No one can leave Egypt without seeing the pyramids. There are several ways, some of them rather comfortable.
Even without being there, everybody has already seen the pyramids, but the Cairo has enough marvels to justify not spending much time in Giza.
And yes, we had fun.
Pros: History at its best. Pleasant cruise in the Nile. Diving in the Red Sea.
Cons: Makes you feel small. Hot, hot, hot…
In a nutshell: A world of history, culture and pleasure.
Egypt is mainly history, history and… Red Sea.
A perfect break in a dense visit concentrated in art and history is a swim in the warm waters of this sea, surrounding by colourful fishes. There are several places to do it, but the top destinations are Hurghada, in west coast, and Sharm-el-Sheikh in Sinai.
We’ve been in both of them, and the only common things were the excellent hotels in a desert landscape. In Hurghada (Gouna, to be precise) we met very shallow water, where we could advance hundreds of meters in the sea. The reefs should be elsewhere along the cost.
In Sharm-el-Sheik the hotel was built on the reef. No real beach there, and the ones that we saw nearby were smaller and steeper.
Diving is a must, and in our hotel we could start to watch the beautiful fishes as soon as we started to cross the floating bridge that took us to the diving platform at the edge of the reef.
Comfortable and safe diving!
The desert, Sinai, and survival at St Katherine
Some people love the risks and hard conditions of the desert. Egypt is a good place for them: desert is everywhere, and the risks of “bad encounters” shouldn’t be minimized.
Well, I must confess that we prefer the richness of history in comfort. We had desert in the way to Hurghada, we had desert in Sinai, and we had enough desert in Ghiza, even without going far.
And without any kind of risks, except being invited to buy some “true” fakes of the usual stuff. Good!
Well, I kept the tip, but things have changed – I had some (funny) experiences in the desert, related in my Sharm-el-Sheikh page.
However, life is hard in the desert. St. Katherine monastery, standing inside a fortress, evidences that nature is not the only menace to the monks.
Inside, the space is well organized, with signs of the precious water.Survival is helped by a narrow cultivated valley, outside, just by the monastery.
One single doubt: how do they water it?
I will see it deeply in my Sinai page
Our guide told us that half of all the monuments in the world were in Luxor. We easily believed. Maybe not in quantity, but in size and expression.
The temples and palaces in the east bank, and the burial places in the west bank justify that you spend in Luxor all the time that you can. Of course, Luxor deserves a separated page, and I tried to do it. You’re invited!
A cruise in the Nile is mandatory but things will be different according to the quality of the boat that you take.
We were in the Nephtys and everything worked fine. Some passengers were moved from another boat with severe complaints, but they also found Nephtys perfect. They have been really relaxing days, with isolated visits serving well to break monotony.
Another aspect to have in mind is the option of going up the river or down. We did it from Aswan to Luxor, and I think it was the best option.
Cairo is a huge, dirty, noisy, and marvelous town.
We didn’t have time to explore it extensively, maybe we will, in another visit.
The strongest impressions that remain are Khan el-Khalili, the heart of old town, the City of the Dead, where thousands of people solved the housing crisis lodging in the cemeteries, Saladino’s Citadel, and the Egyptian Museum.
This one, was the most impressive collection of artefacts, fighting for space, in an interesting building that should be ten times greater to hold the collection with the dignity it deserves. And Tutankhamun’s treasure it’s… well… go and see for yourself.
This is familiar to everyone.
Everybody has seen the pyramids and sphinx from all the angles, in all lighting conditions. The only thing that the visit adds is… proportion. You know that everything is so big, but it’s different to feel it in place.
Tito went in advance, and, as he approached the pyramid of Kheops, it was looking bigger and bigger, until he almost disappeared against a simple block of stone. One of the million blocks weighing several tons pilled in the building.
God! We are really small…
More details and photos in Cairo page
Dive in Sharm-el-Sheikh or Hurghada?
The best place to enjoy the red sea.
Either snorkelling or diving, or only swimming, the hot waters and their rich fauna are in Sharm-el-Sheikh at their best. Surrounded by the desert, local life is clearly pointed to the tourists needs and opportunities
So good, that we went there again and collected much more information for a Sharm-el-Sheik page.
I must confess that Hurghada was one of my biggest travelling disappointments: a very ugly place, dirty and dusty.
The only thing that made me happy was my previous decision to replace the stay in Hurghada by Sharm-el-Sheik.
Of course, the hotel in Gouna was great, and some other hotels in the area may be oasis in that desolation, but the only trump was… the sea.
That splendid sea, that, I knew, was also waiting for us in Sinai.
I never planned to go to Gouna, nor even knew that it existed. I tried to book a good hotel in Hurghada, and the agency sent me here, several kilometers distant, but really a good hotel of Moevenpick chain.
We didn’t explore the area, a wide complex but, it seemed (and posterior readings confirmed) only a tourist complex – the few hours in location were spent in the shallow and warm waters
A nightmare for all the European citizens is… change. Our smallest note is 5 euros, too much for some tips, and so, euro coins are used. But, as anywhere else, the banks don’t change them, forcing the Egyptians to ask for exchange from tourists.
At the first situation everybody gets surprised and mistrustful, but after the first day we get acquainted with the common task of exchanging coins for notes. Funny is when the exchange is made from the quay to the boats. It’s already a standard a photographic film case flying up with ten euro coins, and down with the respective note.
The Americans don’t have this kind of problem, because they have a one dollar note. That’s why I suggest the European authorities to create a one euro note, for instance with that beautiful monument that is the pillory from Turquel.
For a western, not used to this kind of deal, it starts to seem odd. It’s rather umcomfortable to offer someone a third or fourth of the price he asked you. But that’s the use. And bargaining is not a conflict but almost a social way of fraternization.
So don’t hesitate: make your (small) offer. And even if the deal fails, you will be more considered after a hard bargaining than if you waste your money accepting the high prices they always start asking. Besides, once caught the rhythm, it is funny.
Land Transport to Hurghada
As my wife fears planes, I decided to travel from Luxor to Hurghada by land. It was a wise decision, because it was quick, pleasant and safe. My wife and kids had the chance to feel what I lived in the war of Angola – Being part of a military column. The tanks and weapons around us gave us a feeling of security, a purpose that the Egyptians, till there discreetly, cared everywhere and every time.
The brief crossing of the desert in the air conditioned vehicle was a good aperitif for the Sinai.
And we saved money.
Long time waiting
The Nile cruise is a very relaxing trip, with the monuments appearing from time to time, in a fluent rhythm that breaks monotony.
However, the crossing of Esna sluice is very boring – at least it was, for us. We arrived in the morning, and had to wait until past midnight.
We couldn’t leave the boat (security reasons, I suppose) and time passed really slow. We saw a beautiful sunset, the night show of people flanking the boat, trying to sell something and exchange money, but all that didn’t compensate the long wait, with a “forbidden” city at your side.
No, I don’t smoke!
As a matter of fact, I’m allergic to tobacco ash. So, I was not tempted to try the pipe, but noticed that, for many people, that was a must do. My hotel in Cairo had a good idea and placed the smoking area in the roof.
Nice place to have a pipe, watching the pyramids, or better than that, watch the pyramids without any pipe at all.
The other temptation was in Sharm-el-Sheikh with friends. Escaped again.