Humanities I and II were and will always be my favorite classes during my undergrad studies at Northeastern State. I never missed a class and Dr. Meyers is the only professor's name I can recall without having to use a life line or look up and to the right. It was that class and Dr. Meyers that introduced me to Egypt. I was smitten at first sight. I knew then at age 18 I would find my way there and behold the wonders of the ancient world with my own eyes. Run my fingers over hieroglyphics. Oh and, of course, run away from risen mummies. Because you know...Hollywood.
Years passed since Humanities I. I had grown up things to tend to. Then I found myself with a new chaperone business and a young lady in need of a destination (Out in Wanderland: How the wandering began). Light bulb. Bells and whistles. Eureka and such. Why not head to Egypt? Egypt has held the top spot on my 'must-see" destinations list since college. For nearly 12 years, I have had access to the world with relative ease (I just love these flight benefits) yet I still never made it to the number one country on my list. Of course, we'll wander through Egypt. Perfect.
Our trip was scheduled for early October. Thank goodness. The weather was bearable. We missed the hottest month, August, and were able to enjoy clear skies everyday. Although it was still hot and I thought I was going to die in the Valley of Kings, proper hydration and appropriate clothing allowed for uneventful touring sans a dramatic Mae West faint.
Tourism in this once extremely popular destination is in a steep decline since the revolution in 2011. Temples and tourist attractions are practically empty. In years past, you would have had to book hotels and tours months in advance to ensure a spot. Now, most reservations can be made same day and at highly reduced rates. Departure dates and times for certain activities, however, may not be available due to low attendance. Vendors and tour operators are thrilled with all that arrive and the competition for your business will be aggressive.
We arrived in Cairo with pre-arranged car service to our hotel so that we could avoid the drama of securing an fairly priced taxi. Suntransfers.com is incredibly cheap and reliable. I would advise against any thoughts of renting a car and going at it on your own. Driving in Egypt is not for the faint of heart. Most activities and tours will include transfer to/from your hotel. Let me just say it again. I do not recommend driving in Egypt. You'll thank me later.
Security is very noticeable throughout the city and measures won't go unnoticed. All of the hotels have metal detectors at the entry and your bags will be screened. When leaving for your return flight home, you won't be allowed to approach the ticket counters for check in without showing proof of travel. Make sure to have your boarding pass printed out or electronically stored in your smart phone for easy access. Armed soldiers patrol and are very visable at all major sights and at various checkpoints. Some excursions travel with police escort in an organized convoy. Your safety is a top priority to the Egyptian government. Not to say you don't need to worry about the ever present pick pocket.
We spent our first full day in the old capital Memphis, visited the step pyramid of Saqqara, and ended our day at the pyramids of Giza after a couple of quick stops to buy oils and taking in a demonstration at the papyrus paper gallery. The following day, we took in Old Cairo and the Egyptian Museum. King Tut's exhibit was amazing. I found those mummies I was worried about. Did you know they mummified animals too? Right, me either! Insert blank stare and three quick blinks.
We made our way to Aswan via an overnight train so we could start a four day/three night Nile River cruise. Aswan is the base tourist use to visit Abu Simbel. The convoy to visit the temple is escorted from the city at 4am. Philae Temple shouldn't be missed while in Aswan. We spent the next few days on the Nile with stops to visit Kom Ombo and Edfu before disembarking in Luxor. We opted to split our sight seeing in Luxor into two days. The afternoon sun while in the Valley of Kings, as I mentioned earlier, just about took me on up to glory. I swear I was headed into the light. Stay hydrated and stretch a bit before climbing in and out of the tombs of the valley (I'm kidding about the stretching, a little). We were disappointed that Ramses II tomb was closed for renovation. His was the main tomb I had wanted to see. King Tut's tomb is small and empty except for his mummy. Everything is housed in the Egyptian Museum which you were able to see during your time in Cairo. I won't even tell you the price of viewing Queen Neferteri's tomb. I'll just say, we didn't see inside.
Our hotel in Luxor was along the Nile , very nice, and very empty. I don't know what it is with these hotels and only having WiFi accessible in the lobby area. Somehow, we survived. Another overnight train back to Cairo but this time, we were upgraded to the VIP train that left a few hours sooner and it was much more comfortable. Why hadn't I known about this train on our way to Aswan? That first train ride was forever. I thought we had maybe missed our stop and would wake up in Johannesburg for sure. It should be noted there are frequent flights between these cities.
To summarize, it will be hot when you go. Some months are like Hades while others are just ninth ring of hell hot. Egypt is safe. Enjoy the low prices but don't take advantage of their desperation. Dress respectively for the culture but as necessary for the temperatures. Don't drive and while riding, keep your eyes closed. Opt for flights instead of the the train. Eat everything. Drink water. Most importantly, accept the Egyptian hospitality. They are genuinely happy you came.