Monday, January 18, 2010

Egypt

I was on a Gate1 tour of major ancient Egyptian history/tourist sites. The tour was scheduled for 14 days, but I returned home after 10 days because my classes started last week. So, I missed the Valley of the Kings and Queens by Luxor and the sea resort at Hurghada. But I did get to go on a Nile Cruise, and visit the pyramids at Giza, the Cairo Museum, the temples of Karnak and Luxor at Luxor, the temples of Edfu and Esna, the temple at Philae, Abu Simble, the Aswan dam, and the unfinished obelisk.

The main historical sites in Egypt have streams of tourists and some locations were as jammed with people as a NYC subway train at rush hour. Our tour guide tried to alleviate the crush somewhat by scheduling some of our tours for odd hours.

The highlights were as impressive as expected. The Nile cruise ship and hotel were good. The food on the cruise ship was 'comfort food' level, but made well. I ate plenty. I enjoyed the Nile cruise the most. The Nile was the source of Egyptian civilization and the scenery, the greenery by the shores with sand-colored mountains in the distance, was evocative. The shores were only lightly populated and there were few industrial ships, so it appears the Nile river has been preserved as a tourist attraction. There was many other Nile cruise ships.

We were warned not to drink the local water nor eat foods exposed to the local water, so we used bottled water to drink and brush our teeth. I was tempted to take my chances with the local water and just acclimate, but the tour was short enough where a prolonged "Pharoah's revenge" (like Mexico's "Montezuma revenge") wouldn't have been worth the gamble.

Heavy security for tourists. A heavy presence of the uniformed tourist police in tourist areas, which is a different police force than the regular Egyptian police. Our tour bus always had a security guard wearing a suit and carrying a submachine gun. Supposedly, Egypt is safe in terms of crime, but they are sensitive to the proven risk of Islamic terrorism.

The most annoying part of the trip were the aggressive persistent tourist hustlers that infested every tourist area. My family also doesn't like to haggle and Egyptian merchants haggle.

Both my flight to Egypt and my flight home via Egyptair were delayed, but Egyptair seemed to try to make up for systemic faults with customer service. No complaints there.

Eric

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