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      22.09.2009 08:44
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      A sight that will never leave your mind. It is what Egypt is all about.

      The great Pyramids of Giza.


      Before heading off to Egypt on my holiday I did a little bit of reading to prepare myself for my trip and I was really surprised to learn there are in fact 93 pyramids found throughout Eygpt. When you speak to people about the pyramids most people think of the three great Pyramids at Giza visualising them on the outskirts of Cairo.

      I was aware that there were other pyramids and had heard about the first pyramid at Saqqara which really did not look like the pyramids that we think about but were rather step pyramids or burial mounds. It was also true that the Pharaoh would have been buried under the ground and the pyramid built over the top of his tomb. There would have been a myriad of tunnels under the pyramid to protect the Pharaoh from grave robbers. There may also have been a couple of burial chambers for the Pharaohs wife.

      The other pyramid of note is the red pyramid at Dashur which was built after the first pyramid at Saqqara taking the form of the pyramids we know now today but became bent during its construction so it was abandoned. A third attempt at building a pyramid was made which was more successful which paved the way for the building of the great pyramids at Giza.


      The Great Pyramids.

      These are on the outskirts of Cairo and the pictures one sees of them give the impression that they are in the middle of the dessert. However nothing could be further from the truth. As the Cairo grew the city sprawl had brought buildings right up close to the pyramids and it is rather clever photography that makes it look as if they are in isolation.

      The pyramids were built over 4000 years before the birth of Christ and were for many years the biggest man mad buildings in the world both in terms of height and area. They are still an awesome sight after all these thousands of years.

      The three great pyramids are known as:

      The Great Pyramid of Khufu........... Cheops

      The Pyramid of Khafre.......... ........Chephren

      The Pyramid of Menkaure..............Mycerinus


      The largest pyramid was built for Khufu and was the tallest structure on earth until the 1900s when the Eiffel tower was built. It was one of the seven greatest wonders of the ancient world. It was built of limestone and there were 1,300,000 stone blocks used to build it weighing in at 2.5 tons to 15 tons. Today it is 33 foot shorter than originally built due to the ottomans and local people taking the smooth limestone cladding to build their own houses and mosques in the 15th century. Now you can just see the pyramid built up like big stepping stones from base to the pinnacle at the top. The entrance to this tomb is in the North Face. There are two burial chambers one for the Pharaoh and one for his Queen below his. You can pay to go into the temple but you need to be able to be able to walk up the ramped sloped steep corridor with your back bent double and crouching. You should not suffer from claustrophobia either as the space is very confined until you reach the actual burial chamber. It is also incredibly hot inside the pyramid.



      The second pyramid was built for Khafre. It is similar to his father's tomb in that the entrance is on the north side of the pyramid. There is still some of the limestone cladding in place near the top but originally it would have made the whole pyramid look smooth sided. The burial chamber is unlike that of his father Khafres burial chamber is underground reached via one of two passage ways.

      The smallest pyramid of the three belonged to Menkaure, the son of Khafre. His pyramid was different to his fathers and grandfather in the following ways. The burial chamber was built underground there were three corridors to reach it. The base casing of the pyramid was with pink granite to a height of 15 metres and then limestone but the last of the granite was taken to build an arsenal in Alexandria by Mohammed Ali Pasha in 1848.

      There are several smaller pyramids close by for the wives and daughters of the pharaohs that can be seen in the near distance.

      Unfortunately the pyramids were pillaged by grave robbers at different times throughout their history and yet they still stand in defiance as a reminder of mans building abilities. There were several dummy corridors built to deter grave robbers but each one of the pyramids were robbed of their contents. Around the perimeter there are small temples of the nobles which would have included the chief architect, the chief astrologer and important priests and others involved with the planning and building work.

      The pyramids took about 15 years each to build and usually work would begin on the accession to the throne on the death of the previous Pharaoh. It took approximately 20-30,000 men to build it. There were small villages built to house the workers who by all accounts were well treated and not forced into slave labour. They were devoted followers of the pharaoh and they would have worked, played and lived in the village until they died. Stone masons and architects, people used to move the great stones from the nearby rivers and to do the donkey work.


      Times of opening are as follows 08:00 to 17:00 (15:00 during Ramadan).

      IT costs 50L entrance fee with extra fees to enter the burial chamber, 100L to enter Khufu's tomb and 20L to enter Kafre's tomb.


      The pyramids are an awesome sight and you can walk up over a small step like ramp on of the north face of Khufu's pyramid. Years ago people were allowed to climb all over them but nowadays being ever mindful of its historical importance and to preserve them for perhaps another 4000 + years you are not allowed to do so. There are armed police on camels around the perimeter of the pyramids and they will come to your aid if they think the salesmen are hassling you. Of course this comes at a price and they will quite openly demand cash. I would thoroughly recommend a visit at least once in a life time you will not be disappointed in any way. The pyramids can be seen from all over Cairo and it does not matter what time of the day they appear to stand proudly from so many vista points around the city.


      A word of warning! There are many salesmen and men with camels who are probably the worst and most unscrupulous I have come across in the whole of Egypt. Whatever you do DO NOT I repeat DO NOT get on a camel to pose for a photo because the guy will make a noise and the camel will jump up and he will race you off into the desert and will only allow you off once you have paid him. He will demand £100 and not Egyptian pounds they want British pounds. I think they managed to catch two people in our group. One man tried it on with me and got quite nasty when I refused to get on the camel. Fortunately for me one of the mounted policemen saw what was going on and raced over and chased him off with him cursing and gesticulating at me as he fled. The policeman bless his heart was brilliant and chased after him but no doubt he just moved somewhere else to abuse some other tourist. They are very clever and sneaky in doing this please be very careful of them.

      The pyramids are an absolute sight to behold and one of the main reasons one goes to Egypt. It certainly wont be a let down as they are absolutely huge and an amazing feat and to think they built these thousands of years ago and yet they are still standing in all their glory.

      I have realised another one of my childhood dreams of visiting the Great Pyramids at Giza. The site at Giza also contains the Great Sphinx but that merits a review on its own.

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        11.09.2009 00:31
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        Egypt, the best bits.

        The Major Tourism Sites in Egypt

        It's wise to rise early to visit the Giza Plateau and to see the three pyramids and Sphinx, the early morning heat is far more mild and the stench of Cairo less overwhelming after a cool night.
        Even arriving at seven am, it could already be too hot and still not in time to be one of the 100 people who are allowed into the Great Pyramid each day. It is limited to that to prevent the deterioration due to sweat, breath exhalation and general wear and tear. It has been suggested that all the historical venues will be closed to the public soon to preserve them. Special video work is being undertaken with NASA equipment in order to create a special online experience and to recreate a display of the originals. Make the most of time at the Giza Plateau if you can as the next generation may not be able to enjoy the same experiences.

        The Sphinx is beautiful, despite the defacing by Napoleon and his men. If you line it up you can get some amazing pictures of the Sphinx with the Great Pyramid in a direct line behind it - gorgeous!

        Aside the remarkable antiquities at the Giza Plateau it is worthy of note that although the pyramids are a feat of incredible engineering the plateau itself is amazing and varies in topography by only millimetres.

        Cairo is a phenomenal city with enormous and well developed central areas but flanked by poverty stricken slums with little or no hygiene facilities.

        Cairo Museum which is where the majority of the greatest finds are kept, they are truly amazing to view. The Mummy Room is a favourite, a large room filled with 9 glass caskets, each temperature controlled to preserve the nine royal mummies on display there. The elements of Tutankamun's tomb which are not on show in the tomb are here and displayed with amazing details of exactly how it was found. Dr Zahi Hawass is frequently there, conducting work on Egypt's greatest historical artefacts.
        ,
        There are many places to visit around Luxor or on brief trips using the city as a base.First passing through the Colossi of Memnon, an amazing feat of engineering and a great photo opportunity, then the Theban Mountains (The Valley Of The Kings) are the home of the historical tombs of the kings including the elusive tomb of Tutankhamun.
        Through the other side of the mountain is Deir El Bahari, Hatchepsuts temple and her way of being as close to a king as she could be, as well as hiding her own secrets which you will discover with ease.
        Edfu, Dendera and Kom Ombo are unusual temple sites, overwhelming in history and beauty. Abu Simbel competes heavily with the pyramids and Sphinx in terms of the amazing stakes and should definitely be on every visitors itinery. Aswan and the Aswan Dam is en route so that's another one on the way.

        Many of the antiquities are open in the evenings, wonderfully and dramatically lit and with fantastic audio presentations from Royal Shakepeares actors, it really brings the history and more famous figures of Egypt to life.
        Little else is available to visitors in the evenings, other than hotel entertainment but evening entertainment improves enormously during Ramadan and there are lots of local celebrations going on which tourists can generally indulge in too. Basically a party every night for a month, normally in a big tent in hotel grounds and completely free of charge.

        The inexpensive guide books for sale at the entrance to each of the antiquities are usually very accurate though often written with dreadful spelling mistakes. If you can overlook that you'll invariably find a great introduction to read at your leisure and with a number of photographs which will provide a lasting reminder of your exploration of Egypt.

        My writing may appear on other sites in the same or a similar format.

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          24.08.2009 01:48
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          Visit this marvellous country before fast food outlets and tourism ruins it!

          INTRODUCTION
          -----------------------

          I will never forget studying Ancient Egypt in year 3 of school. I was an enthusiastic 7 year old with a passion for history. I remember returning home begging my mum to buy some straw and let me dig up the garden so that I could make mud bricks like the Ancient Egyptians did. I loved learning about the gruesome mummification and the kings and queens. When I trained to be a teacher Egypt was the one topic I looked forward to teaching. It was only wise therefore that when we were planning our wedding and honeymoon we went somewhere as inspiring as Egypt. I was very lucky that my now husband had a life-long dream to visit Egypt and had researched the history well. We chose our hotel in Luxor and planned to stay a fortnight at the Maritime Jolie Ville, however 2 hours before driving to the travel agents to book our dream honeymoon we decided that a cruise on the River Nile for 7 nights would be an experience of a lifetime.

          The wedding was fast approaching and news of Swine Flu was mentioned daily, on our arrival at Luxor Airport we were rather scared when we saw airport staff wandering around with masks on. We were taken to a door with 8 large queues. Unfortunately being a military airport holiday reps were not allowed into the airport. With the hysteria about Swine Flu and lack of explanation the customs staff with swabs, thermometers and guns was a scary welcome but when we had survived the medical assessment and purchased the entry visa we had to go through customs. It was safe to say our first hour in Egypt was not the most pleasant. Driving through the streets of Egypt I was shocked to see the small mud houses and apartments with no roofs, the shops with no doors and the driving standards. I was a little overwhelmed by the poverty and presence of armed police on the streets. We arrived at our cruise ship in a secure private docking bay, and I started to feel a little more secure. During our evening meal I spotted two armed police guards walking through the boat brandishing a machine gun and a shot gun, surprisingly however it made us feel quite safe as they were there to protect the tourists.

          The cruise down the Nile overnight was rather surreal and an experience I would thoroughly recommend. We awoke in the morning in Esna and met with our First Choice rep, we decided to sign up to the full package that week enabling us to see most of Upper Egypt (Luxor - Aswan).


          EXCURSIONS
          --------------------

          Our first excursion that day took us to Edfu Temple dedicated to the Falcon headed god Horus and was built over a 180-year period from 237 BC to 57 BC. This was our first temple of the week and I was blown away at the information given to us by our amazing Egyptologist. I was stunned by the carved images and hieroglyphics, many of these were defaced by early Christians who did not believe in the Egyptian history. Walking around the courtyard, the narrow corridors and standing at the shrine I felt so overwhelmed - the experience will be one to remember forever.

          Going back to our ship that evening I felt immense excitement for the rest of the week. The next day we visited the unique temple of Kom Ombo this temple is considered 'unique' because of its 'double' design. There are two courts, halls, sanctuaries and rooms for two gods. On the southern side there is the temple dedicated to crocodile god Sobek and the Northern is for falcon god Horus. Our Egyptologist showed us the calendar, surgical carvings and phallic symbols making the history really exciting. I would certainly recommend a visit to Kom Ombo and walk along the Nile to really appreciate the beauty of Kom Ombo temple.

          We sailed further up river to Aswan, here we stopped for a sail on a felucca (a tall sailed boat), after a few Egyptian songs and purchasing some Nubian souvenirs we wandered back to our boat. Unfortunately the weather had been quite poor and the rain was consistently pouring all afternoon. Later that evening a small group from the cruise ship visited Philae temple for the Sound and Light show. Philae temple is situated on an island; it was relocated after the Aswan high dam was built. It is dedicated to the Goddess Isis. The light and sound show explained the story of Isis and her brother and husband Osiris and his evil brother Seth. We later returned to Philae temple the next day in the sunshine making the contract between dramatic moon-lit paths and shadows with the sunlight more spectacular.

          We continued to sail visiting temples, monuments and sights along the way. Every morning we awoke in a different place to sunlight pouring through the windows. Each evening we sat on the top deck watching the scenery pas, the sunset was a spectacular sight every night. We could sit for up to an hour watching the hot sun set on the horizon and listen to the sounds around the Nile. The gentle breeze was enough to keep us cool and despite warnings we never saw a mosquito or experienced a bite however we know we were lucky as many others on the cruise boat had been bitten.

          Near the end of the cruise we were geared up for some serious sight-seeing knowing that the Temple of Karnak, Luxor Temple and the whole of the West Bank had been saved for the last two days. The weather was starting to get hotter everyday and at this point I was dreading the many excursions that were being crammed into two days. In one day we managed to visit Luxor and Karnak temples. Our Egyptologist was amazing but really these places warrant a lot longer than the two hours we spent there. Luxor is nicely located in the middle of the Souk (market).

          On the last day of our cruise we visited the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, an alabaster workshop and the Colossi of Mnemon. We also took a camel around the West Bank of the Nile visiting local villages and meeting some of the local people. We found this an amazing experience as we could see a part of Egypt that otherwise would have been hidden.

          Our honeymoon did not end there and as we were booked into the Maritim Jolie Ville for a week of relaxation we were glad that we had done the cruise and seen everything in the first week. There was one place we had not seen and a place I had always wanted to go and this was starting to upset me. Due to poor advice from First Choice and a terrible exchange rate the £1500 we had exchanged before our holiday had not gone far at all and we had about £150 to last us all week. Desperate to see the pyramids I admitted that we would have to return to see them at a later date, with First Choice charging over £200 per person for a trip to Cairo we realised this dream would have to wait. Whilst at the pool I mentioned this in passing to a couple who had been on the cruise with us and they explained that for 70 Egyptian Pounds each they were going to Cairo by train. They explained that a first class ticket on the tourist sleeper train to Cairo was the best option. We realised that although it would take 9 hours there and 9 hours back and was hardly our idea of fun it was a dream we had and we were determined to go.

          At 7pm we left the comfort of our hotel and caught a taxi to the train station. Walking past armed guards we felt quite intimidated but we were excited and could not wait for the trip. In 36 hours we would be back in Luxor. We walked onto the platform, to see a train with bullet holes and livestock fly past. There were guards at all doors with people lying on sandbags and bin bags. It was then we realised that the train had been delayed by 3 hours. We found a lovely little bar down a back street and for the first time in Egypt we were charged a fair price. We soon realsied that by visiting the back street bars, shops and restaurants its possible to save so much money compared to El Souk and tourist spots.

          The train journey was horrible at one point I sat up and wanted to cry despite having our own cabin we had guards walking in waking us from our slumber to check tickets, locals waking us to ask permission to sleep on our floor or others trying to move us out so they could use the cabin. He noise of the train was deafening and the rickety track shook us from side to side. We arrived in Cairo with stiff necks, red eyes and desperate for food. Outside the station we were mobbed by taxi drivers. After haggling for the best price we jumped in a taxi asking to be taken to the Pyramids. About 10 minutes into the journey we were taken down a narrow alley and told to take a camel the rest of the way. It was clear that this was a scam and after refusing to get out we were taken to Mina House - Hotel Oberoy at the foot of the pyramids. We walked up the steep incline and stopped outside the entrance. After paying our 150 Egyptian Pounds per person we entered. The rest seemed to be a blur - sure the sights were breath-taking but so was the heat. We were mobbed by tour guides desperate to take our money and followed by horse and carriage workers wanting us to take a ride. We knew we had to watch our money so decided to walk around at our own pace taking pictures. I was impressed at the sheer size of each pyramid but was slowly getting very annoyed with locals trying to grab us for a ride on a camel, horse and carriage or to buy postcards. At the top we stopped to admire the views before being stopped again to buy postcards. A polite "la la" sufficed and we were alone again for about 3 minutes before being asked to take a camel 10 yards to the great pyramid. We were getting quite fed up and could see the Sphinx so decided to wander down the hill for photos on the way down we were shocked to see the familiar site of KFC, it was so surreal to see Pizza Hut and KFC so close to the pyramids.

          After several hours in and around Giza we hopped on a train back to our comfortable hotel bed in Luxor. We had enjoyed our visit to the Pyramids but this was mainly so we could say "We have been to the Pyramids at Giza" more than anything else. I am glad I have seen them before they build too many fast food outlets or destroy the landscape too much.

          On our last day in Egypt we were sad to be going home but were ready. We had the most perfect honeymoon and would love to go back one day but two weeks for us was more than enough. Our last week was so relaxing but we couldn't wait to get back to normality. The landscape, sights, sounds, smells and heat makes Egypt a unique country and we were glad we had chosen to take our honeymoon is such a spectacular place.

          EGYPT IN GENERAL
          -----------------------------
          Visa
          ------
          For entry to Egypt a visa is required, we were advised to take 15 US Dollars however the cashiers took pounds and Euros as well. Do make sure you see the Travco people as many tour operators were taking a cut of the money and charging more. We did not have to worry about the Visa until we were on the plane. We were given a form to fill out by the aircraft crew and we kept this in our passports until we arrived. We were then given the exit Visa form on our coach back to the airport.

          Weather
          -----------
          We travelled to Egypt in may and the temperature was unbearable enough, I cannot imagine the heat in the months of July - September. Do take plenty of sun cream and drink plenty of water. I got bad sunburn on one day but for the rest of the holiday I used light, airy, long-sleeved tops to prevent sun burn. A hat and comfy shoes are also a must. On three of the days we had heavy rain and strong gales but the temperature was still warm. We made the mistake of taking 2 travel fans in our luggage and these were not needed as all rooms were air-conditioned.

          Clothes and traditions
          ---------------------------
          I wore long sleeved kaftans and linen trousers mainly for protection from the sun but also to respect local beliefs. On the cruise ship there were no rules about clothing but we were asked to cover up shoulders and legs when we left the boat to show respect to the locals people.

          Money
          --------
          When we travelled out to Egypt the exchange rate was 6.2 but it can vary between 5 and 11. We were told by First Choice that we should change up all money before we go however whilst were were out there we noticed that most places take GBP, USD and Euros so we could have saved over £400 by leaving our money until we arrived in Egypt. The value of the GBP is very high in Egypt and on our cruise boat they were exchanging 1GBP to 9.7 Egyptian Pounds (LE).

          Shopping
          ------------
          Everywhere we went the Souk (market) was a bustling hive of activity. The smells of spices, Shisha Pipes and leather was strong. It's almost impossible to walk down the market without some form of 'hassle'. Haggling is a major part of shopping in Egypt, never pay the first price quoted. Our guide explained that if you can drop the price by 25% with no problems its possible to get another 50% off. At the beginning of the fortnight the hassle was quite intimidating but on our last day we spend a good 3 hours shopping and managed to buy many great items. On our return home we have realised that the silver cartouche was infact fake and that the silk scarf was not silk but we live and learn. Shopping in Egypt is not for the faint hearted but and experience that can be enjoyable with the correct attitude.

          Travel around Egypt
          --------------------------
          Train - the train was OK for long distance travel but if you plan to go across the country then a plane is probably the best way to do this. The cost was reasonable and conditions were Ok. We were not impressed with the cleanliness of the toilets and the cabins were uncomfortable. On our return journey from Cairo to Luxor we had reclining seats and these were certainly more appropriate than the cabin seats.

          Taxi - taxis are relatively easy to use, they all wait at tourist areas such as the market, hotels and on the bank of the Nile next to cruise boat moorings. Again haggling is a major part of travelling by taxi its possible to get between 25% - 50% off the fare. Riding in a taxi is another experience in itself, there seems to be no real system of driving yet we never witnessed an accident so beeping at anyone in the way, swerving in and out of pedestrians, bikes and donkeys or driving on both sides of the road must work. A trip will cost anywhere between 5 and 20LE (10p-£3)

          Horse and Carriage - these are a lovely ride and in some towns the horses are cared for very well. The locals refer to these as 'Ferraris' these can cost anywhere between 20 and 50LE. (£3-£7)

          Many hotels however provide free bus/boat shuttle services to El Souk.

          CONCLUSION
          ----------------------------
          We had the most perfect honeymoon in Egypt and really miss the place. We hope to go back one day however we will probably go to Sharm El Sheik as it appears to be more geared towards tourists looking to relax or partake in recreational activities. Luxor however was full of culture and will be a place we remember for the rest of our lives.

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          • More +
            14.07.2009 20:10
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            Egypt is full of great history

            I always want to visit Egypt, so I did lots of research online before I've booked my trip. Let me say first, I found a Company online called exploreegypt.co.uk and it was interesting what they offered me, so I've decided to book with them and I am really glad I did. My group was 8 people and my itinerary was 3nights Cairo, 4 nights Nile Cruise and Abu Simbel then at the end Hurghada by the Red Sea. I had great time in Egypt, it's a fascinating country with rich culture and history, and we really loved the Egyptian people we found them very friendly. The agent we were dealing with was very professional Tour Operator. He helped us create the perfect itinerary (there was a lot I wanted to see) and he was able to give us lots of information about the trip prior to travel such as travel tips to Egypt, tipping and all the extra tours we can add to our tours. He answered all our questions and was able to provide us with what we wanted from hotels to tours.

            Our Egyptologist guides were very professional and knowledgeable; I found them friendly and eager to please. The advantage in booking this trip meant that my group and I had a guide and transportation for ourselves so we could see everything we planned to see on our itinerary and they were great about fitting extra time for us to do some extra shopping and some optional tours that we really wanted to do.

            Overall we had a great time and we recommend Egypt as must to visit country to everybody

            Can't wait to go back


            PETE

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            • More +
              14.07.2009 18:54

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              Great Holiday and amazing Country

              I did lots of research online before I've booked my trip to Egypt. I found exploreegypt.co.uk Company online and it was interesting what they offered me, so I've decided to book with them. My group was 8 people and my itinerary was 3nights Cairo, 4 nights Nile Cruise and Abu Simbel then at the end Hurghada by the Red Sea. we had a great time in Egypt , it's really an amazing country full of rich history, and I think Mohamed Fahmy who organized our trip was the most professional Tour Operator I've dealt with in that market, he was very easy to talk to and prompt in his replies. He helped us create the perfect itinerary (there was a lot I wanted to see) and he was able to give us lots of information about the trip prior to travel such as travel tips to Egypt, tipping and all the extra tours we can add to our tours. He answered all our questions and was able to provide us with what we wanted from hotels to tours.

              The Egyptologist guides that we had, were really professional and knowledgeable, I found them friendly and eager to please. The advantage in booking with Mohamed meant that my group and I just had a guide and transportation for ourselves so we could see everything we planned to see on our itinerary and they were great about fitting extra time for us to do some extra shopping and some optional tours that we really wanted to do.

              Overall we had a great time and I think explore Egypt gave us good value for our money and in fact we did recommend their service to all our friends and families

              Can't wait to go back

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              02.07.2009 11:03
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              Amazing Experience, very glad I've been

              My first stop in Egypt was Sharm El Sheikh to board the Thomson Celebration. As I have reviewed that separately this review will concentrate on the places in Egypt that I have visited.

              Since the first scheduled stop was Jordan, the first 'real' Egyptian destination was Cairo where we visited the Pyramids of Giza.

              This was one of the main reasons I went on that particular cruise and I couldn't wait for the planned excursion on day 4.

              The trip cost £32 for the trip to Cairo which included time at the viewing point, some time at the Pyramids themselves, a trip to the Sphinx and then an afternoon shopping in Cairo.

              It was an early start from the ship (7am) and then a two hour drive to Cairo from Port Sokhna where we were docked. After our initial disbelief at the crazy and chaotic driving on entering the city (according to our guide "someone gets hit around once every minute") we crossed the Nile and drove into Cairo.

              Suddenly out in the smog and haze of the city you could make out the outline of two huge pyramids. Even though I'd been told by someone who had been to Cairo a few years ago, it's still a bit strange when you realise just how close to the city the Pyramids are.

              We drove up to the viewing point to see the magnificent structures from a distance and take pictures. There were lots of other tour buses there, and we were told to stay away from the market stalls as they were all illegal and probably peddling rubbish anyway. After fifteen minutes we were back on the bus and taken down to the actual Pyramids themselves.

              It is really quite amazing to stand at the foot of the Pyramids and just look up at them. They truly are massive and it's hard to imagine them being built all those thousands of years ago. The bricks are huge and it's hard to comprehend the engineering that must have gone in to it. You do wonder how they got the final bricks to the top, and many, many men must have died in the process. Unless they were built by aliens of course.

              We were hassled by a man on a camel as we walked to have a look at the smallest Pyramid slightly away from the crowd. He wanted my friend to sit and have her photo taken on his camel and then demanded that we give him money or some toys for his children.

              It took us a while to get away from him and it was only when the security man started towards us that he finally left us alone. There was a couple who asked us afterwards how much money we gave him to make him go away as they had given him $10. Fortunately we hadn't been intimidated by him and didn't hand over anything. Like the market sellers earlier on, these men are there to hassle the tourists and try and get money out of them. The best thing to do is ignore them and walk away if one tries to catch your attention. There is usually a security man around to move them on.

              We finished our visit, and filled up memory cards in the camera, and then moved on the Sphinx. You can't actually get too close but this too is a magnificent structure and you can get some excellent photos of the Sphinx with a Pyramid in the background.

              There are actually no facilities at the Pyramids or Sphinx so if you need the toilet you are stuck, basically. We were fortunate as the coach had a loo which we could use.

              We were there for around an hour and a half and it was well worth the trip. It was amazing to see one of the wonders of the world right up close and it is something I will remember for a long time to come.

              Next up was the shopping part of the trip. We drove quite a distance and travelled past some of the most spectacular looking mosques I have ever seen. The detail and design were incredible and it really gave an indication as to how important religion is to the Egyptian people. We then arrived at the City Stars Complex, which is a huge commercial development between Nasr City and Heliopolis that has a shopping mall, hotels, entertainment centre, a hypermarket which is the largest in Egypt, medical centre and offices.

              I would say that it is very 'westernised' in that there are shops from international brands - Levi's, Lacoste, Mango etc - and everyone speaks English, but then there is a traditional Egyptian feel to the place as it was build with an ancient Egyptian theme.

              What I did notice while shopping here was that the people were very friendly and helpful. When we asked a security guard about how to find a shop selling Swatch watches that we had seen, a woman came over and said she couldn't help overhearing and gave us directions. This was a general thing among the Egyptian people, mostly everyone was friendly and tried to help you out.

              We ate at McDonalds for lunch, deciding to stick to what we knew! The food was extremely cheap and there was massive choice in the food court.

              Cairo was a contradictory day, with ancient Egypt in the morning (Pyramids/Sphinx) and this modern, brand new shopping centre in the afternoon. Cairo is an incredible city, and I think 'chaotic' would be the best word to describe it. If you were to visit this city then the City Stars complex would not be a bad place to stay as you do literally have everything you need on your doorstep.

              The next destination was Port Safaga, just south of Hurghada. It is a relatively small town, and the port was industrial and deserted. There are a number of hotels here as the reputation for diving is good, but we decided to spend the day at the Solymar Beach Hotel.

              The weather was warm and we had a sunlounger for the day, a drinks voucher and use of the pool if we wanted it. As we had just had quite a hectic experience in Cairo the previous day we just wanted to relax. As usual, the people were friendly and we had some lunch as well. Afterwards we decided to sample the hotel's gift shop and bought some souvenirs. The hotels there are always immaculately presented, clean and tidy. Ours had marble floors and lovely comfortable chairs in the reception area. This hotel seemed to be great for relaxing and perhaps learning to snorkel or dive, but there wasn't a lot going on outside the hotel grounds as the town was quite deserted.

              Our last destination was our first one, Sharm El Sheikh. We didn't go into the town as we had planned a quad biking trip in the Sinai Desert.

              For me this has to be one of the highlights of my time in Egypt, travelling at 40mph through the desert in gorgeous sunshine while seeing camels racing the distance. We stopped at a Bedouin tent for drinks and sampled some of the bedouin tea, which really was piping hot and very sweet. We arrived back covered in dust but having had an unforgettable experience.

              I loved my time in Egypt as we got to see some amazing sights, shop for some great bargains, have a bit of an adventure in the desert and meet some friendly people. I would definitely go again.

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                15.11.2008 13:36
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                The one place everyone should visit

                I have been to Egypt twice now, and I think it is the one place on this planet that everyone should go to before they leave this mortal coil. Ive enjoyed virtually everything about this Country, and once I have explored a little more of the world, it is a place I wouldn't hesitate to go back to.

                Both times I have been I have stayed in area of Egypt called Sharm El Sheikh, this is an area on the South Peninsula of Egypt mainly made up of Hotels and shops, it is an area very much created for the Westerner.

                Laguna Vista Garden Hotel
                http://www.expedia.co.uk/pub/agent.dll?qscr=dspv&itty=new&from=m& shtl=1&htid=1659041&crti=&affc id=expe.uk.001.000.14824 45.16917248&eapid=0-3 (please note there are breaks in this URL so it could be posted)

                This is the Hotel I stayed in the first time, a wonderful five star all inclusive hotel which is a ten minute coach ride from the airport. I actually went here some years back with my Mother, we were looking for some Winter sun over the Christmas period, and you can be sure no matter what time of year you go to Egypt you are going to get it.

                The Hotel on arrival was fantastic on the eye, you walked into this large area and it simply took my breath away, it was a massive ball room (for want of a better description) with a magnificent chandelier as the centre piece. There were chairs and sofa's around the place and a bar area was also available.

                The resort stretched from the road down to the Red Sea, as most of them tend to do, and down the middle was some fantastic pool areas with hotel rooms on either side. There had been some mix up and my Mother and I had ended up sharing a bungalow. These to be fair were fantastic, instead of having a traditional hotel room we effectively had our own small house. On closer inspection we found that it actually had a bedroom downstairs and a second small floor upstairs that also had a bed - this was fantastic and because of it there was no need to request a room change.

                The lovely thing about the bungalow (I realise that I have just said it was two floors, but it was a shack type building, and from looking at it, you would never realise it had a second floor) was that it came with its own small patio area. Because we were obviously on the ground floor, at the back of the building you could open the door where there would be speakers playing non offensive music (I remember from this holiday that a Tracey Chapman CD was on all the way through on repeat, good job I like her). This would look out over the pools and further down you would have been able to look out over the Red Sea, truly beautiful.

                On further inspection of the resort that we would be staying it soon became apparent that if you didn't want to leave the complex, you wouldn't have to, inside were shops, bars, a mini museum and all the general places to pick up your stuff that you could want. This resort also had all the extras you could need, at every time during the day their was somewhere you could get a drink or something to eat, it had a gym, and there was an 'animation' team that would do general entertainment in the evening.


                Royal Albatros Maderna
                http://www.hotels4u.com/Royal-Albatros- Moderna-Resort/Egypt/Red-Sea-(Sharm-el-S heikh)/Sharm-El-Sheikh/ho tel/5486.aspx (please note there are breaks in this URL so it could be posted)

                This was the resort I went to this summer, Larachristina kindly offered to take me away, and as we wanted to go somewhere nice, I really wanted her to see the luxury that the Egyptian hotels have to offer.

                After some deliberating over which hotel we settled on this one, and it turned out to be a fantastic choice, everything we could of hoped for. This holiday was not a sightseeing trip, in fact we didn't leave the complex once apart form a mix up with baggage, my fault I am afraid.

                The resort was effectively split up into two, nearest the road behind the first set of hotel rooms were two smaller pools, one heated which was sheltered from any wind, and therefore in the summer just far too hot to cope with, as in the day time is was about 40 odd degrees. And the second was a good size pool, equally as large of most resorts I have been to in the Canaries. We camped by this one for the most part, the reason was simple, we were there to relax and the other pool was regarded as the activity pool, this meant that throughout the day the staff of the hotel would be running games and obviously the kids would be running amok, not for us thank you.

                Once again the hotel had everything you could ever want, and we bought our presents and duty free from here, especially as a pack of fags was about 1/10th of the cost. Throughout the day once again there was somewhere you could get a drink, both alcoholic and non, or you could get yourself a snack even outside of the buffet times.


                Sightseeing
                My biggest mistake the first time I went to Egypt was to underestimate just how vast this Country is, I went on two trips while I was there, one of them was flying and one we undertook on a coach, mistake, my tip would be to anyone that visits Egypt, if you do go on any excursions then fly, save yourself the trouble of spending countless hours in a coach.


                Cairo
                What a fantastic experience this was, and truly I think everyone should experience what this City has to offer. You will be surrounded by the rich/poor divide, where you will see people trawling the dusty roads with their donkeys or trying to farm scorched earth, but then you will see the luxuries that it has to offer.

                We took the coach to Cairo, this took almost a day in itself, once there we stopped in at another hotel, and I will never forget the morning I woke up. I rose, went to the curtains and pulled them open, what I saw was the Pyramids and I had never appreciated how large or close to the City they are. When you see the images of the pyramids the picture is taken with the photographers back to Cairo, and beyond the Pyramids in just desert, this gives the illusion that the Pyramids are in the middle of nowhere, nothing could be further from the truth, you could easily take a 10 minute walk from the City to them.

                You can actually crawl through one of the Pyramids, and to be honest, this came as quite a nice break from all the locals trying to sell you things next to them, do not let them take your picture, never hold something for them, or you will then be locked into a battle of having to pay for it. The Pyramids are the only ancient Wonder of the World that still exists, and to see them is to baffle at how they could possibly have been built so many thousands of years ago.

                The Sphinx

                Another delight to behold, you will no doubt have seen the pictures, but when you enter the area that this great wonder occupies, and you climb on to the ancient stone and really behold it you can only marvel.

                At certain times of the year they have light shows that surround the Pyramids and The Sphinx and I think it would be a fantastic thing to attend, some things of great beauty combined with modern day art would look truly amazing. As I said previously, when I have traveled more of the rest of the world I will no doubt return to Egypt as there is still much I would like to see.

                Cairo Museum
                I cannot begin to explain how large this Museum is, and the full range of things they have for you to see on your visit, there is no chance you could get round it all in detail in one day, the Museum boast that they have over 120,000 objects on display. I must admit after a couple of long hot and sweaty days in Cairo my heart really wasn't in this, but some of the displays they have of tombs are stunning, the detail and wealth that went into creating some of these ancient artifacts are truly outstanding.


                Luxor
                Luxor was my second trip, I had heard wonderful things from a relative about this area, basically what you can expect are the tombs that were created for their Kings, some go down hundreds of metres, in long passageways that open up at strange intervals with hieroglyphics plastered all over the walls. These tombs have obviously had everything of value removed which you will now find on display at the Cairo museum, but when you are down there you really get a mental image of the time and effort that went into creating these great tributes for their Kings.


                General
                Okay, some general information I found about the Country, and some tips and advice along the way.

                The Locals
                The people of Egypt are ridiculously friendly, they understand how much their economy survives on tourism, and whereas some of the men (you won't see local women at the hotels) can come across quite sleazy I believe that is just because they are trying to be friendly and are in desperate need for tips. A bar job in a hotel there is deemed a fantastic job.

                If you do go to the bazaars though, and you are traveling with women, then make sure you stay in numbers and don't leave them alone, this might sound a little bit over the top but they can be intimidating places for anyone. Women, if you are blonde then you can expect a little more attention, I was offered for my Mother who is more grey than blonde three sisters and a camel in exchange. An offer I sorely tempted to take.

                I have seen it from both sides of the coin though, having previously visited Tunisia, where I found the people rude and angry at the wealth that our Tourism brings it is the complete opposite of what you can expect from Egypt.

                Security
                It is no secret that Egypt fell victim to some terrorism attacks a number of years ago, because of this you will see security everywhere you go. At the hotels each one has a metal detector and armed guards at the front gate and at reception. If you go on trips on a coach then your coach will be escorted by local armed forces who will stay with the vehicle whenever it is parked.

                This might seem scary to some, but I found it very re-assuring, it has all the marks of a Country that cares and does not want it's tourism affected badly again.

                Food
                Okay, this is possibly my biggest grip with Egypt, twice I have been, and twice I have fallen victim to food poisoning. The essential thing you need to take with you if you go is a bottle of Pepto Bismol. In fact the second time I went it was in danger of ruining my whole experience. On the plane home I couldn't stomach any food, I had to go to the toilet repeatedly and my temperature was a mess. I felt freezing and had covers over me, but I was burning up. I then had to drive from the airport back home - about thrity miles - when I arrived home I weighed myself, by the time I weighed myself ten hours later I had lost the best part of two stone.

                Barmen
                My big tip is, if you book a holiday to Egypt and you are staying at an all inclusive then do some research on all the reviews on the hotel website, Larachristina did and the result was on the first day there we ended up tipping three of four different members of bar-staff. The result of this was that we never had to go to bar again throughout the holiday. Whenever one of us had finished a drink with a minute or two another would be in front of you, in the evening when I could actually hit the beer my favourite barman would sometimes had three of four lined up for me to save him repeated journeys. Top guy.

                Price
                You can certainly shop around on everything, we paid about £500 each for our five star all inclusive holidays for a week, I have paid £350 to go to Tenerife in a 4* all inclusive for the same amout of time, no comparison really. All of the shops and bazaars will barter with you, I brought back a lovely glass sheesh pipe which cost me about £4.50, and even though I have never used it I still think it looks good in my flat.


                So there you, my first travel review on a Country that I think everyone should visit, to the travel guru's on here, if there is anything I have missed out terribly then do please free to mention it to me, I'm always happy to take advice.

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                  22.05.2005 12:59
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                  • "Avoid airport toilets!!!"

                  Our wedding was booked. All we needed now was the perfect honeymoon to complete it. When we headed off to the travel agents, we initially had Cuba in mind…salsa dancing…cocktails…the sexy Spanish lingo….our hearts were set. Unfortunately, flights only went midweek and being a teacher, it was bad enough persuading my boss to give me just one day off…never mind another 4!

                  It was a few days later when Richard presented me with the envelope…”open it” he said trying to hide his excitement. Inside were two tickets to Sharm El Sheikh on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt. We were staying in what looked like the most wonderful resort I’d ever seen. 7 days of all-inclusive bliss leaving on Valentine’s Day. What more could I ask for?

                  During the months of waiting, I learnt all I could about this almost magical place full of history and mythology. Finally, our wedding day came and when it was all over, we were off. Flying over the rustic red deserts was a dream itself…and the views of the mountains and seas from the sky were an image I’ll never forget. I couldn’t wait to get down there.

                  As we drew closer to landing, I was somewhat surprised to see vast amounts of space with few scattered buildings. Nothing resembling a town. I was beginning to wonder about our hotel.

                  I hadn’t long to wait though and I was soon pleasantly surprised. We stayed in The Laguna Vista Beach Resort in Nabq bay. We drew up to a very architectural building full of ancient Egyptian culture – very different to the many modern Americanised resorts we had passed. The biggest surprise was on entering. My husband and I had to take a few minutes to regain our composure whilst we stood open mouthed and in awe of the décor of the main reception. Impressive was far too small a word. What we couldn’t see from the outside was that the ceilings were so high up – we estimated at 100metres plus! In the centre were huge pillars and great pieces of sculpture. The floors and walls were cream marble with fantastic engraving and inscriptions on them. The ceiling itself was a masterpiece with zodiac symbols stylishly sculpted in. As we walked through the main building, we came out to big heavy wooden doors at the back that overlooked the whole resort. With 13 pools, 5 restaurants serving a vast range of interesting dishes (many with Greek & Turkish influences), numerous bars, it’s own amphitheatre and lots of little thatched top bungalows with the sea lapping behind, it looked amazing. We were in paradise.

                  Gentle music played throughout the lush green gardens and because of the vastness of the resort, everything was calm and quiet as we walked to find our room. We soon approached a charming little cottage type bungalow with flowers cascading down the walls and over the porch. It was cool and breezy inside thanks to the air conditioning and the cold marble. Needless to say, the room was more than sufficient. An immaculately clean big bathroom with bath and shower, a dressing area, a huge bedroom with a bed big enough for 4 people to sleep comfortably, a beautiful dressing table…and through the long flowing white fabric drapes to a relaxing patio area where we had our own little pool, views of the sea and fabulously scented gardens surrounding us.

                  This holiday was going to be the experience of a lifetime.

                  After a few days resting and relaxing by the pools, sipping drinks at the bar and strolling hand in hand along the red sands by the sea, we decided to have a look into the trip of a lifetime…the pyramids in Cairo.

                  As soon as our honeymoon was booked, we knew this was something we would want to do so we’d asked our guests to give us Egyptian pounds as gifts so we could make sure it happened.

                  The next morning at 5am, we took an internal flight with Egypt Air to Cairo. The flight itself was something to be desired and we were glad it was only a 25 minute flight – but that’s another story. Cairo airport was another experience. It’s a military airport and once you go through all the checks and exit the building, there is a no return policy…so make sure you don’t leave anything or anyone behind!

                  Outside, the air was very warm and close…even in February. The air looked reasonably clear but as we set off and could see more open spaces, the problem with smog became clearly evident. It was like a low grey cloud hovering above the buildings. The drive through Cairo was eye opening. The city was heavily overpopulated and the poor waste disposal systems were obvious. Dozens of canals used to run through the city. Now they no longer filled with water but filled with rubbish. Although it’s going to take many years, the government had just started a new initiate to fill over the canals with soil and begun to plant trees and plant life instead (but what happens to the waste then?)

                  One of the most interesting parts of the journey was just before we got to the pyramids in Giza. We drove through thousands of little stone buildings…tombs – this was what the Egyptians refer to as ‘The City of The Dead’. Amoungst the dead and buried, here also lived the poorest of Egypt’s people.

                  Soon enough, we saw the pyramids rising in the distance. As we drew nearer all eyes were on the target. Goose pimples started to spread over my arms and legs as I thought about the magic and history stored here. When we finally arrived it was spectacular. Standing beside The Great Pyramid, at 5 foot 4 (and a half) I didn’t even reach the height of the bottom stones! Richard (my husband) tried to get a photo of me at this point but could not actually go back far enough to get the whole picture.

                  The pyramids were marked by guards on foot and on camels. At 8am in the morning, it was quiet and we were free to climb The Great Pyramid to a certain height (only at a certain point). The site where the pyramids sit is almost on a mountainside or ledge of some kind so as we climbed, we were able to look over the whole of Cairo. Fantastic.

                  After exploring the big one we moved on to look at the 2 smaller pyramids nearby. One was available to visit inside for a very small fee, but both of us being a bit claustrophobic, Richard and I toyed with the idea for a while but decided to pass. When some of the other visitors returned, we were glad of our choice. The pass into the pyramid was low and narrow. Visitors had to bend right down and once you were in line, the only way out was through the other side. The air was reported to be stuffy, hot and very close and tourists were advised not to stay inside for too long.

                  It is on one of these smaller pyramids that the only bit of limestone remains. It is now thought that it was most likely that during the 21 years of building each pyramid, a ramp was built alongside as they worked round the structure. When they reached the top, the ‘builders’ worked downwards covering the pyramids in limestone to give it a smooth surface and making it more difficult for thieves to break through. As they descended, the ramp was knocked down with them. Over the years, almost all of this limestone has eroded leaving the pyramids more venerable by making the ‘steps’ visible. Only the limestone on the tip of one pyramid remains..but no one is sure why.

                  After the pyramids, we travelled on down the road a bit further until we reached the Sphinx. We toured through the various buildings there, up a long high path and came out facing a large stone wall. Some people were climbing up to get a better view so Richard and I joined them. Up on the wall we had the best view of the great Sphinx….half man, half lion…a symbol of protection…protector of the tombs.

                  An hour or so later, we headed back to our coach and set off to a lovely floating boat restaurant on The Nile for lunch. A huge and beautiful river – it looked so calm and inviting, you could hardly believe it was highly polluted. Even putting so much as a finger in could result in finding skin-penetrating leeches!

                  A stroll though Cairo’s markets where the streets were paved with men smoking shisha pipes and hundreds of sellers, thrusting their goods upon unknowing tourists and a visit to the famous Egyptian Museum, ended our visit to this great city, and we set off back to the tranquillity of our resort.

                  After our fantastic trip, we decided to partake in a few more adventures…the seascope submarine with the glass bottom, dinner in the Sahara, shopping in the markets of the old town with the locals…but my favourite had to be quad biking in the desert. We drove out into the ‘real’ desert for about an hour where we picked up our quads. After a very brief intro on how to drive them we were off. Into the desert sands we went. At 1 O’clock in the afternoon the sun was beating down, but with the wind blowing through our hair and over our skin we felt cool and relaxed. The views were breathtaking. Every now and then I just had to stop and look around. Through periods of screaming and ‘woo-hooing’ I kept thinking to myself ‘look at me! Driving through the desert with nothing around but mountains…what a strange feeling.’ Strange and amazing.

                  After about 45 minutes, we came across some Bedwin people (people who live in the deserts) who invited us to stop for tea. The tea was sweet, spicy and syrupy – unlike anything I’ve ever tasted before and the people were very hospitable. As a polite gesture of thanks I bought a few pretty handmade bracelets for a few pounds and we set off again.

                  When the time came to finish, we felt refreshed and full of energy. We had some strange looks on the way back to the hotel and staff inside made some jokes about needing a shower asking us what we had been doing. It was only then that we truly realised how dirty and dusty we were. Our faces were brown with sand and our eyelashes and eyebrows were white! What a sight!

                  After our week was up, we packed our bags quietly, knowing we were going to miss this wonderfully hospitable country where we had made so many memories in such a short time. After meeting such wonderful people and having some virtually unimaginable experiences, we vowed to come back for our one year anniversary in a year’s time…another vow that we definitely plan to keep.





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                    27.04.2004 03:31
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                    • "It's a year til I can go again"

                    For the last ten years i've always been to either Cyprus, Greece or Spain until this year when I felt like something different. My other half and I booked a week in Egypt followed by a week Cruising the Nile, and I must say it is the best holiday I have ever had. I have already booked for next year. We were surfing the web for ideas when we found a site called www.Justegypt.com We couldn't make our minds up out of Diving in Sharm el Sheikh, Lazing by the pool in El Gouna or doing the Pyramids etc. So we eventually decided on doing the touristy bit followed by a Nile Cruise. It was excellent!!! we visited all the main tourist parts which was excellent but also did some of the excursions the website offered. But I must say the highlight was the Nile Cruise. We were on the Nile Emerald for 7 days (which flew by) and went to Karnak, Valley of the kings and Aswan among other places. The nightlife on the boat was very good too. We got to know quite a few other couples and made some good friends. And I must recommend www.Justegypt.com they were very reasonable and the quality of the all round holiday was exceptional. So it's thumbs up to the holiday and for once the Tour Operator too! and no I don't work for them. Being ex Lunn Poly it takes a lot for me to rave about a travel agent.

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                      31.12.2001 22:45
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                      I was one of a party of fifty 13-15 year-old boys (both black and white) from Harare who landed at Cairo International Airport - after a ten hour flight on a cramped Egypt Air plane with loose seats and only one nice looking flight attendant. After discovering that our luggage had been tampered with, we walked out of the airport into a wall of heat. A long hot dirty ride through the centre of Cairo showed us a true Third World city of both slums and palaces - far busier and far dirtier than Harare. The hotel in Giza, near the Pyramids, was five star. According to our teacher we had sausages made from cat for our first breakfast. A short bus ride and we arrived at the mountainous pyramids. The height of one of the base blocks of the pyramid was six feet! The climb up the first pyramid was hard. (it can take up to two and half hours to reach the top due to the steepness!) From the first entrance, a third of the way up, the view was of the poorer part of Cairo. About five of our group fainted when we entered one of the pyramids, due to the heat. We had to pay $5 for a bottle of water! I set off with three friends. The streets were dusty, full of beggars and full of donkey carts carrying chickens and vegetables for the market. In one market some of the smaller kids got grabbed, hauled into shops, and forced to buy carvings of pharaohs before being released. We were pursued for miles by one old man with no teeth who was offering to shine leather shoes, although we wore trainers. An old and rickety train took our group to Luxor, where it was 45 degrees C. We left our water in our bus and went a whole day looking at the temple without any water. The Temple of Luxor is very big, with about 139 giant pillars, about 20-30 metres high. Our extremely luxurious cruise ship Crown Prince took us up the Nile towards Aswan. Next the river there was a thin strip of green vegetation, papyrus and reeds, but
                      beyond that was yellow desert. At Aswan, Egyptians in small boats threw rugs and Moslem robes onto our boat. Some rugs fell in the water. Then the haggling began over prices. There was a banquet that evening at which some of us wore our new robes. Back in Cairo we passed through stacks of security checks into the non-airconditioned Cairo Museum. Tutenkhamen's blue-gold mask was shiny, beautiful and big. And then, we were off to Rome.

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                        05.12.2001 21:53
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                        • "I don't know when I'll return"

                        A Childhood Desire ***************** “You can open your eyes now and see your Christmas present!” I dutifully obeyed, and saw the old Ford Fiesta belonging to a friend parked outside our house, gift wrapped in pink ribbon and tinsel. My heart sank as I tried in vain to hide my utter disappointment. For sure, I’d been complaining about my own old, unreliable MGB, but it was far superior to this heap of junk that I assumed Morty had bought from our friend as my Christmas present. “Look closer” he said “Open the envelope” I hadn’t noticed the envelope wedged behind the windscreen wipers, for the barely held back tears of distress welling up in my eyes. Inside, to my sheer delight was a ten day holiday to Luxor and Cairo in Egypt, booked and paid for. Departure in eight days time! This time my tears were those of happiness! He had heard me and taken notice of my dream. A dream inspired, while a schoolgirl, by my favourite English and History teacher. She had filled my head with imagery and stories of Ancient Egypt, of pyramids and tombs, of culture and the Nile. At last my dream was to come true. What Did I Expect from Egypt? *************************** What I anticipated and the reality of Egypt were entirely different. I had pictures in my head but nothing prepared me for the real thing, although, on arrival at Luxor after the five hour flight from Gatwick, I feared the worst. In the dawn light, as we made our approach to land, all I could see was desert, and I had dreadful images of a total lack of any sophistication and basic comfort. Then, just as my teacher had described, we were flying low over the fertile land irrigated by the Nile, and it was as if an invisible line had been drawn. From mile upon mile of desert sand and rocks to instant greenery. Field upon field of well irrigated verdant crops either side of the still, silver meandering ribbon of the Nile, the most r
                        omantic river in the world. My anxiety was again rekindled by the seething mass of local people complete with laden donkeys, camels and extremely large families bustling around in the exit lounge of Luxor airport. We hadn’t had time to buy our required visas before we left the UK, so queued for an age to get them before we could legally enter Egypt. This done, and a short coach ride into Luxor and our hotel, all my previous fears were dispelled. I knew this holiday was to be kissed by magic and the experience of a lifetime. What Did I Get From Egypt? ************************* Although our booking details told us we were to stay in the Luxor Hotel, the faded writing on the hotel entrance said ‘The Hotel Wena’ It was like stepping back in time to the old Colonial days, and my initial thoughts were of faded gentility, with the large electric ceiling fans gently swishing, whilst the hotel staff dressed in Nehru style white cotton jackets. The traditionally decorated Christmas tree in the hotel lobby was unexpected until we discovered that there is a large number of Egyptian Christians who belong to the Coptic Orthodox Church and celebrate Christmas on the 7th January. Luxor has many modern five star hotels such as the Hilton on the banks of the Nile, but we loved the one hundred year old Hotel Wena! Air conditioning, rooms en-suite with balconies and most stunning of all, with a view of the ruins of Luxor Temple from our room. The first time visitor to Egypt will be struck by the rich culture, tradition and customs and could feel overawed. I was daunted as we dumped our suitcases in our comfortable, rather antiquated hotel room and eagerly hit the streets of Luxor. The pavement coffee shops were full of men playing backgammon and smoking Shishas, Hukas or water pipes, and I was convinced they were smoking illegal substances. But as there were no women socialising in the street cafes we were far too timid to si
                        t at a pavement table and ask for a cup of tea, so headed back to the hotel for an Egyptian beer. Tourists may well feel safer staying with the official guide offered with their holiday tour company. Our holiday included various prepaid excursions, but after the meeting with our tour representative and rest of our ‘gang’ in the hotel lounge we both knew we’d break free and go it alone. This was to happen sooner than we thought. Boarding the coach early the next morning for our scheduled visit to the Valley of the Kings, I knew we weren’t suited to’ group’ tourism as Morty’s joke about having a ‘Tut-Burger’ for lunch, met with startled looks from our companions. Following our guide, who held a placard up high with our hotel name on while calling out ‘Thompsons’ with twenty strangers was pretty naff to us, so we soon lost them, or did they in fact lose us? (Warning! The Egyptians understandably think all westerners are wealthy and will continually heckle, asking for money, gifts or attempt to sell you artefacts! Whether you give or not is entirely up to you. But it seems everybody expects baksheesh, or tipping, and bribery is part of the culture, even from the official guides, who for a small handout will show you artefacts previously forbidden!) Luxor and The Valley of the Kings ****************************** To the Ancient Egyptian, the world was a lush green ribbon cutting north and south through the desert. It was commonsense to live on the East Bank, where the sun rises, and bury your dead on the West Bank, where the sun is buried each evening. Therefore, all the tombs, pyramids, and burial art in Egypt are on the West Bank. The town of Luxor stands on the left bank of the Nile on the site of the ancient city of Thebes, the capital of Ancient Egypt. I was knocked back by the sheer size of the Valley of the Kings. Set in a secluded valley on the west b
                        ank of the Nile, with hundreds of tombs belonging to royals and nobility. Once we were free of our group we bought an entry ticket for three tombs, including the then newly opened Tutankhamun. The knowledge that Tutankhamun lay undisturbed for over 3000 years until the tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922 and that the Pharaoh’s remains are still in the coffin is unbelievable. The full impact of the discovery Carter made was yet to hit us when we were to visit the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, where we would see thousands of treasures and antiquities that were buried with the young Pharaoh, giving evidence of the culture, sophistication, social life and the belief the Ancient Egyptians had in the afterlife from 3500 thousand years ago. As we had lost our return coach trip to Luxor, we hired a taxi from one of the ever entrepreneurial local drivers waiting for business, parked in the middle of the desert, from people like us. Ever eager to please tourists and earn a living, our driver persuaded us we couldn’t live without him, and that’s how it was that Mustafa became our own personal driver and tour guide for the remainder of the week! He was warm, friendly, amusing and spoke enough English for us to negotiate a daily rate for our trips. (Warning! Any bargaining with taxis and fares on any local transport, then make sure it’s for the vehicle and not per person. Whenever you go to these historic sites, a local Egyptian will try to be your unofficial guide, some are excellent but not always wanted. One offered me a very unsavoury looking piece of his bread, which I thanked him for and ate, as to refuse the genuine offer of hospitality could be considered an insult) But Then we Hired Bicycles! ************************* Morty believes I’m a big girl’s blouse when it comes to anything remotely adventurous, so when challenged I have to show him don’t I? Hence, in the early morning
                        hours before it got too hot, we were to be seen cycling happily out of Luxor on two sturdy hired mountain bikes. The ride was level as we passed through fields with farmers working with donkeys and antique farm machinery. Everyone waved as we rode past and called out to us. The roads were very rutted, yet the rural scenery was so utterly beautiful. We came across a livestock market and stopped to look at all the men in robes, sitting under makeshift tents together with chickens, goats and other animals ready to sell. We cycled through a village that looked like it hadn’t altered since Biblical times, with reeds, sugar cane, mud brick huts and date palms, while being excitedly chased by a friendly crowd of energetic, cheering children, though at the time I was petrified. We bicycled until lunchtime and wove our weary way back to Luxor, so delighted at the sights we’d seen by getting off the usual tourist track. (Warning! Take bottled water as dehydration is a possibility and stay close together) Two Temples and One Museum a Day Lamorna! **************************************** ‘Culture Overkill’ is always a danger, so we limited ourselves to one enriching feast a day, the Luxor Temple, the Karnack Temple and the Luxor Museum. When we didn’t need Mustafa and his taxi we rode together in style in a Calesche, a horse drawn carriage, having negotiated the fare. The size, sense of the past and atmosphere of the two temples at Luxor are beyond description. We noted that both temples had been buried in sand, thus avoiding the defacing of the hieroglyphics that the early Christians were so enthusiastic in doing. To them there was only one God so they destroyed any illustrations of worship and with them so much story telling and history. The Luxor Museum is a gem with a carefully chosen and well displayed selection from all Egyptian periods. The modern building is humidified and has controlled tem
                        peratures protecting the treasures, just the opposite to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, as we were to discover. The pleasant heat of the afternoons was spent having a siesta and a cold local beer by the hotel pool, before an evening stroll round the bazaar with the temptations of Egyptian cotton, carpets, leather, perfumeries and spice markets and then dinner and bed. Alabaster and a Mixed Grill ************************* Mustafa met us in the cool of the early morning to take us across the Nile to the West bank via the local ferry to visit an alabaster factory and have a lunch together. You realise by now what a big baby I am, and one look at the huge flat bottomed local ferry and I wanted to scarper. It seemed to be held together with rope, string and elastic bands, was impossibly overcrowded with men, donkeys, goats, camels, cars, people squeezed on to dangerous proportions, plus a big regal looking coach containing an Egyptian Princess complete with entourage! Alabaster rock has been quarried from the desert for thousands of years, and either hand crafted or, as now, machine made into vases, pots and statues. The finished product looks like marble, but the difference ends there as it is a very soft mineral stone. We were offered and drank, sweet strong Egyptian coffee from the owner of the workshop and I was given a smooth alabaster egg as a gift. The price of the hand crafted vase I wanted was astronomical even for Egypt, so I bought a machine made one and the base snapped off before we even got back to the hotel, but I have since stuck it together as a souvenir and memory, though I can’t put water in it! Mustafa took us for lunch to his cousin’s restaurant in the middle of the desert, where for some strange reason I ordered a mixed grill. I still can’t imagine why I did this, and can only put it down to the midday sun. The peculiar shapes and sizes of the chops, cutlets and steaks on my plate wer
                        e to my mind, goat, camel and horse, but there was no way I could insult the cook, so I ate it all, with no ill-effects whatsoever! Our last evening in Luxor we leisurely cruised for an hour on the Nile in a felucca, a little like an Italian Gondola, and marvelled at our week in Luxor as we watched the sunset and wondered what Cairo would have in store for us. And in Cairo I went Inside a Pyramid! ********************************* The early morning internal flight from Luxor to Cairo took less than an hour, where we were booked for two nights in the Victoria Hotel, right in the centre of the city. If Cairo had been the first experience of Egypt and not the comparative calm of Luxor, I would have been scared witless. The manic, chaotic, suicidal traffic was unbelievable. The haunting call to prayer from the mosques carry through the air, as Egypt is predominantly a Muslim country. Thankfully, the Victoria Hotel was yet another raffish Colonial haven of peace, with a very different view from our hotel room window! The roof tops opposite were running with goats, chickens, dogs and children rather than an ancient temple! So a refreshing local beer in the elegant hotel bar, and then to meet our guide for the next two days. To our great relief, we were the only people booked, which meant we had a mini-bus, a driver and an Egyptian female guide all to ourselves. Was it something we’d said? How many of you imagine the Giza pyramids are situated miles from civilization, taking hours to reach by camel, donkey or jeep? We did, so what a surprise to find ourselves sitting in a restaurant with our guide, eating a light lunch with the three pyramids in view after a drive of less than half an hour from Cairo! The three pyramids were a spectacular sight and I would have been more than happy to just look, but the trip included a ticket allowing us to go inside the second largest pyramid called Chephren. I could f
                        eel a big girl’s blouse moment coming on as I was trembling at the thought, but a deep breathe and we entered the narrow tunnel and climbed the stairway into the very depths of the tomb! As in all the tombs, cameras are forbidden as the flash damages the wall paintings, and even the tourists breath and touching the reliefs on the hieroglyphics wears them away. It was awe inspiring in the tomb yet I wanted to get out fast. I felt a presence that disturbed me deeply though not unpleasantly, so I was glad we moved on see the guardian of the pyramids, the Sphinx. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo *************************** Our last day was to be spent here before we left for the UK. The treasures of Tutankhamun are well documented, yet I was more taken by the rooms containing artefacts used by the ordinary people in Egypt over three thousand years ago. Jewellery that wouldn’t be out of place worn now, thonged sandals, boomerangs, cosmetics, wine casks with named grapes, vintage and vineyards. But then I had a genuine reason to panic. Rather than leave my hand luggage in the hotel room, I decided to take it with me in the mini-bus. It had all my personal belongings in it, including my passport and Rimmel. Our guide told me the bag was too big to be allowed in the museum because of the security precautions, and that it would be safe locked in the bus with the driver! Emerging three hours later, dazzled by the treasures we had seen, the mini-bus, the driver and my hand luggage had disappeared! Our guide said coolly he’d be back. One hour later I was considering the British Consulate, full of despair and disgusted at myself for being so naive. To our immense relief, he did return and still in time to make it to Cairo Airport and our homeward flight. There is nothing based on supposition in Egypt. Everything is real, solid and proven, unlike The Holy Land, where the visitor is told that this is where Jesus ‘allegedly&
                        #8217; had the Last Supper, the alleged Manger, fed the five thousand with the loaves and fishes. No concrete evidence at all, but in Egypt it’s all there. Its carved in stone. So What Did We Eat and Drink in Egypt? ************************************ The history of Egypt is reflected in its cuisine, which dishes that originated in Greece, Turkey and North African countries. The food was spicy with plenty of vegetables and fruits, the preferred meats being lamb and chicken. The expensive hotels offer international menus. We had one luxurious French meal in a Hotel, but we both preferred the local cooking as it was cheap and interesting, although we didn’t eat from the street vendors even though the food smelt and looked wonderful, as the standard of hygiene may be alright for locals, but not for lily livered Westerners! Alcohol is served in the hotel bars and is very costly if imported, so we drank the local bottled Stella and wine and it tasted alright to us. Is It Safe? ********* Probably safer lately than our holiday was in 1993! I am informed that the security precautions the Egyptian government has had in place to protect tourists for the last 5 years are impressive. There are metal detectors at the entries to all the sites, and at the hotel entryways, you see the military presence everywhere and over-the-road travel between certain cities tourists frequent has been by army escorted convoy. Egypt needs its tourists, but in these uncertain troubled times I do wonder in the wisdom of going there. (A warning! From the Gay Egypt website “The ongoing prosecution of the "Queen Boat" defendants has Cairo's gay community laying low” with several other sources warning gay visitors to be aware of the threat of arrest since the police raid on a floating night club, a popular meeting place for the cities homosexual community) Ancient and Modern-My Lasting Impression ***********
                        **************************** Tired and happy with a head full of memories, we were waiting in the smart departure lounge of Cairo Airport for our night flight back to Gatwick. I made my way to the immaculately clean ladies cloakrooms. Investigating the cubicles I discovered there was no toilet paper in any of them. The robe clad lady attendant smilingly offered me one sheet of Bronco and held her hand out. Surely not more baksheesh I wondered? Yes it was. She took my English pound coin. At that price I asked for another sheet. She nodded encouragingly, and took another English pound. Washing my hands at the long row of basins, I noticed a great deal of activity at the far end of the cloakroom. The attendant and several other women, plus half a dozen small children were huddled over a large cooking pot balanced on a portable gas ring on the tiled surface. They were laughing and stirring the contents of the steaming pot, obviously putting the finishing touches to the evening meal…in the Ladies Cloakroom of an International Airport. I hope something of my experience and impressions of Egypt stay with you and that one day you will be tempted to visit this magical country. We most certainly will return. They say everybody does. The Official Egyptian Website *************************** http://www.touregypt.net/

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                          01.11.2001 00:19
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                          In January this year my parents booked for us to go on a lovely holiday in Egypt. We booked a cruise down the Nile and on the side a few days in Cairo to see the pyramids because they were not included. It cost about £3000 in total for the 3 of us so that is about £1000, including meals and most excursions. We left Friday 19th October from Heathrow airport and flew to Cairo. I felt a bit worried about going on a plane because of what happened but security was very good and helped me feel comfortable (for more details see my opinion on safe flying). We were at the airport three hours before the plane took off. Got the normal duty free shopping, jumped on the plane for 5 hours and then were in Egypt. It was about midnight and really dark so I couldn’t see where were that well. We were collected from the airport and driven to our hotel. The next morning we woke up, had our hotel breakfast and then stepped outside. My first words were, ‘oh my goodness’, as I looked up I could see two giant pyramids. We walked about 10 minutes; following the map our hotel had drawn us, to the pyramids and sphinx of Giza. These nine pyramids are one of the wonders of the ancient world although there are over ninety pyramids around Egypt. They were beautiful. They stood tall and had a wonderful feel to them. We spent in total 4 hours there, so what was there to do? Well there were lots of people hassling you offering camel rides, horse and carriage rides and a guide around the pyramids. They were all well priced but we decided to make our own tracks. We had to pay to get into the area of the pyramids which I found quite small to how I though it would be, it cost 20EP (Egyptian pounds) each. There are 6EP to £1 so that was just over £3 each and was well worth it. There are many sales men there offering postcards and other souvenirs. If you do want to buy something don’t take the first price they say. If you say it is too much and
                          state a lower price they also will go down in price. Some people managed to get at 90% cut in price so it is worth the hassle. The sphinx was huge. There are many small sphinxes around Egypt but nothing like the one we have all heard of. This was huge and really beautiful. There were a few little museums you have to pay to go in as well if you want to. If they are free its always a good idea to tip the man at the door though because they don’t get a very good wage and can become a little nasty sometimes. However the area is safe. There was lots of tourist police all around the country to protect you. They are not there to contain the violence but to make sure there is none so don’t be put off by them. The next day we got a tour guide and went to a few places with her. First we went to the Egyptian museum for two hours. I wouldn’t recommend going with a guide as it was a waste we all though. Although she gave us some wonderful insight into some of the pieces we were rushed for time with her and found we could of spend more time not being pressured to move on. At the museum there are the treasure of Tut Amun (sorry if it is spelt wrong). These treasures had been in England for a show in the 70’s so my parents had already seen them. They were just breath taking. So much gold was in one room it was unbelievable. Everything was solid gold right down to the slippers they had found the mummy wearing. Next we drove for a while to the Sakkara desert to the step pyramids. These are not as famous and you most probley would not of heard of them. One of these had fallen down which was a shame; this was the pyramid we went into. There was a long staircase and as you went down because it was so small you bent over. This was deliberate done so that as you went down you were really bowing to the person buried there as a sign of respect. Impressive idea isn’t it? On our way back we went to a papyrus museum. This wa
                          s very interesting as they show you what they do to make papyrus, and then give you a chance to buy it if you want. My parents and I however thought it was all very over priced so bought nothing. Basically they make it but cutting a plant into small slitters and then putting it in water to let all the living cells explode and die. A few days latter they take it out and hammer it and roll it with a rolling pin to get all the water out of it. Then the pieces are woven together and put into a press for a few weeks until you get them moulded together, and tada you have a strong paper. Next we flew for an hour to Luxor, which is where we boarded our boat. We sailed over night and moored at the place we were going to visit. Over the week we visited many temples dedicated to their Gods and Pharaohs. They built temples for the Pharaohs because they believed that they were part God and so should be worshiped. Some of the quality was very poor in the temples but the hieroglyphics and images were wonderful. We tour guide told us the stories behind each picture and then gave us time to wonder at our leisure. The boat was split into two groups of which each group had one guide. There were 5 teenagers on my boat of which I spoke to three, Alex, Claire and Moesha. Alex was in my groups so it was nice to walk around the temples and talk to him without annoying my parents. For any of you with kids you most probley know what happens when you take a teen on holiday to see sights, so it was great for my parents to know I was happy. We went to the Valley of the Kings, which was wonderful. You had to pay extra to go into some tombs. I however don’t recommend Tut Amun’s tomb because it was empty where it is all in the Egyptian museum. The tombs were however very beautiful and worth a visit. In the evenings we had entertainments after dinner. On Tuesday it was fancy dress. We all bought tradition Egyptian dress and wore it to dinner then pla
                          yed party games. There was one competition where you had to do belly dancing. I was one of the five competitors and I won, my prize was a necklace. That night also had some troubles though. Claire was not feeling very well and had been up all night being sick and had stomach problems. She was in bed and her brother was in the room when there was a knock at the door. She got up and answered it to find it was one of the room cleaners. He told her to get rid of her brother because he wanted to be alone with her. Then he started to kiss her over her face and on her neck and then tried to pin her down on the bed. Her and her brother who is 7 managed to get him off her and out of the room but it really put a big scar on the holiday. I slept in my parents room that night out of fear, it could of easily of been me, and I had no brother to share a room with. I felt reassured that the man had been taken off the boat but after that I don’t know what happened to him, I would of liked to of given him a piece of my mind though. Another night we had a professional belly dancer, which I went and saw to eye out the competition. Everyone said I was better but I think they were just being nice. In the day we went to more temples and then did all little cultural and less touristy things as well. We went to an essence factory, which was really interesting. They told you how they made essence and how to use it (its basically the same a perfume but a LITTLE cheaper). Some people bought some and I had gone in hope for a present for my friends but at their prices I don’t like my friends that much. Another stop was a jewellery place where you could browse; I didn’t get anything there although I came home with a nice little selection of jewellery. I bought on the boat shop a tartoosh. A what? It is basically a necklace with a long piece of blank piece of metal (in my case silver although you could get it in gold). On the blank spot I ha
                          d my name written in hieroglyphics, which looks really interesting. I like unusual things like that and they could of made a good present if they were a little cheaper. One day we went on a valluka ride to some tropical gardens. A valluka is a type of boat that is wind driven only. However when we ran out of wind in places we did had a little engine we could switch on to get us moving. It is the traditional type of boats ancient people would of used so it was nice to see how they lived. I wasn’t really interested in the gardens though so I went and sat in the café. In Aswan we went on a horse and carriage ride to the shops. This was nice but a bit bumpy. It costs us 12EP (£2) for four of us for a ride their, back and around the market. We could stop the carriage when we saw a shop we wanted to look at as well, so it was well worth it. So what was the market like? Well forget everything in English markets because this brings new meaning to the word market. They are little stalls that lead into shops. There is a mix of touristy and local shopping. There were no tourist police and the streets were very small and dirty however don’t be put off, for there were many hidden jewels amongst the rubbish. I collect eggcups so I found a few eggs to go in them, which cost me £2 for 2 and started at £10 each. I would of bought eggcups but they don’t have them in Egypt. I also got a few presents for my friends, Katie got a bookmark with the meaning of all the hieroglyphics, Vanessa got a necklace and Kerry and Chris (my boyfriend) got little leather camels. Camels were an optional tour that I went on. We got to ride a camel for 45 minutes. In this time we went round the local area. My camel was called Bob Marley. We went past fields growing things like sweet corn and sugar cane. Through little towns, where we passed a wedding celebration and saw how the people lived. Egypt is a developing country so their houses are very diff
                          erent. They were made of mud bricks and had a roof of palm leafs; the people are so very, very poor. We were told not to eat anything off the boat so we didn’t. The places were not very hygienic at all. We did however buy drinks of the boat. The traditional Egyptian drink is a tea made from some flower (I cant remember what it is called though). It is a pink colour and served cold. When you go into a shop they may offer it to you and it is polite to take it. In the end it grows on you but its not like English tea, its very sweet. The food on the boat was very nice most of the time. On Saturday we had traditional Egyptian food, which I really didn’t like. It was vegetables battered and then left cold, chicken and rice. Most nights though we had rice, pasta and a choice of two meats normally chicken and beef. There was a dessert table with a selection of desserts from jelly to fruit. It was very nice over all and although the food was included in the price you had to pay for drinks separate. Tips are a big thing in Egypt. On the way home at Heathrow airport I over heard someone talking and they had said ‘I just went to the toilet… for free’. If you go to the loo, you tip, if you go on a trip you tip the guide. You think of it you tip them. Our guide told us that he wad going to tip for us. He wanted 180EP for each for the whole week for that, this was including himself. The culture is very different. The main religion is Islam so the women cover up, and you are to as a sign of respect. As I have said they are a developing country. It is not how Oxfam adverts picture it though. Everyone has mobile phones and smokes but this is because it very cheap there. They make just enough to live by normally. 1 in 7 people work in the tourist industry. Most people have cancelled their holidays, because of September 11th, though so their income is not coming in. This means many people are starving as they cant make e
                          nough to live by. The boat I was on was not sailing this week, as it had no people on it, a whole boat had cancelled. Well I think I have said enough about my holiday. I hope I have encouraged you to go or to think about it. It was a wonderful time and you can’t let bad things bring you down. Sara

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                            29.10.2001 20:58
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                            I travelled to Egypt with a company called Explore Worldwide who specialise in "small group exploratory holidays". They are prefect for anyone travelling alone, as I was, or on a budget or anyone who wants to get "off the beaten track" but still have support from a guide and a group of fellow travellers. Their website is www.exploreworldwide.com and the trip I went on was the Nile Felucca Sailtrek, this opinion is part 3 of my travelogue covering days 5 to 8 the journey down the Nile on a felucca. If you want to find out about other parts of Egypt please read my other opinions (more coming soon) I also travelled to Turkey with Explore last year and hope to travel with them to Nepal next year. One of the main reasons for me picking the particular trip which I did was the opportunity to spend four days travelling down the Nile from Aswan to Edfu on board a traditional Nile felucca. The felucca has been the most popular vessel on the Nile for centuries and is still widely used. About 11m long and rigged with tall lateen or triangular sails, it has no motor and relies only on the steady North wind. These days the boat is boarded over to allow a wide area for passengers to sit/lie with bags stored under the deck and in the front is a tiny cabin for the crew. A canvas canopy acts as sunshade during the day and keeps off the dew at night, when you sleep on deck. Our group of about 20 split onto three boats - Dolphin, Golden Star and Romance each with two Nubian crew. Each morning we were awakened at dawn with a glass of tea, after breakfast we set off to enjoy the relaxed pace of life on the river. We spent our days lying on the deck reading, chatting or sunbathing, watching life on the banks drift past us. We made a couple of stops to visit various sites along the way the major of these being Kom Ombo a temple on the banks of the Nile. Romance was slightly larger than the other two and was used to
                            carry the majority of our food and as the "dining car". At lunch times we generally just tied the three boats together, moved across to Romance to sit and eat as we continued floating downstream. The food was simple but tasty, lunch generally consisted of pitta bread (actually pitta bread was served at every meal and we all began to dream of a thick slice of crusty granary bread!), salad, felafel and feta-style cheese followed by fruit and tea. One afternoon the wind picked up and we experienced the thrill of racing before it with the boat banked right over and the water lapping over the deck. As we tacked across the stream our captain directed us to swap from one side of the boat to the other to balance it! At night we would find a spot to moor and get out to stretch our legs whilst the crew prepared our evening meal of vegetable stew or something similar. After our meal we would persuade the crew to bring out their drums and sing round the campfire under the stars. One of my most vivid memories was of the first night sitting out under the stars, we became aware of a bright light below the horizon of the far bank. We asked our guide if it was a large city and were told that it was the moon and as we watched we saw it rise above the horizon. I had never seen this before, living where I do the moon is already above the horizon by the time it becomes visible each night and it was an inspiring site to see. I also spent quite a lot of time pointing out constellations to the other passengers on my boat as, of the eight, only three of us were from the Northern hemisphere and so looking at familiar skies. When we had been asked to form ourselves into three groups prior to boarding the boats, I had been invited to join what became dubbed the "young & single" boat. The other seven consisted to sisters from Australia aged 18 and 19, another Australian girl in her mid 20's, a young couple from New Zealand in their
                            early twenties, an English girl around 24 and an English guy of about the same age. I was flattered to discover that they all thought I was about the same age as them, and they were amazed to discover that I was actually in my early 30's! Myself and the only other two Brits on our boat were also horrified to discover that we were all Chartered Accountants (what are the chances of that?) The rest of the group was very mixed in both age and nationality another 6 Brits between about 25 and 50, a retired couple from New Zealand and another from America, a middle aged woman from Canada, an Irish girl in her 30's and an American woman of around 40. This mix made the trip really interesting and conversations in the boats were fascinating. Myself and the retired chap from New Zealand, Rod, discovered that we had a mutual interest in the ancient history of Egypt and that this was the reason for our visiting. We quickly became known as the group experts on ancient sites and were quizzed for historical and archaeological information at each stop we made. For ourselves, it was great to have someone else with a similar interest to talk to as we wandered around the temples. This, after all, was my main reason for choosing this type of "group holiday" so that I had someone to turn to and say "wow, isn't this fantastic?" Our felucca trip ended at a small village just south of Edfu where we said a fond farewell to our crews and their crafts and boarded a small fleet of taxis to take us to the monumental temple of Edfu. Read my other comments about other parts of Egypt I visited on my trip.

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                              01.09.2001 03:22
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                              NOTE: HAS BEEN RE-WRITTEN WITH FURTHER DETAILS INCLUDED. Well, i always wanted to goto egypt ... and last year i did. Its the most incredible place... seeing things 4000 yrs old that people still dont understand why and how they were constructed. Ever since school i wanted to go .. and when u finally see the pyramids in front of u it does blow u away and it does make it hard to believe that this isnt a disney theme park but for real. Cairo is in itself an experience, and taxi's rival anything that the disney corporation have ever thought up! The main attraction of northern egypt has to be the pyramids and they do not disappoint. Although heavily commercial, its to be expected as they r a major source of revenue for the country. The pyramids themselves sit a few miles out of cairo .. about 3. Getting there early is a must .. by mid afternoon its swarming with the click happy tourists. On this note, hire a taxi for a day and avoid the tours. They r heavily overpriced and a cab is much cheaper. Note that everywhere in egypt, at all attractions, u have to pay to take cameras in, and there is also a hefty charge for video cameras. But treat yourself .. youll regret it if u dont. Luxor is different. Theres so much to see. The valley of the queens and the temple of Hetchepsut r incredible. Dont be afraid of crime in egypt, they have realised that tourism is a main draw and security for the protection of tourists is definately high on the agenda. Egypt Must Sees: Pyramids ... if poss try and get there early to see the sun rise over them .. truly an indcredible experience. Also return late at night and theres a show where the Sphinx narrates the story of the pyramids accompanied by a laser show... may be a bit too touristy but it was very enjoyable never the less. Cairo Museum... most of the artifacts are well labelled and its easy enough to stroll through the museum
                              without the need for a guide. Particularly impressive is the section devoted to Tutenkhamun The valley of the kings is stunning, especially if u manage to goto the tomb of Nefratari. Its supposed to be the most impressive of them all but tickets r very limited. They go on sale at 6am ( though times may change) but the tomb itself isnt opened until 9. Tickets r limited to 40 a day, so be early or miss out. Hatchepsut's temple is awesome. Carved into the mountains there is supposedly a link to the valley of the kings. A few years ago it was the scene of a massive tourist killing invloving german visitors. Security has been stepped up tremendously since then. The karnak temples are incredible. The best though had to be the nitetime show .... the finale sticks in my mind now... i wont say what it is but id urge everyone to go .... really well done If u can afford it a hot air balloon ride over the valley of the kings is an unforgettable experience. It cost approx £100 and was excellent. Included a champagne breakfast as well. Notes: Food - being sensible is definately the way to go. Egyptian cuisine itself leaves much to be desired, though a few experiences we did have werent too bad. Hotel food as expected is heavily overpriced if you are not on a HB basis. The mainstay of mcdonalds, pizza hut etc are pretty easy to find and taste the same as everyehere else in the world. Water - make sure u buy water before u go anywhere ... preferably not from people selling it on the streets. There are some who simply trawl around collecting empty bottles and refill them from a local source. Also when ordering drinks just be be safe stay clear of ice. Hotels are fine, but in restaurants etc try to avoid it. Alcohol - although a muslim country, egypt does brew its own beer. Its a passable attempt, and when considering the premium for imported beer its makes it an even better proposition. Note
                              though that some beer sold there (and on Egypt Air) is actually alcohol free ... check the can!! Dont go buying papyrus .. we did and still regret it. Egypt also supplies a large amount of the worlds perfume. There are lots of oil sellers, but the price is regulated by the government and u should pay no more then on E£1 an ounce no matter what anyone says. Finally Egypt Air - we chose to save £200 and go by Egypt Air instead of BA. We had 3 flights and none of them left anywhere near on time. We spent a total of 7 hours in airports waiting to board planes. Luxor airport isnt exactly the best place to spend 4 hours. The general Egypt Air service is poor, they seem to not care whatsoever... they wouldnt even let a friend with diabetes out of the airport once checked in to see if he could go get some fruit etc. But Egypt Air is the only possible blot on the country. It was worth every penny i paid to get out there, and the things that u see will last a lifetime. My best piece of advice for any would be traveller is to get a copy of the Egypt Lonely Planet guide. We did and it was the best investement of £9 ever. It told you what to do, what to look at, what things in the temples were and represented. I doubt any tour guide would come as close. Egypt ... go or regret it.

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                                13.07.2001 00:34
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                                I visited Egypt on holiday nearly two years ago now, yet the excitement and awe that the ancient monuments inspired, and the wildly different culture are still fresh in my mind. I went with the holiday company Explore, whom I would highly recommend. Although the trip was expensive it covered Cairo, Thebes and Aswan, with time split between hotels and a Nile cruise. For this type of holiday you are probably looking at paying out a lot of money. The best thing about using a company like Explore is that they take you in small groups, they believe in ethical tourism and arrange a number of more adventurous trips which give you a chance to meet local people. The trip began in Cairo and after a night or two we boarded a bus which took us down to Thebes. In Thebes we boarded our boat and settled in for the most enjoyable part of the trip, sailing slowly down the Nile to laidback Aswan. Cairo is a monstrously huge city and I found it quite intimidating. There are armed troops on virtually every corner (Egypt has the highest number of troops in the world per head of population) but before you get too worried it is worth remembering they are there to protect you and are supposed to make you feel safe. I had assumed that Cairo being the biggest city in Egypt and the capital would be less fanatically religious however women should wear long sleeves and cover their legs unless they want to be constantly pointed and stared at. This is not really a great hassle and cheap white cotton clothes perfect for the heat can be bought in the markets. It is important to try and respect the culture and you will find people are more friendly if they think you are trying, for example even a couple of words of Arabic can really help. The main attraction in Cairo is of course the pyramids which quite frankly are incredible. If you consider the age of the structures, and the building and engineering feats involved, it is difficult to imagine anything man-made t
                                hat is more impressive. If it is not too busy you may get a chance to enter one of the pyramids, however it is very hot inside and it can be difficult to breath. While in Cairo the museum is also well worth a visit housing countless beautiful works of ancient Egyptian art and sculpture, not to mention the mummy room (it costs extra). Leaving Cairo we passed through some of the poorer parts of town including a shanty town built on a graveyard, this type of poverty is shocking and helps explain why many Egyptians see tourists as incredibly rich. Thebes, or Luxor, is a beautiful city, much smaller than Cairo, with the Nile as the main thoroughfare. The essential points of interest here are the Valley of the Kings which houses the tombs of many of the greatest Pharaohs, the Karnak temple complex and the temple of Hatchepsut. The main part of the city and the temple complex are on the east bank with the tombs and Hatchepsut's temple on the west bank of the Nile. It is possible to go donkey trekking over the cliffs to the Valley of the Kings and this method does afford some spectacular views, for the less adventurous there are taxis (both the normal kind and horse-drawn ones are available). Also in the main part of the city you will find the market which is full of potential bargains as long as you like haggling. The final part of my trip included Aswan and a visit to the unmissable Abu Simbel. Sailing down the Nile from Thebes was an incredible experience, you could see how the river was essentially the source of all life with a small patch of green farmland on either side which soon dissappeared into sand and mountains. Aswan is in the south of Egypt and consequently has a more Nubian influence. There are a variety of floating restaurants which are wonderful to relax in at night and look beautiful all lit up with lanterns. The main things to visit here are the impressive Aswan Dam (if you like that kind of thing) and the Kom Ombo Temple, whic
                                h is on an island. You will find that taxis are happy to take you around all of the places and wait for you while you look around, just make sure to agree on a price before hand. The visit to Abu Simbel cost around £80 extra because you have to fly down to it (the road was closed when we were there). I would stress that this trip is well worth the money, I guarantee you have probably never seen anything like this incredible monument before in your life. It was built by Ramses II and had to be moved piece by piece when the Aswan Dam was constructed to save it from the rising water. We arrived just as the first rays of the morning sun were shining across the huge and ancient face of Ramses II and I must admit, it took my breath away. There are a few things in Egypt which may make some people uncomfortable. Firstly it is a strictly Muslim country and their attitudes to women are sometimes degrading or insulting. There are some easy ways around this though, dress sensibly and if you are a couple pretend that you are married and you will find you get far less hassle. Also if you intend to buy anything you will have to haggle, in fact they will have no respect for you if you don't try to haggle and it should be possible to find a price that seems cheap to you but also allows the vendor a decent profit. Try not to allow yourself to be intimidated into buying anything you don't want by avoiding eye contact and walking away. Also remember that the heat is intense so be prepared. All in all Egypt is fantastic, the monuments are among the most impressive in the world, the people are friendly if you make an effort and you will feel as if you have really travelled after immersing yourself in this unique culture.

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                                "Egypt officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a country in North Africa that includes the Sinai Peninsula, a land bridge to Asia. Covering an area of about 1,001,450 square kilometers (386,560 square miles), Egypt borders Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, Israel and the Palestinian Territory of Gaza to the east; the northern coast borders the Mediterranean Sea and the eastern coast borders the Red Sea. Egypt is the fifteenth most populous country in the world, and the second most populous country in Africa (after Nigeria). The vast majority of its 76.5 million people (2007) live near the banks of the Nile River (about 40,000 km² or 15,450 sq miles) where the only arable agricultural land is found. Large areas of land form part of the Sahara Desert and are sparsely inhabited. Around half of Egypt's residents live in urban areas, with the majority spread across the densely populated centres of greater Cairo (the largest city in the Arab World, Africa, and the Middle East), Alexandria and other major towns in the Nile Delta. Egypt is famous for its ancient civilization and some of the world's most ancient and important monuments, including the Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx of Giza; the southern city of Luxor contains a particularly large number of ancient artifacts such as the Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings. Today, Egypt is widely regarded as a main political and cultural centre of the Middle East."