Egypt is a magical country, full of history, misteries and landscapes you have never seen before! Having the chance of getting there was a dream come true.
Since I was a little girl I daydreamed of walking across those places that you only watch in the movies. I´m passionate about Egyptology, I have books and books and more books about it… I believe this is why I wanted to be perfect even before the idea of travelling came up.
I´m sure that you read everywhere that travelling with every single thing already set up is a bad idea, and that you should let it flow as the days go by… I know, I know! In fact, I share that concept, applied it in most of my journeys; but for this time I thought scheduling and calculation was needed.
Firstly, consider this before booking flights/accommodation: Not every thing to do is available from Mon to Sun; for example, Nile Cruises set off on Mondays from Luxor´s port, so that I recommend arriving Cairo a few days before to settle before heading to Luxor.
Day by day I will tell you my itinerary! Activities, food and must´s!
Landed in El Cairo city on Saturday around 5pm. Right in the airport Ahmed was expecting us, he was in charge of our Visa duties and transportation to our hotel.
Once we got there rushing through egyptian´s traffic jams, we were introduced to Reda, out tour guide: excellent service, always trying to make us feel comfortable and satisfied.
At 7pm went to the Giza Pyramids Sound & Light Show, however, in my opinion was a bit boring… and has nothing to do with the Egyptian culture. I believe it´s one more of many “tourist traps” (pointless tours, just to get some money from you) all around the globe. Not worthy.
Disappointed and back in the hotel, had dinner to recharge my batteries.
It´s 7am! Wake up! Heavy breakfast before starting our trip to Mohammed Ali´s alabaster mosque, located in the highest area of Cairo… that´s why you have an amazing view of the whole city. Considered the most beautiful one and a MUST GO.
As every other mosque, take off your shoes and cover your shoulders and legs (girls).
The following stop was Cairo Museum. Reasons to hype? Many! The museum is downtown, guarding the biggest Egyptian collection from all over the world! Ticket is 20 EGP (Egypt pound) or 3 euros more/less.
Unfortunately I toured the place for only 2 hours, but it is worth to stay days admiring every single artifact!
The most important collections are the steles and statues of the Akenaton and Nefertiti´s era. However, the rock star is Tutankhamen’s mask and the golden artifacts found in his grave.
In the end we had like… 30 free minutes? So I saw an opportunity to visit de Mummies! Ticket isn´t included in the Museum fee, but only 40 EGP or 5.50 euros extras. This is a MUST! There are many mummies, royal and not… but the highlight is Ramses II.
After the Cairo Museum… Hype! It was Giza Pyramids time! What can I say? I have been waiting for this moment for years… Walking or standing by these colossal buildings is something beyond magnificient.
Entrance fee is 60 EGP or 8 euros in the ticket stand where you also get your ticket that allows you to enter one of the Pyramids. However, only one is open everyday: Keops is 100 EGP and Kefren 20 EGP.
Moreover, the stand offers the ticket to the Khufu ship, unfortunately I couldn´t go.
WARNING: (TOURIST SCAM) Touts will approach you and ask for a “ticket check”. DO NOT give it to them, they will steal it and ask for many in return. Just ignore them!
WARNING 2: Touts and toddler will approach you and try to sell you cheap souvenirs/artifacts all day long, just ignore them! Even if you look at them trying to be curious, they won´t go away until you give them some pounds. IGNORE!
WARNING 3: (TOURIST SCAM #2) Touts will approach with camels, offer you a ride for “One pound! One pound! Cheap cheap!” But once you ride it, they will start hitting the animal so it starts moving and making you feel like falling down to the sand… and of course asking you for big money to let you get off. IGNORE!
With my tickets, accessed the plateau… there was a brief tour around explaining buildings construction theories and a history overview. After some photos, it was time to enter Cheops´ Pyramid.
The entrance is some meters above the ground level; you will have to climb some stones to get there (No pictures/video recording is allowed inside). Outside was hot but not on the inside even with all the people crawling among the narrow passages.
The feeling when you get to the main chamber… Oh my god!
The path to the King´s chamber felt exhausting, from vast corridors with high ceilings to narrow low-ceiling ones where you almost have to crawl your way. It may (will) get tedious and slow with so many people on the way up.
FRIENDLY REMINDER: I believe it´s something obvious but you should skip this experience if you suffer from claustrophobia or any cardiac disease. For you own safety!
Once in the chamber it´s all peace, silence and shadows. Ask the guard for permission to lay inside the sarcophagus and close your eyes for some seconds… It is said that you will receive energies from the pyramid: An experience from another world!
Next stop: Sphinx. The typical tour is a walk way around the monument; take your time to appreciate it from every possible angle! It is said that there are many secret chambers with forbidden access.
The walk way finishes on a modest temple, it´s free, go ahead!
Third day started early, heading to the airport to take a one-hour flight to Luxor. As soon as we landed, transportation was ready to take us to the Cruise ship.
We were introduced to the facilities (All means are included! Not beverages/drinks) and left our luggage.
After that visited the Luxor Temple which is located in old Thebes’s city and dedicated to Amon. It´s in great condition and well-maintained, centuries ago it was connected with the Karnak Temple by a way guarded with ram sculptures.
Program your visit the Temple so it finishes just before the sun goes down, and rush to the main gate to appreciate an amazing sunset! There will less tourists compared with the rest of the day.
The following day was full of activies! Tour guide will offer you a balloon trip, for sure! It´s on the way to the Valley of the Kings (4th day´s main stop): It lasts around 2hs and costs 90 euros, normally starting at 5:30am in order to see the sunrise and the catch the group before getting to the valley.
Depending on the tour guide, you will make a brief stopover to admire the massive Colossi of Memnon; they are located on the western Nile´s riverside. They are huge! The platform is like 4m plus 15m of each twin statue! Quite damaged, these are a tribute to Amenhotep III.
Back on track, and again, another stopover: This was the time for the Queen´s Valley. Smaller, modest and with a less quality construction than its neighbor (King´s Valley), shelters the tombs of the most important queens and princesses of the Egyptian´s history; unfortunately most of them are closed to the public, at least when I was there.
The Valley of the Kings shelters most of the pharao´s tombs of the New Kingdom, as well as some royals, nobles and animals. With the basic entrance fee of 80 EGP, you get access to 3 tombs of your choice: In my opinion, considering its conservation and magnificient decorations, the best are Seti I, Tuthmosis III and Amenofis II. Moreover, Ramses IV, Ramses VI, Ramses IX and Siptah are well worth.
If you go by yourselves, I recommend the following website: “Which tombs and temples are open” (http://www.cyclejp.com/luxor/SCHEDULE.HTML) which should tell about the daily opening tombs.
Unfortunately, Tutankhamen´s tomb isn´t included and the cost is 100 EGP. Unlike what you may think… it´s a small and modest tomb compared with others but well maintained. There´s only the mummy and its sarcophagus, everything else (gold, artifacts, the famous mask, etc) discovered there was moved to Cairo´s Museum.
Last stop of the day is the Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut in Deir El Bahari, built in honor to Amon Ra, the Sun God.
Part of it is engraved just off the cliff! Maybe that´s why is considered one of the most beautiful ones in Egypt. Besides the tour guidance, take your time to walk around it.
Another day gone and waking up again when the sun rises! Karnak Temple, here we go!
I recommend visiting this temple the earlier you can, avoid the hordes of tourists! Literally, my group was the first to get there, the first to enter! The entire place was for us!
This is a complex of the biggest temples in Egypt, being the most influential religious place for years. In addition, the main enclosure is dedicated to Amon Ra, however, just like many other temples there is place for other divinities.
Once you get inside, there´s a model of the place where you can locate every room or enclosure. Our guide Reda gave us an excellent tour around the place, after that gave us like an hour free to play some Indiana Jones exploring every inch of it!
Free afternoon! Finally… the trip is as fascinating as exhausting so some time to relax is mandatory.
When we woke up, we were about to reach Edfu´s port, so right after breakfast we headed to the Edfu´s Temple, the second one in size after Karnak Temple.
In honor to Horus the Falcon, thanks to its great preservation you appreciate the wall telling you stories about mythology, religion, daily life, etc.
If you want to take a closer look to Egpytian paintings, figurines and colors… this is the place!
Even if the guide tours you around the temple, try taking a book to make it easier to understand the paintings and monuments´ meanings.
Last stop was Kon Ombo Temple, an inusual doble temple built during the Ptolemaic Dynasty. Its particular design is translated in duplicated accesses, patios, rooms, sanctuaries and chapels for Sobek and Haroeris.
Koptos used this place as a church, so you will find the altars very similar as the current ones.
MUST: ABU SIMBEL TOUR!
Abu Simbel tour is rarely included, but if you choose to take any Nile Cruise it will be offered by the tour guide… eventually!
NOTE: It can cost as much as 280 euros by plane; however you can save a considerable amount of cash if you go by minivan/bus. Consider every aspect, like the time you have and how in the mood is your wallet.
Had to wake up at 3am! Gosh! Rushed to Aswan´s airport and took a 30min charter flight (it was a tiny and noisy plane, I have to confessed I was a little bit scared) to Abu Simbel airport. Of course, ground transportation was already expecting us.
The unfortunate 3am wake up was set up to make it to sunrise. One of the most memorable moments I have ever had during my worldwide trips.
Both temples are facing the Nasser western riverside: The main temple, built in honor to Ramses II, is aligned in a way that every October 21st and February 21st the sunrays get inside to shine up 3 out of 4 statues. On the other hand, its neighbor was built in honor to Nefertari, his wife.
Please, if you have the chance DO NOT skip this tour. The most beautiful and impressive temple I have visited in Egypt: not only because it´s carved right off the mountain rock but for its building perfection and attention for every detail. It´s worth every single penny.
Back in Aswan, visited the Aswan´s dam… it was a brief stopover, I mean: It´s just a dam. Nothing out of the ordinary here! Neeeext!
We were taken to Aswan´s pier, were we took a catamaran (kind of) up to Philae Temple. This building was originally located 11km away from Aswan in File Island, but in consequence of Aswan´s Dam construction it was covered by water: thanks to UNESCO contribution it was moved to an islet called Agilkia.
There are several temples dedicated to Isis, it´s a nice and chilly place. Use your free time to walk around the vegetation and cliffs, enjoy the view!
While taking a small ride on a faluca, saw the chance to visit the Nubian town for 35 euros. A bit overpriced in my opinion, but it´s interesting to see those cultural contrasts.
First stop is a typical Nubian family house, where they offered me some tea and inked me a Henna tattoo. Told you, why not? Moreover… there were crocodiles in the living room! I´m not mad, they where there! If you are brave enough you can take a picture holding one of them.
Second stop is a public school; we saw the kids having classes and were introduced to the Arab alphabet… but the best part was the rooftop which gave us a great view of the town and the Nile river.
In the end there was some free time to walk around and sneak peek the market.
The following day we took our flight back to Cairo and decided to visit Memphis & Saqqara once we got there.
Memphis was the “state” of the egpytian empire for many years, with cities like Giza, Abusir, Saqqara and Dahsur.
Mit Rahina is now the location where old Memphis was, where you will find some massive Ramses II statues and an amazing Sphinx, among others.
The tour kept going and Saqqara had this magnificient step pyramid, the first of all times! It has around 4.500 years old, designed by Imhotep to be used as Zoser´s tomb.
Unfortunately, the pyramid is close to the public and under restoration, so you won´t be able to get too close.
Around the pyramid there´s a mortuary dedicated to royal and noble people; it´s well maintained, with different kind of paintings and portraits of their daily life centuries ago. In the surroundings there are some mastabas… pyramid´s predecessors.
My last stop of this unforgettable journey was Khan Al Khalili Bazar: everything goes crazy! Hordes of people in its narrow passages, yelling and of course buying souvenirs and novelties. Bargain is the key! Be patient and take it as a game.
I will write a whole section dedicated to the “art of bargain”, you will be a pro in no time!