Egypt for 1 Month, then Mexico

December 2022 - April 2023
A 114-day adventure by Ladyandtramp Read more
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  • Dedication Page

    November 30, 2022 in Canada ⋅ 🌬 -2 °C

    This book is dedicated to our two wonderful and smart daughters, Amy and Caitlin, their husbands, Matt and Tim, and our three amazing grandchildren, Audrey (10), Cal (9), and Nathan (6) who bring us endless joy and love.
    “From the heights of the Giza Pyramids, forty centuries looked down on us”. Thank you, Napoleon Bonaparte.
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  • Preamble regarding our trip to Egypt

    December 1, 2022 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ -1 °C

    Most people visit Egypt with a tour group but it’s not really the way we like to do our trips. Mind you we loved our 3 week trip to Morocco using a combination of our own planning and Intrepid Tours. For people who only have a limited amount of time to travel, it totally makes sense but since we are retired, and time is something we have plenty of, we plan to discover Egypt at our own pace.

    The Egyptian visa that we got online is good for 1 month. Any more time requires a visit to the Embassy and we are okay with a month so that is what we have planned for.

    When we are there, we plan on hiring local guides and drivers to visit the major sites. The language and culture are new to us. And there is just so much to learn regarding the history of Egypt! We feel that using local guides is the way to go. Maybe with guides we will be able to avoid the famous Egyptian touts/hustlers. Haha. We don’t plan on renting a car so we will hire people to navigate the crazy busy roads for us. For longer trips, we hope to be able to easily use the trains and buses. But will anything be easy in Egypt? We will see.

    We feel that traveling independently is the way to go but as with any trip we have taken, we must do our research. Egypt does not sound like a country where you can just wing it if you want to have a good time. I have spent a lot of time researching and reading reviews about the hostels that we will be staying in. So what is important to us? Of course, the location, a quiet clean room with comfortable beds and a private bathroom, reasonable wifi, good communication, an included breakfast, all at a good price. A bonus would be that they offer reasonably priced tours. It sounds like we want it all. We do!

    So far, in writing to the hostels I have booked and contacting travel bloggers, we have received excellent recommendations for how to plan our time in Egypt. Bloggers often recommend local drivers, guides, hotels, restaurants, etc. and are usually happy to share their experiences, whether they are good and bad.

    So, after a fair bit of research and planning, we will embarking on what we hope to be an amazing trip to a place that we have only seen photos of in National Geographic magazines and in documentaries. It is going to make Egypt ‘real’ for us.
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  • A week before heading to Egypt

    December 3, 2022 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 0 °C

    Christmas with our daughters and their families is always lovingly celebrated at the beginning of December. It stretches out the Christmas holiday for everyone and helps to make Christmas family visits a little easier. Our condo Christmas takes place on the day of the Fergus Santa Claus parade which was on December 3 this year. Lunch, parade, stockings, games, movie, dinner and gifts made for a great family day together.

    During the week leading up to the trip, our backpacks will be filled and organized to suit the type of trip we are going on. This year, we will be moving around Egypt via a number of different modes, independently. Time to dig out our rimmed Tilley's, haha.

    Once again, we are focussed on travelling lightly. Our backs are not getting younger! So we are taking 1 pair of light weight pants, 2 pairs of shorts/capris/skirt, 4 short-sleeved T-shirts, a couple of long-sleeved shirts, a bathing suit, night clothes, underwear and socks, a scarf, flip flops, hat, toiletries, binoculars and electronics. I also taking a long, lightweight dress for Xmas and leggings. It is recommended that foreigners dress conservatively.

    We are both taking our phones (which have dual sims), an IPAD each, a power charger, and a universal travel adapter. We plan to get two sim cards at the Cairo airport.

    We are also taking 2 daypacks, one is packed away.

    Both of us have a small travellers purse/murse for items that we need at hand, including a first aid kit, snacks, toothpicks, a guidebook and passports. On the plane, we are wearing comfortable pants, a short- sleeved shirt and a sweater/fleece, trail shoes and our puffer jackets. We cross the Atlantic at night.

    For Christmas, we each got a TRTL neck pillow for the flight. It should be quite the upgrade to not having anything but a sore neck after long flights!

    Our flight, from Toronto to Heathrow and then Cairo, leaves at 6 pm on Sunday. We decided to take Red Car to the airport. Easy for us.
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  • A Four Week ‘Rough’ Itinerary

    December 8, 2022 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 1 °C

    This is a very ambitious possible itinerary for a couple of old guys but we are going to try to ’not let the old man in’. Thanks Clint! We probably won’t do all of these things but we will see what we can do after hearing reports back from other travellers. Nothing is carved in stone (haha) at this time except for the accommodation destinations.

    Day 1 : 12/12/2022 Cairo
    - pickup from Cairo Airport to Holy Sheet Hostel
    - check in at 5 p.m. and get settled

    Day 2 : 13/12/2022 Giza Day Tour ( 8:30 am - 4 pm)
    - Saqquara pyramids
    - Dahshur pyramids
    - Giza pyramids and Sphinx
    - Egypt Museum
    - Solar Boat museum

    Day 3 : 14/12/2022 Cairo City Tour
    - Citadel of Salah El Din
    - Mohammed Ali Mosque
    - Hanging Church in the Coptic area
    - Grand Bazaar of Khan el Khalil

    Day 4 : 15/12/2022. Black and White Desert ( 2 days)
    - pick up at hostel at 6:30 a.m.
    - 12:00 Bahrain Oasis lunch
    - 4x4 car to the Black Desert
    - Crystal Mountain
    - Agabat Mountain.
    - sand boarding
    - White Desert, Mushroom stones
    - camp overnight, sunset, stars

    Day 5 : 16/12/2022 Black and White Desert #2
    - watch sunrise, have breakfast
    - Hot and Cold Springs
    - 4 pm return to the Holy Sheet Hostel

    Day 6 : 17/12/2022 Cairo
    - walk around the Tahrir Square, Bab Zuweila, Cairo Tower
    - 5 pm check out from the hostel and transfer to the train station
    - catch the Ernst overnight train #86 to Luxor at 7:45 p.m.

    Day 7 : 18/12/2022 Luxor East Bank
    - arrive in Luxor at 6:15 a.m. and walk 10 minutes to the Luxor Nefertiti Hostel
    - walk around the city and relax
    - Light and Sound Show

    Day 8 : 19/12/2022 Luxor East Bank
    - pick up at the hostel at 4 a.m. for a sunrise Hot Air Balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings
    - p.m. visit the Karnak and Luxor temples and Open Air museum

    Day 9 : 20/12/2022 Luxor West Bank
    Visit the West Bank:
    - Vally of the Kings
    - Hatshepsut Temple
    - Colossi of Memnon

    Day 10 : 21/12/2022 Luxor
    - Mummification and Luxor Museums
    - Luxor market

    Day 11 : 22/12/2022 Djeb Dahabiya 5 day Cruise on the Nile
    - 9 a.m. pickup from Nefertiti Hostel
    - 1 1/2 hour drive to Esna and the boat
    - Esna Temple, market
    - sail to El Kab and Quessia

    Day 12 : 23/12/2022 Nile Cruise #2
    - Edfu - Wadi el Shat
    - Temple of Horus

    Day 13 : 24/12/2022 Nile Cruise #3
    - Gebel el Silsila
    - Kom Ombo
    - Maniha Island

    Day 14 : 25/12/2022 Nile Cruise #4
    - Daraw, El Koubania, Aswan
    - walking tour, camel market, market

    Day 15: 26/12/2022 Nile Cruise #5
    - Aswan
    - transfer to ferry to the Mango Guest House on Elephantine Island
    - Visit the Nubian Village
    - Kitchener Island by Felucca boat

    Day 16: 27/12/2022 Aswan Elephantine Island
    - wake up at 4 a.m. for a day trip to Abu Simbel temple
    - Return to Mango Guest House

    Day 17: 28/12/2022 Aswan
    Aswan sightseeing
    - Philae Temple
    - Aswan High Dam
    - Unfinished Obelisk

    Day 18: 29/12/2022 Luxor West Bank
    - check out and transfer to the Aswan train station to Luxor
    - check in at the Luxor Guest House

    Day 19: 30/12/2022. Luxor West Bank
    - p.m. visit the Habu Temple, Nobles Tombs, Workers’ Village

    Day 20: 31/12/2022 Hurghada
    - check out and transfer to Luxor Bus Station to Hurghada
    - arrive in Hurghada at noon Red Con Apartments
    - New Years Eve fireworks at the marina

    Day 21: 01/01/2023 Hurghada
    - Relax and swim in the Red Sea
    - visit St Anthony’s Monastery?

    Day 22: 02/01/2023 Hurghada
    - Relax and visit Dolphin House or one of the islands

    Day 23: 03/01/2023 Giza
    - catch the bus to Cairo.
    - arrive and check in the Great Pyramid Inn
    - Pyramid Light and Sound Show from the Inn’s rooftop terrace

    Day 24: 04/01/2023. Giza
    - walk around Giza

    Day 25: 05/01/2023 Cairo
    - check out of the Great Pyramid Inn and return to the Holy Sheet Hostel
    - Walk downtown

    Day 26: 06/01/2023. Alexandria
    Alexandria Day Tour 7 a.m. - 5 pm:
    - Catacombs of Kom El Shokafa
    - Bombay’s Pillar
    - Citadel of Quaitbay
    - Library of Alexandria
    - back to Cairo and the Holy Sheet Hostel

    Day 27: 07/01/2023. Cairo
    - walk around Old Cairo, Al Azar Park, Aquarium Grotto Garden, papyrus Shops

    Day 28: 08/01/2023. Cairo
    - revisit the Bazaar for souvenirs?
    - felucca dinner on the river

    Day 29: 09/01/2023 Cairo
    - go to airport for a 7 a.m. flight to London
    - arrive in Toronto at 2:50 pm
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  • Downtown Cairo - Paris of the East

    December 11, 2022 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    I found this good description about what downtown Cairo is like:

    “In the 1880’s, Khedive Ismail visited Paris and was inspired to build a European city at home. He hired European – specifically French Haussmanien – architects to design the city, with wide boulevards and buildings reminiscent of those he found in Paris.

    The French architectural influence can be especially seen through the apartment buildings with their traditional French balconies and windows as well as through the marble designs framing the windows.

    The centre of the city was once home to the prosperous elite of late 19th and early 20th century Cairo. Downtown was for many years the hub for elegance and fashion; big chains like David Ades, Cicurel and many others were the most significant “fashion makers” in Egypt.

    There is no doubt that downtown witnessed neglect and a state of deterioration for several years; however recently, considerable attention has been given to this historical neighbourhood. Currently restoration works are being carried out; the restoration works are currently accomplished by several companies.”
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  • Cairo First Impressions

    December 12, 2022 in Egypt ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We left home at 1 p.m. on a snowy, cold Sunday but Red Car got us to the airport in plenty of time. We went through the usual glitches in the YYZ airport but in general, things went well. With the snow, our plane was delayed, runways cleared and de-icing so we left 1 1/2 hours late. Seven hours later we arrived at a snow covered Heathrow airport, waited for 1 hour and then caught our 5 hour flight to Cairo.

    Arriving at the Cairo airport was quite easy. It isn’t very big and the process was straight forward. A couple of weeks ago, we bought our Visas for one month, online, a couple of weeks ago but realized we could have bought them easily at the airport.

    We took out money from an ATM machine and bought Vodofone phone chips for $15 for 20 gigs. Should do us for the month. Pretty cheap.

    We went outside to meet our driver, Omar, and were transported into another world! Drivers here are absolutely crazy and with no fear. Omar told us ‘horn blowing’ is the music of Cairo and he opened the car window so we could hear it better. Haha. Cairo is chaotic, noisy, big city that is home to some of the world’s most magnificent treasures.

    With more than 25 million people living in the metropolitan area of Cairo it is not only the largest city in Egypt but also in Africa and the Arab world. Actually it is the 6th largest city in the world. It was founded in 969 AD, set on the Nile River, it is considered the center of the region’s political and cultural life.

    The hostel we are staying in is right downtown. An interesting place to say the least. But more about that later. Antonio, the manager, got us settled in our clean room and told us where we could go for a great shawarma. Once again kind strangers helped us out and at $1.50 each for a chicken shawarma, we were not disappointed Wow!

    People are friendly and kind. Many strangers who we met spoke English and went out of their way to help us without us asking. We only got good vibes and lots of helpful tips.

    We had a hot shower and are ready for a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow after an early breakfast, we are off to see the pyramids. It looks like it will be a busy day!
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  • Saqqara

    December 13, 2022 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 16 °C

    We were up at 7 a.m. to prepare ourselves for our first sightseeing day trip with a driver and guide. We could hardly believe that we were going to see structures that we had only read about - the Egyptian pyramids!

    Our hostel breakfast consisted of eggs, bread, a banana, a tomato and cheese salad and a bland instant Nescafé coffee. :( Tomorrow we will just ask for hot water as we brought some good coffee from home. Egyptians don’t usually eat breakfast until 2 p.m.!

    At 8:30 am, our driver, Ahmed, arrived. He was excellent. No worries about driving with him in manic Cairo! We then picked up our guide who had a heavy duty day planned for us. We were going out to visit 4 different burial sites that were spread out in the desert on the Giza Plateau.

    We started out by visiting the Saqqara site that only had a handful of tourists visiting it even though it is Egypts largest archaeological site. It was an active burial ground for Memphis, one of the greatest cities in the ancient world, for more than 3500 years. Actually, Netflix made a documentary called Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb.

    Saqqara is best known for the Step Pyramid of Zoser that looks like a giant 6-layer wedding cake, but there are 10 other pyramids in the area.

    We went into the Pyramid of Unas which doesn’t look like much on the outside but after going through tunnels, bent over as they were only 1 meter high, we ended up in a beautiful burial chamber. It’s ceiling was covered with stars and the white alabaster-lined walls were inscribed with beautiful blue hieroglyphs. These hieroglyphs are ‘spells’ to protect the soul of the deceased.

    In this area there were also several very deep shaft tombs and a pyramid called Serapeum that was dedicated to the sacred Apis bull. When the bull died, it was mummified in Memphis, then carried in a procession to this pyramid and place in a huge sarcophagus.

    These pyramids gave us a good introduction to how and why pyramids were built and what they looked like inside.

    From Saqqara, we drove to pyramid site #2, Dashur.
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  • Dashur Pyramids and Memphis

    December 13, 2022 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We drove 10 km south of Saqqara to see two of Egypt’s first true pyramids at peaceful Dashur. - the Red Pyramid and the Bent Pyramid.

    It was nice to drive out into the green countryside today. Thin donkeys pulled small carts filled with grasses for animal feed beside the road. Dust, garbage, and shabby houses, lined one side of the road and a canal lined the other side. Street dogs and cats were everywhere. This was a poor area but historically rich.

    As we entered Dashur, we saw a large group of children singing enthusiastically. We stopped to listen to them and they invited me to join the group! So I did and had a lot of fun. They loved it! People were laughing though. I am not sure if I was praising Allah in the actions that I was following. Haha.

    The first pyramid that we saw was the Red pyramid. This was Egypt’s first true pyramid built around 2600 B.C. The weathered limestone is a reddish colour, thus the name of the pyramid.
    We had the opportunity to go into this pyramid but it was daunting. First we climbed up 125 steep stone steps to reach the entrance. Once there, we went down a very steep passage way backwards and bent over. The passage way was probably only a meter high and very long. I was worried about making the trip back. It was kind of like a very steep ramp with strips of wood across the floor to stop your feet from sliding. I repeat, it was daunting and very long. Th passageway ended in 2 antechambers with 12 m high ceilings and a burial chamber with 15m high ceilings. We were surprised by how hot it was. Then, we had to face the climb back up the ramp. Thank heavens there were hand railings!

    Close to the Red Pyramid, there was a 2nd pyramid of similar height called the Bent pyramid. This pyramid was built at a steep angle but halfway up, it started showing stress and instability. The architects’ error. So the layers of stone had to be put at a less steep angle creating a bent shape. As it is unstable, people cannot go in it.

    We drove out of Bashur area into what was once the thriving capital of Memphis. Now, all that remain are farmers’ fields and an open air museum that we stopped to see. There were several carved statues, a small alabaster Sphinx and the giant stones that the sacred Apis bulls were mummified on before going to Saqqara. I think that the highlight of the museum was an enormous fallen limestone statue of Ramses II. The carving details on it were amazing.

    After exploring this area, off we went to the Giza pyramids and the Sphinx.
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  • Giza Pyramids and Sphinx

    December 13, 2022 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    The Giza Pyramid Complex, is without a doubt the most visited site in Egypt, located only 13 km (8 miles) from the center of Cairo where we are staying. It holds the largest pyramids built in Ancient Egypt - the Great Pyramid, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Khafre, the Pyramid of Menkaure along with smaller ones and of course the Great Sphinx. These were built 4,000+ thousand years ago. Imagine. We could not believe that we were actually going to the last of the remaining wonders of the ancient world!

    First, I should mention that there were a lot of tourists. Most of them pay to get a camel or horse ride around the complex as the distance between pyramids is quite significant. We had a driver so we didn’t need to pay for this service. Some of the animals didn’t look very healthy so we are happy that we didn’t use them.

    So much has been written about the pyramids that I won’t go into what we learned just that we were amazed by the size of the blocks and how well they fit together. How in the world did the ancient Egyptians possibly build these huge structures?!

    We wanted to see the Solar boat in the Cheops Boat Museum but the museum has closed and the boat has moved to the new Egypt museum which hasn’t opened yet.

    We had been warned about the aggressive vendors around the pyramids but we didn’t find them to be terribly annoying. Actually Mexican vendors at Chichenitza were much worse. Haha.

    We enjoyed seeing the beautiful Sphinx up close. It was apparently carved from the bedrock at the bottom of the causeway. As we left the site, we saw 3 paraglides flying over the pyramids. What a way to see this sight!

    The sun was magically starting to set so we were more than ready to head home. We were still feeling somewhat jet lagged but our driver wanted to treat us to a freshly-squeezed sugarcane drink and the guide wanted to fit in a trip to a shop to show us how papyrus paper was made. Neither stop was long but quite interesting.

    What an exciting day! When we returned to the hostel, we walked around the corner and picked up chicken shawarmas for the second night in a row. So good!
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  • Old Cairo - Coptic (Christian) Cairo

    December 13, 2022 in Egypt ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Coptic Cairo is a unique area in Old Cairo that has a concentration of Christian churches and other sites from when Egypt had a Christian majority.

    We visited the Hanging Church which is called this because it was built on top of the gatehouse of the old Babylon Fortress. Part of the old tower can be seen by looking into a hole at the side of the church and in the church holes have been cut into the floor and covered with glass exposing the old tower.

    We also visited the crypt beneath the Saints Sergius and Bacchus Church that is said to have hosted the Holy Family. They say it was here that the holy family, Virgin Mary, Joseph and young Jesus lived for four months after fleeing to Egypt while escaping persecution from King Herod of Judea.
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