In Cairo, Egypt with Memphis! Pyramids and camels and Sphinx, oh my.
Day 1 of 2.
We did not book the shore excursion with our cruise ship. In fact, we did not book any shore excursions with our ship cruise for probably the same reasons you wouldn’t either.
Shore excursions are ridiculously expensive!
Instead, we booked a private tour hoping to not just save a little money, but more important — in a city of millions possibly billions — we could visit the ancient city at our own pace, enjoy a bit of history without feeling rushed, or worse, mobbed or ripped off.
We reserved a private 2-day tour with Memphis Tours Egypt. The package includes:
- Pick up services from Alexandria Port & return (by the cruise exit door)
- All transfers by a private air-conditioned vehicle
- Accommodation for a night at 5* deluxe, Le Meridien Pyramids Hotel
- Breakfast at your Hotel
- Private English Egyptologist guide
- Entrance fees to all the mentioned sites
- Mineral water on board the vehicle during the tour
- Lunch meals at a local restaurant
- Mineral water & cup of tea or coffee during lunch
- Shopping tours in Cairo
- All Service charges & taxes
Here are some highlights, our Like/ Dislike for Day 1.
Like! Private air-conditioned van pick up at port — Check! The driving itself was questionable. Zig- zagging through 3-hours of traffic — apparently lane courtesy holds no meaning here in Egypt — made the entire ride a bit uncomfortable.
Mix Feelings. Our guide is extremely friendly but speaks basic English at best. The mystery behind Egyptian history excites me. So it was a total history bust knowing I wasn’t going to get much out of our guide other than the “Look! Khufu.” and “Here.. Ramses the II” type statements. And when he did have more to say, it was so fast we couldn’t tell if he was still speaking English. Like talking to a 3 year old. But what he lacked in language, he delivered in great service.
Like! The plus side to a private guide is knowing we were not among the many being hustled by locals at the pyramids. It gets pretty dicey out there and even I had a moment of run ins but our guide was quick to deter the locals. Our personal body guard and photography in the one city I think you need it most.
Did I mention we were able to bypass the line and the hassle of buying tickets?!
Dodged a bullet: We found out after returning to the ship the next day, stories of taxi drivers only taking people half way and then asking for more money, souvenir sellers forcing you to buy products by placing items in your hands and other random locals literally taking the cameras off and around your neck! Phew.. close one.
Like! After a short camel ride, our guide tells us we have the option to either pay more to wait to go inside the famous Pyramid of Khufu. Or, we can pay a little less and go inside a smaller pyramid. Khufu was about 100 EGP (about $16) but the line was ridiculous.
We opted to pay less to see the inside of a smaller pyramid. Our guide told us they are all one and the same since they no longer house tombs or mummies. I think this part is suppose to be free with your admission ticket, but by now I know they’ll do anything to nickle and dime you.
Dislike! Shopping without our consent. If you don’t speak up, you’re in for a ride. After the pyramids, shopping at a famous Bazaar anyone?! Key word here is “a” Bazaar, not “the” like the one you’re probably hoping to see. It’s just a local store selling souvenirs. But you could walk away with your very own cartouche as a souvenir. G did.
By now it was near 3PM and we were starving. Next stop — Ramses II. As we walked the premises, I quickly reminded our guide, “When’s lunch?” and he assured me it was after. But not before some more shopping. We quickly declined most including tapestry but decided we should see Egyptian cotton. We are in Egypt after all. Needless to say, we left empty handed and insisted we go to lunch.
Dislike! Lunch was simple fares. Some beets and eggplants, tzatziki and hummus. A few skewered mystery meat and that is what most considered a good meal. Running ants were also plenty on the dining tables at this place. I on the other hand could not wait to check in to our hotel and order room service. It’s safe to say I won’t be craving Egyptian food back home any time soon.
Like! Now off to the see the Great Sphinx! We maneuvered through the crowd, mostly large group tours from cruise ship excursions — another reason why we avoided such thing — and made our way inside.
But our moment with the Sphinx was cut short when one visitor had a heart attack! Passed out right in front of us. His daughter performed CPR while on- lookers slowly cleared out for the paramedics to filter through. Luckily, the daughter was able to revive her father and for split second, a sigh of relief.
Don’t wait to cruise when you’re old and retired. Cruise while you’re still young. Visit the pyramids while you’re still young. A visit like this, under the desert sun in the blistering heat, is not for the faint of heart. Literally.
Dislike. No reservations at Le Meridien. This we knew in advance. They were completely booked. So instead, they gave us the option to choose between a selected few in the nearby area. We chose Le Sphinx. You wouldn’t believe what happened next!
Even though Day 1 was much for most to handle, it’s still surreal to say we’re in Egypt! Day 2 awaits tomorrow!