Our Family vacation to Egypt began in the absolute spectacle of Cairo and Giza, then made our way south right to the Sudanese border.
AfricaEgypt29 days / November 2019
Highs & Lows
The history blew us away!
It wasn't always straightforward.
Our family vacation to Egypt began in the absolute chaos that is Cairo and Giza. 20 million people and vague traffic rules. It's a filthy, fantastic spectacle and one that cannot be missed. In Giza, the view of the pyramids is gasp worthy. From here we took an overnight train to Luxor where we embarked on a two night cruise along the Nile to Aswan. We then drove south to Abu Simbel right on the Sudanese border and then we headed out to the Red Sea resort area of Hurghada for some diving. Our itinerary focussed on experiencing the history of the Ancient Egyptians and we were blown away by all of it.
Wow. What an experience Cairo and Giza are. Completely overwhelming but worth every minute. They say if you can survive the drive from the airport to your accommodation, then you will love Egypt. Well, our car ride consisted of a collision with a donkey cart and a run in with a police officer but we definitely survived (and have some excellent stories to share!) and we definitely fell in love with Egypt, even though it is probably the least straightforward place we have been as a family.
The pyramid complex is located in Giza which is not disconnected by any open space from Cairo, rather an extension of an already massive city. Beyond the pyramids? Desert! They are just incredible to see up close. When we arrived at our accommodation, we were led to the rooftop for a welcome drink and all 4 of us were completely overwhelmed by the views that awaited us there. We could almost touch the pyramids they were so close. We could never get tired of that view. Each morning we got up early and paid our entrance to the complex. On our first visit we were completely overrun with excitable and slightly aggressive school kids who were way more excited about seeing us/taking selfies with us than seeing the pyramids. A hair cover and some hats fixed that on subsequent visits and we weren’t really bothered again. The last time we visited the pyramids with an Egyptologist guide and it was so insightful and we learnt a lot. We recommend doing this, just booking someone before you arrive rather than one of the tour operators that hang out within the complex.
The Cairo museum is incredible. It looks like a set from Indiana Jones. It’s dusty, rustic, there are unopened crates stamped “DELICATE CARGO” and there are, as expected, more mummies than you can poke a stick at. The mortuary offerings of Tutankhamen reside there as well as his tomb and mortuary mask and they are exactly as mystical and magical as you would imagine.
Oh we LOVED Luxor. The Pyramids of Giza are incredible but there are so many things in Egypt that eclipse their magnificence. Karnak Temple is one of these.
We arrived to the temple off the overnight train in time to see the big orange Egyptian sun burst up behind the temple complex and awash all of it in this incredible golden day-glo. Inside the precinct there is this forest of 134 mammoth columns, each around 3 metres in diameter and all covered with the hieroglyphs that tell the story of its past. It's mystical and spectacular and worth being up early to see before the crowds hit.
The Valley of the Kings is mind blowing. The burial of 62 (so far discovered) Pharaohs and their treasure troves of mortuary offerings. Tut Ankh Amon is the only mummy that still resides there in the temples they have discovered. His mummy is too delicate to remove and the widely held belief is that he was buried hastily so that the cause of his death would not be uncovered. It all feels so adventurous and Indiana Jones-like and is an absolute must-see.
A cruise along the Nile is a must-do when in Egypt. We did a 4 night cruise but there are shorter ones available (not that we would recommend it- this was a total highlight for us).
Our cruise ran South atop the Nile from Luxor to Aswan with stops along the way to some of the incredible historical points on offer in Egypt (hint: there are A LOT and they're all mind blowing). Watching rural North African life drift by on one of the world's most magnificent waterways was mesmerising and we spent lazy hours staring out from the rooftop of our ship and admiring the most stunning sunsets we came to expect from this great country.
Waking little kids in the morning when it is still dark is only acceptable if the reward outweighs the risk. Abu Simbel is definitely worth the risk of angry children. The temples were built by King Ramses II, carved from the sand stone cliffs of the Nile. In front of the main temple are these four absolutely colossal statues of Ramses and on two days of the whole year the early morning sun penetrates the entire inner temple illuminating the path to the inner sanctuary, the most sacred space in he temple. It is incredibly hot as it is so far south but it is amazing and worth the long day trip.
We headed out to the Red Sea for some relaxation and scuba diving. The resorts are mostly all inclusive so the food isn't great but they definitely know how to cater to kids. There were so many activities available for the girls and they loved going to the kids' club (and we loved the little break it gave us!). We did a day excursion out to the reef for some fishing and diving and it was terrifying but spectacular. We really enjoyed the slower pace of the Red Sea resort town of Hurghada.
Q & A
What would you have changed?I think we would have spent less time in Cairo and Giza. It's just so big and dirty and loud and busy and there's not a lot to just hang around and do.
Anything go wrong during the trip?A few little mishaps with pre-arranged transportation that were a little frustrating. Don't pre-pay anything! There were also a couple of incidence where as a woman I felt a bit uncomfortable and so I ensured I was always with my husband- not usually our style or my character but here it made me feel more comfortable. We never felt unsafe at all, just things weren't really straightforward and so you had to be constantly aware and assertive.
Restaurant recommendations?We didn't love the food in Egypt. We felt like we couldn't transcend the tourist offerings no matter how hard we tried.
Tips you would give a friend?To be really organised. Maybe even take a tour if you're not particularly confident or intrepid. It is all so so worth the effort but it's definitely an effort.
Packing tips?As a woman I felt uncomfortable at times, even completely covered up. Be sure to cover elbows and knees at all times. If you have blonde hair, to avoid being potentially ambushed by 50 screaming teenage girls, you may want to cover yourself with a scarf.
Transportation Tips?Uber is reliable and this was our choice and it worked well for us for the most part (excluding the crash with the donkey cart). We also used public buses and the overnight 'luxury' train which was definitely not luxury but an awesome experience.
Any surprises?Egypt is full of surprises. The trick is to view them as adventures and enjoy the ride. The pyramids were SO spectacular and even though we expected them to be, in real life they blew us away. And then the fact that these were not the most incredible thing our eyes saw in Egypt was a huge surprise.
Booking details?We booked most of our own accommodation but we booked our Nile Cruise through Tour Radar.