sea coast, Luxor, Upper Nile, Abu Simbel, Cairo
This has been my second trip to
Egypt - the first one took place in January 2001 (see the corresponding
travelogue). This time I did the
with my wife, in her fifth month of pregnancy. I have therefore been
careful to stay in better places, eat in clean restaurants and travel
comfortably (we used flights and private cars + drivers, avoiding to
travel with (cheaper) public buses).
We didn't book tours or packages - just the return flight to Hurghada
with Air Berlin. I won't fly again with this airline (only if the price
is very low). We paid a 'full' price for a charter flight, but only got
the service of a discount airline (flight took off at 3:15am and
instead of letting people sleep, they served a breakfast at 4 am, then
started a sales tour through the plane at 5 am - more here).
In Egypt we enquired about tours, but received only heavily overpriced
Cairo is incredibly polluted and dirty - much more than just two years
ago. It's a city with an impressive cultural heritage, but with
environmental problems which almost spoil the experience. If you visit
the town, limit your stay to the absolute essential (two days will
Hurghada is an example of overdevelopment gone crazy. Everywhere there
are building sites, some still in operation, some abandoned. It's not
possible to walk along the beach as each hotel reserves for itself a
chunk of beach which itr encloses in walls.
/ Exchange rate (December 2003)
1 Euro = 7.6 Egyptian pounds (L.E.)
US $1 = 6.12 L.E.
The strong Euro helped reduce our
overall expense. The
cheapest hotel where we stayed was the one in Assuan where we paid 65
L.E. for a clean double room with everything (see the Assuan
section), the most expensive one was the five star Marriott in Hurghada
(US $110/night on Jan. 3rd). The bill for a lunch or dinner for two in
a restaurant ranged from 30 to about 110 L.E., with the average around
The return flight from Assuan to
Abu Simbel cost 507 L.E., the one way flight from Assuan to Cairo 1013
L.E., the one way flight from Cairo to Hurghada cost 759 L.E. (all
prices per person, inclusive of tax). The private car from Hurghada to
Luxor cost 500 L.E. one way (overpriced, we booked this through the
Marriott hotel), the one from Luxor to Assuan cost 250 L.E.
Probably there are, but we
didn't buy any. There was GSM mobile phone coverage in all places we
Internet cafes everywhere.
Rates were 5 L.E./hour in Cairo, 7 L.E./hour in Hurghada and 10
L.E./hour elsewhere. Not too fast, but fast enough.
Always sunny and dry, but
colder than what I had expected (around 20°C during the day, much
less at night). Colder than two years ago (January 2001) and too fresh
for swimming. We always had to wear long trousers and thin jackets in
the evening, even a sweater every now and then. You wouldn't believe
it, but in Abu Simbel in the extreme south of Egypt it is really cold
We didn't bother, as we are
seasoned travellers and never get diarrhoea anyway. I suspect that
there is no malaria in Egypt.
/ Entry requirements
nationals and nationals from several other countries automatically get
a visa upon arrival, valid for 15 days. You have to buy the stamps for
about 15 - 20 Euro.
Security in Egypt was TIGHT
when we visited the country in December 2003. All major tourist
attractions were guarded by heavily armed police and military units
(armoured vehicle with machine gun on top guarding the entry of the
Karnak temple in Luxor - just to make an example). To get to the
museums and other tourist attractions you had to pass through several
security controls with heavily armed police units and metal detectors
everywhere. The tourist hotels we saw with three or more stars all
had metal detector gates and own security personnel.
Sometimes this was
annoying, as for instance having to pass two times through airport like
security gates with metal detectors just to get into the Gayer-Anderson
museum in Cairo, a pretty insignificant museum. At the airport in Assuan I had to take off
my shoes and make
them go through the X-ray
The only way to travel overland between towns was by
police escorted convoy - two years ago I could manage to find taxi
drivers willing to travel from A to B for some extra money, but not
It is quite obvious that the Egyptian authorities are taking
the security situation very seriously and do their best to avoid a
terrorist attack on tourists which would cripple the tourist industry,
so vital for the economy.
From a petty crime perspective we had the impression that Egyptians
(although they will try to cheat you and harassment is entirely
another issue). I didn't feel uncomfortable running around with large
amounts of cash in my wallet (paying with cash from ATMs is cheaper
than paying by credit card, as the rate is better).
Beach Hotel, Hurghada, US $
60/night (= 48 Euro at the current exchange rate) for a double room
with bath, A/C, TV, telephone, balcony, well furnished - good value
because of the strong Euro
surprisingly fresh in Hurghada;
perhaps 20°C or less, strong wind; sunny the whole day, no rain;
too cold to walk around in shorts and T-shirt
After packing everything we
leave home at 10:37pm and drive to
Nürnberg airport. The flight leaves at 3:15 am Sunday morning and
the drive should take approx. two hours - so we should arrive around
12:30pm and still have some reserve in case there is a traffic jam on
the motorway. The motorway is pretty empty on this Saturday night and
the temperature hovers between 3°C and 6°C, which means that
there won't be ice on the motorway. It rains for about one hour, then
it stops. We reach Nürnberg airport at 12:20pm and leave the car
in the P2 parking (54 Euro for two weeks).
The Air Berlin flight leaves more or less on time at 3:15am. It's a
very old Boeing 737-800 plane, with rows of seats tightly packed next
to each other. Next to me an oversize lady whose bottom part occupies
one and a half seats, leaving me half a seat available. After taking
off, around 4am a breakfast is served (actually even an eatable one).
But do they realise that people might prefer to sleep rather than
eating ? Then at 5am, after all eating is over and you would think the
night peace might begin, the internal loudspeakers start blasting a
huge "buy our special offers" message. These people are sick - don't
they know that the night is made for sleeping ? Overall service is very
Never mind we make it on time to Hurghada at 8:30am local time. The
airport is relatively small and not too impressive. We pay 20 Euro each
for stamps for the VISA (which seems a bit expensive) and then go
through immigration. The officer at the counter probably has never seen
a Malaysian tourist and first has to check if Shirley needs a visa,
then lets us through (after checking, he tells Shirley "...Mahathir
Mohammed is a good man"). By the way, Malaysian nationals are allowed
to enter Egypt for up to 15 days without a visa (the same holds for EU
It is quite fresh (and windy) in the morning in
Hurghada - so cold that I keep on wearing my sweater. The sun is
shining (and keeps on shining for the whole day).
After changing some money at the bank counter in the airport (at the
rate of 7.5 Egyptian pounds per Euro), we take a taxi (5 Euro -
surprise, it is possible to pay in Euro here) to the Marriott Beach
Hurghada hotel. The hotel is very nice and the rate is good (48
i.e. 60 US $ - luckily the dollar is devalued at the moment).
After we take a rest and sleep until 2 pm. When we go out we realise
that it is actually quite cold in Hurghada, too cold to walk around
comfortably in shorts and T-shirt. I go back to the room and put on
long trousers and a long sleeves shirt. After a mediocre lunch in the
Shorouk restaurant of the hotel (110 L.E. for lousy food) we
a walk outside. The hotel has its own small beach,
packed with chairs
and tourists. It looks like the hotel is quite isolated from everywhere
In the evening I ask at the reception desk about buses or private cars
to Luxor. They quote a price of 500 L.E. (one way) to go to Luxor,
which seems expensive. After some discussion and evaluation we accept
the proposal (Shirley is pregnant in the 5th month and we are not in
the mode to take a public bus). We'll leave at 8am tomorrow together
with the convoy with the police escort and should arrive in Luxor at
1 pm. There should be enough time left to visit the Karnak temple
complex and then the Luxor temple in the late afternoon/evening.
In the evening we have dinner in the Shorouk restaurant, and try the
dinner for 69 RM. This time the food is very good.
Copyright (c) 2003