Middle East Travel

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Middle East Travel

Postby sirrobynhood » Sun May 19, 2013 7:54 am

My wife and I returned from our Egypt and Jordan trip this weekend. The trip was excellent and we felt safe at all times during the trip. The tour leaders provided us with excellent advice on how to deal with vendors and people in general. We were able to see everything that we wanted to see with the exception of the monastery at Mount Sinai. However, given the heat, the climb likely would not be that enjoyable. The replacement days at the Red Sea resort was fabulous and permitted us to relax from the pace of the trip prior to undertaking the Jordan leg. From a personal perspective, it was nice not to have large crowds (due to the decline in tourism) because it was easy to see all of the attractions without queuing up. The only discomfort we experienced during the entire trip was the relentless aggressiveness of street vendors. To avoid them we sometimes had to go through some areas quicker than we wanted to just to avoid them. However, I would recommend this trip to anyone who has an interest in Middle East history/culture.
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Re: Middle East Travel

Postby worldtravelguy » Sun May 19, 2013 7:58 pm

Hi sirrobynhood,

Thank you for posting this... what amazing timing too!!! I was just searching the forums regarding the "Egypt & Jordan Adventure" trip (I'm assuming and hoping this is what you did) with a concern regarding the safety there, but your post was really reassuring :).

I normally do my trips with a friend, but this is the first time I'm going to be going alone with the tour group, so this may be my top choice for my trip this summer. How would you describe the group and the tour leader? (I know each group is different, but I always love hearing people's experiences). Also, did you guys only do the 17 days, or did you stay longer? (I wanted to stay a bit longer, but not sure if there's anything a tourist can do on their own in Cairo for a couple of days). Lastly, would you have any tips to help prepare for the trip that made (or you wish made) your experience better?

Thanks again :)
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Re: Middle East Travel

Postby worldtravelguy » Wed May 22, 2013 9:27 pm

Also, I noticed you went on the Jerusalem extension! I really want to do that too. How was it?
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Re: Middle East Travel

Postby sirrobynhood » Wed May 22, 2013 10:52 pm

Thanks for your comments. Our tour group was quite small at seven and my contribution to that was four: my spouse, my brother and a friend of my spouses and mine. The group was excellent. Two were co-workers from Vancouver and one was a young fellow from the UK travelling on his own. Our tour leaders name is Albeer and if you could get on one of his tours, it would be a great experience for you. He is very knowlegeable about the country and quickly and efficiently gets you to the most relevant things to see and then provides you with sufficient time to see things on your own. I would say that Albeer does his job because he loves his work and his country and is highly protective of his charges. At no time do you have any concern for your safety. Additionally, he provides you with excellent advice on what to expect and how to react to certain situations of a cultural nature that you might not expect.

Our trip included Jordan only and we concluded the organized part of the G tour there. However, we wanted to see Alexandria as my spouse has a colleague from there who recommended seeing the City while we were in the area. In addition to seeing the City, we wanted to dive on Cleopatras Palace (the ruins are in the Alexandria harbour) as well as the Pharaoh's Light House. We considered going to Isreal but were concerned with issues around getting back to Egypt so we opted out of that.

After Alexandria we went back to Cairo where we unwound for a day before flying back to Winnipeg. Personally, after seeing the light show at the Giza pyramids and the Islamic part of Old Cairo and the bazzar, there really wasn't much else to see.

As for tips, there are not many but here they are: we didn't have any issues getting Egyptian currency from ATMs in any of the larger cities. I would recommend having a couple thousand pounds (100 pounds = approximately 15.00 Cdn). Try to keep the denomination relatively small because some vendors/stores don't have change or have difficulty giving change back from a 200 pound note. Also, be prepared for very aggressive vendors. They are everywhere and sometimes it is difficult to look at things where there are vendors because they hound you persistently.
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Re: Middle East Travel

Postby worldtravelguy » Thu May 23, 2013 11:06 am

Thanks for your reply!
Wow, that's a small group! But, I would think that would make the experience a bit better since it's more intimate and you have more of a say on what you want to do :)

Albeer sounds like a great tour guide... I hope we get him!

Did you guys get to see the Temple of Abu Simbel? It looks amazing, and I really want to do it, but will probably only get to see it if others in the group want to go as well, since I'm travelling alone.

That's unfortunate that you didn't get to see Jerusalem. Was there a concern from the tour leader? I really wanted to go there (the 2 day trip) on the last day of the tour, but if there's going to be issues, I guess I'll have to skip that.

Would you say that Alexandria was worth it?

Thanks again for sharing your experiences and feedback. I'm sure many on here are curious abuot all this as well :)
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Re: Middle East Travel

Postby chaokou » Sat Jun 22, 2013 9:50 pm

Hi!
We just did Absolute Egypt from June 1st to June 17th 2013. It includes Cairo, Luxor, 1 week in the desert + Alexandria. We really enjoyed it! Here is the post I would have liked to read before flying to Cairo.

When we were telling our relatives about our destination, everybody were telling: ''Don't you watch the news?!'' We realized fast enough that news are just emphasize on protests and report the facts in a magnifier. I recommend that you read local newspapers (like http://www.dailynewsegypt.com/) instead of CCN to get your last updates on the situation. The good part is that other people were probably watching the news and we got a 'private' tour, my boyfriend, my sister and myself! (Albeer was our guide too and he's really good! You feel like having an 'extra' experienced traveller with you, instead of a directive guide.) There is not a lot of tourists and it's easy to visit attractions without waiting for hours.

We didn't saw any protest from all our holidays. In fact, I've heard there was protests reported downtown on the Friday we're were in Alexandria. I were wandering around downtown this day, me and my boyfriend to get the 'feel' the town and we didn't see any protest... We were just a little unlucky cuz we got a canicule, but else than that, it was magic!

For girls, I heard many things too before going:
- Locals will try to touch you anywhere: didn't happened to me at all.
- Get a wedding ring, if you're not married: As I was with my boyfriend, I don't think it has made any difference. For my sister, when locals looked at her too intensely, she was playing with her fake wedding ring and she says it helped.
- You will need to wear a scarf: We didn't needed it (but didn't visited mosquee though). In touristic places were your are going, you can wear shorts and T-shirt. In the first oasis, my sister was wearing T-shirt and shorts (covering half of her leg) and got looked at like a piece of meat/indescent. We saw a sign, downtown Siwa oasis ''woman travellers to cover their upper arms and legs''. If you do so, you will be confortable.

Street vendors can be kind a hassle, but you learn fast enough ''Lah Chokran'' (no thank you in arabic) and get rid of them easierly with this sentence.

Highlights of our tour was Nile cruise on a felucca and night in the desert.

We did the extra activity at Abu Simbel. As there is usually a rest day in Aswan, if you're the only one who wants to go, it's probably possible. It's really nice and an incredible engineering work to have move those temples and they are nice inside. However, you have to wake up a 3 in the morning (you can sleep in the minibus). Would I do it again (about 7h of minibus for 2/3h at Abu Simbel)? Not sure (but we were having stomach problems due to heat exhaustion this day : doesn't help to enjoy the day...).

We really liked Alexandria. It feel more 'european' than Cairo. We visited the 'new' library and it's really amazing.

We were 2 extra days in Cairo (arrival and departure). We visited a papyrus factory and a jewelery. Even if you visit a government one (we really appreciated the quality of those factories over other regular stores), you can bargain (we were shy to bargain in this type of place at first and we shouldn't have). I don't think that there is a lot more interesting stuff in Cairo (I've heard the bazzar was nice).

Little tips : bring paper toilet and keep it in your daypack. There is rarely paper toilet available, unless a person is sitting in front giving you paper against tips. As we suffered from different symptoms of heat exhaustion about one third of our trip, next time, I would bring Gatorade in powder (rehydration salts). It's almost impossible to get that in Egypt. For 2 days in Aswan, temperature went up to 48oC. Albeer told us it was exceptional, but as we are coming from Québec, Canada, we are not used to those temperature and it was long to adapt.

Enjoy your trip!
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Re: Middle East Travel

Postby worldtravelguy » Mon Jun 24, 2013 3:48 pm

Wow sounds like you had a blast and thank you for dispelling all those silly rumours. People are so closed-minded when it comes to the world. The news is nothing but a negative outlet when it comes to international events.

I'm really looking forward to this now :)
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