We tripped around Egypt for a week: while we were in Alexandria some enemy of god/allah blew up a church, our hire car broke down twice and was defaced many times, everywhere there was tension, many beautiful ancient sites and very bad food.
We flew into Alexandria and it was straight onto the train to Cairo. After arrival we hunted out the hotel which was highly recommended for value travelers. The first thing we found out was that food in Egypt is terrible and I am British! We were looking forward to good arabic food and what we received was a stale sloppy mess. Anyway, we went for a wonder, took a crazy dancing boat trip on the Nile and everything seemed better. Afterwards we came across Tariah Square. There seemed to be a small demonstration going on and always inquisitive we walked across to check it out. Just as we got close a few gentlemen dressed in very similar black leather jackets blocked our way and said we could not pass. This made my wife very nervous but not to be deterred I walked around the other side and this time walked passed some more men in similar black leather jackets looking exasperated. We reached the demo and had a chat. Their gripe was that Marks and Spencer was about to open up in Egypt and as anyone knows M&S is a jewish company! I was about to question this and explain that M&S is a public company and they are not that evil, they sell nice women’s underwear ,when I sensed this was not the time or the place and therefore I said “Oh, that seems like a good cause, how’s it going?”. We conversed some more and he offered to sell me a t-shirt for about AED 10. Bargain I thought and took it, maybe they do not need M&S in Egypt if they sell t-shirts so cheaply…
The next day it was off to Cairo airport through Hertz. We got a bloody good deal and as it was through Hertz so we were expecting a small but incredible clean and reliable car. What we received was an old Hyundai with the worst new black paint job you can imagine. When we mentioned we were going to Luxor and back down the Nile valley to the hire car attendant there were raised eyebrows but he wished us luck and recommended the coast road up to Luxor. So we set off with some trepidation. We pushed across to Suez and south and it became increasing apparent that we were not going to reach Luxor before dark. Just as we were going up towards the Nile valley the last of the sun disappeared below the horizon. As we dropped into the Nile valley there was a road block, this is when news stories started to go through our minds and you remember someone saying that the Nile valley north of Luxor is the heart land of the Muslim Brotherhood. So we pulled up and some entrepreneurial Egyptian folk asked for money for us to get through. What should you do? Pay the money and support the brotherhood or just play dumb until they let us through. We chose the latter so it was us 1 brotherhood 0. This was little comfort when about 30 minutes later our car chugged and spluttered and the electrics cut out. This was concerning when we had just pissed off the brotherhood and now we were in their territory helpless. After about 5 minutes, with my wife suspicious, quite a helpful Egyptian stopped, had a look at the car and asked if the temperature gauge had gone up. We said no and then he started the car and it came to life! Thank you higher being!
As all good stories go we did have a happy ending, eventually. Do not expect their to be room in the inn in Luxor. To our detriment we discovered that it really is best to book ahead, finally we found a hotel with a room left and so ended our exciting day. Luxor has several massive sites to visit, we hired bicycles to help us get around. Bumping into friends that we didn’t even realise were also visiting. With our previous taste of Egyptian cuisine we found one man who sold falafel sandwiches and ate these for all meals.
Back in our unreliable car to drive to the Valley of the Kings where the best view comes from climbing the mountain and looking down, much to the wife’s displeasure. The tombs themselves are smaller than you would anticipate and be prepared to pay extra for the more well known ones.
From Luxor we drove next to the Nile and were faced with persistent police men who were adamant that we needed a convey, however we were equally adamant that we wanted to drive at more than the 50km/h their cars could do. Twice we thought we had managed to cunningly loose them and twice in less than 2 minutes the police or army found us again. Their ability to track you was extremely impressive! On our way back to Cairo we called in at Minya which had a stunning old palace and a sinking room. Again we found that booking a hotel is recommended, eventually after escaping a demonstration which had blocked all the main streets we found somewhere. Unfortunately in the morning we discovered that someone had tried to pries open our car boot and block us in.
Undeterred we carried on to Cairo and battled through the crowds in the Cairo Museum. Despite the crowds and security checks it is worth the visit and packed full of the most amazing and decretive relics from Egypt’s long and lustrous history. You can not visit Egypt without exploring the pyramids of Giza. The site is not as isolated as you might imagine and yes it is true that Pizza Hut is next door. Shamefully we have to admit that after a week of bad food we did succumb to the greasy delights of pizza however we found that the international recipe is not followed so precisely here! The stone pyramid . . . is also worth a visit and the misses did enjoy the light show by the Sphinx.
We returned to Alexandria for the flight home but had chance to spend a day in the city. Although not having learnt from the rest of the trip again we had no hotel booked and again we spent the first hour wondering round finding somewhere where we agreed with their pricing. Most of the sites have literally been washed away but there is a street with lots of great book stalls.
As we left the army trucks were circling and young soldiers were taking up positions in the cities, we particularly saw large conveys in Cairo. We hope that the revolution brings the people of Egypt everything that they hope for.