Travelling in Egypt… A safe, quiet affair
Mr and Mrs Horsman travelled on a group tour with Cox & Kings, and found the holiday provided not only good value, but also unbelievable access to sites that would usually have been very crowded.
Early in 2014, my wife and I paid the deposit for the 8-day Cox & Kings Egypt tour departing in September, joining my brother and sister-in-law who had already booked. Like most people that watch the news, I searched the internet to check out the situation in the Middle East and read many articles referring to Egypt travel. I can honestly say that I was not completely relaxed or sure about a week in Egypt, but was looking forward to seeing the pyramids and the other 15 sites on the tour.
Around eight weeks before the holiday departed, I paid the balance of my holiday, and I received a collection of professionally presented documentation from Cox & Kings, including a daily itinerary, duplicate documentation of all aspects of the holiday (to leave with family) and even a set of luggage labels.
I was initially unsure if Egypt Air would be a good choice to fly with, but this was unfounded as the new A330 Airbus was lovely, along with all the staff, with a good selection of meals served. Apart from the prayer music being played at take-off, the airline was the same and as good (if not better) than British Airways, Virgin or Delta that I have used many times.
On arrival at Cairo airport, Amir Atef from South Sinai Travel was waiting in the arrivals area and was a complete star for the whole tour. He collected £20 from each of us and sorted the visas within three minutes, then walked us through passport control and led us directly through customs to the waiting bus without any hassle.
It was the same at the Holiday Inn Cairo – we just had to sit in reception for five minutes while Amir sorted all the bookings, luggage and paperwork so we could go straight to the rooms.
Every tour was VERY well arranged. We just met in reception at the agreed time and Amir, the guide and the bus driver would appear and sort everything. We were taken directly to the sites, all tickets were provided and a ‘proper’ guided tour given at our own speed. We also got to experience extra bits, as the guide knew the staff so nothing was missed. Even the camel rides were a good price and safe as the guide know which camel owners to use.
The internal flights from Cairo to Luxor, and Aswan to Cairo were very good. Egypt Air use small 74-seater jets and there was no stress at all. Amir would take the passports, luggage and tickets to do the check-in and we would just walk through passport control and wait for the plane.
The four days on the cruise boat along the Nile was good fun, and the staff simply could not do enough to help you. It was a great shame to see many boats tied up at the harbours. Out of the original 400-plus cruise boats working the Nile before the 2011 troubles, less than 50 are working now. Thankfully it is slowly improving.
Our guide while on the boat was Bassem Khames, a great young guy who lived in Luxor, but stayed on the boat to look after the group of us (six people) 24 / 7 regardless of what we needed. Just like in Cairo, for each tour we were collected and transported in an air-conditioned bus, and walked straight into the sites with pre-sorted tickets. Bassem was a wealth of knowledge on every site visited and also a good laugh that made the visits fun.
Having kept all the entrance tickets to the 15 sites (not including all the shops, factories and demonstrations we were also taken to), I cannot believe the low cost of the holiday with the flights, tour guides, boat cruise and all the visits included.
Feluccas on the Nile
If you are thinking of visiting Egypt, go now, as with the lack of tourists since the 2011 trouble you are really looked after well and the sites are quiet and empty. A good friend of mine visited the Cairo museum in 2007, and was really disappointed due to how busy it was. He was squeezed into the museum with thousands of tourists, and struggled to see the King Tut displays. When we had the guided tour of the museum there were only a hundred or so people in there. So my wife and I spent a good 10 minutes in the King Tut display room, shared with five other people.
Detail on the throne of Tutankhamen
Important points to note about a visit to Egypt
I would never visit this country without a properly arranged tour guide. I love a good argument with the street sellers to get a bargain, but I found these sellers very pushy, in your face and relentless from the minute you arrive and leave the sites – as the sales / shop areas always lead into or out of the sites. There are many times I would have liked to stop and look at something to buy, but this is not possible without being surrounded by a group. The tour guide is a help as they can report the sellers if they hassle too much, but mostly it’s a case of continuously saying ‘no, thank you’ while walking back to the bus.
Being in the Middle East, I found it a surprise to see airport body scanners at the entrance to hotels and shopping centres, operated by armed tourist police. This is to make sure everything is secure, and walking around the huge Star City shopping centre at night felt very safe. Additionally, nearly everyone in the shops can speak English.
Everyone on the trip had an iffy belly, regardless of how careful we all were with the water and foods washed in water. As this is very common, tablets were handed out at reception. Thankfully, the stomach bugs did not cause pain so did not really spoil the trips. On the bright side, I have never returned from a week’s holiday 8lbs lighter – so that was a result.
I could not fault the hotel and will not hesitate to use Cox & Kings again for my next fully managed holiday.
See all Cox & Kings’ holidays to Egypt >
First and last images courtesy of Mr Horsman.