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Egypt – Cairo, Luxor and Sharm El Sheik

News about Egypt’s Revolution in January almost deterred us from visiting this country, however by early May, things seemed to have calmed down considerably. So we boarded a flight from Johannasburg to Cairo allowing 7 days to fit in as much as possible in this country – which isn’t long as there is so much to see and do.

This stop was our first introduction to the Middle East. We knew very little about muslim religion and that must have been written across our face because within the first hour on the streets of Cairo we were invited into a mosque during prayer time.

Our first time onside a Mosque during one of the five prayer sessions conducted each day by muslims.

Our first time inside a Mosque during one of the five prayer sessions conducted each day by muslims.

Elissa was the only female in the room and she had to sit in a special spot - in the corner with a donated head scarf.

Elissa was the only female in the room and she had to sit in the corner with a donated head scarf as women are not permitted into the main prayer room.

Conveniently the friendly Egyptian who invited us into a prayer session also happened to operate tours in Egypt so he was quick to persuasively invite us into his office for Tea and then talk through the various tours on offer. This all seemed extremely friendly and easy and we were close to passing over the cash when we thought we would just check design our own tour with a similar itinerary. We quickly worked out that we were being taken for a ride and so for our next few days sightseeing in Cairo, we avoided his corner office downtown.

Cairo's busy streets at night. This is Tahrir Square - the place of the start of the Egyptian 'Revolution' as it has been named.</p>

Cairo's busy streets at night. This is Tahrir Square - the place of the start of the Egyptian 'Revolution' as it has been named.

Mem

There is a lot of memoribilia being sold to commemorate the moment they revolted against the Government.

A visit to Cairo or Egypt for that matter isn’t complete without a visit to the Pyramids and Sphinx. What we didn’t realise is how close they are to Cairo and how built up the area is around them. The most famous Pyramids are the Pyramids of Giza located on the outskirts of Cairo only 20mins away or so. We recommend organising a tour of the pyramids and other areas (see pics below) as this is cheaper than hiring a taxi to get from one place to another, plus you end up with your own private driver for the full day.

The 6 pyramids of Giza. The city of Giza is to the right of the pyramids and is a huge city. Don't expect a remote desert visit to see the pyramids, its a big tourist operation.

The 6 pyramids of Giza. The city of Giza is to the right of the pyramids and is a huge city. Don't expect a remote desert visit to see the pyramids, its a big tourist operation.

We hired camels and explored the area. It was a rip off however and we recommend searching for a good deal.

We hired camels and explored the area. It was a rip off and we recommend searching for a good deal and ensuring you get all the details on the 'inclusions' of the tour.

The camel ride cost 600 EP which is about $200 AUD – NOTE: This is a major rip off. We were driven to one of dozens of places that conduct tours on horse or camel back and we were told to only deal with one agent. We strongly recommend getting to the entry point of the pyramids and then walking around and finding a good deal on tours and camel or horseback rides. Our tour didnt even include a ticket to go inside one of the pyramids. One of our guides had to go back to the main gate to buy our ticket. Tell whoever takes you that you want to go into a pyramid (obviously) and to arrange a ticket before setting out to see them.

This is the entrance to the 2nd largest (and least expensive of the two you can go inside of). No photos can be taken inside the pyramid

This is the entrance to the 2nd largest pyramid. No photos can be taken inside.

Despite how commercialised the visit to the Giza pyramids were it was still good fun and we well seeing.

Despite how commercialised the visit to the Giza pyramids were, not to mention the amount of rubbish in the actual site, it was still good fun and well worth seeing.

Elissa loved the idea and the actual camel ride. Pete liked the idea of the camel but recommends going on horseback for comfort value. Its only a 2hour or so tour however the camel was really never designed for riding!!!!

Elissa loved the idea of a camel ride tour through the Pyramids. Pete liked the idea of the camel but recommends going on horseback for comfort value. Its only a 2hour or so tour however the camel was really never designed for riding, in Pete's opinion anyway!!!!

The Sphinx is also on the site too. Its cool but not as impressive in size as we had imagined. Although it is one whole piece of rock so who are we to judge.

The Sphinx is also on the site too. Its cool but not as impressive in size as we had imagined. Although it is one whole piece of rock so who are we to judge.

Along with the Pyramids of Giza our tour took us to pyramids of Dahshour and the Memphis Museum (although we didn’t bother going in here for we were going to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo) and Sakkara, which is the oldest buriel site in Ancient Egypt.

THe lesser known but still impressive Pyramid of Dahshour. It was great as there were no tourist here either.

The lesser known but still impressive Pyramid of Dahshour. We practically had this place to ourselves as it was clear that tourism was still very quiet in Egypt.

The tunnel down the pyramid of Dahshour. 110 metres down and you can take photos inside here.

The tunnel down the pyramid of Dahshour. 110 metres down and you can take photos inside here.

Inside a pyramid. You can take photos in this one which is good...

Inside a pyramid. You can take photos in this one which is good..

Sakkara

Sakkara - our driver took us around the outskirt of this burial ground

Part of this day tour also included a couple of stops at ‘Showrooms’ to view Egyptian works of art. This included an artists factory where they print beautiful egyptian images (or hieroglyphics) on papyrus paper – an art dating back milenia. Be wary of the hard sell – this goes for the carpet factories too. Towards the end of our tour we almost walked away with a $5000AUD silk on silk carpet that the merchant was going to sell to us for $700AUD. Hard times had fallen on them or he spun a good tale, either way we declined his kind and desperate offer.

The painstaking art of carpet making Famous in the whole Middle Eastern region, not just Egypt. This carpet takes months to make.

The painstaking art of carpet making famous in the whole Middle Eastern region, not just Egypt. This carpet particular carpet will take almost two years to complete.

The traffic and getting around Cairo is also worth a mention. It is perhaps the craziest in the world (that we have seen anyway). The use of the horn is out of control and as a passenger, you can expect white knuckles as you grip for life during the journey. 6.7million people live here and although its not the most populated city in the world it is one of the most densely populated.

Pretty standard traffic situation apparently. The horn honking and cutting off is out of control. Luckily there is little road rage....

Pretty standard traffic situation apparently. The horn honking and cutting off is out of control. Luckily there is little road rage....

Our last day in Cairo was spent visiting the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. It costs 60 EP (or $10AUD) to see the main exhibits however if you want to see the Mummies then you need to pay an additional 100 EP (or $16AUD). The museum is quite interesting. There are a huge amount of egyptian artifacts and so if you like seeing hundreds of statues, stone coffins etc, then you are in for a treat. We were mainly interested in the Tutankhamun Exhibition and we checked out the Mummies which was pretty full on. Again we have no photos of this visit as cameras are not permitted inside (unless you get special permission).

Other than the many tours you can do, Cairo is a bustling city to wander around in. The downtown area we stayed in was smothered in shops, particularly shoe shops. There were also many restaurants to enjoy and we recommend choosing a restaurant along the Nile as you get some great views and a seletion of delicious cuisines.

The view from Orchids Restaurant on the Nile...

The view from Orchids Restaurant on the Nile...

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After 3 hectic days in Cairo, we were quite relieved to board an overnight train and make our way to Luxor. The train is much cheaper ($58AUD per person for a first class cabin) than a flight and it was a bit of fun having our own sleeper cabin for the journey. You board the train at about 8.30pm, then dinner is served and the train departs aroun 9pm. The couches convert into proper beds with sheets and pillows. In the morning you are woken with breakfast (don’t get too excited about the meals) and by 6am you have arrived in Luxor.

As you can see the train cabin from Cairo to Luxor is fine... Nothing great but not bad.

As you can see the train cabin from Cairo to Luxor is fine... Nothing great but not bad.

Luxor is a beautiful ancient city located on the Nile River. It is famous for the Valley of the Kings and other such temples so with only one full day in this city, we booked a tour to see Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens and the Hatsheput Temple, followed by an afternoon Nile River Cruise that took us through to sunset.

Elissa on the terrace of our hotel in Luxor. Nile river in the back ground

Elissa on the terrace of our hotel in Luxor overlooking the mighty Nile River.

We highly recommend visiting the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens and Hatshepsut Temple as you get the opportunity to walk into a selection of  tombs to view the incredible hieroglyphic artwork. The cost of this 4 hour tour is only $15AUD per person. Unfortunately no one is permitted to take photographs (except at Hatshepsut Temple) so we have very little to show of this tour but we can say that the size of these tombs, the detail in the artwork and the construction is truly incredible. At the Valley of the Kings you can also pay an additional amount to enter Tutankhaman’s Tomb.

The grand entrance into the Queen of Hateshuput...

The grand entrance into the Temple of Queen of Hatshepsut...

This is the sort of artwork that was found in the tombs of pharoahs. Although you can't take photos in the tombs, we were able to photograph this artwork at the Temple of Hatshepsut...

This is the sort of artwork that was found in the tombs of pharoahs. Although you can't take photos in the tombs, we were able to photograph this artwork at the Temple of Hatshepsut...

Returning from this tour, we boarded a beautiful Felucca Boat and sailed the Nile River for an afternoon. This tour cost $10 AUD per person and included a 4 hour Felucca Cruise, a  short stop at a Fruit Farm where fresh fruits and juices were served, there was also time for a quick swim and then back on board to watch the sunset.

Sailing on the Nile in a Flucca is terrific.

Sailing on the Nile in a Flucca is terrific.

A relaxing afternoon on the Nile...

A relaxing afternoon on the Nile...

Our time in Luxor although short, was really lovely. To be honest Cairo had been completely hectic. People were constantly trying to take more money from us no matter what price was quoted, so when we arrived in Luxor, it was a little quieter, more peaceful and the people seemed more trustworthy.

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Our final destination in our whirlwind Egyptian Tour was to Sharm El Sheikh. We boarded a flight from Luxor and arrived in this beautiful beach resort location for  3 nights of rest and relaxation. This was also time for Pete to sign up and complete his Advanced Diving Course.

One of the 3 pools at our hotel in Sharm el Sheikh...

One of the 3 pools at our hotel in Sharm el Sheikh...

Pete believes that Sharm el Sheikh has some of the best diving in the world. Many others agree as we met groups of travellers that come to this region to take part in diving trips of one week or longer...

Pete believes that Sharm el Sheikh has some of the best diving in the world. Many others agree as we met groups of travellers that come to this region to take part in diving trips of one week or longer...

If you happen to travel to this side of the world, then we can highly recommend a stint in Sharm el Sheikh. For starters accommodation in 4 and 5 star hotels is ridiculously cheap. We stayed at the Oriental Rivoli Hotel, a 4 star hotel that cost around $40AUD per night. This included a double room with ensuite and a buffet breakfast each morning. Although we were not located on the beach, there was a free shuttle transporting to and from the beach throughout the day or you could walk the short distance which took about 10 minutes.

Our buffet breakfast included fresh breads, cereals, salads, fruits, cakes, and a chef that would prepare fresh omelettes and crepes on request...

Our buffet breakfast included fresh breads, cereals, salads, fruits, cakes, and a chef that would prepare fresh omelettes and crepes on request...

Pete kept the crepe chef busy each morning. His record was 7!

Pete kept the crepe chef busy each morning. His record was 7!

We never took the shuttle after breakfast... it was a quick walk...

We never took the shuttle after breakfast... it was a quick walk...

Our week in Egypt flew. You could spend several weeks here as there is so much to explore particuarly further down south, but definitely finish with a decadent week in Sharm el Sheikh.

For more images, please see our gallery:

  • Bronwynkett

    Wow deffintely looks like tourism is pretty quite there at the moment going by your photos, the two times I went, there were tourists galore and you couldnt help but get several dozen of them in the back ground of your photos, very evident the effects of the revolution.  Looks like you guys are still having a blast, great to see 🙂

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