My 19th-year old daughter and I had never taken such a planned trip before, and frankly I had many trepidations. As it turned out, all the coordination of drivers and guides was impeccable. Many thanks to our travel agent and his colleagues, particularly to our guide in Cairo and our guide in Luxor.
HIghpoints of the trip were the simple Egyptian breakfast we had at Abydos at a cafe right next to the site. Breakfast consisted of omelettes, a salty cheese, a really garlicy pickle, the usual bean mush, and of course, lots of tea. A real flavor explosion. Unforgettable. We also enjoyed our pigeon dinner with our guide in Luxor. We liked his simple restaurant so much we went there two nights in a row.
If I could take the trip again, I would skip the Nile cruise, and spent the three nights in Aswan. Aswan seemed like a magical place: I particularly enjoyed the boat trip to Philae, and the felucca ride to the Nubian Village. It’s great to be out on the Nile on small boats: the cruise ship doesn’t really cruise that much. You’re sitting at dock most of the time. Another additional excursion we enjoyed a lot was a felucca trip with friends to Banana Island in Luxor. Nothing much to see on the island, but just being out on the boat at sunset is beyond magic.For the Jordan trip, I loved the add-on excursion on Mount Nebo, which cost $90 for two. This excursion should be pitched before the trip: it’s very interesting. The new Franciscan church covering the Byzantine mosaics is lovely and very well designed. On the other hand, the roadside pit stop where the driver brought us for lunch was really depressing, full of a big tour group and less-than-lackluster food.Also I’ve heard there are more interesting places to stay in Petra than the hotel I stayed in: converted ruins (?) at the edge of town. It is ok — good decor and an OK fancy restaurant — but it’s just depressing to be with so many tourists.We did four nights in Luxor, and in retrospect I wish we had done two nights at the stylish place on the West Bank where I insisted we stop for lunch and two at the Winter Palace (which has a spectacular decor and a very nice pool, but mediocre food.)In Luxor I would also skip the sunset carriage ride. It’s uncomfortable, not that scenic, and really embarrassing to drive through the crowded bazaar and have to displace so many people.Also, in Cairo, I can’t recommend the newly renovated Islamic Museum highly enough. It’s for real art lovers: almost empty of tourists, and very nicely installed.As for restaurants in Cairo, it’s a bit tricky to be eating dinner at 7pm when most Cairenes eat at 10. In the case of the restaurant in Giza, the place was empty and faintly depressing after such an exalted day of sightseeing. Just go to Mena House and order a la carte. In the case of the Naguib Mahfouz Cafe right in the middle of the Bazaar, it worked out perfectly. The place was crowded, there was fun people-watching, and wonderful live music.On the hotel in Cairo, I must say it was very well run. Not my kind of place: low on charm and local color, but top notch. A good twin room, good bathroom, very good coordination of luggage, and a nice, brisk feeling. I also particularly like the “Islamic” section of the breakfast room, underneath the rose window. Much more fun than the Western section! I enjoyed bumping into a full-on Egyptian wedding, with photo ops and all, one night on the third floor.On the whole, I can’t say enough good things about our agent and his team. They are a young company, and I would definitely use them again for my return trips to Egypt, Jordan, and other points in the Middle East. Thank you so much to this travel company!
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