NOW is the perfect time to visit Egypt – Part 3 of 3
The next morning we had a really early start as we had selected an optional tour with Dream Balloons. Having experienced a flight over Cappadocia in Turkey, we knew we wanted to experience this amazing opportunity in Egypt, and I didn’t want to miss it for anything. But Explorason woke with a horrible earache, and I didn’t know what to do. I think he had trapped water from the pool in his inner ear, so I gave him some pain relief and hoped it would kick in by the time we were flying.
We were joined by Molly, an American girl on our tour, and the bus then collected a group of happy Indian journalists and TV reporters and stars. We all moved to a motorboat for coffee and a snack, and to reach the opposite bank of the Nile River.
This early start with Dream Balloons was fantastic, and Explorason was able to join us (I was quite concerned he’d have to stay in the minibus).
They fired up and rose over the Valley of the Kings and Ancient Workers city. We learned quite a lot on this balloon ride from the guide the Indian folk had with them, and I am so glad we did this balloon flight. To see this historic area from the air allowed us to see the rugged desert, the mountains, and the lush greenery all intertwine together in one valley.
By the end of the ride, we felt we had new friends with the Indian tour group, and also a lovely UN Press Reporter that was joining them.
Armed with our breakfast boxes from the hotel, we then joined the rest of our tour group to visit the dusty Pharaoh tombs in the ancient burial sites in the Valley of the Kings. To see these ornately decorated walls as we tunneled down inside their graves was really great, and I was so glad we came when there is a lull in tourism. It is not as busy as it would have been before the Revolution in 2011, which has caused Egyptians to suffer greatly. Egyptians are generally friendly and eager to have tourism return in full swing, and their livelihood depends on it.
For any of you reading this, let me tell you that Egypt feels incredibly safe, and I wouldn’t be visiting here with my child and risking our lives. There has been a lot of media hype giving Egypt a bad wrap, and this is causing the tourism to really suffer. For those wishing to visit, and who might feel concerned, then can I suggest you use www.egypt-uncovered.com to book your tour. They can minimize and risks, and put your concerns at ease, and the tour guide will only take you to places that are of course safe (most of Egypt is safe anyway).
It is time for us to visit the Temples of Queen Hatshepsut and Medinat Habu and we chose not to go to this, and that was a mistake, as this is the only time where we were hassled as we waited by shop sellers to the point of ridiculous. There was no coffee shop to wait in, and I feel so sorry that these sellers just don’t have the tourism to sustain their income, and feed their families. One old man didn’t have much at all to sell in his store, and I felt so sorry for him.
We all visit the huge Colossi of Memnon which is an area they are currently working hard on restoring, and then it is the end of our morning – it has been a long one for us.
We return to the gorgeous Sonesta St George Hotel for some free time, and I decide to go downstairs to the business center. It offers free internet, but when we get down there, there seem to be more than fifty people lounging around the lobby area having the same idea, which meant it was slow. We found it works best right by the elevators (thanks to a tip from one of the staff) and so we sit and catch up on quite a few days of not being on the internet.
We miss out on lunch by the pool, so we decide to take a walk to the mini-market nearby for some snacks to tide us over until dinner time. As we walk there we are hassled by shop owners and also Horse and Buggy owners, and one is quite rude. We have been warned by our tour guide NOT to use these. The drivers are often dangerous, sleep deprived or even drug users, and he asked me to include a warning to you about this.
With luggage stowed away at the hotel, we then finish off our time in the Luxor area with a late afternoon visit to the Temple of Karnak.
Temple of Karnak is on the East Bank of the Nile River.
By now I was too tired to really take it all in, so maybe one day I will have to come back here again.
We wandered around on our own and finished with the group listening to some funny stories from Egyptologist Waleed, who is our knowledgeable guide.
He then gave us a great opportunity to learn about the art and making of Papyrus grass parchment at the ISIS 2 Papyrus Museum. I wrote a separate article on this great Museum and here Explorason selected a piece, and so did I.
What happened next was so sweet. Waleed our guide had been promising Explorason some Macdonald’s, and so we parked the bus, and he took his hand and guided him over the busy street and let him order whatever he wanted. His face beamed and he was so thrilled, and came back happier than ‘a boy in a lolly shop’, as he sat and ate his meal.
The rest of us decided to go to an Irish Pub for dinner. Here our guide educated us on Egyptian politics and the religion, and I so wanted to learn what he had to say, but caught myself as I fell asleep at the dinner table!
That night we took a late optional flight back to Cairo whilst Marina and Stefan chose to sleep on the train. Explorason slept anytime we stopped, but for me, it was 4:00 a.m. when I lay my head down on the pillow back at Hotel Soluxe – just as the mosque started their morning call of prayer and the birds commenced their daily chirping.
Thankfully we had a late wake-up call on the 8th Day of this tour and the guide organized with the Hotel Soluxe to give us a later breakfast. The unusual thing is Soluxe is a Chinese owned Hotel so the breakfast is quite expansive, but is a mix of western and eastern styles of food.
I was able to get really good internet in our room here, so madly set about answering 500 emails and trying to organize the rest of our time in Egypt, whilst the rest of the group sat around the pool with a jewelry maker and ordered some exquisite pieces from him.
After lunch, we as a group decision with the help of our guide Waleed to organize our optional tour and to visit old Cairo and the souk markets and mosques.
Our guide found a Shisha Lounge and we sat and had juices in this really non-touristic area – it was pretty cool.
The decor was pretty crazy and well worth a visit.
We ended up with falafel sandwich from a local seller, and then hopping back on the bus to head to Soluxe Hotel with just enough time for a quick change into some warmer clothes (Cairo is way cooler than Luxor and the south of Egypt).
We had selected the optional tour of the Sound and Light show Pyramids of Giza. If you come to Egypt, please do take time to include this. Oman Sharif narrates the Egyptian history as various colors illuminate the skies.
I especially loved how they lit up The Sphinx and showed the false beard and nose as it once was before legend has it that Napoleon shot it off. We were pleased to have Tom as our guide for the night, and he then treated us all to a traditional Egyptian dish of Koshari at a local restaurant, which was very authentic.
Most of the group gathered for farewell drinks on the rooftop of the Soluxe Hotel, and the lights and view were both beautiful. It was a bit cold but was a nice finish for us to get together and say good-bye. Most of the group leave to fly back tomorrow to their various destinations, but we will stay on to explore Egypt a little more.
I am so glad that we selected Egypt Uncovered www.egypt-uncovered.com.
Although they only accept children over 12 years of age, I am ever so thankful to all who were in our tour group, and to our guide Waleed for allowing us to join them. I know younger adults (most of our group were under 30 years old) often don’t want to have a child around, but everyone was so kind and nice to us and helped me too, so I want to thank each and every one of them for helping us to have a really memorable experience.
Egypt is a wonderful place to visit. We both loved it, and hope you get to see, hear and taste the wonders of one of the most history-filled countries in the world.
Egypt awaits you with open arms.
(End of Part 3 of 3
‘NOW is the perfect time to visit Egypt’)
Tour Company: Egypt Uncovered
Tour Name: Nile Explorer
Telephone: (UK) 0800 088 6002 (freephone); (UK) 0203 725 8921 (landline); (Worldwide) +44 203 725 8921
Date: March 2015
Length of Tour: 9 days
Child-friendly: usually over age 12 years
Papyrus Art: http://exploramum.com/2015/04/papyrus-paintings.html