EGYPT TRAVEL TIPS

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Hello everyone! I’m finally back home in Spain and ready to take on 2017. The coming months are going to be interesting with their fair share of projects, madness and some more stuff that I had preparing for all of you.

As I was saying, I flew back to Spain from a trip to the Middle-East. I first started in Beirut, Lebanon and went on to Cairo in Egypt. The last part of our trip was pretty spectacular. Today, I thought that I would share some tips derived from my experience there. By doing so, I hope to be of some help to those of you who are thinking of visiting that wonderful country at one point or the other.

Buenos días desde España! Ya estamos de vuelta y listos para trabajar y prepararnos para los próximos meses que van a ser intensos como de costumbre… o incluso más.

El caso es que tras este viaje a Egipto, que ha sido alucinante, he pensado que quizá os resultaría interesante una pequeña guía o consejos a la hora de viajar a este país. Por eso he creado este post llenito de información para vosotros:

1 – Safety:
One thing that came again and again while I was there was related to the security situation. Obviously, we all watch the news and every now and then, it seems that Egypt is shaken by various security incidents (last of which happened on the day of my departure). However, they seem to be restricted to remote areas in the Sinai desert and the probability that something might happen to you is no higher than if you were in Turkey, Germany or France. We are never too careful and considering recent incidents in that country, I understand the fright that this might cause to many. However, I do not believe that we should succomb to hysteria. We see a lot of things on the media but they are often exaggerated and / or taken out of context. In the end, fear is what prevents us from daring to do great things. In that sense, I do not regret embarking on this last adventure and tell you that these two middle-eastern countries have so much more to offer than what some would have us believe.                                      2 – Before traveling there:
It is best to check if you need a visa… My boyfriend and I are both Spanish and Canadian citizens. We did not need any special visa but it is always best to check with your local embassy or available information on the internet.

1.- Seguridad:

Lo primero que me habéis preguntado relaciona con la seguridad en el país. Egipto en estos momentos, no es menos seguro que países como Turquía, Alemania o Francia. El caso es que en los medios siempre se saca lo peor. Ahora mismo están tratando de tener una mayor estabilidad y parece que la cosa va mejor. En mi opinión, no me he sentido en peligro en ningún momento, aunque tengo que reconocer que lo que más miedo me daba eran los vuelos, dado lo ocurrido en este último año. El caso es que, siempre digo que no podemos dejar que nuestros miedos nos paralicen porque no haríamos nada, y si no me hubiera embarcado en esta aventura no habría visto lo que he visto en este viaje que ha sido verdaderamente alucinante.

2.- Antes de viajar:

 lo mejor es que comprobéis si necesitáis un visado. Como Española y mi chico Canadiense, no necesitábamos ninguno, pero como no sé desde donde estáis leyendo esto, lo mejor es que lo consultéis en internet o con vuestra embajada.

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3 – Accomodation:
As a touristic country, Egypt has a huge amounts of hotels to choose from. 5 stars hotels are at better rates than the ones you may find in Europe and can offer a good option. However, if you feel brave enough, you can go to the lower end of the spectrum but I don’t know what you would be getting there. During our stay, we stayed at 2 different establishments. The Four Seasons at Nile Plaza and the Four Seasons First Residence. They are both amazing spots and if I would give my preference, I would go for the one at Nile Plaza.

4 – Tour Guides:
A local guide is highly recommended, especially for those of you who do not speak Arabic. They are well prepared, know the good spots to visit and give you a complete experience by filling all the information you need to know about every landmark. In other words, if you have a good guide, you will put things into perspective and understanding the history, culture and significance of every place you visit.

3.- En cuanto a alojamientos:

Hay muchos hoteles, pero os recomiendo que vayáis a un hotel 5 * si podéis porque la calidad de un hotel inferior allí puede ser demasiado inferior, no sé si me explico. Nosotros nos alojamos en los dos Four Seasons que hay allí: Four Seasons at Nile Plaza y Four Seasons at First Residence. Ambos estupendos, aunque quizá si tengo que elegir alguno me quedaría con el primero.

4.- Guías:

Os recomiendo que contratéis a un guía para las actividades que vayáis a llevar a cabo en Egipto. Suelen estar bien preparados y harán que vuestra experiencia sea más completa ya que os darán un extra de información además os ayudaran a ver cosas que quizá no os habíais planteado en un principio.

5 – What to do:
We mainly stayed in Cairo but the truth is I wish we had some more time to visit other cities such as Luxor. Next time we go (and I believe there will be one), I’ll make sure not to miss that one as it looks well worth the trip (it is 7 hours drive from Cairo but also accessible by plane).

Still, Cairo being a huge megapolis, offers plenty of things to do and see.

The Giza pyramids and the Sphinx: are some of the most recognizable landmarks in the world. They have been engulfed by the rapid expansion of the city and are literally a few minutes away from the center. Seeing them was one of the most memorable experiences of my life. These wonders of ancient architecture are even more impressive in real time. How on earth did the ancient Egyptians manage to pull that off with the rudimentary techniques available to them thousands of years back still puzzles me. Those images are forever marked in my mind and I wish on everyone to experience that at least once in their lives.

Souk Khan el Khalili: One of the oldest souks of Cairo. Walking in the maze that is made by its small and old streets feels like being in Aladdin (lol). The daily scenes of the souk are definitely special and beautiful. The architecture of many of its old structures is precious. It is quite easy to get lost in there and its skilled merchants have great powers of persuasion (don’t be afraid to negotiate). We ventured there without a guide but I guess we made quite a lot from it.

Cairo’s citadel & Alabaster mosque: Built at the time of the crusades, some important additions were made by Mohammed Ali (also known as the founder of modern Egypt). It is located on an elevated point of the city and has an impregnable view of the Egyptian capital. If you go there, you’ll have the opportunity to visit the Alabaster mosque which is inspired by Istanbul’s Blue Mosque’s architecture.

Al Muizz Street: You can see and impressive concentration of Islamic monuments in that street / area. It was recently renovated and has since witnessed a rebirth. Cairo has an unbelievable amount of historical wealth. Unfortunately, much of it is falling into decay due to the lack of resources allocated to the maintenance of monuments. We chose to visit that street with a guide in order to get better insight into each of the countless monuments there.

The Grand Egyptian Museum: If you liked to watch “The Mummy”, then you’ll get your mind blown over there. The national museum of Egypt is the country’s most famous one and has the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts in the world (as we would expect it to)… It is a mandatory stop if you want to get a deeper understanding of Egypt’s history.

White Desert: we unfortunately couldn’t make it there but should you get the chance, organise an overnight safari. The calm and beauty of the desert is always unparalleled. Also, the unique landscape look as if they are out from this world.

The Nile: While in Cairo, don’t hesitate to go on a Felucca boat. It is a traditional sailboat that is a quiet way to cruise the Nile. I would recommend doing it for the sunset and witness the precious light at the end of the day.

PS: should you want to visit Luxor, you should also consider the cruise over the Nile. It is a quiet trip that goes for several days and stopping on the most important sites of the country. Another (and faster) alternative is to catch an early plane. The trip lasts for about an hour. You can be in and out on the same day.

5.- Actividades:

Nosotros nos quedamos en El Cairo durante nuestra estancia, pero la verdad es que os recomiendo muchísimo que visitéis otras ciudades como por ejemplo Luxor. (La próxima vez que vayamos, iremos allí porque nos han dicho que merece mucho la pena).

En El Cairo hay bastantes cosas que hacer y que explorar:

Las pirámides de Giza y la Esfinge son lo más representativo e impactante alrededor de la ciudad. La verdad es que fue una de las experiencias más increíbles de mi vida. El estar delante de esos colosos arquitectónicos fue muy impresionante. No creo que esa imagen se borre de mi retina mientras viva.

Khan El Khalili: El zoco de la ciudad es realmente impresionante. Especialmente si lográis llegar a la zona más antigua donde hay muro de piedra y algunas de las esquinas más especiales. Es precioso. Nosotros nos aventuramos a ir sin guía y nos fue bien, aunque supongo que algo nos perdimos porque aquello era inmenso.

Ruta por las Mezquitas y la Ciutadella: Fue una visita muy especial, y pudimos observar la gran riqueza cultural del país, aunque lamentablemente debido a la mala administración y la falta de recursos se está perdiendo poco a poco. Nosotros elegimos visitar todo esto con un guía porque nos parecía que íbamos a estar un poco perdidos sin él.

Museo Nacional Historia de Egipto: Impresionante y muy recomendable. Las momias son realmente alucinantes.

Desierto Blanco: Es precioso y se puede visitar y volver a El Cairo en el mismo día
Si queréis visitar Luxor debeis o bien hacer un crucero de varios días por el Nilo, o coger un avión que dura una hora y poco aproximadamente para llegar hasta allí. Hay gente que va y vuelve en el mismo día.

Tour por el Nilo: es precioso y os lo recomiendo, especialmente al atardecer

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6.- Transporte: En El Cairo Uber funciona, así que si tenéis la aplicación, no dudéis en utilizarlo… una carrera de 15 minutos nos costó 1 euro. Los coches no son gran cosa, pero es realmente barato.Tened en cuenta que el tráfico en El Cairo es la cosa más horrible que he visto en mi vida, y debéis tener muchísimo cuidado al cruzar. Yo misma presencié un atropello durante nuestra estancia y fue algo brutal, los coches van como locos y debéis ser muy precavidos.

Otra opción para moverse es en los coches que provee el hotel. Os darán varias opciones y están muy bien.

7.- Aeropuerto: Os recomiendo mucho que cuando regreséis al aeropuerto lo hagáis con bastante bastante tiempo por varias razones: la primera es que el tráfico allí es brutal como ya os he comentado y os va a llevar por lo menos una hora llegar hasta vuestra terminal, y la segunda es que una vez lleguéis allí, la desorganización y las colas para pasar los controles son infinitas (especialmente la primera, donde se aglomera todo el mundo con maletas, carros etc) Con lo cual, os recomiendo que dejéis el hotel por lo menos 3 horas antes de vuestro vuelo.

8.- Clima: Nosotros hemos viajado en Enero porque, aunque es el mes más frío nos quedaba genial (a tan solo una hora de vuelo desde Beirut). Pero es que además probablemente sea uno de los mejores meses para visitar la zona dado que no hace calor (alrededor de 18-20-22 grados) y no hay tanta masa de turistas.

6 – Transportation:
Uber works in Cairo, don’t hesitate to use it… It is an affordable and good way to go around. The cars have an acceptable standard and the fixed pricing will avoid any misunderstandings 🙂

Keep in mind that the traffic in Cairo is insane (probably the worst I’ve ever seen). Drivers are not very mindful of regulations and pedestrians find themselves in the most insecure position. By being at the bottom of the food chain, those who decide to walk it should keep an eye out for when they cross the street.

Finally, you can always ask your hotel to call you a car. This option might be more convenient but also more expensive.

7 – Flying out of Cairo:

Getting to the airport will take up a good chunk of time. Egyptian traffic is something else (to say the least) and taking one hour into account is well advised.

Once at the airport, you’ll have to go through endless lineups as you’ll have to go through three security checks. Add to this a generally not so well organised staff and you’ll end up needing about one and a half hours to get past all those.

In conclusion, I would recommend to leave your hotel three hours before your flight.

8 – Weather:
Considering we visited in January (typically the coldest month of the year), I can say the weather was fantastic. Still, you will need a light jacket such as for the spring time in Europe. I believe January is one of the best months to visit as you will not feel the torrid weather of the summer and there weren’t too many tourists.

 

 

 

 

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  1. Pingback: EGYPT TRAVEL STYLE: CAIRO'S CITADEL & MOSQUE - Mimi Kassab

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