A fantastic chance to explore one of the world's most remote and fascinating countries. Only open to tourists since 1974, Bhutan's philosophy of Gross National Happiness and entrenched Buddhism makes it a place like no other.
Having worked in the UK reservations office for the last four months and from my training and research into this tour, I thought that I knew all there was to know about the itinerary and what to expect. What I didn’t count on and what made my experience surprising and exceptional was the people I encountered.
Along with the famous sights in Cairo e.g. Giza Pyramids, the Sphinx and Saqqara included in the GEA tour we all also booked the Cairo City tour option (LE125 ex entrance fees p/p, minimum 2 people). This tour is a must-do! This full day tour includes a visit to Coptic Cairo, the Citadel, the Khan al Khalili bazaar and the Egyptian Museum and shows you the Ancient and Modern Egyptians lives in vivid colour. At the Egyptian museum we saw how the Ancient Egyptians preserved their bodies (and their animal’s bodies) by mummification for the journey to the afterlife, removed our shoes with the Modern Egyptians at the entrance of the Mohamed Ali Mosque while listening to the musical call for prayer within the Saladin Citadel’s walls and experienced the sights & smells of local life in the amazingly detailed Cairo maze they call the Khan al Khalili bazaar.
After heading south to Aswan on the overnight train, we were upon the sight I was most looking forward to in Egypt – Abu Simbel and the famous temples of Ramses II and Nefertari, which were dismantled and rebuilt when Lake Nasser was created. (LE440 p/p,minimum 2 people). These masterpieces carved into the mountainside are an incredible spectacle that has to be seen to be believed. I was blown away by their sheer size and detail and enjoyed sitting quietly nearby imagining their majesty in 1224BC.
My favourite experience of the trip awaited us next – The Felucca. A lot of EU travellers, including myself and my partner, had reservations about this traditional sail boat and its lack of toilet facilities on board. Please believe me when I say that the positives far out way the negatives. How often will you have an opportunity to sail on the Nile like a Nubian, fall asleep under the stars to the quiet lap of water against the boat, spend time relaxing with your loved ones/fellow travellers while watching life move slowly by and enjoy the simple, tasty cooking of your Nubian boat captain? Do it! You will not regret it!
If I may steal a snippet from Wendy Griffin’s blog – Egyptian Family Adventure – March 2010 – Wow! What an Amazing Trip!! you will see what I mean – “One of the highlights of our trip was the overnight Felucca trip down the Nile. Imagine floating down the Nile on a 25’x17’ bed!! It was unbelievably peaceful watching the rural sights along the Nile, having amazingly delicious food prepared by our captain (one of my favourite meals of the whole trip was served on board the Felucca!) and spending true quality time with our kids. We heard great things about the cruise ships but there was something very special about being so close to the water and having such a peaceful adventure.”
Sadly, our time on the Felucca had to end and we entered the sweltering Luxor via Komombo and Edfu temples. Our Ancient Egyptian friends had more to share with us at the ever evolving Valley of the Kings. With 3 tombs included in the price of the ticket we picked the tombs of Ramses III (KV11) for its long and traditional design, Ramses I (KV 16) though small has amazingly clear and bright colours and the old style tomb of Thutmes III (KV34) don’t be put off by the stairs, this tomb is unique and worth the wobbly legs. Keep an eye on this space – our guide divulged that there may be some news about a new discovery coming out of the Valley in the next few months. How intriguing!
After 10 days of remarkable history, incredible tombs and astonishing temples we said good bye to our weary eyed Nile Explorer friends and looked east toward the Sinai & our Red Sea resort – Dahab! Known for its laid back, relaxed atmosphere, Dahab is a mixture of Bedouin and hippie styles and was the best way to spend 4 of the last 5 nights of our tour. Time was spent indulging in the vast array of delicious, fresh seafood on offer, plodding along the lagoon atop our fury humpbacked friends, exploring the amazing underwater world of the Blue Hole and sucking back apple-flavoured shisha goodness. A special and relaxing end to an incredible holiday (work-trip)!
‘Work-trip????’ I hear you say. Yes, I did do some work during these 2 weeks of travelling in Egypt. While enjoying the sights and relaxing by the pool I was researching your next holiday! I also checked out some of the hotels that we use on our Standard and Superior tours to make sure they are still up to scratch and looking after our clients in the way that we expect. My favourite hotel in Cairo would have to be the Marriott – it is a former royal Palace built for European royalty visiting Egypt during the inaugural celebrations to mark the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869. This beautiful property has not lost its Royal charm and its clients satisfaction is its number one priority. I loved it for its grandeur as well as central location and many facilities. and brought back some feedback to our UK office about how our tours are being run on the ground.
It was really helpful to see how things work in practice on our tours after selling them since January and we are discussing some updates that we can make to our pre-departure info and factsheets to make them clearer, more accurate and ultimately more useful for you, our clients.
Many thanks to Matthew, Mark, Jo, Jill, Mike, Rob, Jo, Lloyd, Fiona, Magali, Quan, Roland, Junior, Robert, Karen, Jesse, Jenna, Ahmed, Ahmed, Ahmed, Boules, Mohamed, Mohamed and Mo.