Marta's Photo Album of Egypt

Egypt
January 2010

Getting there
We had a wonderful start to our trip at OR Tambo. We were given complimentary business class lounge passes from Egypt Air and were able to enjoy the Shongololo Lounge. Here business class passengers on board Egypt Air can relax before their flight to Cairo. We departed Johannesburg on the services of Egypt Air at 21H45 with a zero delay. The aircraft was fabulous being a new airbus 330 which accommodates 224 in economy class and 25 in business class. The seats were very comfortable and the engines could barely be heard at take off. We settled in comfortably to begin our journey to Cairo which takes around eight hours. The meals on board were delicious with a selection of beef, chicken or fish. The crew were very polite and offered a selection of fruit juices and soft drinks at a consistent rate. There is no alcohol served on board. During our flight we enjoyed a selection of the latest movies on overhead screens. Soon it was time for breakfast and then landing in Cairo. We landed ever so smoothly an safely at precisely 06H00.

After clearing passport control we were met and assisted by Sheriff a representative of Stylish Holidays who would be taking care of us throughout our entire stay in Egypt. Cairo International has been totally upgraded and rebuilt and is a modern world first class airport. There are numerous duty free shops which offer an excellent selection of perfumes and other duty free items. Should you wish to buy alcoholic drinks you need to purchase this at duty free on landing or within 48 hours of arrival in the country.

Cairo

We were transferred in an air conditioned very comfortable mini van to the five star JW Marriot Cairo. The hotel is a 15 minute ride from the airport and located in the prestigious Heliopolis area. The lobby is of spacious proportions and the hotel boasts a championship golf course, six restaurants, water park, superbly well equipped gym, health centre with indoor and outdoor pools as well as a Thai spa. I had a deluxe room which was elegantly furnished with great attention to detail. We were collected at 10H00 to begin our tour to the Pyramids at Giza. The Great Pyramid of Cheops is the oldest and largest pyramid in Egypt. The sight is awe inspiring and it is hard to imagine how such a structure could have been built and completed in 2570 BC by man. The legendary Sphinx, carved from natural bedrock sits below the pyramid of Kafre. Our guide in Cairo was called Ahmed, he was very knowledgeable and explained the history of the pyramids in a fun and informative way. We enjoyed a lunch at a traditional local restaurant, where we enjoyed a selection of Egyptian food. This consisted of a variety of olives, seabass, humous, tahina, pita breads and fresh tomatoes. We ended our tour at Khan el Khalili bazaar. The bazaar is well known for its treasures on offer, items of papyrus, leather wallets, shisha pipes, stunning silver jewellery and spices which the Egyptians are famous for. Bargaining is essential and also part of the culture in Egypt. One can walk away with some lovely items at really reasonable prices.

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Dinner that night was at the pizza restaurant at the JW Marriot Cairo, this was the best pizza I have had in a long time. The size and toppings was generous with a thin crust and cost no more than R 60-00. Egypt is well known for excellent Italian cuisine. The chefs from Italy work in Egypt and also train the local chefs in the fine art of Italian cuisine, so you can be sure that the Italian food you order will be the best.

The following day we had the opportunity to visit Coptic Cairo. The Hanging church is one of the oldest churches in Egypt, some have claimed that the Virgin Mary stayed here with baby Jesus. The Ben Ezra Synagogue is said to house the oldest known copy of the Torah. Lunch was at the Le Meridian Pyramids Hotel. We enjoyed the selection of both local and Western food which was very attractively displayed. My favourite was the Om Ali, a creamy bread and butter pudding made with honey and pistaccio nuts. That done we visited the Egyptian museum which dates back to 1900 and is home to the treasures found in the tombs and pyramids. The mummies room was incredible, to think how these Pharaohs could be preserved for centuries.

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I had dinner that night at the Fairmont Heliopolis, and was given the opportunity to meet the owner of Stylish Holidays as well as the management team of the Fairmont. The Fairmont Heliopolis is located in the tree lined suburb of Cairo, just 5km from the airport.

The hotel features a wide range of facilities and personalized service for business and leisure travelers. The warm, inviting lobby provides a preview of the well-designed touches that are apparent throughout the property. Our dinner was taken in the authentic Lebanese restaurant, located within the Fairmont. Here you can enjoy belly dancing whilst dining.

Aswan/Kom Ombu/Edfu/Esna/Luxor

The following morning we were transferred to the airport for our early morning flight to Aswan. This is about a one hour flight. We arrived at Aswan dam by 07H30, a good time to take pictures of the area. The people in Aswan are referred to as Nubians and have a very gentle nature.

We boarded the hotel’s boat to the Pyramisa Isis Island Hotel. The hotel has a stunning pool area, where I took a much needed swim. Our lunch at this tranquil hotel was great.We were offered an abudance of typical Egyptian dishes all beautifully prepared. Kofta is my favourite, it is like a lamb kebab, really delicious. I really enjoyed the Egyptian hospitality which was evident throughout the entire trip. The afternoon was spent relaxing on board a felucca going around Elephantine Island. We visited a Nubian village where one can go into a traditional Nubian home and have tea with the family. We also saw the baby crocodiles that they keep to show the tourists. Later we sailed down the Nile whist enjoying the magical African sunset. We stayed overnight at the hotel and transferred the following morning to the Sonesta St George 1 Nile cruiser. The five star boat is essentially French style and classified as great luxury. The lobby area is magnificent with original oil paintings and the main feature being an enormous sparkling crystal chandelier. The cabins are spacious and luxurious and all have French balconies. The linen is all white Egyptian cotton, wonderful to fall asleep on. The bathroom is most impressive, having an electronic shower, sauna and jazuzzi system all in one. You can enjoy classical music whist in the shower as well as take calls in the shower . The butler had to explain to me how to operate this amazing unit. Once I had mastered this I enjoyed the jacuzzi and sauna in my private cabin, however I never got to make calls. For those in need of a massage or beauty treatment on board, the spa is worth a visit. The prices were comparable to those in South Africa. I had an excellent half body massage expertly done, which left me completely rejuvenated. The boat also has its private docking area which means if you book a Nile view suite you have an unobstructed view of the Nile at all times. Life on board I discovered was relaxing and I felt as though I was in a world of “ Out of Africa “ with understated elegance.

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Lunch on board was a splendid affair. The tables were adorned with crisp white linen, silver and crystal. The waiters immaculately turned out in bow ties and waistcoats with sometimes somewhat serious faces,but most friendly once you got to chat to them. The food was excellent with a wide variety of both local and Western food on offer. The chefs were extremely proud of what they had prepared and needless to say they encouraged you to try as much as possible. After a wonderful lunch we visited the Temple of Philae and the granite quarries. I have never seen such great beauty and loved the guide Ahmed’s explanation of the history of this temple. Our guide stayed with us on board which was a great honour for us. The high teas on the deck were magical as we sipped tea and nibbled on cakes whilst gently drifting down the Nile. The dinners were fabulous, once again with a wonderful selection in the buffet and on one of the nights it was al a carte with a choice of fish and meat. I had the freshest salmon with a delicate dill sauce.

The following days we visited the Temple of Sobek and Horoeris in Kom Ombo and the Temple in Edfu. The visit to the Temple of Edfu was fascinating, we were taken there in horse carriages in the early evening light. The ride gave us the opportunity to see how the people live in the area with a glimpse of their daily lives. On arrival at the Temple of Edfu, one is awestruck as it is beautifully lit up and there is something truly mystical and magical about a night visit. The temple of Edfu is the largest temple dedicated to Horus and Hathor of Dendera.

Our final port of call was Luxor where we were to disembark, it was a sad moment to leave this glorious boat. However the journey had began once again, as we were to visit the West bank of the Nile at the Valley of the Kings. The experience of going down into the tombs were indescribable. The polychrome reliefs are perfectly intact. The drawings in ochre yellows punctuated with cornflour blue and sienna depicting daily life are a spectacular sight to behold. Our last stop was the Luxor Temple, which is home to enormous statues and carvings, this was breathtaking.

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We stopped at a souvenior shop in Luxor, once again after much bargaining we all walked away with our desired purchases. Luxor is famous for alabaster which is mined not far from the Valley of the Kings, this is then fashioned into lovely hand made cups and vases .It was onward to the Sonesta St George Hotel in Luxor. This five star luxury hotel has a number of surprisingly well priced shops in the lobby area as well as a number of restaurants. My room had two double beds with a modern granite bathroom which had an electronic shower and Jacuzzi and also an electronic toilet. After this fabulous and exciting journey I decided to enjoy my room and rest until check out later that evening, for our flight to Cairo with the connection back to Johannesburg at 02am the following morning.

The entire trip was an experience of a life time and I can truly say if you have not visited Aswan and Luxor you have not been to Egypt. We were very well taken care of from the beginning to the end of this magnificent trip.

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In Conclusion
Egypt is an intensely vibrant destination to visit. It is welcoming, tourist friendly and exceptionally safe offering a variety of holiday options. Egypt has much to offer in the way of historical, cultural tours and special interest tours, including safaris into the desert and oasis’s as well as beach holidays. The Red Sea itself is rated as one of the top dive destinations in the world, an area not to be missed.

This all combined together make Egypt a very worthwhile destination to visit and promises to be an unforgettable experience!

With Special Thanks
This trip was made possible by the assistance of the following :

A special thanks to Mr Wael Kadry Regional Manager of Egypt Air South Africa and Zimbabwe, for the complimentary airline tickets and for his assistance in this promotion.

A special thanks to Mr. Brian Dodge Senior Sales and Marketing of Egypt Air for his assistance and co ordination in this promotion.

A special thanks to Stylish Holidays for the kind hospitality, complimentary hotel accommodation, cruise accommodation, transfers and tours they provided. A special thanks to Ms Wafaa Turk Tourism Manager for co-ordinating this trip.

A special thanks to the hotels which all provided the following :

  • JW Marriot Cairo- complimentary accommodation with daily breakfasts
  • Fairmont Heliopolis – complimentary hosted dinner
  • Pyramisa Isis Island Hotel – complimentary accommodation with daily breakfasts
  • Le Meridian Hotel Pyramids – complimentary luncheon
  • Sonesta St. George 1 Cruiser – complimentary accommodation together with full board
  • Sonesta St George Hotel Luxor – complimentary accommodation