When the idea of traveling to Egypt was first thrust in front of me, I was told by almost everyone, why would I ever do a trip like this? The U.S. State Department doesn’t exactly warn U.S. citizens not to go, but it does raise concerns about terrorism.
The State Department issues travel advisories for every country where the United States has a presence and rates them from one (normal precautions) to four (do not go). Eygpt is rated a “two.” It advises “increased caution” on the part of travelers “due to terrorism.” But the risk isn’t uniform across the country.
It cautions against travel to the Sinai Peninsula (with the exception of travel to Sharm El-Sheikh by air) and the Western Desert, due to terrorism, and the Egyptian border areas due to military activity.
The advisory continues:
Terrorist groups continue plotting attacks in Egypt. Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and local government facilities. There is a possibility of terrorist attacks in urban areas, despite the heavy security presence. Terrorists have targeted religious sites, to include mosques, churches, monasteries, and buses traveling to these locations.
But our biggest concern was the 10-hour flight over. Otherwise, this trip to Egypt’s traditional tourist areas rates as one of the best ever.
Landing in Cairo, we were quickly whisked to our hotel, navigating the treacherous looking traffic. As far as I can tell, there are no definitive traffic directions there; rather it’s more of a catch-as catch-can proposition.
Several of our guides told us, quite seriously, that they’re always surprised there aren’t more accidents. It makes New York City traffic look like the proverbial walk in the park.
Checking in to the hotel, we walked out on our balcony and we could see the pyramids in the distance. Quite a sight.
Pyramids, camels and ancient ruins awaited our first full day there. All of it was simply sensational. I think the thing that amazed me the most was the fact that the pyramids are all somewhat situated together. We had to climb down backwards to get into one of them.
The next day’s activities consisted of hitting all the key-spots: The Abu Simbel Temples and the Great Sphinx of Giza and Karnak. (Yes, Johnny Carson named his sketch character after it).
The Valley of the Kings and the Luxor Temple were also part of the tour. The structures are amazing and the fact that they have survived even more amazing.
We also spent three days on a ship heading down the Nile. Quite blissful for sure. Our meals on the ship were all traditional and quite delicious.
The food there was exceptional. Bread and falafel took center stage.
We went to one spot, Zooba, that was picked by all the travel aps and had the best lentil soup I’ve ever had. The staff there got a kick out of it when we showed them their listings. They called the manager out, and we all had a nice moment.
Political issues were always a concern. Yet, nothing ever came up.
Sure there were armed guards everywhere, but my party always felt safe, unlike Barcelona in Spain, where it was somewhat dicey at every turn.
True, Egypt’s touring sector had been hard hit in recent times, but, every local we talked to said they hoped tourists would return to see the monuments.
Somewhat overbooked and overworked, the trip was still worth every minute. Check out the photos, let us know your thoughts and be sure to follow IM on Twitter for the latest travel features.