Egypt

September 1990


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The highlights of this trip were the ancient monuments of Egypt.
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TM, ®, Copyright © 1999 Ulysses-Travel all rights reserved.

Itinerary

  1. Cairo: Mausoleum of Sultan Qalaun (1285) both interior and view from southeast, Mosque of Barquq, Mosque Hassan, Midan Hussein, Kala, Khan El Khalil bazaar, Mosque of Kait Bey (1471), Mosque of Shaikh Malik al-Muayyad (1420), caravansarai of Qansuh al-Ghuri (1505), Amr Ebn El Aas Mosque (642), Ahmed ibn Tulun mosque (879) with spiral minaret, Islamic museum (Mihrab of the mausoleum of Saigda Rukaja), al-Nasir Muhammad madrasa and mausoleum (1295, masterpiece of Mamluk art), Madrasa of Sultan Hasan (1363), Sami Rafei's Monument to the Unknown Soldier, Koichiro Shikida's Opera House (1988), Walton Becket's Niel Hilton (1959), Necropolis of the Mamluks in the Northern Qarafa, Funerary Complex of Sultan al-Ashraf Qaytbay in the Northern Qarafa,
  2. Giza: ++Pyramid
  3. Saqqara: +Pyramid, Serapeo, Persian tombs
  4. White Desert near the Bahariya Oasis southwest of Cairo
  5. Luxor: +++Amun temple, ++Luxor temple, ++Ramses VI tomb, +++ Seti tomb , ++Dier El-Bahari
  6. +Abydos
  7. +Dendera
  8. +Temple of Horus at Edfu of 237 BC (100 kms north of Aswan)
  9. Aswan
  10. ++Abu Sinbel
  11. ++Mt Sinai (2000 steps)
  12. +Monastery of St Paul
  13. +Monastery of St Antonios
  14. Alexandria: Citadel of Qaitbay

Notes (2008)

Trip difficulty: easy
Length: 15 days
Season: Year-round
  • Pictures of Egypt
  • $1=5.4 pounds
  • Visa: 16 pounds
  • Airport. The bus station is at terminal 1 (about 200 meters from the terminal). Buses run till late at night. Buses 27 and 356 go to the Egyptian Museum for 2 pounds.
  • Nobody wears shorts in Cairo. Women who show their legs are not allowed in a mosque.
  • Taxis are $1-3 in town
  • Internet $1
  • Soft drink $0.30
  • Overnight train to Luxor: 8pm-5am, nine hours, $62 to sleep
  • Coolest people are the bus drivers: they drive, sell tickets, give change through the hell that is Cairo traffic.
  • Liali Hotel in Taalat Harb Sq 60 EP for one or 80 for two ($15) is 10 minutes from the Sadat metro station and 10 minutes from the bus station north of the Egyptian Museum
  • RIPOFF ALERT: No photogaphy is allowed inside the Egyptian Museum
  • Citadel: 40 EP
  • Hassan mosque complex: 20 EP
  • All other mosques are free (1 EP to watch shoes)
  • Most monuments and museums close at 4pm
  • City buses and subway cost 1 EP
  • Cairo is one of the great Mediterranean cities. It takes a while to absorb it, but it offers more than any one city in the world can offer.
  • Egyptians rank among the kindest and most hospitable people in the world. For every hassler who will follow you trying to sell you souvenirs or tours there will be 100 Egyptians ready to help you for free. Just try to hang out with ordinary people in ordinary buses, cafes, etc.
  • Cairo is the cultural capital of the Islamic world. It is the only place in the Islamic world where bookstores are not a rarity.
  • Always ask the price before buying drinks, food, taking taxis, etc. The price doubles or triples if you didn't negotiate beforehand.
  • The hassle in Egypt is worldfamous. There are several levels of hassle for the tourist: the police (often including police officers at train stations and temples), the museum staff, the souvenir vebdors, the self-appointed "official" guides, and random people who want to make a buck out of a tourist.
  • Bakshish is routinely expected by everybody, including the police.
  • There is however very little hassle in Abydos, Edfu, Dendera
  • Recommended hotel in Cairo: Lialy in Talaat Harb Sq and nearby King's Palace
  • The Egyptian Museum is an extremely boring experience because piecee from different places and times are assembled in one far away building. It is hard to visualize them in their original setting, where they were certainly breathtaking. To make matters worse, you are forbidden to take photos, which would be the only way to view the piece when you travel to its original location. Boycott the museum (and all museums of atiquities in the world: they are mostly tributes to individual and national robberies, to the stupidity of scholars and to the greed of governments). There is nothing more annoying than the sign "the statue of X isa at the Cairo museum": for all pratical purposes that statue has lost all its value and meaning. Museums of antiquities are a form of (cultural) terrorism.
  • Saqqara: Photography is not allowed inside the tombs but in practice you can bribe the guards with a few pounds.
  • Saqqara's ticket: 50 pounds. Dashur 25 pounds. Giza 50 pounds.
  • RIPOFF ALERT: 100 pounds to visit Cheopes pyramid. There is absolutely nothing to see inside. You get to a dark room. They WILL search your luggage for cameras. But, even if you manage to sneak your camera in, there is absolutely nothing to take pictures of. If you really want to visit a pyrsami inside, at least visit Chefren that only costs 20. (These prices are NOT included in the general Giza ticket).
  • Generally speaking, the pyramids rank among the most overrated attractions in the world, mainly because the Greks included them in the "seven wonders of the world". The truth is that it is not terribly difficult to build a pyramid if you can use the free labor of thousands of slaves. Ultimately, it is just a pile of rocks. The greatness of Egyptian art is best appreciated elsewhere.
  • Luxor: The city has been cleaned up. Most of the hassle is gone. However, there are still a few scams in town. Mostly your problem is going to be the over-inflated prices due to naive tour groups that are willing to pay ten times the regular price. Shop at the end of the day, when the stores need to sell what has not been sold.
  • Luxor: Unfortunately most statues have been moved to museums. Those statues would be an exciting sight in their original location. Instead, they contribute to a boring experience in the museum that stole them. In addition, museums often forbid to take pictures of them. There is no limit to human stupidity.
  • Valley of the Kings: Best way to visit the WEst Bank is by bicycle, which you can rent on either sides of the Nile for about 101-5 EP (2008). Seti I is the best tomb but it is always closed. Tutankamun is the worst (and most popular). Ramses VI is the second best and requires a separate ticket. The 70 EP ticket is valid to visit three tombs. I recommend Ramses I, Ramses II and Thutmose III. But they all pale compared with Ramses VI, which is 50 EP by itself. RIPOFF ALTER: no photos are allowed inside the tombs. Valley of the Kings is invariably a disappointment because there is very little to see, even less that is truly impressive, lots of tourists and no photography allowed.
  • Luxor: Monuments open as early as 6am in the morning because mornings are the best time to visit them. In the afternoon the heat is an issue.
  • Luxor hotel: Nefertiti ++ near Luxor Temple
  • Luxor restaurant: Amoun +
  • Car Luxor-Abydos-Dendera-Luxor 300 EP. Train Luxor-Balyana (Abydos) 34 EP 2.5 hours. Luxor-Qena (Dendera) 1 hour. Usually any transportation you take must have a police escort.
  • Aswan hotel: Nubian Oasis Hotel 50 EP for two
  • Aswan restaurant: Medina, near Nubian Oasis Hotel
  • Aswan: Christians vandalized the friezes of the ancient Egyptians.
  • Phila is 40 EP but RIPOFF ALERT does not include the boat to get there, which you have to negotiate with the boat owners (7 EP or so)
  • Abu Simbel costs 85 EP for the tour bus (escorted in convoys) and 80 EP to visit. Wildly overrated. 3 hours from Aswan. The visit lasts less than 2 hours. You have to wake up at 3am.
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