What not to miss... in Egypt
Arriving into Cairo airport in the evening, we were met by our welcoming Cox & Kings guide. From that moment, the tone was set for the excellent service that we received throughout the holiday. We were transferred to our hotel where our room had an impressive view over the Nile.
The following morning we set off at a snail’s pace through Cairo’s traffic with our driver and our Egyptologist, Edan Mahmood. We had decided to add a trip to the Pyramid of Djoser at Saqqara onto our itinerary. Around 30 kilometres outside of Cairo, they are the oldest complete stone building complex known in history. Djoser’s step pyramid was built during the Third Dynasty, around 4,700 years ago. The step pyramid is believed to have been created by Imhotep, the High Priest of Ra under Pharaoh Djoser. Many millenniums later, it remains a very impressive sight.
Djoser's step pyramid
The highlight was a large, well-preserved mastaba – a large square tomb with inward sloping sides that was believed to be the forerunner of pyramids. It evolved by building mud-bricks one on top of the other to form the step pyramid. The interior wall carvings show life as it was in Ancient Egypt about 3,000 years ago. There were fewer visitors at this site, which allowed us time to take in the surroundings.
Giza is a plateau above the city of Cairo and is home to one of the seven wonders of the ancient world: the Pyramids of Giza, which consist of the Pyramids of Cheops, Chephren and Mykerinos as well as the impressive Sphinx. It’s not until you stand next to these monuments that you appreciate their size and how much larger they are than photographs suggest.
Pyramids of Giza
That evening we returned to the pyramids for the sound and light show, which was entertaining. Afterwards at our request, we stopped at a local restaurant to sample koushari, an Egyptian specialty of rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together and topped with tomato sauce and garlic vinegar.
The following day we flew to Luxor to join the MS Mayfair for our Nile cruise. We were pleasantly surprised with the high standard of our cabin, which had a small balcony. The boat had a large sundeck with a pool and jacuzzi. The restaurant served a varied cuisine with both specialty dishes and standard fare, it was excellent. During the trip we had different entertainment in the evenings, including Nubian dancers and an Egyptian-themed night. The staff were all very helpful and polite, nothing was too much trouble.
Complimentary bottled water was provided at all times, including prior to disembarking. It is essential to take water with you when sightseeing as the sun is very strong and it got very hot. We avoided iced drinks but had no problems with either food or drink.
In Luxor, a city that is often called the ‘world’s greatest open-air museum’, we visited the local sites and temples that are amazing in both their scale and history. The Valley of the Kings and Queens were very impressive. The Temple of Hatshepsut, part of the Valley of the Kings, is an ancient funerary shrine that was built for the eighteenth dynasty Pharaoh Hatshepsut. Although we had an excellent guide, I would advise reading about the sites before visiting to get the most out of your visit.
Tomb paintings, Valley of the Kings
A highlight of mine was seeing the impressive Colossi of Memnon – two stone statues of Pharaoh Amenhotep III – rising 18 metres high. Located in the Theban Necropolis, the site was a cemetery on the West Bank of the Nile. Nothing can prepare you for their sheer size until you stand beneath the statues.
Colossi of Memnon
We then spent four nights cruising to Aswan, enjoying the sights along the Nile during the day. The views probably haven’t changed in a millennia, except there have been no crocodiles since the construction of the Aswan Dam. We visited the sites of Esna, Edfu and Kom Ombo where there was an element of hassle from street vendors who press you to buy from them. My advice is not to interact with them or touch their goods unless you want to buy them.
In Aswan, the site of the Temple of Philae was flooded by the construction of the first Aswan Dam in 1902, then completely submerged when the high dam was built in the 1960s. The temples were then dismantled whilst underwater, by British naval engineers and rebuilt on Agilkia Island. We took a short boat trip to the island to view the temples. The jetty leading to the dock was lined with Nubian traders who allowed us to view their wares for sale with no hassle. As a result, we bought several local crafts at very reasonable prices.
Temple of Philae
When we arrived in Aswan, we took an extra trip and flew down to Abu Simbel, approximately a 30 minute flight. This trip was the highlight of our visit and was easily fitted in before the afternoon flight back to Cairo. The temples, including the inner statues and rooms, were cut from the sandstone cliff and rebuilt 65 metres above the waterline of Lake Nasser. A very impressive feat of engineering that has been well-preserved and is a marvellous monument to Pharaoh Ramses. Ensure you research the site beforehand as local guides aren’t allowed inside the temples. This is an effort to prevent overcrowding by groups stopping for lectures, which can be a problem at other sites. We arrived early which meant that there weren’t many crowds.
There are opportunities to visit the organised tourist shops; I’d say go for the experience but be aware as the tourist centres may not offer the best prices. It is always a very hard sell, usually starting with the offer of tea and coffee and view of the wares for sale. Don’t be hassled into buying or think you cannot refuse – you can always say no!
Tipping for service is a way of life in Egypt. Poverty is very evident and with the downturn of the tourist trade, many local people have been greatly affected. The amounts given can be quite small. Hopefully for Egypt, tourism will increase. We felt very safe and secure and had a wonderful holiday. We hope to visit again to see the sights we didn’t have time for!
We would thoroughly recommend this trip and the Cox & Kings travel arrangements were first class.
Pamela joined Cox & Kings’ Splendours of Egypt private tour. To find out more about Cox & Kings’ holidays to Egypt see here. Alternatively, for more detailed information, please either call one of our specialist travel consultants or complete our tailor-made request form and one of our experts will get back to you to help you plan an itinerary.Share: [Sassy_Social_Share]
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