Egypt Travel 2017… Expat Explore tells all!
Members of the Expat Explore Travel team left their office seats behind to experience the beauty of Egypt first hand. Backpax asked them to share snippets of their fabulous adventures with us…
Think Egypt, think ancient pyramids… it’s what most people associate with this historically rich country! But it’s not just the 3 most famous ones which are worth a visit – with a total of 130+ having being discovered, many others are well worth a peek. Built as tombs for the pharaohs and their families, these age-old structures are indeed fascinating, but there is so much more to Egypt than long-buried cultures.
The Arab Republic of Egypt links North East Africa with the Middle East, and features natural wonders like the Nile and its fertile region, as well as the barren deserts and coastal gems alongside the Red and Mediterranean seas. With a population of 82 million people, the country has the largest Arabic population in the world, most of which speak both English and Arabic. This singular combination of natural wonders, cultural treasures and a burgeoning tourism infrastructure makes Egypt one of the travel destinations to watch in 2017.
Over the course of the last year, Ananda, Melicia, Dani and Angus, all tenured members of the Expat Explore team, each joined an Expat Explore Egypt tour with complimentary flights sponsored by the Egyptian State Tourist Office. With Ananda heading up the customer service team, it’s their job to help travellers from all over the world to make their wildest wanderlust dreams a tangible reality. They felt it was time for them to step out of the office and experience the many marvels of Egypt for themselves. Their travels took them to the best-loved archaeological, historic and cultural treasures in and around the capital cities of Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, and Hurghada, as well as snorkelling in the Red Sea; they came back with plenty of stories and even more enamored with Egypt’s vast and captivating diversity than ever before.
We’ve asked them about their travel highlights and why they think Egypt should be on everyone’s bucket list. Here is what they had to say.
What were your highlights on tour?
The art in Egypt left me speechless – the stunning and colossal monuments of Ancient Egypt never fail to astonish. Abu Simbel on day five, the Valley of the Kings on day six, and the Pyramids of Giza were my top highlights. I will also always remember my camel ride in the desert. Moses, my camel, was from Sudan and I was his first ever rider!
I’m a huge fan of natural beauty, so snorkelling in the Red Sea is always my absolute favourite thing to do in Egypt. In Hurghada, you get free days on day seven and eight of the Expat Explore tour, which gives you plenty of time to swim, tan and snorkel. I also loved the Nile Cruise. It’s a five-star cruise and definitely the most relaxing part of the trip. You can tan, chill by the pool or just hang around with fellow travellers at the bar. The deck allows for the best scenery and sunsets ever. – you won’t believe the lushness of the area around the Nile.
Tip! Try the Nubian dinner! The Nubians are one of the oldest civilizations in the world. They invite you into their home and cook you food in their humble way – it’s a real, honest look into their culture.
My highlight, excuse the pun, was the hot air balloon ride. It costs about 130 US dollars, but is worth every single cent. The beauty of the aerial view of the Valley of the Kings took my breath away. In one word – magical! Abu Simbel was another must-see destination on my list. I have done a lot of research on Abu Simbel over the years, and as expected, it was it was one of the coolest places to visit. I take my hat off to the engineering effort UNESCO put in to preserve it for the modern age. Some say it’s the epitome of jaw-dropping grandeur. I think I agree!
The temples, in particular, Philae, Abu Simbel and Edfu, are at the top of my list. The Great Pyramids and Sphinx are understandably the icons of ancient Egypt and recognised the world over, but for me the various temples we visited as we made our way sailing up the Nile were even more spectacular. They’re not quite as colossal as the Pyramids, but the construction and architecture is arguably more complex, and every inch of the walls have been adorned with intricate carvings.
Now for the million dollar question: Do you think Egypt is safe to visit?
Ananda: Yes. We’re all aware of the political uproar we’ve seen in Egypt and the Middle East in the past, but in general Egypt is a very safe country. Our expert Egyptian tour leader was with us at all times and I’ve never met anyone who knows as much about a specific area’s culture and history. He could answer all my questions and I felt especially safe with him in the vicinity.
Melicia: We had a convoy leading us on all the long rides to destinations and temples like Abu Simbel and Aswan. None of the tourists or people we met along the way were oblivious to the political climate, but none of them were scared either. If anything, they were just happy to have Egypt all to themselves. Tourism in Egypt took a big knock after the widespread unrest in 2011.
Dani: There was not one moment that I felt unsafe. I would live in Egypt if I could.
Angus: Absolutely! The situation is very different now, compared to what it was during the Arab Spring. The Tourist Police are a large presence at most of the sites, so you always feel safe and secure. In fact, 2017 is the perfect time to visit Egypt – and it’ll be your last chance to visit the Pyramids and Temples in relative peace and quiet, before the masses of tourists return!
What about the Egyptian cuisine?
Melicia: Egyptian food is similar to Turkish, Lebanese and Persian cuisine. Bread and pitas are served with delicious Egyptian kebabs, lentil soup and sauce, and always accompanied by an abundance of fruit and vegetables. On tour, breakfast is included every day, and on the cruise you enjoy three meals a day. There is always a vegetarian option.
Ananda: The best part was exploring street food options – foodies will have plenty to whet the appetite! My favourite restaurant was the Ezba restaurant where they prepared an amazing barbeque for us – the meat is barbequed right there on the table and served alongside tahini, falafel and baba ganoush – delicious!
Tip! Do not eat street food just anywhere. Trust your tour guide to take you to the best places.
They say the service in Egypt is out of this world?
Dani: The Egyptians work really hard to please tourists. Aside from the magnificent sites we visited, I can say that everything was well prepared and the attention to detail was insane! The Egyptians are a very friendly nation – they like calling each other ‘Habibi’, which means ‘sweetie’ or ‘my darling’ in Arabic.
Angus: The locals we encountered were some of the friendliest I have experienced during my travels. The tourist industry is vital for the Egyptian economy, and for local jobs, and everybody we met was super friendly and helpful. They are so delighted to see that tourists are starting to return to their country, and they certainly made us feel welcome!
General Travel Tips (Surviving Egypt)
As for the climate, Egypt has two main seasons – a mild winter from November to April, and a hot summer from May to October. The time of the year you visit is by far the most important thing to consider – because Egypt gets HOT! Depending on where you’re from, you may be accustomed to temperatures of 40°C+, but the ideal months to visit are from November to March, when the average high is below 35°C and much more comfortable.
Remember the following essentials:
- Comfortable walking shoes. You walk a lot, and the terrain at most sites is uneven and rough-cut.
- High factor sunblock & a hat. The sun is potent and you need to cover up on outside excursions
- Scarf or shawl. Your shoulders should be covered when you enter a mosque.
- Toilet roll. Public toilets cost money and they rarely dole out enough toilet paper.
- Loose-fitting clothes. Stay cool by wearing loose-fitting items in natural fibres that allow your skin to breathe.
- Anti-mosquito spray & hand sanitizer. To keep those pesky mozzies at bay and keep your hands nice and fresh as you go about your day.
Useful travel phrases:
Thank you – Shukraan
Hello – Ahlaan
Let’s go – Yalla
Things to consider before you booking your trip:
Applying for your Visa. The best option is to simply buy your visa stamp upon arrival. If you insist on paying in Egyptian dollars it’s a problem – they prefer American dollars or pounds, both of which are widely accepted the best option for travellers.
- Abu Simbel
- Kom-Ombo and Edfu Temples
- Valley of the Kings
- Pyramids & Sphinx of Giza
- The Red Sea
- Capital Cairo
Items that are not included in your Expat Explore Egypt tour:
- Flights to Egypt from your home country
- Entrance fees
You are welcome to put in a call to any one of these four Expat Explore consultants to learn more about their Egypt experience. Go to the Contact Us page and ask for them by name!
Explore Egypt with us! Expat Explore offers 4 exciting Egyptian Coach Packages to Egypt. Tours start and end in Cairo and all tours are guaranteed to depart. Our guests stay in 4-star hotels and each tour includes a 5-star cruise.
Please note: Flights are not included on tours booked at TNT.