Trip Report Jewels of the Nile October 2021
I know that some upcoming travelers are interested in hearing from people who have completed this tour. We returned to the US on November 2 after a great trip. We had booked the tour pre-COVID and had some concerns about going forward, as we have not travelled at all since before the pandemic. We are glad we did not cancel.
Getting there: we flew Lufthansa from Chicago to Frankfurt to Cairo. The gate agent in Chicago looked at both the CDC card and the PCR lab report. In Frankfurt, surprisingly, the Lufthansa lounge required the CDC card. Arrival in Cairo was less hectic than I had anticipated. Upon disimbarking there were two health check lines. The man we went to was interested in only the PCR lab report. Shortly thereafter, we came to the area in which we met the Tauck rep with the sign. There were 8 in our Tauck group of 24 who were on our flight. The rep had our visas, which he affixed to the passports,he took us to immigration, which was very quick, and to a bus.
Cairo traffic is crazy! interesting ride to the Mena House. I will never forget my first glimpse of the pyramids. Check-in was easy. Our room had a fantastic view of the great pyramid. Because we arrived on a Saturday, that night there was an outdoor wedding on the property. Four of us ate outside at the 139 Restaurant, with a nighttime view of the great pyramid and a birds-eye view of a very elaborate Egyptian wedding. Because we arrived early with our gift of time, we had the next day free (Day 1 of the tour) until the Welcome Reception at 5:30. We chose to have a leisurely breakfast, swim and relax by the pool, have lunch by the pool, and then work out. We also went to the Bank on the property (near the front gate) and change some US dollars to Egyptian pounds. You can walk to the Bank, or someone will take you in a golf cart. There is an ATM near the lobby area, but I heard that people were having trouble with it. Our dinner of Egyptian specialties was at the restaurant near the pool - it was good. But a lot of meat.
Day 2: Early breakfast at the 139 Restaurant. (By the way service very good, and plenty of coffee, which was good). Then we headed to the pyramids, the camel ride and the Sphinx. Fabulous morning. Buffet lunch at the Palm Club. We were the only group there. Then we headed to Saqqara. We visited 3 of the Mastaba tombs (noblemen). Teti, Mereruka and Kagemni. A couple of people took a pass on Teti, as it was challenging to walk in and out bent over. Then to the Step Pyramid. By the way, we had a great guide in Cairo, Dina. We could see the Bent and Red pyramids in the distance and I asked her a lot of questions about them.
Day 3: Very early flight to Luxor (6:30 am) because Egyptair was not running the usual flight. But what a bonus! We went to the Winter Palace for breakfast. I was thrilled, as I have read so much about this hotel. We also had a chance to meet our fabulous guide, Mustafa. Good breakfast, but even better, time to explore. This is where Howard Carter announced that he had discovered Tut's tomb. Then to the beautiful Zahra and time to settle in and have lunch. Food and service excellent on the boat. At 2:30 we headed to the Valley of the Queens. There, we visited Nefetari's tomb, QV66. Beautiful. And we were the only group there. We entered in two groups. We then had a picture stop at the Temple of Hatshepsut. Then to the Valley of the Kings, after the day visitors had left. Mustafa walked us to an area where he took us to the outside of 4 tombs, which he discussed. We were then able to choose the order of our visits to these tombs, so that we could split up and enjoy them with very few others. The four tombs we visited were KV8 (Merenptah), KV 11 (Rameses III), KV6 (Rameses IX) and, of course, KV62(Tut). Quite a memorable experience to be there at night and just with our group.
Day 4: We headed to Karnak Temple at 8:00 am. Fortunately, we arrived before the busloads of Russians from the Red Sea. Very impressive. Then we drove to Luxor Temple. Also impressive. In both places we saw the ongoing work to prepare for the opening ceremonies for the Avenue of the Sphinxes. We returned to the boat for lunch and to sail to Esna and pass through the locks. We spent a lot of time on deck swimming and enjoying the River.
I think that we enjoyed the pool 3 times. Some people had massages on the boat. Also, there was reasonably priced laundry service.
Day 5: We sailed to Edfu early morning and took a 10 minute bus ride to the Temple of Edfu (Horus) at 9:45. Then more time to enjoy lunch and the boat while sailing to Kom Ombu. There, we had an evening walk to the nearby temple of Kom Ombu. It was impressive, especially at night, but crowded. There is also a small crocodile museum there, which did not impress me. Great Egyptian dinner on the boat that night.
Day 6: We headed out at 8:30 am for St. Simone Monastery. Quite a drive. It was extremely hot, 100+, and our bus did not have properly functioning air conditioning. But the Monastery was interesting and striking, in the middle of the desert. Back to the boat for lunch. Then in the afternoon we headed to Temple of Philae (fortunately on a different bus) and then we had our sunset felucca sail. Beautiful.
Day 7: 6:30 am departure for the airport (unfortunately on the bus with the broken air conditioner which had allegedly been repaired) to fly to Abu Simbel. Again, a very hot day. But we could see the temples from the air on our descent. Very impressive and memorable visit. We then flew back to Aswan, were picked up on the bad bus, and sweltered on the way to stop at the High Dam and then to the Old Cataract Hotel. Beautiful suite overlooking the Nile. Needless to say, we went swimming. Then we had a sunset cocktail. Beautiful. But the major disappointment was that we did not have dinner at the 1902 restaurant, as they had a big group in there. So the guys dragged their sport coats to Egypt for nothing. They set up tables outside overlooking the Nile, which may have been ok if it hadn't been 95 degrees. The food was just ok.
I think Tauck should consider a second night at this hotel, as there was not much time to enjoy it. Plus, that would allow a visit to the Nubian Museum and other sights of interest. Also, a day of more rest would help because the next morning, we were off to Cairo.
To be continued.