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*faints* I'm going to Egypt!

 
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~Ankhesenamun~
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 15, 2010 8:02 pm    Post subject: *faints* I'm going to Egypt! Reply with quote

I just found out yesterday, I'm definitely going to Egypt!
Everything was up in the air with the travel agency
(the first agent messed everything up, he booked the wrong flight..) though now, everything's settled. Price went up a bit, but who cares. Egypt is totally worth it. Wink
Does anyone have any tips on how I should dress (as Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country), how I can arrange a tour to Amarna (this one is extremely important as I must go to Amarna!), what not to do while in Cairo, etc?

Thanks in advance! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 17, 2010 9:46 pm    Post subject: Re: *faints* I'm going to Egypt! Reply with quote

~Ankhesenamun~ wrote:
I just found out yesterday, I'm definitely going to Egypt!
Everything was up in the air with the travel agency
(the first agent messed everything up, he booked the wrong flight..) though now, everything's settled. Price went up a bit, but who cares. Egypt is totally worth it. Wink
Does anyone have any tips on how I should dress (as Egypt is a predominantly Muslim country), how I can arrange a tour to Amarna (this one is extremely important as I must go to Amarna!), what not to do while in Cairo, etc?

Thanks in advance! Very Happy


First of all, congratulations; secondly, enjoy yourself, but don't go overboard.

I am one of the few who happen to like Cairo: most people stay away from there, but I think it's fun. Sure, it's a broken down city (or was when I was last there) with 18 million people living within (the city was made for a capacity of 5 million tops, so you can imagine how crowded it is can can be); but for excitement of just roaming about when you have a place to go (such as finding an Egyptology bookstore like L'Orientaliste), or seeing the suqs of the Khan el Khalili (be sure to try the fateer pancakes near the main road!), it really can't be beat.

My favourite hotel in Cairo is the Hotel Shepheard. It's not the same Shepheards Hotel from the past which you may have read about in novels (that hotel was destroyed during the 1952 revolution in Egypt), but this hotel has the advantage of being located very close to the Midan el Tahrir, which is where the Egyptian Museum is located. It's about a 2-3 block walk at most, and you past by a number of interesting buildings along the way. If you come out of the Hotel Shepgheard, turn right and then turn right again at the corner, you will usually find a number of very good shops which sell Egyptian reproduction work (we're talking some large pieces, like furniture and so on, but also a good amount of smaller pieces). Don't be fooled into thinking you're getting exact reproductions, but if it appeals and you can bargain the price down, go for it.

One thing you MUST (repeat: MUST) learn to do in Egypt is bargain: for one, it's expected and for the other, it's a form of social interaction. It's difficult to bargain "too low" for most shopkeepers, but they will definitely let you know if you do. The general rule I have learned is this:

if the object is wood, offer half or less of the asking price; keep to it a best you can for the final price (the same applies to papyrus or other paper products);
if the object is brass or copper, offer at least 50% off of the asking price, and don't pay more than 70% of the asking price;
if the object is silver, offer at least 25% or more off; don't pay more than 80% of the asking price; and
if gold, where the price is set, the BEST you may be able to get is 10% off: you can offer 20% less, but you will get told otherwise.

Obviously, you want to see the Pyramids: you bargain a price up front with the taxi driver before getting into the cab and stick with it (in other words, do not fall for the "baksheesh?" arguments your driver will pull on you: if he does, say, "We'll see," and then forget about it when time comes to pay).

Most Egyptians don't do this, BTW: they jump in, tell the driver where they want to go, and no matter where it is in Cairo, they rarely give any taxi driver more than 5-10 LE (Egyptian pounds). Since you will be obviously sussed out as a tourist (since you're western and don't look like you live there, especially as you come out of a hotel), the best you can hope for is to get a price which seems reasonable, and that means usually bargaining away from your hotel - where bargaining is more likely to succeed.

From Garden City (where the Egyptian Museum and Hotel Shepheard are located), you shouldn't pay more than $10 USD to get to the Pyramids: how that works out in Egyptian pounds and your bargaining skills is really up to you.

Do not, under any circumstances, fall for any line from any taxi driver/man on the street/touts/shopkeeper, etc about seeing "his brother's/ cousin's/uncle's/father's perfume/papyrus/leather goods/antiques/fine clothes/ etc shop".

This can be very dangerous, if you are travelling on your own, as these guys will lead you to some very out of the way place - such that it may be difficult for you to find your way back out - and even lock the door behind you to force you to buy something from them, just to get out and get them to take you back to the main road. Most of this is done out in the open, so just say "No" (Egyptian: la), and keep going.

Trust me when I tell you it's better to seek out a place on the main roads if you want any of these things, where you can walk in, and know you can just as easily walk out.

Arrange a long period (say an afternoon, leading into evening) to see the Khan el Kahlili. From a Garden City address, it should take about $2-5 USD, and hopefully you can bargain that amount just as easily in Egyptian pounds. The Khan is a fun place, where you can spend hours just poking about. I'll wager those who go to the Khan get about 70% of their Egyptian souvenirs from here, where the quality is OK - very good in most cases.

If you can find the goldsmith avenue within the Khan, this is where very good gold objects can be bargained (based upon the caveats, above), and you can even ask for custom-made jewellery to be made for you within 2-3 days if your stay permits it (for example, if you have 2-3 days in Cairo, then move onto Luxor, Abu Simbel, etc., but return through Cairo for 1+ days (which may itineraries propose), then a custom item can be made within such a time with time to spare).

I once had a custom travelling abaya (a wool travelling cloak for desert travels) made for me within the Khan within a 5 day period: that was over 15 years ago and I still wear it in the UK winters and have never felt cold (which is saying something this winter Shocked ).

Luxor, which you will likely get to by plane, can be something of a tourist trap. If you are not within a group of people going on a set holiday package (as most Brits do), which provides a bus to the hotel, then you will likely have to get a taxi. At the Luxor Airport, the prices grow incremently as you walk out and it's not unusual to see some taxi driver try to get you to part with up to 100 LE for a less than 20 min. ride to your hotel. Try and keep them to no more than 50 LE if you can, and put up with 60 LE if you must. But the taxi drivers at Luxor are the very worst at trying to take advantage of a traveller, IMO.

As for hotels, if you can get your own way, my suggestion is to forget staying in Luxor (East Bank) and see if you can arrange lodging on the West Bank. If a family holiday or one with a number of your friends, one could possibly do very well by checking out Jane Akshar's Flats in Luxor, many on the West Bank, and merely taxi about on the West Bank for the sites there (Kings Valley, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut Temple, etc; and/or take the local ferry back to the East Bank if you just gotta shop til you drop!). In the past, I've used special rates for East Bank hotels, but now, I'll probably be using Jane's flats for future stays as the prices are pretty reasonable, and most of the East Bank hotels have simply become ridiculous.

Please note I am not in any way associated with Jane's enterprises here, but am merely noting what I see as a good deal. If you can find a better rate (and some hotels in Luxor (east Bank) and Gezira Village on the West Bank DO offer them), then obviously go for it.

It makes no sense to me, however, to spend outrageous sums for hotels, food, etc. when the main thing you want to do in Luxor (and Cairo, if you can get there at a reasonable price) is see the sights (ancient and semi-modern), and bargain a trinket or two.

While in Luxor, however, I do suggest taking one meal at least at the fabulous Sofra Restaurant, located at 90 Mohamed Farid Street in the Al Manshiya section of Luxor. Be sure and check out their fresh juces, of which they have 18 selections, and any one is worth having at least two glasses, IMO. The cost of food is fairly reasonable, as you can see at the menu on the URL site, above.

Be sure and try and get a local Luxor taxi to take you to places like Abydos and el-Amarna. You can go to the local travel agencies on the main street in Luxor, but if you do, just take a look at their prices, just to get an idea of how high they can go. Then, if you're any good at bargaining, try and get a very good deal from a local taxi driver in Luxor: most work on the side as tour buses/taxis as well as the money is good. You may be keeping your driver all day, now that the army convoys are now gone, so keep that in mind while you bargain your price and be fair to him as well (after all, he has to get you there and get you back!).

For the more unusual, look at your hotel (or at a local travel agency) for brochures about hot-air balloon rides over the West Bank in Luxor. If you can spare the expense, it's worth every penny and a LOT of fun! You have to get up early (usually be in the lobby at 5:00 am), but they pick you up and take you to the West Bank for the ride to commence. You will be up in the air before sunrise and as the sun rises, you really won't believe how much beauty in the world there can be!

I have some spectacular views of the various temples on the West Bank, such as Medinet Habu, from such a ride, and have been aproached by a few Egyptological colleagues for the photos as overhead shots are pretty rare.

As for Nile cruises, I have no experience. In all of my travels to Egypt over the past 20 years, I usually have specific sites I need to/want to see and a Nile cruise wouldn't take me to them anyway, so I have stayed away from cruises. I am used to planning out my time and places to see, as well as travelling at my own pace, so tour groups are also something I never indulge in either. I have bad feelings about tour groups, anyway, from other foreign trips and now avoid tours at all costs.

Anyway, there's my view on travel in Egypt. If you're a single woman travelling alone, PM me for additional information, as I don't wish to take up any more space. HTH.
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~Ankhesenamun~
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow! Thanks for the amazing information!
I'll definitely keep those tips in mind when I go!
I'm not sure about Amarna anymore as it seems dangerous.
I'll probably have to wait and do that one on my own *sigh*
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

From one Ankhesenamun to another Laughing congratulations on your trip.

I've been to Egypt... er.... 6 times with trip number 7 this October. I went to Amarna last year as part of a trip and I wouldn't have thought it was the sort of place you'd want to visit on your own. Our group spent the day with Barry Kemp and didn't come across any other tourists while we were there. Having said that some of the city is near a road so if you just want to see bits of it then you could just pop out of taxi and take some photos. Akhenaten's tomb, for example is way out in the desert and travelling there was very much like travelling to the Valley of the Kings.

I'll try and remember to pop back with more later in the week.... Wink
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~Ankhesenamun~
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 18, 2010 11:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks! Wow! Seven times, eh? Sweet.
Oh I see. Was he nice?
Yeah Akhenaten's tomb would be a MUST... for me anyway. =/
Why does Amarna have to be so dangerous.. Sad
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

~Ankhesenamun~ wrote:
Thanks! Wow! Seven times, eh? Sweet.
(snip) Yeah Akhenaten's tomb would be a MUST... for me anyway. =/
Why does Amarna have to be so dangerous.. Sad


I'm not sure "dangerous" is the right term for Amarna: "isolated" may be a better term, mainly because most tourists don't want to go and see a flat area with only hints of walls and columns. They're more in for Luxor with its amazing Hypostyle Halls at Karnak and the Luxor temples.

Remember that I said that the army convoys are now gone? This is actually a good thing since the Egyptian government now feels the area is safe enough to travel without armed escort (don't get me wrong: I never minded the escort, but they certainly could limit the amount of visiting time one had at a site Mad ).

Such was/is true also of Abydos today, but that doesn't stop and ths staunch and hardy tourist from hiring a car and going there (heck, I've been there as many times as I've been to Egypt (except once), which makes (holy geez!) 10 times in the past 16 years. I'll go again when I go to Egypt either at the end of this year or the next, mainly since Abydos is where my dissertation topic is.

My suggestion is see what the tourist agencies have in way of a day trip to Amarna (they do such tours) and be sure that you can a) afford it, and b) that it's a group of people and not just you, if you have misgivings.

Alternately, you can write Jane Akshar via her website (I mentioned her in my last post) and see if she can give you an idea of prices before you get to Egypt (she lives in Egypt and can check it out for you). Jane even may give tours to Amarna herself: I don't know this for sure. She's a British ex-pat, so you would be talking/e-mailing with someone who can explain everything to you very clearly, and it's really information you need at this point.

HTH.
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Osiris II
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 19, 2010 4:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jane's also on another chat room I go to all the time.
(I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post the site address here. PM me, and I'll tell you...)
It's a site that is operated by British ex-pats in Luxor, and is full of useful information. I'm positive that you would be able to get a lot of ideas there.

I've been to Amarna several times now, and generally stay down in el Minya and drive out.
It's quite a lonely place, especially if (as I was) you are by yourself. (I just really hate tours!) There has been quite a bit of excavation activity recently, but there is still not a lot to see. Mostly foundation-walls in the city, a few walls still standing at the Northern Palace, and, of course, the tombs. But realize--the tombs have been heavily vandalized. But, being by yourself has the advantage of allowing you to spend as much time browsing though the site as you wish, which I find very appealing!
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Ankhesenamun
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 20, 2010 10:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

~Ankhesenamun~ wrote:
Thanks! Wow! Seven times, eh? Sweet.
Oh I see. Was he nice?
Yeah Akhenaten's tomb would be a MUST... for me anyway. =/
Why does Amarna have to be so dangerous.. Sad


He was quite charming and more than happy to talk about his work there. It's a massive site. Much bigger than I thought it would be. It was quite something to be stood in Akhenaten's tomb with him.

As already mentioned Amarna is not dangerous per se (we had a police escort for all of our middle Egypt excursions however) but you'd need transport to take you to various points of interest and someone who knows the area well.

I'll PM you with details Wink
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When your fortune is made, follow your desire,
For a fortune has no savour if one is gloomy.

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willamtarker
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 09, 2010 10:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Wow. I love Egypt and Egyptian culture and misery. It's a dream of my life to go there. I wish I could go there at lease once in my life.
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Ankhesenamun
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 11, 2010 9:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well go Wink I must admit I had a hankering to go for about 20 years before I finally managed it. Been back every year since Very Happy
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Do not lose time in daily work, once you have done what is necessary,
When your fortune is made, follow your desire,
For a fortune has no savour if one is gloomy.

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