This Christmas and New Year’s my wonderful friends Cindy and Sylvia joined me on a trip to Egypt. Though we’d all been to Egypt before, we really wanted to return.
Most of my trips have been with group tour operators. For this trip I couldn’t find the itinerary I was looking for and decided to plan it all out myself. Based on a recommendation from a traveler I met in Patagonia last year I booked most of the arrangements with a well-established Egyptian tour operator called Memphis Tours. We purchased a 9-night Luxor plus Nile and Lake Nasser cruise package from Memphis and added day tours in Cairo before and after. I couldn’t be more pleased with the quality and service provided by Memphis Tours. The entire trip including 3 internal flights, 2 cruises and multiple transfers went off without a hitch.
We started out with 4 nights in Cairo. On the first day we arrived at our hotel about 9:30 PM after a long plane ride with one connection. We stayed at the Conrad Cairo along the Nile River. Our rooms had balconies with Nile views. On our first full day we visited the Egyptian Museum and took a night tour of the city. Next we took a day trip to Alexandria and on Christmas Eve finished with a tour to the Pyramids, Sphinx, Memphis and Saqqara. Unfortunately it was cloudy when we arrived to visit the Pyramids and then the sun came out when we got to the Sphinx.
Due to an early flight the next day we transferred to an airport hotel for Christmas Eve. There we had a relaxing evening with drinks, dinner and even a visit from Santa.
On Christmas Day we flew from Cairo to Luxor to begin our 4-night Nile Cruise. The afternoon we arrived we took a tour to the Valley or the Nobles, Workers and Habu Temple, the mortuary temple for Ramesses II. The tombs of the Nobles were spectacular. The walls and ceilings were well preserved with colorful scenes dating back to 2,200 BC.
The Nile cruise sailed from Luxor to Aswan. Each day we visited sites including the Valley of the Kings and Queens, Queen Hatshepsut’s Temple, the temple of Horus at Edfu and the Philae temple in Aswan.
From Aswan we took a short flight to Abu Simbel to join a 3-night Lake Nasser cruise. There we visited the temples at Abu Simbel and other sites along the lake. All of the Lake Nasser sites had been relocated to higher ground when the Aswan High Dam was constructed. Many temples in the area weren’t so lucky and are now underwater.
The cruise boats were small, but very nice. The service and food was great. Each afternoon tea, coffee and snacks served on the sun deck and several times they made other treats such as crepes and falafel. Most visitors only cruise the Nile and that boat was fairly full. Our Lake Nasser boat had 68 cabins, but only 32 guests. With 70 crew member on board, we received first class service. To stay in touch on the cruises I rented a mobile hotspot from Tep Wireless. It worked great although for 2 days on the Lake Nasser cruise we were off the grid. These are no towns or villages around the lake.
On New Year’s Eve our Lake Nasser cruise ended back in Aswan and docked near the High Dam. Even though there were few guests on board they had a huge feast for New Year’s Eve dinner. Once we finished eating it looked like some family members of the crew came on board for dinner. I would have hated to see so much food go to waste.
New Year’s Day we visited some temples in Aswan and then drove to Luxor for two nights at a hotel on the Nile River. Back in Luxor we visited the Luxor and Karnak temples. We also rose early to take a balloon ride with views of the Valley of the Kings and Queens. The balloon ride was fantastic.
On January 3rd we next flew back to Cairo for our last two days in Egypt. The afternoon we arrived we took a walking food tasting tour in downtown Cairo. The food tour company (Bellies En-Route) was owned by two young Egyptian women. I’d requested transportation to/from the starting point and one of the owner/guides picked us up in her car. The tour lasted nearly 6 hours stopping at various points to try a variety of local food, ending with ice cream followed by a drink at a rooftop bar. It was a really fun experience.
Our final day in Cairo included a tour of the Citadel, Mohamed Ali Alabaster Mosque, Coptic Christian Churches and a Synagogue.
Many people asked if we felt safe going to Egypt. I didn’t have any major concerns and we felt safe the whole time we were these. We had private guides and drivers for all of our excursions and didn’t venture off into the streets, except maybe a little wandering in search of a German ice cream shop near the hotel in Luxor. Common sense and awareness of your surroundings go a long way regardless of where you travel, locally or internationally.
It was great to go back to Egypt for a longer time to see many places I missed on my first visit in 2003. All the planning paid off and everything went smoothly and according to plan. We saw so much.
Inshallah I may return again someday.
Dates: Dec 20, 2017 – Jan 5, 2018
Local Tour Operator: Memphis Tours
Below are some highlights of the many places we visited on the trip. If you click on any image it will open a larger version and slideshow. Unfortunately WordPress wasn’t cooperating in publishing in chronological order.