When I received an invitation to travel to Egypt on a Travcoa luxury tour, I jumped at the chance. On a luxury tour travelers don't have to worry about anything. A great tour operator assures your rooms are in order, your luggage arrives, special requests are confirmed, flight arrangements are reconfirmed, and in some cases, that staff in the hotel and on the tour are properly tipped. A tour operator also hires experienced guides they know or who they’ve properly qualified.
I was very fortunate to have one of the best Egyptologists traveling with us on this trip. Sherif made Egyptian history come alive for us. He was one of the best guides I have ever had the pleasure of traveling with.
I arrived into Cairo at the new airport — the second day it had been opened. The new airport is gorgeous but they need time to get organized. The tour operators are no longer allowed to meet you at immigration which means you have to purchase your visa and process it on your own. (And when you leave the country the luggage handlers are no longer allowed to take your bags to the airline's check-in counter because you have to walk through security first.) I was met outside security and promptly transferred to the Four Seasons at Nile Plaza. You can't have a better welcome to Egypt than a gorgeous room looking over the Nile and Cairo. I loved the room and the food and service was superb.
The group met after breakfast the following morning and was given an overview of our trip from our Egyptologist and Travel Director. It was a great way to meet everyone and learn what to expect on our journey. We started with a visit to the famous Cairo Museum then onwards to the Pyramids of Giza with a camel ride, Sphinx and the Solar Boat Museum. When I stood at the foot of the great Pyramids my admiration for the ancient Egyptians grew. And as I learned more about their history and viewed their temples I have a huge respect for this ancient civilization. Afterwards we had lunch at the Mena House Hotel in the Khan El Khalili Restaurant. You can't get a better view of the pyramids while dining in their restaurant.
After departing Cairo we flew to Aswan to see the High Dam and transferred to the Elephantine Island Hotel. This hotel desperately needs an update but it is clean and the best hotel in Aswan. The staff was friendly and the food was edible – fine for a one-night stay.
The following early morning we flew to Abu Simbel which was one of the highlights of the trip. The extra dollars to pay and go see it is worth it! After our visit at Abu Simbel we returned to Aswan and boarded our river cruise boat, the M/S Sonesta St. George I, for our Nile River cruise. The boat’s accommodations and service are excellent. My "suite" was huge — the lesser categories were also roomy. Food aboard the boat was excellent and they have a fun Galabeya (beautiful embroidered Caftan/dress for men & women) night. That evening we attended the Sound & Light show at Philae Temple. I thought it was worth it and it helps support the renovations of the temple.
After our three-night Nile river cruise visiting villages and temples we checked into the Sonesta St. George Hotel in Luxor. The Sonesta was a comfortable hotel with an excellent Italian restaurant and many shops in the lobby area. In Luxor we visited the fabulous Luxor Museum and took a horse carriage ride. (It is important you hire a horse carriage from a man that takes good care of his horse and doesn't run their horse on the streets– the cobblestones are tough on horse's hooves.)
The following morning we transferred to the Luxor airport and returned to Cairo. Upon arrival we were transferred to the Nile where we boarded a Felucca for a luncheon sail up the Nile. The Four Seasons catered the affair and I highly recommend this activity for a small group. Afterwards we checked into the Four Seasons First Residence Hotel. The hotel is intimate with more of a residence feel with beautiful lounges and three excellent restaurants: one with a continental menu; an excellent Thai restaurant; and a Lebanese restaurant. Of the Four Seasons properties I felt the First Residence had the better cuisine. While the Nile hotel overlooks the river, the Residence overlooks the Cairo Zoo and the Pyramids. That evening we attended the Sound & Light show at the Pyramids. If you have the time in your schedule you should attend the show because it helps support the Pyramids. I was glad I saw it and enjoyed it.
You have to visit the Khan El Khalili Bazaar (Grand Bazaar)! This is the best shopping in Cairo along with finding better quality goods. Be prepared to "haggle" for that item of interest. The Egyptian vendors can be overbearing but as long as you are polite and stress you are not interested or want a certain item, they understand.
Things to remember while visiting Egypt: Take small bills in U.S. dollars or Egyptian pounds because every time you want to take a picture of someone, tip a vendor or use the public restrooms you need to pay. Typically one or two U.S. dollars is enough. And also take small rolls of toilet paper for those visits to the rest rooms. Typically after paying the restroom attendant they will only give you two or three sheets of toilet paper and you have to barter for more. Another note is the time of year to travel to Egypt. May through summer is very hot! You will not survive without a good hat and drinking lots of water. But there is an advantage of traveling to Egypt this time of year. You won't see the large crowds. During high season you can hardly walk through the Egyptian museum because there are so many people, and we were able to see everything at ease.