The Great Pyramid of Giza. The Nile. A chance to kiss the Sphinx. Bibliotheca Alexandrina. Desert lands opening up to the breathtakingly blue-green Red Sea. Some hilariously charming men. KING TUTAMKHAMUN'S MUMMY. Fateer. Koshary. Calories. Scuba diving. The Temple of Khnum. The Valley of the Kings and Queens. Should I go on...?
PS: Did I mention, a chance to climb INSIDE the Great Pyramid??
Planning / research stage
Egypt has a ton of historical sites and I left out some major attractions (like Aswan and Abu Simbel), and some that caught my fancy along the way (like Wadi El-Rayan, Faiyum Oasis and Marsa Matruh) due to time and cost constraints. Aswan and Abu Simbel are further south on the Nile and would require an additional 2-2.5 days from an itinerary - so that's been bookmarked for my next trip to the Land of the Pharaohs!
The Mediterranean Sea lies to the north while the Red Sea is on the east coast. I was very keen to dip my toes in both (such a long bucket list, so little time!), and so the final itinerary read Cairo - Alexandria - Luxor - Hurghada.
Budget: The trip cost just over INR 70,000 per person (USD 1,000) for 9 days, including airfare (INR 29,000), internal flights (INR 8,000) and visa fees (INR 2,900).
Currency: Egypt devalued its pound by 48% in November 2016, making our holiday extremely cost effective. The good news (for us) - the EGP hasn't picked up, with the current exchange rate at around INR 3.91 to EGP 1. Converting USD/Euros at Cairo Airport or in the city is the most convenient option - the exchange rate offered for EGP in India was definitely a rip-off.
Economies of scale and demographics
4 of us travelled from Mumbai to meet our friend studying in Cairo. Sightseeing in Cairo majorly involved the 5 of us, making Uber economical. Some of her friends joined us along the way, making us a jolly gang of 10 in Luxor and Hurghada. The weaker sex outnumbered the strapping men, but at no point during the trip did we feel unsafe in Egypt!
All of us were under 30 and RELATIVELY fit (read: BEFORE numerous fateers and shish taouks). We had several early mornings (tours or flights) and that caught up with us eventually - we had to cancel the hot air balloon ride over Luxor on Day 6! Space out the travel and activities a bit more if you're travelling with families / kids / grumpy risers...aka meeee!
Day 1: Getting to Cairo
People watching, free Wi-Fi and our first beef burgers of the trip (DQ Grill & Chill) got us through our stopover at Muscat Airport, and we were greeted by Serqet, the Goddess of Protection, when we landed at Cairo International Airport.
A moment later however, we were surrounded by "enthusiastic" representatives of various taxi companies. Get an estimate of the cost to your accommodation if possible, and HAGGLE! We managed to get a taxi for EGP 120, instead of the EGP 220 quoted at the start.
After relaxing at the hotel for a bit, we headed over to Zamalek - a quiet neighbourhood on Gezira Island. Dinner at Taboula, a cosy Lebanese restaurant was followed by a stroll around Zamalek where we caught our first glimpse of the Nile by night.