Even the all-powerful pharaohs could not have foreseen how their civilization would endure through the centuries, enticing generations of travelers to discover its wonders. Like many of you, my fascination with ancient Egypt began as a young child during museum field trips, attempting to comprehend what daily life was like thousands of years ago.
Egypt was a trip I thought to be out of reach given the unrest over the last decade. That is until my husband and I learned of a small group tour down the Nile hosted by Wild Frontiers, which planned the African safari of our dreams earlier in the year. We had also received rave reviews from recent visitors to Egypt, who spoke of the many safety measures in place, empty temples, and grateful locals. In 1997, tourism made up 9% of Egypt's GDP; in 2017, it was just over 3%, according to the WTTC Economic Impact 2017 Report.
The Wild Frontiers itinerary captivated our imaginations, beginning in Luxor, then setting sail down the Nile towards Aswan. I pictured lounging on the deck of our 19-century style boat, gazing at ancient temples while village children waved to us from shore. With hats donned, we would bask in the warmth of the sun, pen long letters to loved ones, break for afternoon tea and listen to Agatha Christie share her latest mystery. The truth was not all that far off (unfortunately Agatha Christie did not join us, but our group of nine did include a songwriter).
Our guide, Mohammed, made a world of difference. With many hats to wear - translator, activity coordinator, hieroglyphic reader, personal shopper - he was generous with his wealth of knowledge and steadfastly upbeat, and we were thrilled to be his captive audience. Luckily our fellow travelers were just as inquisitive, eager to soak up every moment.
While the unrest continues in parts of the country, I still urge you to make the journey and experience the wonders of Egypt for yourself. Artifacts and sarcophagi behind glass will never compare to the towering temples, fertile lands, and welcoming people.
Favorite Egypt Moments
Egypt Trip Details
An experienced travel agent or tour company can help make this journey of a lifetime come true. Here are the particulars of our Egyptian adventure.
TOUR COMPANY: This was a 10-day group trip (minimum five guests, maximum 12) organized by Wild Frontiers, including all ground transportation, meals, and plenty of pre-trip information including packing lists and tipping etiquette. A small group size is helpful when touring the sites, especially the busier locations.
SAFETY: We felt completely safe throughout our trip. At the time we booked our tour, the U.S. State Department travel alert cited the Sinai Peninsula, the Western Desert, and border areas as particularly dangerous, which are nowhere close to the places we visited during our tour. The major tourist sites had several security check points stationed before you even enter, including airport-style scanning.
**TIP: Sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) through the U.S. State Department, which provides regular updates and alerts from the local embassy. This program also ensures that the embassy has your information readily available in the event you need to be contacted.
TIME OF YEAR: End of December, over the Christmas holiday. Winter in Egypt promises pleasant weather, with daytime temperatures in the 70s and 80s (F) and cooler mornings and evenings. Check historical weather for Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan.
TRAVEL: The pace of the tour was perfect. We decided to add two days in Cairo to see some of the sites before our tour began in Luxor. From London, it was a 5hr flight into Cairo then a 45min taxi ride to Giza (plan on 1.5-2hrs during rush hour). From Cairo, it's a 1hr flight to Luxor, where our tour group met up and traveled around via small shuttle bus to see the sites before boarding the dahabiya boat to Aswan. We spent one additional night in Cairo before returning to London. One could easily spend an extra few days in Luxor and Aswan, there is plenty to see and do.
GETTING AROUND: All transportation was pre-arranged seamlessly and made it easy to access the sites, including a fun variety of transport options: shuttle bus, tram, tuk-tuk, horse-drawn carriage, and even a pickup truck. We typically spent 1-2 hours walking around the sites, but the terrain was mostly level and easy to navigate.
STAY: The Mena House Hotel in Giza offers the most spectacular view of the pyramids and plenty of resort amenities. All remaining lodging was organized directly by Wild Frontiers, including:
- Luxor - the splendid Pavillon Winter Hotel, dating to 1905. We loved the lush central garden. 2 nights
- The Nile - Private dahabiya boat for our group. 4 nights
- Abu Simbel - the Eskalah Nubian guest lodge, a short distance from the temple complex, which we were anticipating to be rustic but was very comfortable. 1 night
- Aswan - the grand Mövenpick Resort on Elephantine Island. 1 night // **TIP: If you're planning months in advance, try to book a room at the iconic Old Cataract Hotel, a Victorian-era palace where Agatha Christie penned Death on the Nile. Our guide said that rooms were fully booked nine months in advance.
EAT: All meals were included in our tour package. Expect dishes with Middle Eastern, North African, and Mediterranean influences. One of our first meals on the dahabiya included roasted eggplant slices topped with garlic and herbs, a tagine of squash and zucchini, and stewed beef and rice.