Going to Egypt - Any advice?

Well I’ll be spending the rest of the year in Egypt, because nothing says Christmas like pyramids! (Will they mind, do you think, if I hang a wreath around the Sphinx’s neck?)

Anyway, I’ve never been to Egypt before, and aside from the obvious things like the Pyramids and the Sphinx, etc., I have no idea what might be interesting to do there.

Has anyone been? Any advice? Things I absolutely must see, or things I should avoid at all costs? Any input is welcome!

Cairo, Egypt, by the way. Forgot to mention that.

We went to Cairo and another city (Luxor…or is that a temple?) and now I can’t fully separate what there was to see at which except the pyramids–which are of course at Cairo.

So, I will simply list off everything I remember doing since I can’t remember where things were.

The Pyamids (Cairo):
Way cool. We rode a camel there which was cool in the sense of “Hey, I’m riding a camel!” but in truth the beasts are cranky buggers so you might want to mentally prepare yourself for that.
Then, coming back towards town from the pyramids, we saw the dude renting horses. Now the camels may have been fun for the sake of novelty, but galloping through the dunes on horseback kicked ass. Obviously, if you’ve never ridden a horse, this may not be recommended as falling off a galloping horse is probably not all that difficult–and if you’re just going to pace, you just rode a camel.

The waterpark:
At some point I went to a full scale waterworld-type place. Big slides, wave pool, etc. You seem to be heading there by yourself (since you don’t mention anyone else), but you might want to check this place out anyway.

The Valley of the Kings:
I was underwhelmed. This was supposed to be the Big Thing, with all the graves of all the kings. But at least when I was there, you could only go into one or two of them and the insides had been gutted of everything (either by robbers, or simply carted off to the museum) leaving only hyroglypholicized walls. These are cool of course, but as I recall it, it was a fairly good drive out there. So doing it just to see the wallpaper was fairly meh.

The Cairo (?) Museum:
I assume it was cool. But in fact the only memory I have is of one of the guards calling my family over and telling us about how Tutankhamen (sic?) was not on display to the public…cough cough, wink wink “So he’s off limits, eh?” “Oh yes, no one is allowed to see him” cough cough, wink wink, squeezes thumb and forefingers in the gimme-money symbol So we hand over a $10 or something, he takes us over to a long glass box sitting pretty much right there in the room with us, and lifts the cloth to show some random mummy that may or may not be Tutankhamen. “Shhhhhhh” :smiley:

The Temple of Karnak:
My personal favorite. Big, impressive, lots of hyroglyphs and ominous figures. Was with a babe too (whom I never met again as her family returned to India and ours flew back to the US. :frowning: )

I’ll ask my parents if they have any better memory and post again, assuming I remember.

Oh yeah, and we picked up the word baksheesh fairly immediately. Baksheesh seems to be a word that means something more than a tip but slightly less than a bribe. A guy blocks the road with his goats, you go over and give him some baksheesh and the road clears. Police stop the bus, you hand over some baksheesh and on you go. So if things seem to be impeded at any point, keep your ears pricked for this word to come up as a signal for what you need to do.

Aw man, I wish I knew how to ride a horse, cause that sounds killer.

My husband works in Egypt, but he works a lot and we’re not sure he’ll be able to get any actual days off while I’m there, so I’ll probably be left to my own devices during the day (along with the guy who will be driving me around - hopefully he’ll alert me to any baksheesh situations :wink: )

But camel ride to the Pyramids sounds amazing, even if I will likely have to forego the horse ride. Damn, cause that sounds amazing.

The Egypt Museum is in fact quite cool. Dark and gloomy, very Indiana Jones. Not like an American Museum at all. The artifacts are freakin’ huge and sit there with no commentary on little cards. And, you can touch them!

I suppose you should not, but what harm can you do to a granite thingee weighing a couple of dozen tons? Really neat.

Don’t forget to visit the Citadel. Great way to get above the city and see it all.

We did the horse and camel rides on separate days. And you don’t have to really know how to ride a horse in order to, well, ride a horse. I don’t really know how, but I did it anyhow. You sit in the saddle, and the horse does the rest. Definitely worth it.

Go to the Street of the Tentmakers (near Bab Zuweil, I think). You can buy tents there, but they also sell these sort of tapestries with intricate oriental designs on them–I have one haning on the wall of my office.

I guess you should swing by Khan El Khalili (the souk), even though it is kind of touristy and crappy.

been a number of years since my trip (with a group) to Egypt, but here are some rememberances:

  1. yeah, baksheesh. everyone, from kids (especially kids) to shopowners will happily beg. don’t take out your wallet on the street unless you are prepared to probably have a group of kids come swarming around with their hands out. and if you try to pass out treats (pencils, candy, whatever) to the local urchins, do so with the expectation that some will be trying to grab stuff right out of your hands, instead of allowing you to give to individuals in the group.

  2. bargain, bargain, BARGAIN! don’t be afraid to haggle for just about anything. it’s been about 15 years ago, but i generally paid anywhere from 50 to 25% of the original asking price for most things i bought. the more willing you are to walk away without buying, the farther the price drops.

  3. there are plenty of scammers out there. watch out for the helpful, self-appointed “guides”. and regarding those horse-rides around the Pyramids – there was one guy who offered horse rides, although it turned to be him leading the horse around while i sat in a dreadful saddle. (i could probably have ridden rings around him.) halfway around, he stopped and tried to con me into additional money. i told him no dice, and he dropped it when he saw i wasn’t about to change my mind. just remember, it’s a poor country, and tourists are seen as everyone’s natural bread-and-butter.

  4. skip the Sound and Light show at the Pyramids and Sphinx at night. what a snoozefest.

  5. King Tut’s mummy is kept in King Tut’s Tomb, in the Valley of the Kings. it’s much too fragile to move around much, and the environment in the Tombs is better for it than in museums. Sage Rat got rooked, but the Cairo Museum is still very interesting. i think they also have the majority of funerary objects from Tut’s tomb there.

Just wanted to thank you guys for your input. I am back from Egypt, and did a lot of cool things.

Of course, I saw the Pyramids. I did go to the Sound and Light show, but ended up having to leave because, oddly, it gave me some serious motion-sickness-like discomfort. Was very odd, and was, as warned, pretty much a snoozefest anyway. So on Christmas Day we headed back out, and got a couple of horses to ride on. That was amazing. I have to admit, I was fairly nervous at first - especially when we were riding down the street towards some back alley entrance. I just had visions of being thrown from the horse onto broken pavement. It didn’t help that the horse kept doing a weird thing with its hind leg that made it sound an awful lot like it was backfiring. But the experience was unbeatable, and the Pyramids were truly impressive.

I also went to the Citadel, and the view of Cairo from there is absolutely stunning. I took some pictures, and I posted this one in another thread: http://www.flickr.com/photos/26524276@N00/83807414/in/set-1790031/ However, aside from the view, I found it a little underwhelming, but the view made it completely worthwhile in my book.

While we were at the Pyramids, I noticed some other pyramids way off in the distance. I asked my driver where they were, so one day he took me to Sakarra (sp?) to see them. They were also rather impressive, and the drive there was considerably more scenic than the other parts of Cairo that I’d seen.

Also, just a few hundred meters from where I was staying was an amusement park called Magicland. My last full day there, my husband and I went, and it was great. They had a fun dolphin and seal show, and the park was very nearly empty, which meant we had most of the rides to ourselves. We rode a rather dodgy looking rollercoaster, did 10 laps around the go cart track and had a bout of bumper cars. It was like being a teenager again :wink: Incidentally, SageRat, I did notice one waterpark which was along side a shopping mall type thing, but of course, being winter, it was a little bit too cold to even check it out. Would have been fun though.
The baksheesh warnings did definitely come in handy. When I went to the pyramids at Sakarra, I bought my ticket and walked in the “entrance”. There was a man standing there who asked to see my ticket so I showed it to him. The next thing I knew, he was pointing out various objects of interest to me, and I realized I’d inadvertently gotten myself a tour guide. But I was fine with that, so I let him lead me around the place. Then someone asked me if I wanted to take a picture of his camel (hmm) which I did, and then he offered to let me sit on his camel. Next thing I knew, the camel was taking me on a little ride to the next interesting thing. Of course, by that time, I knew I’d been trapped again, and on disembarking and paying a little baksheesh to him, I told my “guide” that I didn’t have any more baksheesh, and that the more I paid out, the less he would get. That seemed to work, and he steered me clear of those clearly looking to pad their pockets.

Until we came around a corner, that is, and there was a man on a horse. He wished me a Happy New Year, and when I reciprocated, he gave me a long face and told me it had not been a very good day for him. I gamely asked him why, and he said that no one had ridden his horses all day. I politely told him I didn’t have any money, to which he looked indignant and said he didn’t want my money. It was New Year’s and I was a guest in his country, and he would be very happy to give the pretty lady a ride. Oy. I judged the distance I would have to walk on foot, and whether or not I was prepared to pay some extra money for the comfort of riding a horse. Finally, after insisting once more that I didn’t have any money, and him insisting that it didn’t matter, I climbed on and took a pleasant ride. About 3/4 of the way through, he stopped, and mentioned nonchalantly that he didn’t have any money for food for his horse. But, I had been expecting that, and gave him a few bucks for his poor starving horse, and left.

One thing you guys didn’t warn me about was Egyptian traffic. Good grief. To say that they drive on the right side of the road is misleading, as it implies that they drive on any side of the road at all. Lanes weren’t guidelines - they weren’t even suggestions. Apparently, they’re just pretty markings on the pavement. The first few days I could barely stand to look out the windows, but eventually, I got accustomed to it. I must say, having one driver for the entire trip did a lot to alleviate my stress, as towards the end of the trip, we’d be in some hairy traffic situations, and I’d just shrug and think “Ahmed will handle it.” But you haven’t lived until you’ve crested a hill on the wrong side of the road at 120 kilometers/hour.

All in all, it was a good trip. I got totally devoured by mosquitos, the villa that we stayed in was a rather big disappointment, and Egypt frankly isn’t all that pretty a place to look at. But I got an amazing sense of the culture, and I will say that in general, Egyptians seem to be a very charming, hospitable people. Oh, and I really like the fact that they name all their tourist trap stores “Institutes”. There’s papyrus institutes where you can learn how papyrus is made (and buy a life size painting of King Tut!) or learn how rugs are made (and buy a silk one for $2000!) etc., but I’m pretty impervious to the hard sell, so I did okay. And man, there were some hard sells. By refusing to buy a rug, one vendor dropped his price from $750 US to about $300 US, and I still walked away (though it was a beautiful rug!)

Bumping because we’re hoping to go this fall…

My suggestion: admit it to yourself that you’re really there amidst all that majesty. Otherwise, you’ll be in de-Nile. :smiley:

On the baksheesh front, get small bills when you change money. Who thinks to buy singles at the bank, right? But you don’t want to be trying to get out of the restroom with nothing to give the attendant but a 50.

In my experience, Cairenes have no concept at all of “wait your turn.” If you’re going on the Metro, plan to mob up at the ticket window like everyone else and fight for the attention of the person behind the glass.

Previous comments on a similar thread

Don’t wear white high top sneakers. Or white sneakers at all. Fanny packs, baseball hats, and shirts from your favorite sports team or previous tourist destination are right out. Think over shorts. Grown ups in the rest of the world don’t wear shorts, but it may be hot like an oven and you won’t care. September it’s still pretty warm in the day, but October and November it gets more tolerable temperature levels. I’m a fan of cargo pants, but they’re another signifier. Be prepared to dress a little nicer than jean shorts and your favorite t-shirt, as local dress customs are more conservative. Obviously people are going to know you’re not from the area, but there are ways to avoid putting a giant target sign on your back. Have fun!

I’d be happy to provide some other pointers if you contact me directly and let me know what your interests are. My wife is Egyptian and I’ve been there about six times. I’ve been to Cairo, Hurghada, Sharm El-Sheikh, Ayn El-Sokna, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel. The only significant destination I would still like to visit is Alexandria.

This is somewhat a matter of personal preference. Yes, local customs are conservative, but the locals are generally unconcerned about whether tourists conform to their norms. (I live near DC and when I drive to work in my suit I look out and see the tourists in shorts and cameras on their necks, and just think, “Tourists.”) The only place where you do have to be conscious of this is in a mosque, where nobody should wear shorts and women must cover their heads.

Women should, however, avoid anything truly provocative. I saw a woman at the Pyramids once with a tour group (European, I think) wearing all white, painted-on short shorts and a short-cropped cleavage-revealing top with her bejeweled navel showing. After I wiped the drool off my chin I was thoroughly disgusted. :wink: But seriously, she would have gotten some very unwanted attention in the city.

I will add that a souvenir hawker at one of the temples took a look at my 13-year-old daughter and said, “Nice body, Shahira!” She might have been wearing shorts and a T-shirt. My wife had a few choice words in Arabic for him.

Those souvenir guys can be irritatingly persistent. It’s best to not even acknowledge them. Once they see eye contact it’s like blood in the water for sharks. One guy was dogging me down the sidewalk waving a shirt at me as I stared straight ahead, and then he said, “Hey! I know you! I went to school with you!” I had to bust out laughing and I chatted with him for a minute but I still didn’t buy anything.