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  1. Miss Capitol Hill

    July 30, 2008

    I was in Egypt two winters ago and I have to say that Egypt can be a challenge for even the most experienced traveller. My husband and I have been all over the world including many third world countries and normally we are the “go it alone” type …we don’t like tour groups and really enjoy getting out and exploring a place on our own.

    But for Egypt I would say you really have to have a tour group or tour guide. This may be kind of cheesy or not give you a super “authentic” experience but otherwise you will be like sheep that strayed from the herd. My husband and I could not walk more then then a few feet without having all types of people approach us to try and sell us things, offer us rides, takes us on tours etc. The pyramids were really almost ruined for us b/c it was just so overwhelming and constant. Even trying to walk down the street we had cars stop and honking at us constantly.

    I wish I could stress how much I am not exaggerating. It was overwhelming…and I’ve been to India so I’m not unaccustomed to crowds, dirt, and the hard sell of touts.

    THe pyramids are amazing and certainly something to visit but I often tell people that of all the places I’ve seen nothing can beat Petra, Jordan.

    For eating cheap near the pyramids I recommend getting takeaway from Felfela…it’s a fast food Egyptian chain, but it’s quick, cheap, and tasty. I loved their falafel. We got takeaway a couple times from there while we were in egypt…but never ate in the actual restaurant so I can’t speak to that.

  2. Jennifer

    July 30, 2008

    I second the necessity of a GOOD tour guide! I was with a group (last month) and was so glad for it. You are constantly being bombarded by people trying to sell you ANYTHING. Which leads me to my next suggestion: Take your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer. I think I wasted $20 the first day feeling like I had to pay these poor, poor people for the tp they were offering me. (Even though I had it in my back pack!)
    You really must ride a faluka down the Nile. And spend at least a day at the Cairo museum. The Mummy room is worth every single penny. AMAZING!

    Be very careful with the food. NEVER drink the water, even to brush your teeth. Bottled water all the way.

    The previous comment is not exaggerating in the least. I am glad I went… very glad I went. But also glad that it was at the beginning of the trip and probably will never go back.

    BTW I don’t know how I found your blog, but really enjoy it. I have a post with pictures from my trip if you’re interested:

  3. aimee heff

    July 30, 2008

    Egypt is wonderful!

    Keep your money close to your body and watch out for hands that may grope your lady parts.

    They have boat trips on the Nile and that was a beautiful treat.

    And of course… takes lots of pictures. 🙂

  4. Ang

    July 30, 2008

    Hey Jordan – my best friend’s brother’s family just moved to Egypt. I’m sure they would give you any tips you need since they are currently checking out all the touristy stuff. check out their blog if you want –

  5. aimee heff

    July 30, 2008

    P.S. Ditto on the tip about Petra, Jordan and the toilet paper.

    I looooved Jordan so much.

  6. Leslie

    July 30, 2008

    my sisters and i are reading through these comments and laughing because we were all in egypt together several years ago and completely agree with all suggestions above. it was wonderful and unforgettable, but we were with a group, too. we actually had snipers on the rooftops and armed guards escorting our private bus from the port (we were on a cruise). but if you want to go to egypt, you should go. i don’t think you could ever regret seeing the pyramids in real life. it’s absolutely awe-inspiring.
    we stayed at the intercontinental, right on the nile. it is very unreal to even look at the real nile river, it was so fun. our guides told us this was the “nicest hotel in cairo,” and it was nice, but didn’t really compare to “nice” hotels elsewhere. and don’t miss the egyptian museum, but also, don’t be sad for the unprotected state of most of the artifacts. you can see a pic of my husband and me at the great pyramid here. we are the teeny little people at the bottom of the shot.

  7. Kaylen

    July 30, 2008

    One of my friends took a group tour on camels, in the evening/night, through the pyramids. Then they slept in tents in the desert. He said it was amazing.

    Other than that, I’m totally clueless, although I DID go through a pretty intense phase of loving Cleopatra.

  8. Jill

    July 30, 2008

    We were in Egypt this June and I would highly recommend it! When we first arrived I was quite scared, because of the stares & the cultural differences, but that we had a wonderful time and the people are very nice.

    We spent 5 days there and went to Cairo and Luxor. We opted for the night train between the two and it worked out perfectly.

    You do need a visa to go to Egypt but you can get one on arrival, just by paying $15. You may want to have extra passport photos on hand.

    In Luxor I would recommend seeing the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, the Temple of Karnak (as mentioned above you really do need guides). We also did a hot air balloon ride at sunrise over the Nile, it was amazing. The views are unbelievable and the contrast between the green river area & desert is striking. Also the alabaster shops have the most beautiful vases.

    In Cairo we saw the Egyptian museum. I recommended paying extra to see the mummy exhibit. It was worth the steep price.

    We did a camel ride around the Giza plateau to see the Sphinx. It was well worth the laughs and the experience but I can promise that is the last time we will ever ride a camel. They are the equivalent to riding a jack-hammer.

    The main market in Cairo, Khan-al-Khalili is fascinating. I loved roaming the stalls even though you are constantly bombarded by people. They have everything… linens, housewares, pottery, food, clothing, etc.

    We also saw the step pyramids at Saqqarat which is neat if you're an architecture fan.

    Here are a few of my posts about it.

    our first glimpse

    hot air balloon ride

    pyramid tour

    I’d be happy to pass on phone #s, hotels, tour guide info, if you end up going. Email me at

  9. Maren

    July 30, 2008

    My husband and I lived in Cairo for a summer once, and I second many of these comments. TP, hand sanitizer, money close to you, extra passport photos, and maybe a copy of your marriage certificate. But I have to say that two modestly-dressed individuals who are somewhat experienced will not gather enough attention to need armed guards. Only tour groups would need that kind of protection, if at all. Egyptians are nice, sometimes too nice. Yes, you will get hounded by sellers, and bargaining is expected when you want to buy.

    We saw the pyramids by horseback, which was much better than, say, by camel. (Horses are nicer.) If you get a chance to go to the Khan market, it’s amazing what you might find. Do check out the Cairo shopping posts from my favorite overseas blog: My Marrakesh. Enjoy you trip!

  10. Bek

    July 30, 2008

    Ditto on Egypt being a challenge… are you taking Moses?

    My sister and her husband just got back from there a few months ago and said they had learned a lot (especially about what hotels to stay at and what ones to usual–you can’t believe everything you read…).

    Ditto as well on the group thing. They had a MUCH better time when doing group stuff (and they are both really experience travellers…).

    She lives in London now and would be happy to give you any tips (but you got good ones here).She can give you names of hotels, etc.

    I also have a friend that lives in Egypt with her family. She is American..but they have been there for a few years….

    Ask away on my sisters blog…
    (p.s. I am a friend of Gabby’s and Chris and Lisa Clark…so I am not a crazy person stalker.. also, if you need a place to stay over in London, give her a call…..)

  11. Taryn & Brendon

    July 30, 2008

    my husband and i leave next week for egypt for a month long trip before our big move to palo alto. i’m sure we’ll meet sometime at brooke’s so we’ll bring our pictures and some advice along 🙂

  12. Taryn & Brendon

    July 30, 2008

    my husband and i leave next week for egypt for a month long trip before our big move to palo alto. i’m sure we’ll meet sometime at brooke’s so we’ll bring our pictures and some advice along 🙂

  13. Emmie {orange + barrel}

    July 30, 2008

    I am actually still in the Middle East, we went to Egypt last week. We leave to go back to Los Angeles in three days!

    I totally agree with all of the above comments. A tour guide is needed. We actually drove down from Israel through the Sinai Desert. If you chose to do this, I would recommend that you bring a lot of cash for “border fees” to men with big guns and no uniforms. We drove down with a body guard and a translator. We thought that we would have an issue with a last name of Levy, but it ended up not being a issue. I really think this is only an issue if you are literally driving there in the middle of nowhere.

    I would recommend going down the Nile. It was really the highlight of my trip.

    I can’t agree more about the toilet paper. I bring a roll with me everywhere out here.

    On a bad note, I got sick in Egypt and I am still sick. We went with five other people and they are still sick as well. We didn’t drink the water and we watched what we ate.

    Oh, the best purchase we made was from the Container Store. It is a little purse/pocket that loops into your belt and tucks into the inside of your pants.

    Have so much fun!!!

  14. Vane

    July 31, 2008

    my travel tip: don’t let the camel guys force you into a camel ride! one just grabbed me and threw me on a camel against my will, then demanded money for the photo op that no one took.

    the pyramids WERE gorgeous though.

  15. Seamonkey

    July 31, 2008

    I agree you should definitely go! We went a few years ago and had a wonderful time. You do not need a tour guide for the pyramids and soon the Cairo museum will be moved out to their new digs at the pyramids (maybe they have already made the move). I too went to Luxor (with a 3 and 4 year old in tow) and we had a great time, but did not see everything as we were on their schedules!

    I also have a very strange recommendation…I would never recommend this most places, but if you are wandering around the pyramids on your own, I would recommend a stop Pizza Hut — I know, I know…who goes to Pizza Hut when traveling, well when the Pizza Hut has the best view of the Sphinx and the pyramids…and air conditioning 🙂 So once you are sick of people trying to beg, steal and convince you to buy their wonderful goods…retreat for a cold coca-cola and a fabulous view.

    Then head back out and enjoy all Cairo has to offer.

  16. melanie

    August 1, 2008

    I went to Egypt as a young single woman several years ago and while I still chalk it up to one of the more exciting trips, there is a LOT to contend with when travelling in this country. I went in July and it was 120 degrees, yet I still dressed in long skirts and covered my hair hoping to appear respectful and avoid being harassed. I can’t say it helped much as I was subjected to many instances of men grabbing my ‘lady parts.'(as a another poster put it : ) Travelling with your husband may prevent this a bit.
    The water and tp issues are something to pay attention to – I was VERY careful and I still got sick — for 28 days upon my return. : ( I took the felucca trip from Aswan back up to Cairo and while I refrained from swimming or even touching the water in the Nile apparently they were washing the dishes we ate off in it! : )
    It’s an amazing country and if you are prepared and able to assert yourselves against harassment, begging and generally aggressive tourist traps it’s worth the adventure. I didn’t go to Petra in Jordan but heard it’s truly amazing….Israel is also beyond incredible and a lot easier and safer to navigate. : )

  17. dayna

    August 1, 2008

    oh yes i’ve been. the pyramids are amazing to see together, but definitely go to the valley of the kings if you can. there is so much to see on the walls of the tombs there…amazing. very symbolic, and yes, get a tour guide. the museum in cairo is so great as well.

  18. Leah

    August 2, 2008

    Maryam from My Marrakesh travels to Egypt often and writes about it on her blog. In fact, her last two posts were on Egypt:

    Have fun on your trip!

  19. Debbie

    August 2, 2008

    We had a wonderful time in Egypt several years ago (pre-kids)

    It’s not much more expensive to hire a private guide than to travel with a tour, and you’ll be able to pace your day according to your needs instead of the groups. It’s tough to find a good guide once you are in Egypt, though, so book before you go. You will want to confirm with the agency that your guide will have a degree in Egyptology.

    Booking your hotel through a travel agency that does a lot of business in Egypt can save you a lot of money vs. booking the hotel yourself. We were really surprised at the price difference.

    A lot of people stay out in Mena near the pyramids, but Cairo is a lovely city (and one of the safest in the world) We felt comfortable getting around the city on our own and loved visiting the bazaar, the old Coptic area, and the Jewish area.

    Hope this helps

  20. Alya

    August 3, 2008

    I’ve been there and I really think u should take miss capitol hill on her suggestion. While Egypt is a great place to explore, tourists stick out easily, and you will often find yourself having to deal with beggars, sellers and so many other types.

    Also its not a place where English is spoken easily and fluently unless you’re in hotels and resorts, etc so you’ll have a hard time with taxis. AND you’ll be swindled A LOT. So having a guide with you will be the best option.

    If you’re in the mood to swim and go to the beach, Sharm el Sheikh, in Egypt is a great place too.

    I am not kidding when I say, you will be overwhelmed by the insane traffic, heat and crowds. Keep your money in a very safe place (not in your backpack), and DONT give out ANYTHING to beggars. They will follow you to death, but if you give one, he/she will shout out to her buddies and you will find a stampede of tens or hundreds to follow!

    Other than that, enjoy!

  21. kay*

    August 9, 2008

    i was in Egypt a year and a half ago and while i understand where some of these commenters are coming from it was not that bad for me in terms of people bothering me/asking to give me tours etc. (oh yeah, for the record i’m a female and went solo WITHOUT a tour). of course there is some culture shock – that is to be expected i think when you leave the western world and go to a muslim country such as Egypt. I did hire a private tour guide for my first few days and would highly recommend one because, if they are experienced and know their stuff, they make it a much better experience than just seeing the pyramids – you can learn about the history of them and ask questions etc. i don’t really understand the comments about it being a difficult/challenging country to travel in. i was never ripped off (by anything significant at least) and found the train and bus system easy to navigate (and i used them A LOT!) – the biggest issue i had was ANOTHER traveler from europe who wouldn’t get out of my seat on the train!

    i would highly recommend: the egyptian museum, the valley of the kings, and coptic cairo (the citadel is breathtaking!) among many of the other sites.

    i ate like a local (except i drank bottled water) and never had any issues. i had a wonderful time and plan on going back in 3 years for my birthday. the people i met were friendly, nice and helpful. i have a post about my trip on my blog and would be happy to email you recommendations and more info if you need it.

    definitely go.

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