Egypt!

This series of posts have taken me a long time to start writing – not because I didn’t want too, but because I have so much to share about my trip to Egypt. The good, the bad, and everything in between. In fact, I’m still not sure where to begin so instead of just offering a chronological travelogue of my trip lets start with a summary and go from their. By the way, you may want to review my earlier posts on trip preparation if you haven’t already (Trip Prep: Egypt parts one and part two).

The Good

Abu Simbel
  • The historical sites – you want old structures? Egypt has some of, if not THE, oldest in the world.
  • The people – on the whole everyone we encountered was friendly and enjoyed meeting Americans.
  • The Nile – cruising on the Nile and watching life along the banks was a highlight of my life for sure.
  • The culture – it was fascinating to see how people lived. So similar, yet so different.
  • Road Scholar – the trip was well organized and we had no major issues.
  • Our guide – knowledgeable and friendly.

The Bad

Me at the Sphinx
  • The vendors – I was warned about how aggressive vendors could be but nothing really prepared me for the onslaught everywhere we went.
  • Traffic in Cairo – I will never complain about driving in the USA or Canada again. I’ve driven in some of the worst traffic North America has and it doesn’t hold a candle to Cairo. Sorry LA and NY but as long as your drivers at least nominally pay attention to the stripes on the road Cairo is worse!
  • The food – too many places we stayed tried, and I emphasize tried, to replicate North American food. I think it would have been better if they just made what they were used to and stay away from the “chicken Kentucky” and the oddly bright pink lunchmeat. Plus, there is a world of sausage that they are missing out on. I get that you aren’t really going to find pork in a nation which is 90% or more Islamic, but there’s turkey, chicken, and all sorts of delicious alternatives. Mini-all beef hotdogs really aren’t “breakfast links.”
  • COVID – this is sort of a gimme I suppose. But travel with COVID is a little more difficult. Especially by air. However, I followed all precautions and came home without getting sick.

Favorites

The crowds and columns at Karnak.

Here, in no particular order, are the favorite things I did:

  • Rode a camel at the Giza Pyramids.  Cliché and touristy but still an experience I enjoyed. Did you know that they stand with their hind legs first? Be sure to hang on!
  • Went inside two pyramids – and lived to tell the tale. The first was very hot and stuffy and the lights didn’t work. It turned into a real “Indiana Jones” type adventure.
  • Cruising the Nile (see above).
  • Abu Simbel – I have wanted to see this since I was a kid. I literally wept when I first lay eyes on this both ancient and modern marvel.
  • Discovering sites that I didn’t even know existed.
  • Karnak – simply amazing.
  • Discovering that graffiti is as old as tourism. And that it was a popular thing to date your signature when you defaced an ancient temple.

Over Hyped

The Great Pyramid of Giza. The only wonder of the ancient world still standing!
  • The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx – Vendors nearly ruined this for me with their aggressive sales tactics. I’m trying to enjoy and take in the majesty of the site and they want to sell me trinkets. My feelings on this are complicated because I know that most Egyptians are relatively poor compared to the average North American and everyone has to make a living. But still…
  • King Tut’s Tomb – everything in it, except Tutankhamun himself, has been removed to museums. The tomb itself is unremarkable as far as royal tombs go.

Biggest Concerns

  • Finding a clean toilet when I needed one – to be fair this is one of my biggest concerns anywhere. It comes with having Crohn’s.

Biggest Surprises

  • No Diet Coke – I learned to drink Coke Zero, tea and coffee.
  • Germany has more choices in McMuffins than we do in the United States!

So that’ it the first of I think several posts on this trip. Have you been to Egypt? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

No Diet Coke, only Coke Zero!
Breakfast in Germany

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted.
Photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr

Trip Prep: Egypt Continued

If all goes well in less than one week I will be off on my first trip “overseas” and headed towards Egypt! Land of the Pharaohs, pyramids, temples, and the fabled Nile River – on which I will be cruising.

As I mentioned in my earlier post – the suspiciously similar Trip Prep: Egypt – I’ll be honest, I did not expect my first trip abroad to be to Africa. I suppose technically I will first step foot on European territory as I’ll have a several hour layover in Frankfurt, Germany but I’m not sure that “counts” as a real visit. My dream is still to take a cross-European trip from London to Rome via Disneyland…er…I mean Paris and other points of interest along the way. But the opportunity to go to Egypt was just too good to pass up as seeing its many temples and ancient wonders has been on my bucket list ever since I first read about how the Abu Simbel Temple was moved when the Nile was dammed in a National Geographic Magazine at my grandmother’s house as a child.

Trip Refresher

Just as a reminder, or as new info if you didn’t read my earlier post, I’ll be taking a tour offered by Road Scholar. From what I can tell it seems to be a fairly standard package (my alumni association offers almost the same package), but it does offer an educational component that I think some tours lack and the price was reasonable. Over the course of two weeks we will visit Cairo at the beginning and end of the tour, see the major historical sites, and cruise the Nile.

Getting Ready – Practical Matters

Even with the big items like food and lodging being taken care of there was plenty for me to arrange on my own. Below are a few items I didn’t mention earlier followed by updates on previous preparations:

New Preparation Items

Photo by Alex Azabache on Pexels.com
  • COVID Testing: This is the only issue that causes me some anxiety. I need to have a COVID test taken within 96 hours of departure. According to the State Department they’ve heard of some people having issues of not having this done within 96 hours of their connecting flight to Egypt. So bright and early Saturday morning I’ll be having a swab stuck up my nose and the results of the test in 24 – 48 hours. Just in time to get on the plane Monday with time to re-take a rapid PCR test if needed (for about $300 to get the results in 2 hours).
  • Vaccine Passport: This took a little work as one of the most popular sites for creating a QR code, VaxYes to make your vaccination records available digitally doesn’t seem to work well with Android Digital Wallets (GPay or Samsung Pay). This was necessary because Egypt requires this method to verify records. I had to download a generic “wallet” which VaxYes suggested in order to accomplish this. But it took me some time to figure out the problem and at least three times through the FAQs they provided to get it through to me what needed to be done.
  • Clothing: At first I was just going to pack my usual summer wear – shorts, t-shirts – but then I read a reminder from Road Scholar cautioning that what is acceptable in the United States might not be acceptable in Egyptian society as they tend to dress a little more conservatively. Basically, no skin between the neck and knees. My additional research suggests that I will be okay if my shorts reach my knees, which most do, and instead of tighter t-shirts opt for short sleeve casual sport shirts. I’m taking some light weight long pants as well especially for when we go to temples, tombs, mosques, and churches. Basically, every day. I want to be a good guest and adhere to the cultural norms as best I can even if I’ll be essentially traveling in a North American “bubble” so to speak.
  • Mail and Newspaper: Yes, I still get a hard copy of my local newspaper. So I’ve placed a “hold” on delivery while I’m out of the country. No need for anyone passing by to notice I’m gone. Likewise, a quick visit to US Postal Service website allowed me to hold my mail as well.

Previous Preparation Items and Updates

  • Passport/Visa – my passport is good for several more years and the Visa is actually purchased when I arrive.
  • Medications – if you are like me and a mature traveler with a couple medical conditions I bet you take a few pills each day. Don’t get caught short. Make sure all your prescriptions are filled before leaving and that you have enough to take with you – plus a few extra in case of delays. The recommendation is to take the original containers that your pills came in so that airport security and customs can better identify what you are carrying. UPDATE: refills have been submitted. Should have them in plenty of time.
  • Other Medical Concerns – the flight over to our first stop in Frankfurt, Germany is more than 8 hours in duration and an overnight flight. I’ll need my CPAP for sure. While most modern plans have outlets I noted that our airline could not guarantee this. So I’m investing in a battery for my CPAP (good for power outages at home, too). The CPAP Device and battery will also have to be registered with the airline’s Medical Operation Centre. UPDATE: after some concerns about caused by the supply chain “crisis” the battery has arrived and will be ready to travel with me.
  • Cell/Mobile Phone – verify that you have a “global” plan for your phone. Of course, you should be able to use it with Wi-Fi whenever available but you don’t want to be surprised with unexpected roaming charges while abroad. UPDATE: I settled on a plan where I am charged a daily fee if I use my phone. It is more expensive than the general international play which Verizon (my carrier) offers, but it will allow me to tap into my domestic plan with unlimited minutes, texts, and data. Even if I use it every day of my trip it will only cost me about $40 more than the monthly plan.
  • Electricity – oddly enough electric outlets are not universal throughout the world nor are electric supplies. Get some adapters and make sure that any electronics you take with you can handle the voltage where you are going. You may need additional transformers.
  • Cash – Road Scholars suggests taking a certain amount in cash and to exchange once we arrive. However my friends, who have taken a few international trips already, feel it’s best to exchange currency with your bank before heading out.
  • Credit Cards – Visa may be accepted everywhere but save yourself the hassle of fraud prevention turning off your card when you might need it most. Contact your card provider to alert them of your travel dates and destinations at least a couple weeks before you leave. UPDATE: Banks have been notified. I’m planning on only taking two cards with me as most of my basic needs are provided.
  • Join the airline’s frequent flyer “miles” club. This trip should earn me a couple! UPDATE: Done!

Pre Trip Education

My “action” camera and a few of my pre-trip reading materials.

I’ve finished my books on Egyptian history and modern Luxor. I’m currently reading Rick Steves’ Travel as a Political Act. So far Steves’ book has insights about observing and understanding other cultures that I really hadn’t considered before. I think it is well worth the read by anyone and everyone who is planning to travel or even if you aren’t.

Ideas? Recommendations?

What other ideas or suggestions do you have when prepping for an international trip? I’d love to hear them! Comment below or on my Facebook page (@JourneyswithDave).

More on my trip to Egypt to come!

All photos by David P. Wahr unless otherwise noted.
Photos and words @copyright by David P. Wahr