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8 Days In Egypt: Our Itinerary and Guide

One of my husband's and my goal is to see one of the remaining "wonders of the world" in case it ever gets destroyed, like everything else in history. We put our heads together, researched safety and COVID testing/documentation requirements, and decided to give it a go with traveling to Egypt. It would also be our first time venturing to the continent of Africa as well, which was extra exciting!

During our time researching and planning for our trip, we were inspired by the post we found on The Most Wanted Travel blog. Their blog post was a quick and concise guide, and gave us an idea of how much time we really needed to allocate for our trip. We decided that about 8 days (including the flight into and out of Egypt) would suffice for the things we wanted to do and in consideration of our vacation time. Our trip time ended up being more than enough with plenty of extra time for rest and relaxation. 

Some things that we didn't add to our itinerary, although probably could have were the train ride from Cairo to Luxor (in lieu of our domestic flight), the Nile River cruise, a day trip to Aswan, and visit to Alexandria. Our thought process was that the cruise would pretty much be like any other cruise, so we didn't want to spend time and money on that experience. We also thought that the visit to Aswan and Alexandria, although probably different and unique in their own way, may not be worth it given the extra time needed for transportation to those cities. We had initially planned to take the train ride from Cairo to Luxor, since it is what the locals do and would give us a glimpse into this experience, but I couldn't wrap my mind around the lack of cleanliness of the bathroom from several blog posts/Youtube reviews I found. I don't expect much given we're on a train, but it was a bit too much for me. 

Map provided by Wanderlog, a travel planner on iOS and Android

Our Itinerary

Day 1 - Cairo

- Flight to Cairo with United Airlines and Egypt Air
Our flight to Cairo wasn't a straight shot. We decided to take a red eye flight to maximize our trip time. We had flown to Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD) with United Airlines from San Francisco International Airport (SFO), then caught the transfer flight with Egypt Air to Cairo International Airport (CAI). Upon landing in Cairo, we booked a taxi via Uber to take us to our hotel.

Upon check in to our hotel, we were upgraded to a "Nile view" room. The check in process was smooth and seamless, and an extra plus since they had a room available for early check in. The room was clean and spacious, and it did indeed have a view of the Nile River as well as a new casino being built along the Nile. We enjoyed our stay overall at the Intercontinental. The only issue we had was with plumbing, as it took time for water to drain from the shower, leaving our feet ankle deep in dirty water.

- The Egyptian Museum (200 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
Our first stop was the Egyptian Museum. Although we don't speak or read Arabic, there were audio guides available for free in the language of your choosing. There were several exhibits and galleries to explore, some that were still being worked on as well. It was quite a unique experience and gave a glimpse of a little bit of everything in Egyptian history -- mummies, hieroglyphs, tools, figurines, jewelry, pottery/ceramics, and more. 

- Lunch at Kazaz
Kazaz is Egypt's version of fast food, and it's a pretty solid fast food option. They have both an Arabic and English version of the menu posted outside. My husband and I opted to try their beef shwarma, a side of fries, and their om ali. We placed our orders outside, paid, and were handed small paper slips. We proceeded inside the shop and handed our slips to a worker, who got our order together. The beef was temperature hot and very tender. The fries were thick cut and just like all other fries. The om ali was the perfect combination of bread, milk, and pistachios. 

- Cairo Tower (200 Egyptian pounds for foreigner with "drink")
Our next stop of the day was Cairo Tower. If you haven't realized it already from our other trips, we like getting an aerial view of the city and admiring the different views each city boasts. The timing of our trip to the tower was probably not the best, as there was a 1 hour wait time before being able to go up the tower. The ticketing booth offered regular tickets "with drink," which would allow us to bypass the wait and go up the tower immediately. We opted for that option, and highly recommend it. 

Once we were up the tower, we were able to take our time and thus were able to get pictures of the city in the late afternoon sun, sunset, and nighttime. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that our tickets "with drink" not only covered free drinks; it could also be used to cover food -- up to 80 Egyptian pounds per ticket. My husband and I redeemed free chicken shish tawook sandwiches (basically grilled chicken sandwiches). Our order included a side of fries each. We got the order to-go.

- Dinner at Zoöba
We were feeling fancy and ordered their braised beef shoulder tagine and their beef shank and orzo tagine. Both dishes were equally delicious and the meat so very tender. We both agreed that the beef shoulder tagine was especially good, although the beef shank was a bit more filling because of the orzo. The beef shoulder came out as more of a stew. Since our dinner was relatively light, we were able to supplement with the sandwiches from Cairo Tower. The combination made for a hearty dinner!

Day 2 - Cairo

For our second day in Cairo, we had booked a tour with Emo Tours group. We highly enjoyed our experience with Emo Tours that we booked a second tour while in Cairo and another with the same company while in Luxor. After completing our trip to Egypt, we highly recommend booking a tour with a tour group, as transportation can be tricky, especially in Cairo. Also, having a tour guide can help deter hagglers and possible scammers. We also recommend starting your day early, especially if you want photos without all the excess people and a truly personalized/private tour of the different sites.

Our first stop of the day was the Saqqara necropolis, from which you can view the Pyramid of Djoser. Saqqara is a huge necropolis with several tombs. You can see different areas being worked on by archaeological teams, and how deep some of the tombs go. The Pyramid of Djoser is its own unique beauty, with steps forming the triangular look of the pyramid. Because my husband and I started our tour early, we and our tour guide were the only ones at the site! It was quite a treat, and we were able to get several photos of the site without any need to edit photos! As we left the site, several tour groups had just arrived at the entrance. 

The Mit Rahina Museum is home to the Sphinx of Memphis as well as the Statue of Ramses II. Both are a sight to see, and it is amazing that both are still well-preserved!

The main reason for our trip was to see the Giza pyramids and sphinx, and it was finally the time to enjoy the views and learning about the history. We were also able to add on a camel ride experience for $20 USD (yes, they take USD), which we thought was worth it for a one time try (I mean, when else would we have the opportunity to ride a camel?). It was definitely a bumpy ride and I found that I had to keep repositioning myself to stay centered.

The lunch at Restaurant El Dar Darak was part of the tour package. Upon arrival to the restaurant, we were offered choices of chicken, kofta, or mixed. We both opted for the mixed platters which came with a side of soup. Egyptian bread and various dipping sauces were part of the appetizer. We also ordered their guava juice, which was freshly squeezed and full of pulp. It was almost as we were eating the actual fruit!

After lunch, our tour was officially finished for the day. My husband and I decided to check out the Pharaonic Village, since it seemed like a unique experience. My husband and i found the boat ride showing ancient daily Egyptian life fascinating. As we were the only English speakers, we ended up having a ferry boat with an English audio guided tour all to ourselves. There were several mini exhibits detailing the history of Egypt. For an extra fee, you can dress up like a pharaoh/queen and take pictures with various backgrounds. They provide a hard copy print of the photo.

We ordered the two charcoal grilled quail, stuffed pigeon with rice, Lebanese tabbouleh salad, and Egyptian baladi salad. The food portions were generous and the quality of the food was amazing. My husband and I highly recommend the charcoal grilled quail, as there is a unique flavor to the quail meat. My husband and I both enjoyed the pigeon meat, but the rice was a bit plain. We enjoyed the tabbouleh salad and the Egyptian salad, but wished they went lighter on the sauce. 

Day 3 - Cairo

- Hotel change to St. Regis Cairo
We changed hotels to the St. Regis in Cairo, and it is by far one of the nicest hotels we've stayed in (aside from Waldorf, of course). The check in process was smooth and seamless. Like with the Intercontinental, we were able to check in early and were upgraded to a Nile view room. We even received a text message letting us know that the room was ready for check in. After checking in, we were brought to the lounge area, where we were provided with drinks of our choice. We went with the fresh squeezed guava juice. We felt very well taken care of here, and were provided with daily fruit and dessert plates.

- Abdeen Palace Museum (100 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
The Abdeen Palace Museum is unlike any other museum we have visited. We had expected more views of palace living (ie. furniture, art, etc). Instead, there were lots of weapons on display, not a bad thing if you're into the history of how weapons have evolved over time or if you're curious about different weapons used in other countries. The courtyard area was limited as to where you could walk, and there were armed guards everywhere. I personally would not recommend visiting and suggest skipping over this museum.

- Lunch at Felfela
We ordered the mixed felfela, hawawshi, and mehalabia. The mixed felfela was pretty much an Egyptian bread stuffed with a falafel patty and fried beans. The hawawshi was a fried meat-filled bread, very similar to a stuffed paratha. The mehalabia is a milk pudding. All of the dishes were delicious, and I highly recommend stopping by for a meal. The ordering process is similar to Kazaz -- place your order and pay, hand slips with your order to the appropriate windows, and the workers will get started on your order. 

- Hotel walk around and unwind
We decided to call it a day since we didn't have any tours planned nor did we want to deal with walking through the Cairo traffic. We, instead, spent time exploring the hotel grounds and relaxing in our room. 

TIP: Foreigners pay more for tickets than Egyptian citizens (about 3-4x more Egyptian pounds depending on the place). While it isn't much in the bigger scheme of things, it can add up. 

Day 4 - Cairo

The tours this day were booked with Emo Tours group. 

Salah El Din Citadel (180 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
This citadel is home to several mosques and historical sites. Within the citadel lies the famous Alabaster Mosque (see more below) as well as the Qasr El-Jawhara and two museums. On one end, you can even get a panoramic view of Cairo. It was a great overview and start to our Islamic Coptic Cairo tour!

The Alabaster Mosque was quite a sight with its glossy floors and walls. In the center, there is an area, where people typically wash their hands prior to going in to pray. The lights inside the mosque are in concentric circles and really glow against the alabaster walls and floor. In one corner, there is a tomb, where Muhammed Ali was buried. 

The mosque functioned as a school in the past and is one of the first schools established. It was interesting learning about the different teachings and how there is a section for each grade level in the school.

The bazaar was filled with many handmade lighting fixtures, random trinkets, clothes, and goods. The rule of thumb is to shop at stores with fixed pricing, since those that allow bargaining typically have cheaper items that are not truly made in Egypt. There was a part of the bazaar that was closed off with police. Per the tour guide, the streets in those areas tend to be narrower and more likely for pickpocketers to lurk. Thus, police has closed off certain areas to foreigners. 

We walked with our tour guide down Al Moez street from the bazaar to Qalawun Complex. The tour guide mentioned that this complex was an area where many charitable events took place. For example, there was an area where food would be given out to those in need. 

This church is literally hanging by some wooden beams. It is amazing that the church was even built, given that it is above an old fortress. Inside the church, there is a portion of the glass floor, where you can see the original wooden beams used to hold up the church as well as new reinforced beams. 

We had included lunch with the tour again. The meal options were the same -- chicken, kofta, or mixed. I went with the mixed platter and my husband went for the kofta platter. My husband had instant regret, since the kofta pieces were small. Meanwhile, I had a nice grilled quarter chicken leg with drumstick as well as some kofta. The food was served with a side of soup as well as Egyptian bread and dip appetizers. 

- Relax/unwind
Just like the other day, we spent the night relaxing and unwinding after our long day out and about. I'm glad that we had time to enjoy the luxurious room and amenities. 

Day 5 - Transit day to Luxor

- Laundry at Tiba Dry Clean
My husband and I planned to do laundry about halfway during our trip, and it was time to get some laundry done. Unfortunately, we weren't able to find laundromats or stores that offered laundry washing and drying services alone. We saw that Tiba Dry Clean had good reviews, and gave it a shot. The services provided were definitely more than what we needed. After all, we just wear t-shirts and jeans (or exercise pants for myself) when traveling. They washed, dried, pressed, folded, and packaged our clothes within the 2 hours timeframe, as promised. They were even kind enough to set up a makeshift eating area for my husband and I to eat lunch. 

- Lunch at Tom and Basal
We were in a pinch looking for a place to get a quick lunch. Tom and Basal was nearby and had good reviews on Google, so we decided to give the place a try. I ordered a hawawshi, and my husband ordered a koshary (medium sized). We didn't see a seating area to eat, so proceeded to make our order to-go. The koshary was prepared quite quickly, meanwhile the hawawshi took some time to make (since they make it from scratch). The food taste and flavors were on point and surprisingly good, given that they only have food to-go. 

- Flight to Luxor with Egypt Air
If you had read about our original travel plan, we were thinking of taking the train from Cairo to Luxor to really experience how locals travel. Unfortunately, due to my germaphobicness (if that even is a word), my husband and I booked last minute (literally the night before) tickets for a domestic flight from Cairo to Luxor with Egypt Air. Surprisingly, they still had seats available. We were upgraded to their "business" class as well, and the total cost was about $80 USD per ticket. Their version of the "business" class for our domestic flight equated to an "economy plus" or "premium economy" seat, a nice plus for the short 1 hour-ish flight. 

TIP: Both Uber and Careem are used more in Cairo; however, Careem is used more in Luxor and is a "safer" alternative to an unmetered taxi, where you may get overcharged. 

- Check in to Aracan Eatabe Luxor
The final check in for our Egypt trip was to Aracan Eatabe Luxor. We were originally planning to stay at the Hilton Hotel in Luxor, but the change in the train to plane ride caused us to need an extra night's stay...and we didn't want to wind up switching hotels after a day. Thus, we had rebooked with Aracan Eatabe. The good of this hotel is that breakfast was included with our stay. Breakfast was an all-you-can-eat buffet style set up with various breads, dips, hot foods, and salads. They were also open from 6am, which was great for our early start days. The hotel is also situated walking distance from Luxor Temple and the Nile River Cruise docking area. The hotel was overall pretty dated and our room particularly had some areas that could've used an additional lamp for lighting. My husband and I agree, it was the "darkest" hotel room we've stayed in. We used our room mainly for sleeping, so the stay was okay overall. If you have a limited data plan and rely on wi-fi, the only way to access the free wi-fi was by staying in the common area in the lobby. Some people smoke in the lobby area and the electrical outlets didn't work. 

I ordered the chicken shwarma and my husband ordered the beef tajin. My husband and I agree that the beef tajin was more worth it. The beef chunks were so tender and fell apart easily; meanwhile the chicken shwarma was very similar to that we've cooked ourselves at home and nothing too special. It looked a lot like grilled chicken strips stir fried with veggies and was served with a side of rice. The special thing about the tajin is that it has to be cooked in a special kind of pot. While other places packed ours in to-go containers, we really appreciated the extra effort this restaurant and chef provided. The chef personally came out of the kitchen, and after finding out we were staying nearby and able to return the tajin pot, offered to let us take the tajin packed in the pot. 

- Walk around Luxor at night
After dinner, we decided to spend our first night in Luxor walking around and exploring nearby. We stayed mainly in the well-lit areas near Luxor Temple and along the Nile River, just to be safe. 

- Horse Drawn Carriage Ride
While my husband and I were doing our nighttime walk and as I was busily taking pictures, we were approached particularly persistently by one horse drawn carriage person. After the carriage person offered a price in Egyptian pounds that my husband thought was reasonable, we went along for the ride and got a tour of the town. The ride lasted for about 30 minutes. Once we were dropped off at our hotel, the carriage person changed things on us and insisted that the price was in USD. Of course, there was no written agreement or tour booking to back us up, so we paid as the carriage person was becoming more heated (and of course he knew where we were staying since he dropped us back at our hotel). When we looked up horse drawn carriage rides in Luxor on Tripadvisor, the amount we paid should have gotten us a 1 hour carriage ride (if we wanted to compare with the going rate). This was definitely a damper of our trip. 

Day 6 - Luxor

- Exploring Luxor Temple (160 Egyptian pounds for foreigner) and Karnak Temple (200 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
Now that we've seen Luxor Temple at night, it was time to see it during the day. My husband and I ventured out and were one of the first few people at the temple. It was quite grand with its tall pillars and statues, and its entrance led to the 3km long Avenue of Sphinxes, which joins Karnak Temple at the other end. Luxor Temple is relatively smaller than Karnak Temple, and because part of the Avenue of Sphinxes was closed for repair, my husband and I caught a Careem to Karnak Temple. 

Karnak Temple was quite expansive and large with a similar style as Luxor Temple. It took us several hours to walk through Karnak Temple alone. Because of how large the temple was, there were times that it seemed that it was just me and my husband there. Then, when we went back to the "main" road, there was the crowd again. It seemed that most other tourists visited Luxor Temple on their own, meanwhile there were larger tour groups at Karnak Temple. 

TIP: Go early to avoid the crowds and to capture special moments without needing to do much editing/photoshopping of unwanted, unintentional (we hope) photobombers!

- Lunch at Aisha Restaurant
After temple visiting, it was time to get our grub on and we decided to go to Aisha Restaurant. After dinner the previous night, I decided to join my husband on team tagine. We each ordered our own portion of the lamb tagine, and we had no regrets at all. The meat was tender and juicy. It was by far the best tagine we had on our trip, and we highly recommend trying the tagine from here if you are in the neighborhood. 

- Catching the sunset along the Nile from our room
In the interim between lunch and catching the sunset, my husband and I were brainstorming ideas for photo storage as I took way too many photos during the trip and was about near full capacity of my phone storage (yes, the photos on my blog are shot with my smartphone (except for the ones with attributions)). After caving in and buying cloud storage, my husband and I were too tired and lazy to leave our room, so we decided to just watch the sunset from our small balcony area. 

We both ordered our own camel burgers and shared a salep. We were surprised to find camel burgers on the menu, and the waiter mentioned that the camel burger is one of their popular dishes. The camel burgers were huge, and the restaurant definitely didn't skimp on the meat. The camel burger was pretty reminiscent of your typical beef burger but with a more...earthy(?), gamey(?) taste. It wasn't bad though! The salep was a nice pairing -- warm, milky, only slightly sweet. 

Day 7 - Luxor

The tours this day were booked with Emo Tours group and were all in the west bank of the Nile.

- Medinet Habu (100 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
We started our day visiting the mortuary temple of Ramses III. The details of the temple walls and intricacy of the building design were appreciated. Our tour guide noted the difference in depth of the wall depictions, which allowed some wall depictions to last longer than others. She also showed us some hidden gems (well preserved wall depictions with a story to tell) and explained the stories behind them. We walked through the entire place, and several tour groups were coming in as we left. 

- Valley of the Kings (240 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
The Valley of the Kings might remind you of every other dessert-y, mountain-y place, but there are several tombs of pharaohs that lie there. We had the opportunity to walk through 3 different tombs. Per our tour guide, the tomb of King Tut, as famous as he was, is not worth visiting as most things have been removed from the tomb and placed in museums (also, it appeared that the gate to the tomb was locked and there were no other tourist group(s) looking to go in). She suggested visiting other tomb sites instead. Each tomb had a long and sometimes steep route down. On the ceiling were the stars, and on the walls, depictions of the life of the specific pharaoh. Because no sunlight shown directly inside the tombs, the color of the depictions are very well preserved. It is amazing to think that such long lasting colors were made in ancient times!

Deir el-Medina (100 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
Workers who worked on the tombs in the Valley of the Kings resided here while the tombs were being built. There are several small quarters that can be made out from the leftover walls that have been buried in the sand. This site was not as busy as Valley of the Kings, and is worth checking out since it has an interesting history of its own!

- Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut (140 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
Queen Hatshepsut was the only female pharaoh. She was able to rule by taking the place of her younger brother, as he was only a child. She had built her own mortuary temple in a unique way, with a long stairway/incline at the entrance along with several front-facing pillars. My husband and I were thankful we had visited the temple with a tour guide because the wall depictions are filled with history and stories of the lady pharaoh.

- Valley of the Queens (100 Egyptian pounds for foreigner)
The Valley of the Queens had a more cave-like look compared to the Valley of the Kings. Our tour guide told us that this place was meant for the queens of pharaohs to be buried; however, it often became the burial site of their children. We learned from our tour guide that there were a lot of intermarriages within the family, which created issues when the children were born. This often led to the children having shorter lifespans than their parents. 

Colossal statues of Amenhotep III that were meant to guard the area. It seemed like an underrated site, although it's free to visit. There were no tour groups, just other random travelers and their tour guides (like me and my husband). 

- Late Lunch at Saraya Cafe
We ended our day at Saraya Cafe, which was recommended by our tour guide. We had the molokia, beef tagine, Egyptian bread, and all the different dips and spreads. The food tasted really good and came out nice and hot. 

TIP: Baksheesh is a term used to describe a small tip given for a task done. Don't get too surprised if you are asked for a small baksheesh for things like having someone help take a picture or taking a picture of someone. As one of our tour guides tipped to us, "nothing in Egypt is free."

- Light dinner
Since we had a late lunch and an early flight the next day, we pretty much had snacks our tour guide purchased for us during our tour as our dinner. We were pretty tired after a whole day out in the heat too and were ready to prioritize our other need --- rest and sleep. 

Day 8 - Transit Day

- Flight with Egypt Air
We flew back with Egypt Air's business class. This time, the business class was the typical business class -- individualized pods where you can sit, recline, or lay flat to rest during the flight; cakes and other snacks; a meal with an appetizer. Our guess is that a newer airplane had to be used because our flight this time was international, not domestic. If you've followed our travel journeys, we don't typically travel business class for international flights (just economy), so this was definitely a new upgrade and experience for us. 


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Overall, we had a really fun trip to Egypt and were surprised with how much "rest" time we had, since our itinerary is typically packed. Our advice is to check the weather before you go so you can pack appropriately and be sure to pack some extra sunscreen too!

Have you been to Egypt before? What was your experience and were there other places you went?

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