Travel Talk Tours Egypt Itinerary; Part 1
Hey friends! Since we’re quarantined and I have no excuse to not get this out into the world – I’m finally getting started on the rest of our Middle East series. I’m gonna start out on our Egypt itinerary with Travel Talk Tours. If you missed our review of our tour, you can head over to this post first and come back to see everything we did! I had a really hard time finding detailed info on this specific tour so I hope this helps if you’re planning a trip to Egypt!
Since the majority of our time was spent in Egypt, we’re gonna start there. Full warning – this post is going to be a bit long and full of lots of pictures. I’ll break it up into our first 5 days in Egypt and finish the last 4 days before we headed for Jordan. Buckle up, y’all!
Today’s the day! It started our adventures through Egypt, in the capital city of Cairo. Our tour broke up Cairo in two different experiences, the beginning of the trip and the end of Egypt. When we got to our hotel in Cairo, we had some free time to drink some beers and meet other tour mates. Then we had a welcome meeting where we got a detailed itinerary for the next 15 days. After that, we could stay and hang with new friends, take a taxi into Cairo to explore, or go on a dinner cruise on the Nile. We chose the latter and got a buffet dinner and show. It wasn’t totally what we had expected, but it was a nice way to spend the evening. We finally hit the sheets and got up early the next morning to start our journey through the ancient land.
optional activity: Nile River dinner cruise
Stop 1: The Saqqara Pyramid Complex
The start of our day was to the oldest pyramid in Egypt along with the oldest pyramid complex, called the Saqqara pyramid complex. There are actually over 120 pyramids around Egypt and 3,000 tombs. At the Saqqara pyramid complex we saw the step pyramid built for King Djozer, a little different than the normal pyramids we’re used to seeing. We also got to go inside a pyramid for King Unas and see the oldest known Egyptian religious texts!
Stop 2: The Great Pyramids at Giza
Next we headed to arguably the most famous site in Egypt, THE pyramids. I don’t what I expected at the pyramids at Giza, but it wasn’t this. It was incredible to see these things in person. And they are just as big and impressive as you’d imagine them to be. We got a few different views of the pyramids and got to see the Sphinx! Although we didn’t get as close as I thought we could to the ancient cat. You can also buy an extra ticket to go inside the Great Pyramid of King Khufu, although we did not. One claustrophobic look into a pyramid was good enough!
optional activity: Riding camels at the panorama picture point
Stop 3: Perfumania
This stop was one of a couple more “local” stops instead of a big monument. We stopped at a couple of places like this where we spent a bit more time then we probably needed to. I think it could be that our guides or our tour company gets a little commission from what the tourists buy. Either way, we enjoyed our time at Perfumania. It was essentially an oil dispensary where we could buy pure oils without the typical additives. One tip I would offer is that while you can support these Travel Talk businesses, there are other places to find cheaper options of the same products. We did end up buying a couple oils and enjoyed a cup of tea while we shopped.
After we left Perfumania we grabbed our bags and headed out on our first long bus ride of the trip. Our bus was taking us down to Luxor, nine hours from Cairo. We stopped twice for snacks along the way and had a full police escort down to Luxor. We still can’t decide if that made us feel less or more safe. One day, we’ll get our lives together and get going on podcasting again. This experience will be at the top of the Egypt topics.
Welcome to Luxor! This area was my favorite of the trip. There is so much amazing history in Southern Egypt and seems to be a quieter pace of life with more farmland and smaller towns. We spent a few days enjoying the slower life in this area, starting in Luxor and going south almost into Sudan.
Stop 1: Karnak Temple
In my humble opinion, this was one of the most impressive temples in all of Egypt. I could have spent hours in this place exploring more of the hidden nooks. The Karnak temple is actually the biggest temple in Egypt and spans over 16 acres. The oldest structures in Karnak date back to 2000 BC!
The 134 columns in the hall of the temple represent the gods being worshipped. The tallest stand at 69 feet and 9 feet wide. There are still areas that have brightly colored paint that bring Karnak and its history to life even more. In this temple we learned a lot about Egyptian hieroglyphics and how they used these images to communicate and write their stories.
Stop 2: Papyrus Museum + Jordanian lunch
After Karnak we headed to a shop that taught us how they make papyrus, much like the Perfumania stop. We got a chance to buy paintings that were painted on quality papyrus instead of fakes in the markets. Although we didn’t buy any, there was some really beautiful paintings that I’m sure would have been worth the money! From here we stopped in Luxor for our first Jordanian buffet lunch before heading further south to Aswan.
Stop 3: Aswan
After a 3 hour bus ride from Luxor, we made it in time to see an amazing sunset in Aswan. This was our favorite town, mainly because it was our tour guide Mo’s hometown. He also told us that Aswan is the best area to swim in the Nile, although we didn’t get to partake while we were here.
The hotel we stayed at was SO NICE, which was actually a theme while in Egypt. We had an incredible view of the Nile from our balcony. If only we had more time to actually enjoy the amenities! We really wouldn’t even get to sleep in this hotel since we would be leaving at midnight for our next stop. This was an optional activity to the Abu Simbel Temple. I’ll explain that in a second.
In Aswan we actually decided against the second optional activity and headed into the town square for dinner. We were basically the only 4 people who didn’t go with the group to the local Nubian dinner. Instead we had pizza and smoked shisha (hookah) at a local corner “bar”. Although I think we would have really enjoyed the dinner (everyone who went loved it), it was nice to have some independence. This was probably the only time anyone really ventured too far from the group. We got the option to do our own thing sometimes for lunches, but most of the time everyone stuck together. Mo gave us tips on where to stay away from in Aswan and we felt safe walking on our own.
optional activities: Abu Simbel temple, Home cooked dinner with a local Nubian family
We started day 4 a lot earlier than any other day of the trip. Day 3 basically just kept running into day 4. The normal time to leave Aswan is normally 4 am, if you choose to do the optional activity of visiting the Abu Simbel temple. However, we happened to be around at a special time, during the celebration of the sun festival for King Ramses II.
Stop 1: Abu Simbel
Two times a year, there is a special celebration at Abu Simbel called the sun festival. This is because the light hits the inside of the temple just right, causing 3 of its 4 statue gods to be illuminated on the very back wall. It was such a fun experience and if you happen to be here on either of the festival dates, we recommend spending the extra money to see the celebrations! This also means that you’ll be getting virtually no sleep and spending the night/morning in the bus but we think it’s worth it. You’ll be waiting in line for a while, so make the most of getting to know your group!
Even if you aren’t in Egypt during the sun festival, Abu Simbel is an impressive temple. The two original temples located here were actually cut into huge blocks and moved 656 feet back and 213 higher. This was because it was under threat of being flooded by the Aswan high dam construction. The temples were built into an artificial domed hill and preserved for the rest of time. The larger temple of Ramses II is the one that houses the 4 statues of the gods. The smaller temple was built for his wife, Nefertari and looks pretty similar to the great Pharoah’s.
Stop 2: Philae Temple
After we spent a few hours at Abu Simbel, we journeyed back up towards Aswan and headed straight for the Philae Temple. Much like Abu Simbel, Philae Temple was also moved from its original location. It now resides on a little island in Lake Nasser, safe from the flooding that would have destroyed its history. Philae was dedicated to the female goddess of motherhood and womanhood, Isis. She is said to have resurrected her husband Osiris after he was murdered by his brother Seth. Together they birth one of the most important gods of Egypt, Horus. The temple is aptly named the Temple of Brotherly Love because of this lifelong duel.
One interesting fact about this temple is that it became a harbor for Coptic Christians around 535 AD. Because of this, there are many Coptic crosses and Christian relics etched into the walls of the temple.
Stop 3: Nile River Cruise
In Aswan, we hopped on our floating home after exploring since the literal sunup! We had nothing on the agenda for the rest of the night. This meant we could explore the river boat, take a nice long nap, and have a little dance party with our cruise workers. We spent the next 3 nights on the boat, while stopping along the way for exploration of temples and monuments.
For our first night on the boat, we were docked at Aswan. This is where our guide Mo lived, so he got to show us around for the day. He spent one night on the felucca with the other group and spent the other 2 nights with our small group on the boat.
Stop 1: Aswan Bazaar
While in Aswan we got to visit a mile or so long street of shopping stalls. These shops included spices, food, drink, clothing, trinkets, and pretty much any other souvenir you could want from Egypt. Unlike the bigger bazaars of Cairo, you can haggle down the prices here quite a bit. Everyone in our group ended up finding something to buy and I’d say we all found some pretty good deals. We ended our time here with a shisha and tea session with Mo. This would be our first of many!
We got back on the boat and sailed North for the majority of the day. There was a tea time (everyday at 4) onboard before we hopped back off to visit the next temple.
Stop 2: Kom Ombo Temple
At dusk we journeyed to Kom Ombo temple. Built by the Greeks and finished by the Romans, Kom Ombo is uniquely dedicated to 2 different gods. One was to the falcon god, Horus and the other to the crocodile god, Sobek. This means the temple is basically duplicated in its room construction. It has two entrances, unlike normal Egyptian temple architecture. Another interesting exhibit at Kom Ombo is a museum dedicated to almost 300 mummified crocodiles found near the temple.
After our temple stop, we headed back to the boat for a fun night with our crew. They threw us what they called a galabiya party, a little cocktail hour (nonalcoholic of course) and dance party. We played a few traditional Egyptian games and danced our booties off with our cruise guests. It was such a fun night!
This would be our last day/night on our cruise boat. We had a big day of temples ahead of us!
Stop 1: Edfu Temple
We started our day at sunrise to beat the heat. We headed to Edfu temple by the local transportation – horse carriage! Edfu temple was one of our favorites that we saw in Egypt. It’s the second biggest temple in the country, incredibly well preserved, very large, and took almost 180 years to finish. Plus, we got the place almost completely to ourselves. Visiting early definitely has its perks!
Remember the duel between Osiris and his brother Seth? It continues on with Horus and Seth. Horus spends his life trying to avenge his father. Edfu is called the temple of revenge, dedicated to Horus and his mission. There are many statues in Edfu that depict Horus’ nature, along with 17 crypts that were once full of treasures. There’s even a replica of the burial boat that would take Pharaohs into the next life!
After riding back to the boat on our horse carriages, we headed north for Luxor. We spent most of the afternoon relaxing and playing card games with Mo, enjoying our last moments on our cruise. We docked at Luxor in the evening and headed to our next temple.
Stop 2: Luxor Temple
In the ancient town of Thebes, now Luxor, sits the large complex of the Luxor Temple. Construction for was started by the Pharaoh Amenhotep III and finished by Ramses II, so a lot of the statues depict Ramses II. Like Karnak Temple, it has two great halls full of tall pylons, each one dedicated to the two Pharaohs. Karnak and Luxor are also connected with an avenue of Sphinxes that runs almost 2 miles between the two temples. This road was used once a year for a festival for the god Amun, who the temple was dedicated to.
Lastly, there used to be two obelisks at the entrance of Luxor, which acted almost like the tower of a church or mosque. Each pharaoh would build a pair of obelisks at the entrances of their temples to show their accomplishments and to honor the gods. Sadly, not a lot of the original obelisks of ancient Egypt have remained in Egypt. The second obelisk of Luxor is now in Paris. This is actually true of a lot of Egyptian artifacts unfortunately. A lot of their antiquities have been lost, given as “gifts” in times of financial crisis or war, or just stolen from the country.
After Luxor, we headed back to our boat to pack our bags and get some sleep for our next early morning adventure!
I’ll end here and finish up our last 4 days in Egypt in Part 2. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you’ve enjoyed a look back on the trip of a lifetime!
Til next time,