Destination: Egypt. April/May 2018, 10 days
A professional friend owns a small travel company and was planning a group trip to Egypt. Since this was somewhere we really wanted to go we reached out to her and her business partner about working with them and creating content for them to use on their website and social media. since thats what we do- create photo and video content it was a win win for everyone! The group ended up with 8 of us total which was perfect to capture and travel around easily.
We flew from JFK airport into Cairo on Egypt Air. Then once there we had an organized tour with a driver and 2 different tour guides.
Besides the pyramids which I will talk about later the whole area is just cool. It is so different from the US and Europe. The culture is very prominent and so is the Muslim Religion. We loved hearing the Call to Prayers everywhere. But not everyone is Muslim and it didn't appear to be overly strict. The people (not the vendors at tourist places) were super nice and just enjoyed talking with us. They don't see as many Americans and they all wanted to talk to us about what is happening here.
The vendors however can be Very aggressive. We decided we had to take a "hard politeness" approach. A term I made up to describe it. We always to to be respectful to people especially when traveling, but this was Intense and really started to get us down. We understand that some of the places in Egypt we were are very poor and we understand the hustle. Go with an openness and try to be firm and polite.
The over attention from men even while walking with my 6'2 black husband was a bit much. Again I just tried to be polite or ignore it. Al could have earned a lot of camels for me lol!!
People ask me if I would have felt safe being a woman there by myself. I can't really answer that for everyone since their experiences are all different. But I would honestly say I would not go back there on MY own. I never felt unsafe, as a matter of fact we hung out with a local man and visited his house. We joked and said we are either being kidnapped or in for a great night. Probably not the smartest thing to have done- but it was a blast. But I never would have done that if it was just me!
Where To Stay:
For our time in Giza we stayed at the Marriott Mena House in Cairo and Loved it. I mean whats not to Love? Step out on the balcony and see an Amazing pyramid right there! So freaking cool. The rooms were really nice, the pool perfect, and the food was really good.
We then stayed on a Nile River cruise for 4 nights. Having done 2 cruises with Ama Waterways (The Mekong River one we worked with them creating content) this never compared. But of course not as Egyptian River Cruises are less fancy. This one was pretty basic and the food not something I could really enjoy. As a pescartain most meals were very heavy meat based. And not wanting to eating the salad since I knew it had to be washed, there wasn't much for me to eat. My husband didn't have any problems but even he said the food was "just alright!"
When we returned back to Cairo we stayed in the Kempinski Nile. It was really nice and we could even walk to Taahir Square from there. Their breakfast buffet was my favorite!! They also have a great jazz bar but it was way too smokey to stay long. Being from the US we aren't used to people smoking indoors anymore.
What To Do:
Where to being! I mean after all you are talking about the EGYPT! The ancient land of the Pharaohs, King Tut, Cleopatra, the Nile River and Gods and Goddesses! It is all great. The Valley of the Kings to see Tutankhamen's (and others) tomb. and later going to the The Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, known commonly as the Egyptian Museum or Museum of Cairo and seeing things that were in the tomb. 4000 year old cheese and the Great Pyramid of Giza. Luxor Temple was super cool and so was just walking around Luxor and Aswan. One of my favorite temples was the Temple of Horus at Edfu, dedicated to the falcon-headed god of the sky as well as mummified crocodiles in Kom Ombo . One of my favorite activies was a early morning hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings. It was just incredible!
Overall we aren't too impressed with food in Egypt. As I mentioned I dont eat meat and most meals were pretty basic. Of course most of them were included in our tour so we didn't really get to venture out on our own as much as we normally would. But the fresh squeezed OJ from the street vendors is the BEST!!!! OMG! you have to try it. Especially when it is hot and dusty. They also had some really interesting snacks. All kinds of different flavors like chicken or kabob flavored Doritos. And I haven't eaten a Twinkie in over 30 years Im sure- but they were are snack on the hot air balloon ride! I did have some great hummus the first day at a place Al and I wandered into- but after that the hummus was mediocre and buy the end I was so sick of it I just couldn't eat it anymore. As mentioned we did Love the breakfast buffet at the Kempinski and actually at Mena House too.
Get out of the tourist attractions and walk around Cairo and the other smaller places you visit. While all the attractions are AMAZING and of course you have to see it all- make sure you are seeing what Egypt today is all about. Get out there and enjoy the locals. Talk with people or jsut smile and say "hi!"
OMG! this one is the hardest Always!! But especially with Egypt. Every trip we make one 12x18 metal print of what symbolizes that location. This one everyone thought it would be a pyramid. While Yes- that is soooo Very Egypt, that is just one part. We chose a scene that I took while cruising along the Nile River. A glimpse into what life is like living along the Nile River.
Number 1 Travel Tip:
I wrote a whole blog post on travel tips to Egypt. But my #1 thing- KNOW that vendors are going to approach you, follow you, and not take no for an answer at Least the first 4 times! If you know that, you can be prepared. And really there is no need to get ugly or threaten them Its not going to change things and they are just trying to make a living. Tourism is down and they see especially Americans as rich. And to them you are. You can afford the luxury of traveling far to visit their beautiful country, stay in nice hotels, take river boat cruises, and eat out! Being respectful goes a long way and earns you way more Good Karma points than being rude and nasty!
5 Word Travel:
So being a Huge rescue dog and cat advocate I had a really hard time with all the homeless dogs and cats. There were more than in any other trip we have taken. We like to check out a local shelter if we can. And if not we look up ones who helps with these issues and make a donation when we get home. We made our donation to Chance Animal rescue All- the horses, donkeys, and camels just don't look that great and don't seem to be treated too nicely. We did a camel ride at the pyramids in Giza. I really tried to enjoy it (and I even asked the travel agent ahead of time what she knew about the conditions, etc). But it really made me sad. Its a catch 22. The animals help them make money and often get food before they do I was told by our local guide. (maybe I just want to believe that) Without them income would be even more scarce. But even knowing these things- it still made me sad and I would never do it again.