“Why Egypt of all places?”, asked many when we told them of our plans to visit this country.
There was a recent heightened alert on terrorism, with some bombing and flight attacks coming to news. Well, those incidents did not seem to be regular occurring to us. And this amazing land who’s references filled much of our history books, had always left me wanting to visit and see the sand dunes, pyramids, and all that with my own eyes. And when I found out that its the same with my wife, Moumita, we lost no time and started with the journey plans.
There were surprisingly less people in our friends and family circle who had traveled to Egypt. So much of our travel plans were based on our own research. In 2015, the political situation in middle east Asia and Egypt too was not very stable. So we started looking for package tours, where we would go along with a group. We looked through all the top Indian travel operators like Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, makemytrip, etc. None had the package that we wanted. There was an option of creating a customized option which Thomas Cook had. We liked that option. Customized trip basically means that you can choose how many days you want to stay in which city. And what all acivities you want to do, they will do most of the bookings for you. You would still have to book all the travel tickets though (International Flights, Flights inside Egypt)
But as the trip will be customized, we will not have anybody to form a group. We told our concern to Thomas Cook guys and they assured that in customized packages, we will always have a local guide assigned to us, and he will make sure things are all fine. We will also have our own private chauffeured vehicle where ever we go. Thomas Cook guys also took care of getting the Visa done.
The Trip – Itinerary:
Day 1: We took a Kuwait Airways flight from Bangalore to Egypt (Cairo). There was a layover in Kuwait. We reached Cairo around 12pm. There was a representative of the local travel agency who was waiting to receive us. We cleared customs, got some money exchanged to Egyptian Dollars and headed straight to hotel – Movenpick Pyramids Hotel. This hotel was quite close the the pyramids. Actually if you walk out to the main road from the hotel you could see the Pyramids at a distance. The rooms were nice and breakfast was good.
Evening, we went to the pyramids sound and light show. Though it was a good experience, we felt that its a bit over priced and hyped.
Day 2: We spent exploring Cairo. First we went to the pyramids. After spending some time there, we headed to the Cairo Museum. The museum is right in the heart of Cairo. After the museum we went to a local shop and tried out a local delicacy called fateer. We couldn’t handle the excess of cheese but it was very tasty nevertheless. We headed back to our hotel after this.
Day 3: We visited Memphis and Saqqara in the morning, before heading out to Aswan in late afternoon. We took an Egypt Air flight to Aswan, an 30-40 mins flight. By time we reached our hotel – Hotel Helnan Aswan, it was late evening. We spent the evening lazing around and enjoying the beautiful view of the Nile from the room’s balcony.
Day 4: We woke up early morning and headed towards Abu Simble. Another must visit place, this was one of our highlights of the Egypt trip. We came back to Aswan around afternoon. We were booked on a river cruise, where we checked in. After lunch we headed out for a felucca ride. Felucca is a traditional Egyptian boat. There was a brief visit to a Botanical Park, there was nothing remarkable there, so we went through the park pretty quickly. We were on the river cruise roof, when we watched this beautiful sunset over the Nile.
Day 5: We did a tour of Aswan in the morning, visiting the unfinished obelisk, Philae temple and Aswan Dam before heading out of Aswan on the cruise. Around evening, the cruise docked for a brief visit to the Kom Ombo Temple which is just on the banks of the Nile. We stayed overnight on the cruise.
Day 6: In the morning, the cruise again docked for visit to Edfu temple. We headed straight to Luxor after this. On the way we passed through Esna Gate, which is an awesome engineering feat. On 2 sides of the gate, Nile has different water levels. So boats passing through this gate enters an enclosure. Water is let in/out of this enclosure to match the water level in the other side. Then the ship would be released on the other side of the gate!
We reached Luxor late afternoon. We headed for Luxor temple that evening. It looks magnificent at night with all the lighting! We came back to the cruise that night for our last night on the cruise.
Day 7: We left early morning, before dawn for a balloon ride. The balloon rides happen on the other bank of the Nile, near Valley of Kings. Seeing the sunrise from over the Nile from a hot air balloon was an experience beyond words! After the balloon ride we headed for other sightseeing in Luxor – Valley of Kings, Queen Hatshput’s temple, Colossi of Memnon and Karnak Temple. By the time we reached our hotel – Steigenberger Nile Palace, we were really tired with all the hectic travel over the last few days. We spent the evening lazing around in and around the hotel and Nile.
Day 8: We had late breakfast and headed for the airport for our flight back to India. It was a Quatar airways flight which came to Bangalore via Doha. We came back to India, from the land of the Pharaohs, late night with some awesome experiences which will last a lifetime!