Egypt with G Adventures: The story of a trip full of twists and turns
Egypt! What comes to mind? We probably all have a similar image in our heads: the pyramids of Giza against the backdrop of an arid desert. A bridge between North Africa and the Middle East, the history of this country goes back to the time of the pharaohs. Thousand-year-old monuments line the banks of the fertile Nile Valley, feeding our childhood imaginations. Who hasn’t dreamed of becoming an archaeologist and discovering the hidden treasures of kings?
I am no exception! Since I was a little girl, I wanted to see the pyramids. I wanted to explore the Nile aboard a felucca and walk in the footsteps of the pharaohs.
So it was with great excitement that I booked a 14-day tour with G Adventures, a Canadian sustainable tourism company specializing in small group travel.
Ready to follow me on this adventure? I warn you, it’s not all easy sailing!
Expert's word: points for travel
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My travel itinerary in Egypt
Arrival - Cairo
Flight: Montreal – Doha – Cairo with Qatar Airways: paid with the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard® which gives 6 points per dollar for travel expenses, and has excellent insurance.
After two flights (the direct Air Canada connection between Montreal and Cairo was not yet available), I arrived in Cairo. I spent the first night at the Le Meridien Hotel, which is accessed directly from Terminal 3 of the CAI airport.
I paid for my stay with my Marriott Bonvoy points (10,000 points in my case) and got a good night’s sleep – not to mention taking a dip in the pool, a welcome oasis in the 44-degree weather – before heading to the hotel G Adventures had booked, the Pharaohs Hotel.
On the first night, I joined the group that would form my “Egyptian family” for the next two weeks – 9 travellers and a guide, Haidy.
Day 1 - Egyptian Museum and Pyramids
The journey begins in grand fashion! After a visit to the Egyptian Museum, where we could see multiple ancient artifacts related to the pharaohs, we headed to the pyramids.
Under the desert sun and unexpected heat (it is normally between 20 and 25 degrees in April, not 44), we finally had the chance to admire the pyramids. Standing at their base, my eyes stung – sure, the sand-laden wind had something to do with it… but it was more than that. It was fantastic!
In the evening, we boarded a night train to Aswan. The bunks are very comfortable and offer enough space. An evening and morning meal are provided. This is a very affordable and convenient way to travel between Cairo and Aswan, which takes 13 hours by train. I hardly noticed as time passed by!
Day 2 - Aswan
Aswan, a city on the banks of the Nile, has been the strategic and commercial gateway to southern Egypt since ancient times. We were welcomed for a traditional meal in a small Nubian village, which we reached by boat. The family that prepared this delicious meal was doing Ramadan. So we waited for sunset before eating with them.
Day 3 - Abu Simbel
We woke up very early at 4 am to make the trip to the Abu Simbel temples, and were among the first to arrive at this incredible place. With still-puffy eyes, I found myself in front of this gigantic monument on the shores of Lake Nasser, not far from the Sudanese border. The feeling is indescribable!
Built by Pharaoh Ramses II around 1260 BC to commemorate his victory at the Battle of Qadesh, these temples were intended for his worship as well as that of Egyptian gods and his favourite wife (he had more than 45), Nefertari.
Days 4 and 5 - The cursed felucca
What was supposed to be a peaceful trip down the Nile in a felucca (a traditional sailing boat) turned into a horror story. A series of bad maneuvers nearly caused the boat to capsize. A few bags ended up floating in the river, while several escaped with the waves. We were rescued by a motorboat, and after a few hours, we returned to Aswan.
Thankfully, everyone got out unscathed and we miraculously got the bags back. Which of the Egyptian gods was watching over us?
I was particularly looking forward to the night that we would spend on the felucca, under the stars. Too bad! It’s a good reminder to always make sure you have excellent travel insurance as we are never immune to incidents like this.
Then, still shaken, we visited the Karnak temple complex. The columns still have some of their original colours!
Days 6, 7 and 8 - Luxor
The tour continues in Luxor, on the banks of the Nile. In the ancient city of Thebes, I found Luxor green and welcoming. Despite being one of the most touristy places in Egypt, this place is my favourite. Its temple, connected to that of Karnak by a dromos, a long alley lined with sphinxes, was erected during the reign of Amenhotep III. It was later modified by Ramses II, who added six monumental statues and two obelisks, one of which, given to France in 1831, has since adorned the Place de la Concorde in Paris.
On the menu: the Valley of the Kings, the temple of Hatshepsut, and the Colossi of Memnon. As a bonus, the mummy of Tutankhamen! A day rich in history.
We were also lucky enough to be hosted for dinner by an Egyptian family in Luxor. A warm and delicious meal.
The next day is a free day. Most people in the group decided to visit other temples, but I had something else in mind.
3:30 am, the alarm clock rings. About thirty minutes, later a minibus picks us up in front of the hotel. We cross the Nile by boat (motorized this time – you won’t see me on a felucca anytime soon!) before continuing our journey to the Valley of the Kings before sunrise. A hot air balloon is waiting for us.
The show is magical.
Fearful at first, I finally let myself take in the unique panorama during our ascent. The border between the desert and the green fields of the Nile is a sight to see.
As for the landing, it was worthy of an adventure movie! We tore off several branches of mango trees, but we all came out unscathed (again).
The rest of the day was spent at the hotel’s rooftop pool. A well-deserved rest after all these adventures!
Days 9 and 10 - Hurghada
A small interlude in the middle of this trip to Egypt was Hurghada, a seaside town very popular with tourists (especially German and Russian). We spent two days in an all-inclusive hotel (water park as a bonus!).
We spent the day on a yacht (!) and had the chance to snorkel in the Red Sea. The trip was slowly coming to an end. The next day, we left very early (again) to fly to Cairo, before taking a bus to Alexandria.
Day 11 - Alexandria
We arrived at the last stage of our journey, Alexandria. It was founded by Alexander the Great in 331 BC. In ancient times, the city was the capital of the country, a major trading center (port of Egypt) and one of the largest Hellenistic cultural centers of the Mediterranean Sea, centred around the famous library, which is responsible for its fame. It is currently the second most populated city in the country after Cairo.
We visited the Greco-Roman catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, the library of Alexandria (rebuilt a few years ago, very modern and impressive), the Pompey pillar and the citadel of Qaitbay. This one stands where the lighthouse of Alexandria used to be.
Day 12 - Cairo
Back to the starting point. For my last night in Egypt, I decided to treat myself. I booked a room at the Marriott Mena House, which offers rooms with a view of the pyramids!
For a total of 20,000 points, I was able to sleep in a cloud-like bed, and I drank my coffee while admiring the pyramids of Giza for the last time. What more could you ask for?
My impression of the stay with G Adventures
Apart from the hellish felucca episode, this tour with G Adventures went extremely well. Haidy, our guide, was very professional and friendly. I made connections with the other members of the group and am already looking forward to my next journey with G Adventures. Regarding the felucca, we all received a partial refund and a credit for a future trip, as well as a hearty apology from them.
As far as Egypt goes, I have a few tips for you:
- Buy a SIM card at the airport when you arrive, as the Wi-Fi network is not very reliable (except in high-end establishments, of course).
- Use Uber if you need to get around Cairo or Alexandria. The app works in both cities, and it’s very affordable ($9 for a 70-minute ride to the airport, for example).
- Everything is negotiated, even in convenience stores.
I hope my story has inspired you to explore this country, or to try a tour with G Adventures!
Feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions, or follow and connect with me on Instagram (maude.travel).
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