Egypt – Tombs, Temples, and Thugs

An Egypt trip had been in the planning for the last several years. It was fully booked when the pandemic stuck and everything had to be canceled. I wasn’t sure if this was too soon, but Egypt seemed to be the country with the least post-covid hangups or delays and I was craving to see all that history. Given about 3 years of research in the making, I was in for a true surprise.

First realization – Pyramids are cool but they are not the most fascinating piece of history you will see in Egypt.

Second – If it is less than 2000 years old, Egyptians won’t even consider it to be historical. The Egyptian Museum has exhibits gathering dirt in back galleries which would be star attractions at most museums.

Third – The Nile flows from the South to the North – it originates in Tanzania and Ethiopia and then flows into the Mediterranean Sea with the last leg passing through Egypt.

Finally – Egypt may be all about Tombs and Temples in history books but visiting Egypt will always be about dealing with the thugs – the stories of Alladin were set quite right.

There is a lot to see in Egypt and if you spent time appreciating every painting in every tomb, you will spend a lifetime here. I had 10 days! The top choices of cities to visit are Giza, Cairo, Sharm el Sheikh, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria and the Suez. Most of the rest of the country is either a desert or has safety issues. Given the time Sharm el Sheikh would involve 2 flights and a lot of time, so it was rejected. Suez canal is a day trip from Cairo, so that decision was left for the last minute. The main decision was to do or not to do the Nile Cruise – they run between Aswan and Luxor and can last 3 /4 nights. There are trade-offs – the cruises are slow and you are stuck to their itineraries. On the positive side, the good ones are luxurious and very comfortable way to travel. I chose to avoid the cruise and get a more local experience – which at some points translates to dealing more with the thugs. It had its issues, but I don’t regret the decision one bit.

Here is what the itinerary ended up as:

Day 1: Fly from Mumbai direct to Cairo – stay in Giza for a night with a pyramid view room

Days 2/3: Fly to Aswan and do a day trip to Abu Simbel

Day 4-6: Drive to Luxor visiting Edfu and Kom Ombo on the way. See valleys of Kings and Queens, do a hot air balloon ride and visit the other attractions of Luxor – the earlier capital of Egypt

Day 7-10: Fly to Cairo and do some road trips from there before the flight back to Mumbai.

Overall this covered a lot of history and culture but missed out on the luxury and Red Sea diving. It included several long road trips – many of which are unavoidable anyway. Things around Egypt start and end early, so we had a few early morning wake-ups but were mostly done with the activity for the day by 6pm. I did end up booking a few tours while there – Alexandria, a dinner cruise on the Nile, and Saqqara.

Local transport in Egypt is a nightmare and guided tours were the most hassle free way to move around. Walking is the next best option. Anything else will likely come with a lot of haggling, stress and a “market” on the way. Local food is simple and delicious but doesn’t have too much variety. There is typically pita, tahini, mashed beans, rice, salad and a grilled protien. The ingredients are usually fresh and tasty. At times there would be a meat ball curry or some vegetable curry to go with it. The drink of choice is uusally fresh fruit juice. The locals dont drink alchohol and it is served only at 5- start hotels (to my knowledge). There is no variety in drinks, but Egypt does produce its own wine and its not bad.

There are virtually no restaurants outside of hotels in Aswan, Luxor has a few more, and Cairo seems to have lots of them. Given how tourists are fleeced the hotel restaurants turned out to be really good options since they have a printed price on the menu.

On the shopping front, the best things I bought in the country were books…everything else was likely “tourist priced”. It is advisable not to follow any shopping advice from any tourist guide. They will tell you not to buy at the shops in the markets and then take you to an authentic shop that will sell you the same product for 10 to 100 times the price.

After the first few days, I started reading up on the destinations before the trip and did not depend too much on the guides. You still need the guide to help with the logistics, not necessarily the information.

Overall it is a fabulous country with an almost surreal history. Their ancestors have done them a huge favor by leaving so much art and knowledge behind. The artifacts are priceless both in terms of material and history. The tombs and the temples are like nowhere else in the world and are preserved beyond belief. However, as a country, they are on the verge of cutting open the goose that lays the golden egg – by so openly taking all visitors for a ride… or maybe that is another side of a different culture that you pay to experience.

One thought on “Egypt – Tombs, Temples, and Thugs

  1. Great post! It seems like a great itinerary that allowed you to see many beautiful things! I have never been to Egypt but would love to discover its history! The only thing that would worry me is, as you mention, all the haggling and trying not to get ripped off as a tourist – I am really bad at this! I’d have to come prepared ahah!

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