
Temples of Philae:
Like the temples in Luxor, these island bound buildings offer their own shade. To be honest, the only time you will be exposed to the sun is when waiting on the motor boat(s) to pick you up.
The most southerly, and possibly the hottest, site on the majority of itineraries, either built in or as an optional excursion. Built on the West Bank of the River Nile, now the West Bank of Lake Nasser, Ramses II’s phenomenal temples are only 40Km from the Sudanese border and are south of the Tropic of Cancer. Though the site is open all day long, it is strongly advised to visit it in the forenoon as the afternoon sun is too hot for most tourists to endure. Some shade is provided inside the temples, but there is a long walk from the bus stop and another one on the way back.
Many people plan their holidays/vacations without doing any planning ahead. They have 2 weeks off, so they head to a foreign country. This is okay in many parts of the world but they may find a problem with doing this in Egypt. To ensure you get what you want, things should be booked before you set off.
Hotels and Cruises:
Over Easter, and again from just before Christmas until just after New Year, Egypt has what are called high seasons. These 2 periods are when school children are out of school, when families realise they can all go on a foreign trip together, and so the owners of hotels and cruises (as well as international flight companies) like to add a supplement to bookings made then. These supplements can vary from hotel to hotel, cruise to cruise, and so the best way to get a good deal is to look for one in advance, not turning up with your $80 per night to find that it is now about 50% more than you expected. By planning this ahead you will not get a nasty shock.
Many solo travellers can also be hit with a supplement as many hotels, and most cruises, do not have single rooms or cabins and so a person on their own is accommodated in a twin room, for which they are charged for the second bed not being used. Lots of hotels, as well as a few cruises, do have this facility and so it is best checking before you leave to find out which ones do; this can be essential when on a tight budget.
An other good reason for booking before you go is that many special offers can be found that are not available if you want to just turn up at a hotel or a cruise (very few cruises will let you purchase a cabin without prior booking anyway). So please try and book before you leve to ensure you have accommodation once you arrive and to save yourself some money as well
Cairo short stay tour 03 Days/02 Nights
3 nights Cairo tour 04 Days/03 Nights
Cairo, & Alexandria tour 6 Days/05 Nights
Cairo long stay 6 Days/05 Nights
Cairo, cruising the Nile 07 Days/6 Nights
Memorable trip 07 Days / 06 Nights
Across the Nile river 08 Days/07 Nights
The land of pharohs 09 Days / 08 Nights
leisure at red sea, Alexandria 10 D/09 N
Egypt dream tour 11 Days / 10 Nights
Budget package 12 Days/11 Nights
Nile supreme 12 Days/11 Nights
Wonders of Egypt 14 Days/13 Nights
The ancient Egypt 14 Days/13 Nights
Beach soul 15 Days/14 Nights
Cairo, long cruise, & Alexandria 15 D/14 N
Explore Egypt 16 Days/15 Nights
Spiritual-Holy land 16 Days/15 Nights
Around Egypt 18 Days/17 Nights
Around Egypt & Petra 20 Days/19 Nights
Around Egypt & Jordan 26 Days/25 Night
If you must take a taxi, then it would be best if you asked at the reception desk of your hotel to get you one. They have certain assigned taxis that they know very well, and deal with on a daily basis. If you are travelling alone, or in a couple, and wish to organise everything yourself, also let the hotel know your plans before you leave. If you should get lost, the hotel will be able to act on your behalf! Take a note of the hotel’s name and telephone number, in case you do get lost, or change your plans.
Egypt is a Muslim country, so please respect their faith. Many things that you take as the norm, such as kissing and/or fondling your partner in public, wearing revealing clothing etc., are frowned upon here, so try to be more conservative in your attitude. Homosexuality is actually illegal in Muslim countries!
Do not rely, solely, on travel books such as Lonely Planet and Rough Guide. Though they do give a lot of good information, they do not explain everything, or how to help if you get into problems. Too many people have come to Egypt armed with one of these books, and have left, very disappointed with their trip, vowing never to return again!
If you wish to organise everything yourself, be prepared for the occasional “rip-off”. Like many other tourist destinations, Egypt has its “wolves”, those who prey on unsuspecting travellers. Often the total cost of an excursion can be a lot more than if you had arranged it through your hotel, or a travel agent, and a lot less enjoyable.
In Egypt they drive on the right, be careful when crossing roads. Take special care in Cairo, where the traffic is a lot busier than in other Egyptian cities: especially outside the Egyptian museum! UK and Japanese travellers should be extra careful, as you will be used to traffic driving on the left.
Buy (and drink) plenty of water. You will find it a lot cheaper to buy in the various shops, than buying at your hotel or cruise boat. You may not drink a lot of water at home, but make sure you do in Egypt. It is very easy to become dehydrated if you do not.
Learn the phrase “La Shukran” (No thank you!) and do not be afraid to say it to anyone who tries to sell you anything, or asks for “baksheesh”. Unbelievably, it does work. Please do not say “Emshi” (as many tour books advise), this can be taken as an insult. If you forget the expression “La Shukran” just politely say “No thank you” and walk away. Do not get abusive to the trader; he is only trying to feed his family.
If you feel that someone is being too pushy, let a member of the Tourist Police know. You will see them everywhere in Egypt and their job is to protect you.
Admission to all sites is payable in LE, so make sure that you carry enough with you. Try and plan each day in advance, work out how much you will need for admissions, and keep this money separate from your spending money.
Take a small, pocket, flashlight with you when visiting the sites. Many tombs, temples etc. use the natural light for illumination (including a local with a large mirror, reflecting the light!) and a small flashlight can be very handy. A small mirror, such as the one in a ladies make-up, can also be used to highlight a relief. Please Note: Do not take one of the really bright halogen torches; you could cause damage to the monuments!
Make up a small “medical-kit” before you go! Include things like safety pins, plasters (different sizes), antiseptic cream, diarrhoea tablets, headache tablets and sun cream (high factor advised).
When shopping for bargains, keep your own currency and credit cards out of sight, and separate from your LE. It is easier to haggle over a price if you can show that you have only a few Egyptian pounds in your possession! Plus, some traders may try to insist that they meant $ or £, instead of LE, if they see that you are carrying them.
Wear sensible footwear when visiting the various sites. High heels and open toe shoes are not advisable. The floors of most sites are either sand or rough-cut, uneven stone. Inside many tombs, wooden floorboards have been installed, but thin heels could get caught in the gaps between the floorboards.
Many monuments have signs that say “No Flash Photography”, please obey these signs (you can be ejected from the site if you ignore the sign!). The very bright flash can cause serious damage to some of the ancient paintwork! Some reliefs have depictions that show male genitalia – this is not pornography, so there is no reason to be offended! If you are part of a group (of any size) the leader/guide will explain the reason for the depiction.
If you on a “multi-centre” holiday and you will be returning to your first hotel before your departure, arrange to leave some of your luggage, and items you have bought, with the hotel. Most hotels offer this service free of charge (or for a very low cost) and it saves you having to carry too much to your next destination.
Please do not think that if a package says ‘x’ amount of days that you are restricted to this. If your holiday/vacation is for more days than the package shows, these extra days are easily added, as well as more visits to sites. No package is “set in stone” and they all can be tailored to suit your requirements.
A private tour is one that is confined to only those who you are travelling with; you will never be expected to join in with another group, nor will any others be expected to join in with you. This means that it will only be your party on excursions, only your party in our air-conditioned vehicle, and only your party with our guide; YOUR guide. This final point is very important as it allows you to get a rapport with the guide, something large groups cannot do so easily, and this means that you feel more relaxed, allowing for you to ask those vexing questions you have always wanted to know the answer to, something you may find hard to do in the company of strangers.