Below are more general observations and tips on going to Egypt. The other parts of the trip can be found as follows: Luxor, Abu Simbel and Cairo, as well as more
comprehensive photos for Luxor/Abu Simbel and Cairo.
Overall, traveling to Egypt was a fascinating experience: The sights – truly awe-inspiring. The weather agreeable. The people friendly.
*The sunsets are beautiful.
*Nightlife: In Cairo, there are several bars and clubs that serve alcohol and are frequented by the well-to-do. Sangria, just across from the Conrad hotel, is a nice place for drinks as it overlooks the Nile, as is Sequoia. Beware that many bars are poorly ventilated, which can make it uncomfortable since many Cairenes smoke and smoking is not banned in public places. Nightlife in Luxor is mostly limited to the hotels and nothing to write home about.
*Food: Compared to other middle east countries like Lebanon or Morocco, the food in Egypt is nothing to write home about. You’ll get fairly mediocre, if solid Middle Eastern fare on the package tour circuit. In Cairo, there are many more options including sushi. We ate at a decent Thai restaurant called Sibai Sibai, a very good (and hard to book) place called Abu El Seed and a very good Lebanese on the Blue Nile boat in Cairo. My fave was probably Abu El Seed for its tasty Egyptian and Middle Eastern cusine in an atmospheric setting. Try the typical Egyptian dish of kushari (warning it can be heavy!).
reminded me a lot of India from the tropical feel, the sights, sounds
and smells: the zebra stripes on roadside curbs, the people milling
*As every guidebook will mention, tipping or baksheesh is a
common practice by tourists and locals alike. Carry two wads of cash:
one with the big bills and your baksheeh wad full of small notes. Some
of the currency looks similar so be careful you don’t give out a 20
pound note thinking it’s a 1!
*There are cats everywhere. Dogs are considered dirty iin Islam and so are very rare.
*When heading out for sightseeing, bring sunglasses, sunblock and hand sanitizer. Also the public toilets in Egypt can be a bit dodgy so bring a little wad of toilet paper from your hotel.
a tourist, you will invariably get accosted by touts that will try to
fleece you. Just be prepared and use your common sense. Even hotels
will charge extra for arranging a taxi for you to go the airport.
many Egyptians will either try to fleece you or grovel for tips, which
can be annoying, but they are mostly a friendly, curious people. Twice
when I told them I was born in India, I heard "Amitabh Bhachan?!" as a
response…Bollywood is alive and well in Egypt!
*The most disturbing
experience was seeing an altercation between a man and woman on the
street where he was dragging the wailing woman by her hair. The crowd
tried to break it up but he said something to them that clearly made
them stand back and let him get on with it – a sign of the culture.
sightseeing is skewed towards package tours, which seem to be factories
that churn people through the various sites. So it is tougher to
travel independently but certainly doable. I was lucky to have a local
as a friend to show me around Cairo. For Southern Egypt (Luxor and Abu
Simbel), I used New Star Tours who were responsive and good save for
the unrequested alabaster factory (read shopping) tour that they
included in my program. They told me they would stop this practice but
you should check. I paid about $500 that included a full day of
Luxor’s sights (east annd west bank, lunch), the day trip to Abu Simbel
and a hot air balloon ride. You may be able to do better as I was
booking at the last minute for just 1 person.
*There are lots of Nile cruises on offer but the overnight ones didn’t appeal or seem at all romantic. It looks like you get herded onto these huge boats that then trawl down the river. Opt instead for a day trip on a felucca in Aswan.
have been some terrorist events in past years and there is security -
guards and metal detectors – at every tourist destination and most
decent hotels. That said, I never felt unsafe. Moreover, I found the
ever-present tourism and antiquities police to be very friendly and
willing subjects to try out some Arabic words I’d learned.
*It’s quite a sight to look out over Cairo and see all the satellite dishes on building rooftops sprouting like mushrooms.