Memories + Pics from my Egypt Travels

I kept a diary while on my Ancient Encounters tour. I knew that with two weeks of solid travelling little details would get lost in my memory. Of course the big things, like riding a camel to see the Pyramids of Giza up close (!!), will be there forever, diary or no diary. But I wanted to share the little details, the amusing side notes that made the country and its people one of the most astounding and moving places I have encountered.

Kom Ombo Temple

We travelled to Egypt in November 2015, so this post has spent a long time kicking around in my drafts page, mainly because we had so many photos to sort through (as always!). I have a few more posts to follow this about the tour itself and some travel reading. Spoiler – I read Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile while on the Nile.

Here are the little moments:

Upon arrival in Cairo, us three Kiwis quickly found Wi-Fi access and checked the Rugby World Cup final score. The All Blacks won! Most important business sorted we started our holiday on a high. Note: We had the game on record at home to watch when we returned – great game, even knowing the outcome I was on the edge of my seat.

Kom Ombo TempleOur tour guide Aboudi, who has a tour guide pedigree – his grandfather wrote one of the earliest Egypt travel guides in English and his family has been running a foreign book store in Luxor since 1909.

The Great PyamidsThe great pyramids of Giza early on our first morning in Cairo. It was so surreal to have basically just come from work on Friday to be waking up in front of one of the wonders of the world. Cairo was just waking up too and the early morning haze shrouding the pyramids gave them an airy, secretive quality that looks beautiful in the pictures.

Of course we just had to give them a pinch.

The Great PyamidsMy first camel ride! We went from the lookout right down to the planes in front of the pyramids. I can’t say I was super relaxed perched on top of the gangly beast, but as we got closer to the pyramids I got used to it.

Seeing King Tutankhamun’s tomb at the Cairo museum was a highlight for me. We spent so long studying Tutankhamun in primary school that it was almost nostalgic for me to wander past all the many tombs and artifacts the young prince had been buried with.

Our group was joined by an armoured guard in Cairo who rode with us and presumably kept watch on our surroundings. He wore a nice suit, sunglasses and his visible glock generally added some swag to our motley crew tour group. That is until his phone rang and his ring tone, Celine Dion’s classic My Heart Will Go On, instantly crushed that bad boy image he was cultivating. At the back of the bus we were in hysterics every time it rang.

Philae TempleMagic Hour at the temple of love, Philae temple in Aswan.

Wandering through the markets in Aswan, famous for spices and teas. I bought some saffron which I have barely use since. Ben was called “lucky man” by all the market sellers as he wandered around with three ladies in tow, me, Brooke and Bethany, another girl from our tour group.

Night Market in AswanI also found a horribly perfect Christmas decoration for our collection at the Aswan markets. Sooo kitsch, I can’t wait to use it.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanSailing down the Nile on a traditional felucca boat. Unfortunately the support boat with a rowdy and smelly generator ruined the ambience way too often. Our “traditional” cruise was not without some creature comforts. You had to laugh.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanWe had a lovely dinner on board; vegetable stew, lentil soup and chicken wings. Traditional Nubian entertainment followed after dinner with us all having a sing song and dance around a bonfire on the Nile banks. All watched over by a nearby donkey.

Feluccca Trip on The Nile in AswanSleeping under the stars (nearly) on the felucca boat.

Kom Ombo Temple

Having the temples mostly to ourselves. The unrest in and around Egypt has kept most tourists away. It’s awful for those whose livelyhood relies on tourism. It was very jarring to read a 2013 edition of Lonely planet Egypt telling you tricks on how to avoid crowds when the biggest crowd you had seen in the temples were classes of local school children. It was a treat for the tourists who had come though as we had the run of the place.

Being harassed by some seriously desperate vendors outside Kom-Ombo temple. One man actually put a scarf on me to try to get me to buy, but I felt too vulnerable to get out my wallet in the area with that sort of treatment.

On Egypt Roads –

  • Traffic in Egypt is like nothing I have even seen before. I was fascinated.
  • Private vans acting as buses. Many with no doors and way over crowded.
  • Mechanics stalls and shops everywhere
  • Donkeys with grass over their bodies and the drivers sitting on top of the grass.
  • Water stations made up of ‘zeer’ clay pots and communal cups. These were the communities drinking water supply and were filled by hand.
  • Fruit shops
  • Rubbish piles and building debris and stacks of new bricks. Construction and demolition were happening everywhere.
  • Military check points

20151101_Egypt_Day1_0264

  • Three layers of parked cars on normal sized streets.
  • No adherence to lane systems
  • Horns! Horns! Horns! This is the backdrop to any travel through Egypt. Drivers use the horn like an indicator.
  • Lovely pastel coloured houses; the ‘Nubian Colours’ of turquoise, blue, yellow and purple.
  • Waving school children, teenagers pulling the fingers, adults gawking.
  • Watching Egyptian life go by. Life is lived on the streets here, there were so many people outside meeting friends, shopping at street-side markets eating, farming, commuting and just passing the time.

The Great Pyamids“Take your time but hurry up!” – Aboudi’s catch phrase, one that we heard often while he hustled us on to the next site.

Meeting our tour guide’s brother at the foreign book store in Luxor town and picking up some sweet postcards and a copy of Death on the Nile which I read for the rest of the tour.

Staying in a very fancy 5* hotel in Luxor with views of the Nile and a luxurious swimming pool and pancakes made to order for breakfast. I really could have moved in.

Driving through the desert to Hurghada, vast expanses of sand dunes stretching out forever.

Surprising our Hurghada tour guide with our local catch phrase ‘fil mesh mesh’ Arabic for ‘in your dreams’.

Eating all the seafood in Starfish restaurant and having the biggest meal imaginable at Gad an Egyptian chain restaurant. All the meat…! We took doggy bags home to the hotel, and then left them there as our stomachs got upset during the night. Fail!

Grand Seas Resort HostmarkLaughable evening entertainment at the Russian resort hotel we were staying at.

Hurgharda diving_BrookeDiving in the red sea and seeing a black and white sea snake.

IMG_5506Empty and half-finished property developments, Hurghada is what I imagine Las Vegas is like, glossy and shiny on the surface but not quite right underneath.

After our slightly unsettling stay in Hurghada we flew on to Jordan to start the next part of our tour. You can see the pics of our trip here.

Egypt is a country of so many wonders and I’m really glad we took the chance to visit when we did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. Plan Travel Trip: Egypt and Jordan Tour

6174710534_dd3c915d85_zMy original goal was to get to Morocco this year. Morocco is one of the places my mum travelled to when she was living in the UK on her “OE”, or overseas experience for those not brought up in NZ. I grew up listening to stories of her travels, through Europe, Russia and Morocco and have always wanted to visit these places for myself.

So, Morocco is definitely still on the travel wish list, however when the chance came up to travel to Egypt with a friend this year, we couldn’t pass it up.

While studying for Prince2, the material called on me to create my own business case for a project. At the time I had only one thing on my mind.. So here is my business case for travel to Egypt and Jordan – probably not what the tutors had in mind but it kept me interested.

6174762160_e37cdeed99_zThe Egypt and Jordan Holiday Project Business Case

Executive Summary:

A two-week tour of Egypt and Jordan with a friend in November 2015.

Reasons:

  • The pyramids of Egypt are one of the 7 wonders of the world and are something that Ben and I both want to see.
  • I want to experience swimming in the Dead Sea in Jordan.
  • We have a good friend travelling at this time and she is interested in doing the same tour.
  • November is a good time to visit both countries as the temperature is milder and it is not high tourist season.
  • Friends of ours did a similar tour two years ago and highly recommended it.

Business options:

  1. Join on the Ancient Encounters 2 week tour of Egypt and Jordan with our friend. Our chosen option.
  2. Go for only 1 week- cost savings are minimal as we still have the same flight costs and only slightly reduced tour costs. We would save on leave. However we would only be able to see one country on that part of the tour.
  3. Go to Egypt and Jordan but don’t join on the tour. This would involve a lot of extra planning in preparation and mean a lot of unknowns when we get there. By joining a tour we gain the experience of professional guides and tried and tested activities and routes.
  4. Go somewhere else on our travel wish list. This means we could tailor our holiday to suit any cost or time restrictions, however our friend won’t be with us.
  5. Don’t go anywhere: We save the money we would have spent on flights and the tour and could put it towards house savings. We would also save 10 days of leave that could be used for other holidays or periods off.

6174710416_7e2f549d55_zExpected Benefits:

  • New experiences and our first taste of Africa
  • Relaxing and refreshing holiday away from work. Lots of down time and opportunities to explore
  • New friendships we can make on the tour within the tour group
  • Well organised and comprehensive travel plans prepared for us.
  • We can tick Egypt and Jordan off our travel wish list
  • Pictures and stories of our trip can be shared with friends

Expected Dis-benefits:

  • Disruption to our work schedule
  • Uses up remaining leave allocation for the year, so we have to forgo all other holiday options
  • Spending money on holiday, takes away from our house saving priorities

6175040766_16e0cda33b_zTime Scale:

  • The holiday will take 16 days, which means 10 days of leave
  • The expected benefits will be experienced during and soon after the holiday

Costs:

  • Flights are £900 for both of us
  • The tour is £1149 each at face value however we hope to get a discount at the TNT Travel Show
  • Insurance will be £100
  • Spending on the trip is estimated to be £400 each for tips and excursions
  • The cost of travel vaccinations (unknown)

Major Risks:

  • The political climate in Egypt and Jordan may make things dangerous for tourists and the tour might be cancelled
  • The foreign food and unclean water could make us sick
  • We may not enjoy the tour activities, it may not be what we were expecting

6174234713_c8df14587a_z Investment Appraisal:

We’re going to go for it!!

It is a lot of money but we think the experiences we will gain and the enjoyment we get out of it will far out way the costs. The Ancient Encounters tour is good value for money and they have a good reputation.

All photos are from the Encounters Travel website