Planes, trains, buses... and a felucca !
My trip started in Cairo at the Pharaoh's Hotel. The hotel is just one block from the river Nile with lots of lovely cafes and restaurants lined along the boardwalk. The area is picturesque and a great place to begin my Egyptian adventure!
I spent the morning strolling the neighborhood and taking in the sights and sounds of the area. In the afternoon, I met up with my group and we had a briefing from our local guide, Hassaan. The meeting was a great opportunity to get to know my fellow travellers and Hassaan gave us all the essential information on our tour, including teaching us all a few words of Arabic. We went out as a group to the Khan al-Khalili Bazaar. It didn’t take long for us to completely lose our bearings in the labyrinth of stalls and alleys lined with traders! It was really buzzing with lots of families enjoying their Saturday evening. We ate delicious falafels in an outdoor café, which was overlooked by the huge al-Husayn mosque.
We had an early start on Sunday morning for our trip to Giza. Everyone enjoyed seeing the spectacular pyramids up close, and inside too. Be warned.. going inside the Khufu pyramid is not for anyone who may feel claustrophobic! We had lunch of "Koshary", a traditional vegetarian dish made with noodles, rice, lentils and a spicy sauce, very tasty!
After lunch we made our way to the Egyptian Museum to see some of the collection of antiquities. More than 100,000 items are on display here, you would need more than an afternoon to go around it all, but it was great to visit. The new Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM) is scheduled to open in November 2022 and will be able to display many more artefacts that have never previously been shown.
Our overnight sleeper train to Aswan left at 8pm and although it was behind schedule, it didn’t interfere with our plans. The train is very comfortable and a hot meal is served onboard.
On arrival in Aswan, we checked straight into our hotel, the Obelisk Nile. What a lovely location, right on the banks of the River Nile and also within an easy walk of the Market and local restaurants.
We took it easy in the morning time, getting our bearings in the new location. In the afternoon we took a boat trip to visit Philae Island and the amazing Temple of Isis. It took three years to move this temple stone by stone from its original location to the higher ground of Philae Island.
From Philae Temple we went a traditional Nubian house and enjoyed some tasty home cooked cuisine. This certainly was one of the highlights of my trip. We were warmly welcomed by the local family and treated to delicious food.
It was an early start the next morning to get to the Temple at Abu Simbel. This was a long drive from Aswan but well worth it! Four huge statues of Ramses serve as sentries at the entrance, each one more than sixty feet high. The setting is truly amazing.
We were back in Aswan early in the afternoon so it was perfect to catch up with some shopping and grab some chill time by the pool. Pre-dinner cocktails were at the stunning Old Cataract Hotel, just a fifteen minute walk along the river promenade from our hotel. The Old Cataract is where Agatha Christie wrote her book "Death on the Nile" and the hotel was used as the location for the 1978 film version, this really was a treat.
We had a leisurely start the following morning and boarded our Felucca mid-morning from the jetty at our hotel. This was certainly something different! This traditional wooden sailing boat was ours for the next 24 hours. We set sail at lunchtime and headed for Luxor. Such a brilliant way to travel! We zigzagged along the river, no rush, taking it all according to the wind. Our capable Nubian sailors double jobbed as cooks and served up the most delicious fare from the tiny galley. We spent the afternoon on the deck enjoying some sunshine and cocktails. We moored up for sunset and lit a campfire on the river bank. We slept on the deck of the Felucca, under the stars. It couldn’t have been more comfortable! Weather was a cool 8C but with our cosy blankets and pillows we had no bother sleeping.
We set sail again in the early morning and enjoyed a tasty breakfast before disembarking a short distance from Luxor.
Luxor is truly an open-air museum. There is so much to see here. The Karnak Temple complex to the Valley of the Kings, walking in the footsteps of the Pharaohs is a magical experience. The tomb of Tutankhamun here is worth a visit too. But, better than walking in the footsteps of the Pharaohs was gliding over them in a hot air balloon! This is an activity not to be missed in Luxor. Seeing the sunrise over the Valley of the Kings was spectacular.
There are lots of options in Luxor to take in; from the Temple of Kom Ombo and the Mummification Museum, Colossi of Memnon, and the Karnak Temple. Our group split up to do what activities suited themselves which worked well to make the most of our time there. Hassaan was on hand to explain the significance of the many sculptures, paintings, and hieroglyphics. He made any arrangements necessary to ensure everyone got to see and do what they wanted, not just in Luxor but throughout the trip. We also had free time to do souvenir shopping. I picked up the most beautiful bracelet in Moses' Jewelry shop. A trip to Luxor wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Moses! He designs and hand engraves the pieces making them extra special.
On our last day in Luxor, we enjoyed a delicious lunch with a local family. It was a great opportunity to learn more about the way of life of the local people. The family that hosted us were so welcoming and made us feel right at home.
It seemed like no time until we were boarding our overnight train back to Cairo.
On arrival in Cairo, I said farewell to my brilliant group and made my way to the Hotel Baron for my last two nights. The hotel is located in the Heliopolis district which is ideal for shopping and is within easy distance of the airport. It was a chance for me to meet up with my Egyptian friends and take in a different part of the city. We enjoyed more Koshary at the specialist El Tahrir Restaurant, nothing but Koshary on the menu, delicious! Also, well worth checking out is the Hosney restaurant in Cairo. Specializing in seafood this is really exceptional with everything being cooked to order.
Don’t leave Cairo without sampling some delicious baklava. The Hotel Baron have a fabulous pastry shop and sell all types of baklava and chocolates, not to mention Giant Ferrero Rocher's, mouthwatering !
This was my third trip to Egypt and my most enjoyable. Previously, I had been on a diving boat from Hurghada and also in the beach resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Both were beautiful but it was easy to miss the depth of culture and history that exists inland along the Nile.
This was an unforgettable holiday and for sure I will return to Egypt, only for longer the next time.
- Don’t forget insect repellant for your overnight Felucca trip
- Make a stop at the Off License for your alcoholic beverages. Wine or beer are not widely available but there is no problem to bring your own into the restaurants and enjoy on the train journey.
- Check out the delicious baklava in Simonds and coffee from Abu Auf
- Cairo drivers are crazy, no traffic lights, no rules - beware!