A Journey Through Time: Our Tour Egypt Visit to Egypt, Part I

A Journey Through Time

Our Tour Egypt Visit to Egypt, Part I

by Jimmy Dunn

I would like to begin by apologizing for the lack of updates on Tour Egypt over the past two weeks or so beginning after Thanksgiving, 2004, but I have been in Egypt on a rather unusual visit, at least for me. I have been, more or less, leading a tour for the first time. My trips to Egypt usually involve meeting with officials, tour operators and others in the tour industry, as well as gathering information for new articles on specific places and antiquity sites. Sometimes I travel along with tours to reach various points, but never before have I arranged and lead a tour. This was a valuable experience that I shall share with our readers, but it left little time for me to write during the tour. Nevertheless, I hope to point out some important observations in a series of articles that I believe travelers to Egypt will find very useful.

Any tour to Egypt consists of a number of components, all of which are important to the tour's success. Some of the most important components include the itinerary, the tour operator, the facilities such as hotels and restaurants, and indeed the people who take the tour. In this instance, our itinerary was a relatively common one. Most of us traveled from Texas and spent

Everyone who took the balloon ride over the West Bank agreed that it was one of the highlights of the trip

one night in New York before heading on to Cairo, where we spent several more days. From there, we flew south to Aswan where we boarded a Nile Cruise boat, taking tours up to Luxor. After Luxor we flew to Sharm el-Sheikh, spending three days there, and continued on back to Cairo for an additional two days. Upon leaving Egypt out of Cairo, we spent another night in New York before flying home. During the tour, we visited all the usual monuments, including the Giza Pyramids and the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, the major tombs and temples of southern Egypt, we had fun in the hot spots at Sharm, taking a day trip to the Monastery of St. Catherine. Of course we did a little, or actually a lot of shopping, but in many ways the itinerary was not at all unusual because most of the people who I took with me had never been to Egypt.

People had considerable fun aboard the Radamiss boat operated by Movenpick

Our itinerary was not overloaded, and that worked out well. We also kept it pretty loose, so that if someone needed a little rest, a little downtime or just wanted to hang out at the hotel that was not a problem. While some of the crew seemed to want to see everything, others were satisfied with visiting only a couple of the scheduled temples, for example.

There were some interesting highlights however. I, along with several others, took our first balloon ride over Luxor and the West Bank, and everyone seemed to agree that it was a very special experience. We had a fine dinner cruise our first night in Cairo, which everyone enjoyed, and our second evening we dined with Heba at the Hotel Longchamps (we will be doing an update on the Hotel Longchamps and their excellent new restaurant), which was an excellent experience for all. Actually, I have to admit that, after all these years, I actually saw my first snake charmer,

My first Snake Charmer at Kom Ombo

which was one of the highlights of my trip. We also managed to have a private tour of St. Catherine's Monastery by one of its monks, but I will describe these events in more detail later. Our Tour Operator was Misr Travel, one of the largest and oldest in the Middle East. Their New York office made the arrangements which were flawlessly executed by their substantial offices throughout Egypt. They performed exactly as contracted, with timely transfers, good busses and a fine guide. In fact, everyone on the tour agreed that they performed beyond expectations and indeed, they did in many instances provide extras that were not a part of our original contract. In fact, I admit that I chose Misr Travel for this tour because I was well aware of their capacities and influence in the region.

The beautiful pool of the Movenpick at Sharm el-Sheikh

Our tour used the facilities of Movenpick throughout Egypt, including their Nile Cruise Boat, the Radamiss I. Movenpick has some remarkable properties in Egypt, including the plush garden hotels near the Pyramids in Cairo and on Crocodile Island in Luxor, where we stayed. We also spent our time in Sharm at their luxurious beach hotel and casino, which has some of the best entertainment along the promenade, and which for many on our tour was one of the highlights. I believe that everyone was impressed with these hotels and the cruise boat, and all seemed to agree that the food in each location also went far beyond their expectations. I will be reviewing each of these facilities in future articles.

We visited the Luxor temple during the evening and it was grand

The highlight of this tour for me, being a frequent traveler to Egypt and having visited all the sites that we took in more than once, was seeing Egypt through the eyes of fellow companions. In fact, while leading a tour to Egypt is not particularly easy, keeping up with everyone and making sure that their needs are met, I will probably do so again on occasions because it really did allow me, after all these years of writing about Egypt, to expand my understanding of Egyptian tourism, even though this was not really a commercial tour. We had a good mix of people, of which most were connected with Tour Egypt as partners (or related family members). Actually, only one member of the tour was not officially connected to Tour Egypt or members of their families, and that was Ann Marie Terra, one of our Egyptomaniacs who frequents our BBS (message) system.

However, besides myself, only my wife and Ann Marie had ever visited Egypt before this tour. Irregardless of their connections to Tour Egypt, most of the other members of the tour were not really Egyptian enthusiasts. I would have to say that many of them were not unlike many others who take Egyptian tours, interested, but not radically so. Some were experienced travelers, while others were not, and most had never taken a tour so far away from home. They

Some of our tour members, including, from left to right, Ann Marie, making her thrid visit to Egypt, Darrell Young, one of our directors making his first visit, my wife Joanie on her second visit and Kathy Oates, also on her first visit, all of us sitting on the terrace of the Hotel Longchamps

ranged in age from an energetic, cute and outgoing 28 year old female to a 60 something gentlemen who had only weeks before received a hip replacement, and that's a lot of range. However, it certainly provided me with a diverse view, though to a person, everyone seemed to enjoy the trip. As usual with Americans, most went to Egypt with at least a tinge of nervousness, but as we returned only last night (December 13, 2004), and also typically, everyone agreed that there was no reason to be concerned about safety. Egypt provides excellent protection for their tourists, but in fact everyone was impressed with the courtesy, friendliness and hospitality of the Egyptian people. Even as we walked about shopping outside the confines of regular tourist areas, no one expressed any safety concerns.

Racheal, the youngest member of our tour seemed to enjoy the culture and meeting people more than visiting monuments

As a final note, the group took literally thousands of photos while we were in Egypt, and everyone agreed to provide these to me and we will be creating a photo journal of these in the very near future. In the coming days, I will detail our journey, pointing out a number of dos and don'ts that I believe will be most helpful to anyone currently thinking of taking a tour of Egypt. However, after having arrived back home at 10:20 pm last night, I must admit that even I am experiencing some of the expected jet lag, so today I will wind things up by saying that it was an excellent tour and, for all, an experience of a lifetime.

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