Egypt shore Excursions more than perfect!
Here is what I wrote for my journal about the Ramses Tour. Loved, loved, loved Egypt. You made the history come alive, and made us feel comfortable amid the chaos that is Cairo.
Egypt was fascinating. We were unsure even the night before if we were going to call. Other ships had cancelled, but we we so happy with HAL for not doing so. I’m sure they were checking security, as there had been a breach of the American Embassy wall several days prior and embassy murders in Libya.
A Cruise Critic group of 20 of us did an overnight tour with Ramses Tours, which for we singles was less than 1/3 the price of the HAL tour (same hotel), in a mini-bus. 3 hours from Alexandria to Giza the first day was a long trip, but there was a pleasant roadside stop. Our guide gave us lira to use the toilets (common in the middle east).
Our destination was the pyramids at Giza. When we came around the corner it was a-maze-ing! Our guide taught us how to say NO THANKS to the “mosquitoes” of vendors trying to sell you something. “One dollar” they shouted for nearly anything they wanted to see to you. It was not unlike any beach in Mexico, and I found the bartering fun, but many people did not enjoy this part of the location. I bought some pens (10 for $5) and postcards.
Could have bought a lot more if I’d had dollars. The vendors indicated that Americans are staying away from Egypt and they were happy to see us there. We saw Saqqra, with the amazing well preserved crypt paintings, which I still can’t believe aren’t covered. You can touch them! We over- nighted at Le Meredien Pyramids in Giza. Beautiful hotel, but I don’t think they can get parts to fix things.
Of the three of us singles, one room had no electricity in the wing, my toilet flushed constantly and when I toyed around with the flushing mechanism I realized someone had put a bobby pin in it to hold it to the wall. We had dinner in the hotel, which had a lovely buffet for 180 Egyptian Pounds, , about $30, but we weren’t that hungry.
I sat down to a table alone, which I guess in a no-no in Egypt. I wasn’t recognized until my two table mates had arrived. We had martinis and steaks, and it came in under $20 per person. Jeanne ate the salad, we had ice in our drinks, no problems. The elaborate buffet breakfast was included in the a.m. before our group was off at 8:00am.
Today we were off to Cairo city center. Woah! 26 million people living here. Drivers have a sophisticated series of horn honks, and pedestrians wait by the roadside for mini-van shared transport, using hand signals to indicate where they are going. These vans stop on freeways to board passengers. It’s a dance, and everyone understands it, except the tourist. Most women wore the hijab, many in full burkas. Some wore very sophisticated clothing, and a hijab. Older women wore scarves tied at the neck.
Many men wore the galabia, a long cotton or linen robe. Then there were the cosmopolitan office workers in trendy black pants and button-down shirts and ties. We headed up to the Citadel to see the amazing silver mosque. We were allowed inside, and it is elaborate and ornate.
Just simply beautiful! We had a lovely lunch at the Happy Dolphin Restaurant, right on the Nile river. The buffet was varied and plenty. Drinks or bottled water was $2, diet coke $3. A visit to Tahrir Square and the Archaeological Museum was next, but getting there was a trip in itself. Traffic in Cairo is hectic, frenzied and constant, to say the least. As we drove, our guide answered every question we had about the Arab Spring uprising.
He said :imagine this street and that street filled with people chanting, since the square would only hold 350,000 or so, and there were over a million people involved that week. Every town, every village had a protest of Mubarack’s regime. Mohamed was from Rosetta, and took part in the protests in his town.
We came around a corner, and there was Tahrir Square, surrounded by large Western hotels, and a big orange building, which was the museum, adjacent to an 8 or so story burned out building, left that way after the fiery end to Mubarack’s regime.
The museum was filled with many important statues and relics from tombs of pharos and queens. The whole second floor was a portion of the contents of King Tut’s Tome (less what was on display in Seattle at the time), and the gold room worth the price of admission all by itself. Afterward, it was a 3 hour drive to Port Said, through vast desert along the Suez Canal. We kept seeing Maersk Line container ships, all in a row, kind of like a convoy of ships.
What I didn’t realize until later, our ship was entering the flotilla and escorted out of Egyptian waters. I felt very safe the whole time in Egypt, and every person I came into contact with seemed genuinely happy to see us. Port Said had a long line of vendors as we headed for the pier, but the same old stuff we’d see for the last two days, nothing new, and we were cutting it close to departure time, so no shopping.
Thank-you Egypt Shore Excursions for the lovely trip at a reasonable price. Far and away the most exciting part of our 16 day cruise.