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wblevin

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About wblevin

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    Cool Cruiser

About Me

  • Location
    Lincoln Park, NJ and Naples, FL
  1. Ohhh I was thinking $50 USD for the two of us. About the same as you did. Would love other opinions! Thanks so much for your input!
  2. And what would people suggest as a tip for the free tour guides?
  3. Thank you all for your help!! I was able to get a car that is a bit more expensive, but they will deliver to the pier and pick up from the pier for 10 Euros each way - a bargain IMO to not have to worry about the logistics and time picking up and dropping off. http://rentacarprima.com/html/sea-port-rent-a-car-malaga.html
  4. We arrive in Malaga on December 15th. I have booked tickets for the Alhambra and now need a rental car company as close to the port as possible. Any suggestions for car rental company, stops along the way, etc would be greatly appreciated.
  5. bringing this forward - maybe someone has done this on their own in Puerto Montt. In my research - they talk about Puerto Montt as a fleet of mini vans - certainly I would think you could get some reasonable transportation to where the rafts are. Maybe a trip later in the day would be a better bet? We are doing the 1/17 NCL Sun.
  6. Tuesday, November 4th They set all the phones to wake us up in the morning at 5am. 5:30 is breakfast and 6am we are walking from boat to boat to get to shore. We are informed that we actually have a few minutes more than we should have had to sleep today because a boat is taking us across the river to the Valley of the Kings. What an amazing place. Soha has purchased our tickets, which allows us to visit three of the dozen or so tombs that have so far been excavated. We start out by going down into Ramesses 4, then into Tutankhamen and then Soha is prepared to leave – we insist on seeing one more – Ramesses 9. Each is interesting in itself – so impressive that we are there. Just amazing. They put us on a tram and we exit the valley. First stop is an alabaster factory (shop). They show us how hand carved alabaster is so much lighter than machine carved alabaster – and comes with a much greater price – lol. We spend ½ an hour plus here – I hate these stops. Now we are off to the Temple of Queen Hatsbepsut – a totally amazing temple – probably one of the most intact from the outside (not sure how much has been renovated – frankly that was the case with most of the ruins we saw**). Soha painted a grim picture of the climb to the temple. It actually looked worse to get to than it was – again, they had a tram that took us a good deal of the way and the climb up was not as bad as it looked and you had your choice of steps in the middle or straight incline on either side of the steps. Sadly, this was the temple where 58 tourists lost their lives in 1997. We head back to the boat to set sail for Edfu. Ohhh nooooo - we have missed the boat – literally. The boat has sailed without us. So we get back on the bus and drive about ½ an hour and the boat makes an unscheduled stop to pick up the 30 or so people from Club ABC. No harm done – we are on our way again to Edfu. **Throughout the week we saw many ruins and it was truly impossible to tell what had been renovated and what was original. Both Rany and Soha said the historians spend long periods of time trying to figure how to place artifacts that have been found. Over the centuries there are been many earthquakes and much flooding. Things have been buried in the sands and waters for hundreds if not thousands of years. Computers have helped with reconstructing but much of it is guesswork. Tomb raiders also didn’t help – and many of the temples have graffiti. Some of the more modern (lol – like 2000 years ago) ruins like the ones we saw in Alexandria - there is actually some historical basis for how they constructed some of the remains – some it is just conjecture based on historians’ best guess of what it was probably like. Helpful Hint – We had a terrible time pronouncing Queen Hatsbepsut’s name. Hats Cheap Suit. Much easier now – lol. Soha was very good. Several days while we were sailing in the afternoon, she would take an hour or so of her time and be up in the lounge to answer people’s questions. She usually had a pretty good group gathered around her. There is a masseuse on the boat – she was very reasonably priced - $40 for an hour. I booked her for a massage from 4-5. No one told me that that was when we would be going through the locks! So about 4:30, I am enjoying my massage and I hear this like yelling. Then there is more yelling – I am thinking maybe it is the call to prayer. The masseuse in her not very good English confirms it. But the yelling continues and is getting louder – Hey Lady Hey Lady – this is definitely NOT the calling to prayer! Apparently there are all sorts of “salesmen” in boats offering their goods to the people on the boat. They have galapias (the long robes that they wear – just so happens that there is a galapia party on the boat this evening!), tablecloths, shawls, etc. all packed in plastic bags and they are throwing them up to the people on the top deck. If the people like the item, they put money in the bag and throw it back to the guys in the boat. I briefly popped my head up to see them below but, of course, I missed the entire event! The next thing I know, my husband is knocking on the door – I am missing us going through the locks. I have about 10 minutes more of my massage – ughhh. I got up to the top deck just about the time that we were exiting the lock. I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time! Everyone was talking about what a fun time it was – and how bad some people’s aim is – lol. It was quite pleasant sitting up on deck as we sailed, watching the scenery and enjoying the cruise. One of the guys in our group was fretting because the engines were quite noisy in his cabin, but each evening we docked so we did not sail at night – and he got a good night sleep. Helpful Hint – There is actually a small shop on board. Typically, we avoid cruise ship shops – they are expensive IMO. The small shop on board actually had very reasonable prices and no haggling. May have just been our boat – but we purchased personalized hieroglyphic embroidered T-shirts for $10 and polo shirts for $15 – choice of sizes and 10+ different colors and was charged to our account and delivered to our room. What a deal! Wednesday – November 5Wow – a day to sleep! Wake up call is 6am!! We are out the door at 7 and it is a short distance to the Temple of Horus. We spend a short time there, but are getting better and better at identifying the gods and the hieroglyphics. Back to the boat, we have lunch as we cruise on to Kom Ombo. Time for another lounge chat with Soha and maybe even a short nap after lunch. I decide I really should put in a wake up call for 3:00 when we are due to dock at Kom Ombo. At 3:00 I look out the window and we are still sailing. I take a quick shower – at 3:10 – the lobby is empty – everyone has left the boat!! I cross over 5 different lobbies and the temple is just a short walk from where we get onto land. Marcy is not on land – she must have fallen asleep – I run back through all the lobbies and wake her up – we are now way behind the group. We run along the pier to catch up (avoiding the “salesman” above us on land – smart move). We make it up the steps and have missed nothing. Soha is just starting to explain about this magnificent dual temple of the crocodile and the falcon gods. The temple actually has medical and dental advice in hieroglyphics! She gives us 10 minutes to see the crocodile mummies on our own and tells us we need to be back to the boat in 20 minutes. We wander around for just a few minutes and then head down – but they detour us the long way – there are about 15 of us all working our way back to the boat. I meet up with my husband just past the shopping area and he tells me we have missed the snake charmer – ohhh kewl. We run back and there is this little old guy sitting on a blanket with a small black cobra. He wants money for us to sit down next to him and have our picture taken with him – alas, no time. We take a couple of pictures, literally throw some money at him (don’t want to get too close to the cobra – he didn’t look too happy as the guy kept poking a basket in his face) and we run back to get on the boat. Ohhhhh noooo – the boat is leaving without us!! Soha hadn’t passed us – we know that (although it turned out she did – she took the straight route down – one we weren’t allowed to go down). One lady had had her foot on our boat and they pushed her back – boy was she mad. She wasn’t sure if her husband had made the boat or not. With the language barrier and about 15 of us trying to figure out what was going on – we finally determined that they needed to let one of the boats out – took some time to maneuver the inside boat out, but Mirage finally did make it back to pick us all up – thank goodness! Tonight they had a special show for us – a belly dancer. We all headed up to the lounge at 9 pm. There was a “band” playing their drums ahead of time, then came another Whirling Dervish – he was no where near as good as the first guy we had seen in Cairo. He did a very similar show but seemed bored. Next up was the belly dancer. She was excellent. There was also a guy with small castanets (maybe) who was also very good. Thursday, November 6 Another early wake up call today. We are off to the Aswan Dam – high and low dam. We actually stop briefly to take a picture but don’t actually tour the dams. On to the Philae Temple and the unfinished obelisk. Marcy and I opted to not walk all the way to see the obelisk (which is laying down) – we walk through the shops instead. The Philae Temple is on an island a boat ride away. They pile everyone in our group into one boat and we are now treated to a huge display of baubles on strings – all shapes and colors for $10 a piece - a necklace or bracelet. By the time we arrive (a very short distance), many of the group have spent $8 a piece, many have spent $1 or $2 apiece. A couple of the items are broken by the return trip – surprise, we are treated to more of the same selling techniques – just in case we missed it on the ride there. Back on our bus, we stop at three shops combined – a perfume shop, alabaster shop and ??? I didn’t bother getting off the bus. We are now ready for our felucca ride - we get off the bus (a short walk to the boat – some from the group decide not to do the felucca and walk to the boat instead) and onto a felucca which sails the group of us the short distance over to Elephantine Island (not by the gardens though) for a closer look and then back – the whole ride was about ½ an hour of which the guys spent a few minutes singing a song with us and the rest of the time pulling out their necklaces and trying to sell them to us. Ughh. It was time for a late lunch before our afternoon excursion to the Nubian Village (an additional fee of $35 per person). After a short rest, the small group of us (8 people and Soha) walked back to where the felucca had dropped us off and get in a motorboat. This boat took us a bit closer to Elephantine Island and wound around to the other side of the island where the gardens were – a much prettier view on that side. We continued past the island for about 10 minutes and then docked the boat on the other side of the Nile. We exit the boat and get into the back of a truck – kinda like a hayride without the hay. We drive down several roads with buildings on one side and farmland on the other. Interesting seeing the scarecrows with galapias on – lol. We pass many children – they all smile and wave – so friendly. We arrive in a small courtyard type area and Soha walks us into a “typical” Nubian house. We are told that this is a rather large house and several families live here. There is a dirt floor with some rugs spread around. Several rooms include a kitchen with cabinets, a bathroom, several bedrooms, a prayer room and a room to hold the items they have for sale. They actually have an “air conditioner” – interesting as it is huge and in a wide opening to the outside. Not quite sure how that is supposed to cool off the house in the heat of the summer. There is an upstairs with a nice view of the village. Most of us head back to the truck and wait for the rest. Slowly but surely we are surrounded by kids and adults begging for money. When the rest of the group joins us, we head the short distance back to the boat – and are just in time for evening call to prayer that comes out in the surrounding loudspeakers. The men are in the small open air mosque right by the dock, many women are in a boat – looks like they are ready to head out for the evening (maybe to homes other than in the Nubian Village??). It was definitely an experience. Back at the boat, Soha has a group that would like to go into town. She collects a couple of dollars apiece and puts us in taxis for the short distance to the bizarre. We walk around for about half an hour and actually decide to walk back to the boat – only about 6 blocks away. It was an interesting experience and a nice walk. This is our last night in Aswan.
  7. Definitely hire a guide. It is a 3 hour drive from Cairo to Alexandria - and the Cairo traffic is a nightmare - so make sure you leave plenty of time to return to the ship. We did the reverse a few weeks ago from Cairo to Alexandria. Started out at 6am. We hired the driver and Egyptologist for roughly $85 for the day including all the entrance fees in Alexandria. We did not have an armed guard with us. We stopped at a rest stop on the way back where there was a baby lion cub we got to pet and have our pictures taken with. :D
  8. We just returned from Egypt - my brother has T-Mobile. He was able to use his phone most of the time when we were on land - a few times it was not great reception though - it was also pretty expensive I believe - about $3 a minute I think. We brought our computer and purchased Magic Jack which worked great when we were in Cairo and had internet service. Hooked it up to the hotel phone and it worked very well - very clear.
  9. I believe that the Luxor to Aswan cruises are 4 night-5 day cruises and the Aswan to Luxor are 3 night-4 day cruises. I think you probably see the same things just at a bit slower pace on the 4 night vs. the 3 night.
  10. So glad you are enjoying the travel log - its actually kinda fun writing it as well - reliving the trip ;) Monday, November 2 We have our first intra-country flight out in the morning at 9am. Wakeup call is 4am, bags out at 4:30. 5am departure from the lobby – a box breakfast will be available to us. We meet our fellow Club ABC tour members in the lobby and board the bus for the airport. As we roll along at this early hour, our guide for the cruise will be Soha. She recommends to us that we pay her $60 a person for tips and gratuities for the next few days. We are not overly keen on this, but everyone else is going with it, so we do too. Next thing we know (we are at the back of the bus) the bus stops and we see her running across the road and she hails a cab (couldn't believe there was even one there at that exact moment) and takes off going the other way ?????? Turns out she left her brief case in the lobby – can you imagine something like that happening here? :eek: She caught up with us at the airport. What total chaos. No one knew what was going on – just that we were all heading to Luxor. We didn’t have tickets – everyone is pushing – wall to wall people. What a mess. We finally make it through the lines and they put us on a flight to Luxor. The flight is totally full. I think with the intra-country flights that they just fill every seat possible, then the flight takes off and they start filling the next plane. They serve us sodas on the flight. By the time they have made the rounds, we are ready to land. We pile out of the plan onto the tarmac and they bus us to the terminal where we collect our luggage. It is put on ABC carts and taken to the bus. We are ready to board our Nile cruise boat. We have had a bit of an altercation with the luggage – everyone has their hands out for tips. We decided that tipping ahead of time in Egypt was not a good idea. Several others came to that same realization during the trip as well. On the way to the boat, we tour the East Bank of Luxor including the temples of Karnak and Luxor. Soha takes us in and explains the hieroglyphics. By about 2:30, the boat is ready for us and we drive the short distance to the dock. We are on the Mirage I. It is the first river boat cruise we have ever done. It is interesting getting to the boat. There are some 360+ Nile River boats. They are all produced with a center lobby that opens from both sides and cabins on either side of the lobby. The boats can be stacked 5 or 6 deep and you walk through the lobby of many boats to get to your boat. Quite ingenious. Our boat is very nice – much better than we had anticipated. Our cabin has a king size bed and looks like a regular cruise cabin. We have a small refrigerator with a small ice cube tray :D for making our own ice. The air conditioning works better than any ship I have ever been on. There is a TV in the room and a window that looks out to the cabin in the next boat (whose drapes are closed – lol). The bathroom is small with a ½ piece of Plexiglas (no shower curtain) to keep the water in the tub. The toilets, I believe, flush directly into the Nile :eek: (it smelled particularly bad in the mornings when we were crossing over from boat to boat). No way were we going to risk washing our toothbrushes with the water from the sink. We bought a bunch of large bottles of water $2 a piece on the boat, and kept them in our small refrigerators in our room. We used them while traveling, at mealtime and to brush our teeth. Strange – there must have been some towel thieves aboard the boat at some time in the past. Whenever we called for an extra towel, they would bring one (if the laundry was done) but they wanted the replacement towel. Lunch was served. At first we were concerned about how we were going to pay for things on the boat, but we soon learned that we could run a tab and pay via credit card at the end. We were actually running out of cash as almost everything we did required cash, no credit cards. There was another group of tourists on our boat – German speaking. They didn’t really mix too much with our group. We were assigned tables and everyone pretty much stayed at the tables that they sat down in the first day, although I do think the assignments were more for the group as a whole rather than the individual seats. Each meal consisted pretty much of the same type of foods. A vegetarian soup in the middle that was usually very good – cream soup during lunch and a clear vegetable soup in the evenings. The buffet was set up in a “U” shape. Bread and cheese were first on the buffet. Then there was an assortment of uncooked vegetable type dishes. The bottom of the “U” was always the hot foods – rice was always first followed by a cooked vegetable dish, then a potato or pasta dish, and lastly several different meat and fish dishes. The other side of the “U” was the desserts. People raved about the fish. Mornings they also made omelets and the lines actually moved pretty quickly. No one starved. Later that afternoon, Soha was taking excursion monies. A balloon ride over the temples at 5am was being offered for $95 a person; they were offering a sound and light show at Karnak temple for $35 and there was also a horse and buggy ride being offered through the market for $35 a person. Foolishly, we decided to do the horse and buggy ride through the market. It was actually close enough that we could have walked, although, I am not sure I would have felt all that safe doing it on my own. We were also supposed to have a home visit with some locals. We opted to take the tour and all Soha did was take the group of us out to the street, flag down several of the buggies and spoke to them in their language – something we could not do. I am quite sure we could have done the same thing for $10 a person or less. It was a very odd trip. There were two people per carriage and we had about 5 carriages. There were several children that came up to the carriage begging for money – the driver swatted at them with the horsewhip and yelled at them to get away. As we were passing the spices all piled up nicely – the indigo was gorgeous – bright blue in a sea of drab and dust. It was very sad seeing the poverty all around us – it was surreal – almost like we were royalty riding among peasants – we were quite uncomfortable with the feeling. :( We stopped in a little park like area where they had a musk ox driven water wheel. My brother was encouraged to get on the wheel for a ride. They had a camel that I think they wanted us to ride – I am sure for a fee. The guides only spoke Egyptian and we only spoke English, so we really couldn’t communicate at all. We all stood around feeling uncomfortable and looking at each other – then we got back in the buggy and were driven back to the boat. Very interesting experience. Soha assured us that they are not as poor as they appear. Most are land owners and therefore rich in their own right. After dinner this evening, everyone was encouraged to go up to the lounge for drinks and dancing. They were having a dance party. We wandered up for a short time, but it was really pretty empty and since we had a 5am wake up call in the morning, we decided to go to bed. Helpful Hint – If you like ice (I love it), you may want to consider bringing your own small ice cube trays with you. Some refrigerators in the room were colder than others though. Ours didn’t freeze too well, but Marcy’s froze even her bottles of water! - to be continued
  11. Saturday, November 1 Rany now informs us that we will leave at 6am tomorrow (instead of 7am) for Alexandria. Again, we argue to no avail. It is a 12 hour day ahead of us – cost is LE 330 per person. Wake up call is 5:15am. We are able to grab a quick breakfast – which technically doesn’t open until 6am. It is a 3-hour drive up to Alexandria via highway. We make one stop along the way before arriving at the gates to Alexandria. First we see the catacombs – interesting, they never actually held bodies in these catacombs! Next stop is the pillar. From here, we head to the Fort of Qait Bay where you can view the original site of the Lighthouse. We find it interesting that all the children are overly friendly – not really sure why, but it is really nice. They all stare at us, smile at us, want to talk to us, ask for our names – maybe enjoy practicing their English?? At one point Rany thinks he is rescuing Marcy, who is surrounded by children, playing some sort of game with them. We found this all over with the children, but particularly in Alexandria. From here we are supposed to go to the Library, but Rany says we have to decide between the Library and El Montazah Gardens and the Palace. :mad: We opt not to do the library – a bad decision from what we understand and honestly, we would have had plenty of time to do both. We thought we would be able to see the inside of the palace, but it was closed for renovations (apparently for some time). We walked around the gardens for a short time and then decided to have a drink in a local hotel (used to be part of the palace). We tried to enter the bar and were politely steered away from it (apparently women were not allowed in the bar). We opted to have our drinks outside by the sea, which turned out to be very nice. Afterwards, we were informed that there was a per person minimum – so my husband was happy to order an ice cream and we ordered a few extra sodas to go. It was about 2:30 and we were ready for the return trip to Cairo. We were switching hotels (all of our luggage was in the van with us) and catching up with our Club ABC group, who had arrived in Cairo this morning. Helpful Hint – Most of the toilets in Egypt have an attendant that doles out small squares of toilet tissue when you enter a restroom (you can ask for more – lol). You are expected to tip them LE $1. At the beginning, we were paying USD $1. Exchange some of your money for some single Egyptian pounds. Men are not handed the toilet paper but are still expected to pay – sometimes they are offered the toilet paper afterwards to dry their hands. On the way back, we make a brief rest stop and as we are running to the bathrooms (after all the sodas at the palace) we pass a young lion sitting on one of the picnic tables outside. OMG :D He is surrounded by several families – we will see him on our way out. But he is gone. We search around and find there is an entire “petting zoo” next to the rest stop. We feed the llamas and deer and view the flamingos and various other animals around – but no lion. Flies are everywhere – yuck. We are just about to give up, and the guy with the lion cub is back. For $8 he will take our picture with the lion. I give him $5 and we use our own camera and get to pet him. He is four months old – and apparently, this is a fairly common sight to have the petting zoos and the lions at the rest stops – after all, it is Africa. They told us that the cub was born in the circus and that for a year, he was required to take the lion out in public to get him used to people. Shortly after petting the lion, I discovered that my cat allergies extend to lions as well! :eek: Back in Cairo – we finally wind our way to the Ramses Hilton. This lobby is packed with people and the noise level is unbelievable – sheiks coming and going; it is really quite interesting. I had called Club ABC prior to leaving to confirm that we would be arriving later on Saturday evening. No problem. Unfortunately, no one at the Ramses Hilton knew we were coming. None of the three of us had rooms. We finally manage to get some rooms but ABC has left no message. The manager gets the host on the phone. The group has actually been to the museum today for an extra fee. Tomorrow is the Pyramids. We are opting to do the pyramids is the morning with Rany and will do Coptic Cairo in the afternoon. Starving, we head down to the Sherlock Holmes Pub in the hotel for drinks and dinner. They have happy hour each day from 6-7 with buy one get one free drinks, including sodas. They have nice salty peanuts and pita chips and carrots and cucumbers with sesame dip all served as complementary appetizers with our drinks. We had dinner here and drank the drinks with ice cubes and headed to bed. I ordered a big bucket of ice for our room so we could brush our teeth with it after some melted. I think we were all asleep before our heads hit the nice soft pillows on the nice soft bed. It is nice to have an American hotel chain in a foreign country. :) Sunday is our first morning we can actually sleep until 8. Rany picks us up at 9 after a nice breakfast at the hotel. We head out to the Giza pyramids first. We opt not to do the Big pyramid (only 100 tickets are sold each day for the big pyramid and you need to be there at 8am) but go into the second pyramid instead – we are told they are both the same inside. When we arrive, we purchase our tickets for inside the pyramid and our driver than drives us up to the second pyramid, which is actually less crowded than the big one – so they say. We get our first taste of haggling prices here – tons of vendors selling their souvenirs as we walk up to the pyramid. We are used to this – have done this many places – Mexico, Jamaica, Turkey, etc. It is fun and we purchase some small things. Now we head into the pyramid. It is crowded, it is hot – again we wonder who could do this when it is 110-115 degrees out in July and August. Everyone winds their way up and down through the narrow corridors when there is really nothing to see. Outside is by far the most impressive. Back outside, it is time for the camel ride. We tell Rany that we want four of us on the camels at the same time so we can get our picture (my husband is not about to get on a camel) taken by my husband and we are not really interested in a camel “ride” as such. Ok – a price of LE 80 has been negotiated. I get up on the camel – wow – it is high up there. Marcy gets up on her camel and the guy is walking us around. Jim & Michelle are going to have to wait till we come back. Noooo – I am now yelling at the camel’s owner (how dare a woman yell at a man). Rany is insisting that that is the way it has to be and Marcy is yelling at Rany that we aren’t paying unless we are all four up at the same time. The owner is screaming that this is very bad business :mad: – we agree. Finally when he realizes that he will not get paid unless we are all up at the same time, he borrows two camels from someone else and we get our pictures. What a fiasco. Down from the camels – yikes do our hands smell awful. Don’t think it was the camel itself but the saddle – yucka! Now it is time for the sphinx. Hoards of people entering the enclosure from all different angles – what a mess. They really need to come up with some organization. Inside it is truly magnificent seeing the monument with the pyramids in the background. So impressive! So the rest of our day is now going to concentrate on touring Cairo. I am terribly disappointed to learn that although promised ahead of time, we will not be able to tour the City of the Dead. In emails, Rany said that he would take us in there by taxi – in fact he had a friend that lived in there. Now he tells us that the government has really cracked down and he was actually fined for taking a group of tourists in. He will take us to a look out where we can briefly stop and get some quick pictures. I still do not know if this is true or not. He said that some tourists were hurt after Ramadan and that is why the government cracked down so hard. Interesting, our other tour guide had a very different story about the City of the Dead. We start our tour at the church of St. Sergius and then move on to the Hanging Church and the Synagogue of Ben Ezra. From there we head over to the Alabaster Mosque of Mohammed Ali – patterned after the Blue Mosque in Turkey (which we had seen several years ago). Several times over the course of the day we heard the loud speakers that have been positioned all over the country calling out their eerie chanting calling all to prayer. According to Rany, followers have some 3 hours or so to pray after this. The chants are heard five times a day. Our final stop of the day is the Khan el Khalili market. We truly were not prepared for the fervor that these merchants use to sell their wares. Several became so aggressive; it was almost frightening to the point I had to ask two of them to let go of my arm. It is not a place I would suggest people go alone. If you show even mild interest in an item, you will be accosted. I did purchase a tri-color decorative plate – they originally wanted $475 for it, I finally walked away and was dragged back with promises of buying it for $10 (my original offer price). That is a big ploy that they use – they will sell it to you for very cheap – like $1. But when you show interest, the price goes up and the bartering continues for a long time – usually until you are too weary to barter any longer or decide you will pay their price or decide you no longer want it – lol. It can be exhausting. My brother liked a different plate - $875 – we both got our plates for $30. We did find a jewelry shop that we purchased cartoushes in- they weighed the item and it was a flat price – no haggling. We ended up there again after our Nile cruise – felt the prices were reasonable. - to be continued
  12. What a wonderful trip :D – one that has been on my “bucket list” for many years! I will go into a lot of detail to help others looking at doing this fascinating trip. I will separate out by days to make for easier reading and please feel free to ask any questions. Loved our trip - love sharing the memories and experience. We chose Club ABC. It came highly recommended and after driving ourselves crazy with all the different tour groups and options – we finally decided that we really needed to do Abu Simbel and this was one of the few tours that included Abu Simbel into their tour – not as an additional side tour. There are five of us traveling. We paid $30 a couple to join Club ABC and have paid $50 a person deviation fee. The tour leaves Friday, October 31st. We are flying out on Wednesday, October 29th – two days ahead of time so we can spend a day touring Memphis and Sakkara and a day in Alexandria. I have hired a tour guide and driver for three days to take us around the sites we want to see. I was disappointed with Club ABC from the beginning. I tried, in vain, to get information on optional tours and excursions and was totally unsuccessful. They had a basic itinerary that didn’t include any times or specifics. Had I known what I know now, we could have done everything with only one extra day. Helpful Hint - Trying to pack everything into one suitcase was a nightmare – and to keep it at 50 lbs. or less – yikes. By the time we were done, I know I was over, but figured I would take my chances. As it turned out – there was nothing to be worried about. I put my suitcase on the scale and it weighed in at 13 lbs. – geeze. I sweated it out on each flight and realized at the end of the trip that it was really totally a non factor as far as they were concerned – thank goodness because on each flight the suitcases got heavier with souvenirs. Bottom line – it was our experience that Egypt Air had no enforced rules on suitcase weight. :cool: Wednesday, October 29-Thursday, October 30 So we leave on Egypt Air from JFK at 6:30pm – direct to Cairo. Maybe because we went mid week, the plane is not full and we actually have a fair amount of room to stretch out. Makes the flight much nicer. About 10-1/2 hours later (3 movies and 2 meals), we arrive in Cairo. I have hired our guide to pick us up at the airport, get us through customs and take us to our hotel. We pay USD $15 each for our visas right at the airport – fast and easy. We gather our luggage and we are off to battle the streets of Cairo – no easy task! Cairo is by far the craziest city of drivers I have ever seen. NYC cab drivers look like amateurs compared to Cairo drivers. The lines on the road are just suggestions – what should be three lane roads become 5 lanes – yikes – best not to look! I think we saw one actual street light in Cairo – and again, it just appeared to be a suggestion as there was so much traffic in the center of the intersection, it didn’t matter what color the light was – lol. No wonder we needed a separate guide and driver. Our guide says he could never drive in Cairo – I believe him. Everyone honks – even if there is nothing to honk at. Additionally, Cairo streets are loaded with speed bumps to impede the traffic flow even further. Once we get out of the Cairo traffic, there are brief instances when our van gets up to a reasonable cruising speed, and then we learn that the van has no suspension in the back – a small bump in the road sends the two people in the back up so that our heads almost hit the ceiling and when we arrive back down on the seats – major impact on the spine – ughh. Guess it is good we can’t go too fast most of the time. We arrive at our hotel – the Moevenpick – the third closest hotel from the Giza pyramids. It was clean, bungalow type motel layout, spacious rooms with an attached porch with a picnic table. The air conditioning was great and the beds were hard as rock (literally) – not really sure what they were made of, but actually, they were surprisingly comfortable – or maybe we were just so tired, it didn’t matter. Anyway – it was definitely an upscale hotel with a pool, several restaurants and bars, and the price was right – unfortunately, we could not really see the pyramids from the hotel. We checked in and lay down for a couple of hours. Our guide, Rany (pronounced Ronnie) was picking us up at 6:30 for the 7:30 Sound and Light Show at the Pyramids. We all met up at 5:30 for a quick dinner (and maybe a drink) before the show. We opted for the upstairs rooftop bar. I suppose that the pyramids were probably visible from up there, but because of the night and smog the evening we were there, you couldn’t see them anyway. We watched the horrendous traffic below heading in the direction of the pyramids and ordered a drink and some dinner. The limited liquor menu made for difficult decisions on drinks but they assured us that the ice was made with bottled water and we could drink it. The food took VERY long to come and we finally ran out of time. The chicken was boxed up to go and we got down to the lobby about 10 minutes late for our meeting with Rany – he was not too happy with us – this was the first time, but not the last time over the course of the next three days. We battled the traffic to the pyramids (only a couple of miles away, but took about 45 minutes) and made it in plenty of time for the show. Totally awesome seeing the pyramids and the sphinx up close at night – everything was lit up beautifully. It was far less hokey than the sound and light show that we saw at the Parthenon many years ago and the perfect beginning to our trip. :D We enjoyed the show – were totally exhausted and headed back to our hotel. Rany informed us we needed to be ready to go by 8am. We argued with him – please lets make it 9 like was originally contracted – but he was firm. Helpful Hint - Wear warm clothing and bring a jacket to the show. It started out as a pleasant evening, but as the show progressed, it got colder and colder. I would guesstimate that it dropped into the low 50s or even high 40s by the time the show ended. I honestly don’t remember where I got Rany’s name from – think it might have been trip advisor. In doing our research, we found 5 guides that were mentioned several times and I sent emails to all telling them that there were 5 of us touring, giving them basic guidelines of what we wanted to see and do and asking them for their specific itineraries and pricing. All came back with similar itineraries for the day – some with more time – prices varied a lot. The most expensive was a British woman – she was quoting in Euros and was about three times the price as the least expensive. Some quoted with Egyptian pounds, some with American dollars. Some quoted with lunch included, some quoted without the entrance fees. It was hard to compare. I finally ended up going with Rany because he seemed to have the most extensive tours, his English seemed good from his emails and his pricing seemed reasonable – including all entrance fees but not including lunch (we would rather do lunches on our own). Rany is a 28-year-old tour guide that majored in Egyptology. He promised a fully air conditioned van to hold all 7 of us (including the driver and Rany) comfortably. He sent me a daily itinerary of what we would be doing and said we could deviate – nothing was set in stone. We went back and forth on whether we should split the tour guides – give a different day to each. In the end, we decided it would be good to have the same guide throughout. I am not sure that I would make that same decision again. In some ways Rany was good – in other ways, we were quite disappointed. We didn’t want to be dragged into perfume, carpet, papyrus, etc presentations – too many kickbacks. I think there are a lot of kickbacks going on anyway. Rany paid for all of our entrance fees – I believe he paid considerably less than the face value of the tickets. On the other hand, security and police were always around asking for handouts – Rany greased many palms. We got to see most of the things on our list – but time ran out several times and a 7 hour day was not really a 7 hour day because 3-4 hours are spent in traffic. Rany gave us his version of things, which later in the week we found there were other versions. His English was ok – we heard better and worse. Friday, October 31 Wake up call was at 6:45, breakfast at 7:15 so we could meet Rany in the lobby at 8am. We were off to see Memphis, Sakkara & Giza today. Breakfast was included in the price of the hotel. Hibiscus juice and orange juice were on the menu – both seemed very watered down but we all tasted them. Wary of mummy tummy throughout the vacation – I can say we risked more and more as the vacation progressed, but all in all, we were very lucky and none of us ended up sick at all. Lot of food for breakfast – no bacon obviously, but they did have chicken sausages, made to order omelets (odd cheeses which were very salty) and various other breakfast treats including many breads and pastries. We were now ready for our 7 hour day at the pyramids. Including all entrance fees, our day is priced at 305 Egyptian Pounds per person, about $55 a person Helpful Hint – Bring a lot of single dollars. I had brought about $100 singles and numerous $5s – they came in handy many places with purchasing bottles of water and sodas. They love the dollar. The exchange rate was about 5.5 while we were there. If you pay in American dollars, they divide everything by 5 – not giving the benefit of the actual exchange. At the end of our touring with Rany, we opted to exchange USD for LE and pay the less expensive Egyptian Pounds. It is a ways to Memphis. It is fascinating watching the scenery as we go – many carts pulled by donkeys, many people in their galapias, roadside stands, farmers in the fields. It almost seems like we have traveled backwards in time. An hour or so later, we arrive at the Red pyramid. We are the only tourists here – there are several security guards around. We look up at this pyramid and they have a rather steep stairway up to the opening – part of it has a railing. Four of his decide to venture up. When we arrive at the top, Marcy (who is terrified of heights) decides she cannot go into the pyramid – she needs to go back down NOW. :eek: I volunteer to take her back down. Jim & Michelle enter the pyramid and discover why they call it the red pyramid – the inside is very red. They crawl down through a very small narrow opening to the inside where there is a small chamber – and then they crawl out again. There are no writings on the walls – I gather it was rather anti-climatic, although I am sorry I did not go in. From here, we head to Memphis where we see the open air museum that dates back to 3200 BC- We see the alabaster sphinx and the huge state of Pharoah Ramses II along with many other artifacts that have been excavated in the area. Then it is off to Sakkara and Dossier’s step pyramid. After a short movie, we go out to the impressive mortuary complex from 2500 BC – the oldest structure of mankind. It is now very hot in the sun – surprisingly, entering the shade you feel soooo much cooler. :cool: I can’t even imagine doing this trip in July or August! I would like to ride one of the camels, but Rani suggests that it is much better to do in Giza – the camels are nicer. Too hot to argue – in retrospect, I think it was another kickback thing. Helpful Hint - One thing that would have been really nice to have would have been a chronological time line so that we could see where in time we were – we bounced around over 5000+ years of history and 12 (I think) dynasties. It got confusing. It is now about 3pm – technically our touring day (7 hours) is over and we haven’t even done Giza. Still not sure if we were slow (very doubtful) or there just isn’t enough time to do all that we did. We have two options now – we can do Giza with our Club ABC travelers or we can hire Rany on Sunday for a full day instead of the ½ day we now have with him. We opt for the full day on Sunday. Rany now suggests that maybe we would be interested in a Nile dinner cruise this evening. $45 a person – sounds reasonable – including his transportation to and from our hotel. We rest for about an hour at the hotel, and then Rany comes and picks us up and we travel through the streets of Cairo to the dinner cruise. We walk into the boat and are the first to arrive. There are three sailings for the evening – 6, 8 and 10. The 8 was sold out so we did the 6pm. It is now about 5:15 and we are the only people in the place. We order drinks (they assure us again that they are made with bottled water, as is the ice). I had several glasses of ice with no problem. There is a salad buffet – I actually did have the salad – worried all night then if I would be sick – but was fine. Slowly, families and guests are arriving. We are very uncomfortable – we are the only women without our heads covered. We finally determine that this seems to be more of a local type of entertainment. The musician and his two lovely young singers/dancers (whose heads are not covered) are singing American songs in English. They play till we set sail and until dinner has been served. We have our choice of various entrees, most of which were very good. Then next up is the Whirling Dervish. WOW – this was one of the highlights of our trip. A tall young man (probably in his 20s) comes up to the dance floor. All dressed in skirts, he starts to spin. And spin. And spin. I believe he twirled for about ½ an hour without stopping. We sat mesmerized. He was fantastic. Over the course of the week, we saw several other Whirling Dervishes – but our first experience was definitely the best. At the end, he took off his final skirt and went from table to table so people could take pictures with him. An excellent show! Last up was Rhonda Kamel – the belly dancer. Also excellent – we are now sailing by the World Trade Center (rather a shock but erected in 1996 we were told) and back into the boat dock. Rani was there to take us back to our hotel. It was definitely a well worthwhile evening. Highly recommended. - To be continued -
  13. Seafun - thanks so much for your fabulous review! I am truly enjoying every minute of it.
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