Well it feels like ages ago we were in Egypt! So I'll do my best to do a good wrap up despite the delay.
To put it simply, it was amazing. AMAZING. I'll admit that I kind of went with low expectations, kind of expecting it to be a bit like a theme park as it is such a popular tourist destination. However, I was blown away by the place! The famous sights, such as the Pyramids, Karnak, Valley of the Kings and Abu Simbel were just breathtaking and awesome. And are amous and sought after for a reason. Despite having seen images before, there are still so many surprises and details in each site that leave you speechless.
In addtion, not only does Egypt have it's ancient history to explore, but also it's modern culture, different ethnicities, the Red Sea, and now it's post-revolutionary present. There is so much depth to Egypt that goes way beyond the iconic Pyramids.
Also, as we were planning our trip while the revolution was unfolding, we were unsure what sort of state Egypt would be in once we arrived in June. We had a feeling everything would be fine, but to be on the safe side we thought we'd join an Intrepid trip to do the Cairo to Aswan leg. It was excellent. We had a small group of seven people who were fantastic, plus a local Egyptian guide. Intrepid are a great company and we highly recommend them, even if you are not into tours! It doesn't feel like tour, rather a group of friends travelling around.We really rate them if you want to go to a country where you may be unsure of the security situation or just want a social trip.
Travelling around Egypt is really easy. There is a great bus network connecting most places, plus the train line that runs from Alexandria all the way down to Aswan. The overnight sleeper trains were a bit old, but comfortable and reliable. Plus it was pretty nice waking up and seeing the Nile out your window as you follow it down/up the country.
The food in Egypt is very similar to that of the rest of the Middle East, lots of mezze, kebabs, falafel, shwarma (sandwich) etc. however there are some more uniques dishes such as koshary - a vegetarian dish of lentils, rice, pasta, tomato sauce and onion which is really cheap and filling. We also really enjoyed hibiscus tea, which was so refreshing on those 40+ degree days! It's served chilled and made from hibiscus root. Sort of like a bitter berry drink. Very nice. Falafel shwarma's were probably our favourite, being such a cheap and delicious snack/meal.
There are so many accommodation options for all budgets in Egypt. Out favorite was Sawa Camp at Nuweiba, on the Red Sea. The ultimate place to chill, live the simple life for a few days, eat good food and enjoy the natural beauty above and below the water. Highly recommended!
We didn't really expect to see much that would be worth buying in Egypt, imagining lots of tacky souvenirs. However, if you dig a little deeper there are some treasures to be found, particularly in fair trade stores which are in most major tourist towns. I'll have to do a post on what we have bought on our trip once we get home so you can have a squiz.
Like I mentioned before, Egypt has just been through a revolution, so it was an exciting and interesting time to visit the country. Before we left, people warned us that we'd get ripped off and that you can't trust anyone etc etc. And yes, while there are still a few people out there trying to get your money through various scams (nothing too major, just making sure you go to their shop), the majority of people were so happy to see tourists and did their best to ensure we had a great time. One guy in particular stands out - we met him on the bus from Nuweiba to Cairo, his name was Rashid. He translated everything for us, making sure we knew what was going on at the various check points, happily talking about Egypt before and after the revolution and his opinions, wanting to us to ask questions, and then once arriving in Cairo, caught a taxi with us to make sure we got to out hotel safely. No strings attached. No unwanted visits to papyrus stores. Completely genuine. All he asked is that we tell everyone to start coming back to Egypt.
Egypt is extremely quiet tourist wise. this was great for us, virtually having all the major attractions to ourselves, but you can see that the Egyptians are hurting economically. Egypt really does rely heavily on the tourist industry and is crying out for tourists to return. If you are considering going, do. We felt extremely safe at all times and the Egyptians will look after you, wanting you to have a fantastic time and to spread the word so that people start coming back. It really is an amazing country.