The vacation itself
Let me start off by saying that an Egypt vacation is an orgy. The traffic rules are more guidelines than rules. Everyone is literally driving anywhere they want on the road. Lines on the road mean nothing and if you overtake, the oncoming traffic needs to slow down for you. They don’t pay property taxes on unfinished properties. So, they do not finish any of their buildings. They have perfected the incomplete look. The last floor wall is built to about 60 cm high, the stairs to the “next” floor is installed and a pile of bricks are left to show that they are still building. Obviously, none of the buildings are painted, because that would imply a complete building. This means all the buildings are brown from the desert dust.
The street merchants will follow you for kilometers if you show the slightest interest in what they are selling. That said, the historical sights are worth going through all the trouble getting there. Karnak Temple is built on 64 acres of land, added to by a vast number of pharaohs, each trying to outdo the previous. I previously had not even heard of it. The pyramids are massive and the history extremely interesting. The valley of the kings was slightly under-whelming (especially since almost everything was stolen from the tombs).
The Pyramid of Djoser was also a highlight and here we went into a nearby pyramid as well. We ended the vacation in Hurghada, where we snorkelled and lounged on the beach all day with the desert at our back. The trip was worth all the travelling and I would definitely advise doing an Egypt vacation. I strongly suggest doing a tour, rather than trying to navigate on your own (we used Timeless Tours). The tour guide did end up sleeping with of the guests, keeping our traveling companions awake for a few hours though. So maybe shop around for other tours as well.
The tour cost
Egypt tours are affordable with prices ranging from R4 300 to R9 000 per person. We went for the cheapest one, which was R4 300 for 9 days. This included all the breakfasts and 2 other meals, travelling between the sights, a tour guide and accommodation. The entrance to most sights are excluded and added another R1 400 per person. There were some optional excursions as well, of which we ended up doing only one (a trip to a Nubian village close to Aswan that included dinner), at an additional cost of R300 per person. In total, the tour cost us R6 000 per person, which is more than affordable.
Baksheesh is the word Egyptians use for tips. Literally everyone expects baksheesh from you. The average salary in Egypt ranges from about R4 000 to R6 000. In other words, almost nothing. So, they rely heavily on tips for survival. In the words of our tour guide, “Nothing is free in Egypt”. People expect baksheesh for everything. If they carry your bag, if you take a picture of their camel, if they drive you somewhere and you have already paid them for the trip, they will expect a tip. If I had to estimate, this added another R500 per person to our trip (of which R250 was compulsory for everyone involved in the tour).
The food was something to get used to. It almost felt like their diet was bread (they call it aish which means life), with a bit of meat and fillings to make it edible. Even the pizzas were mostly bread. We ended up eating a lot of croissants, kofta and eggs. To be fair the food in Hurghada was miles better than anything the rest of Egypt had to offer. At typical tourist spots the meals were roughly R80, but locals pay about R20 per meal. 25% of the tour group got sick for at least a day (including my wife), so make sure you have medication. The additional meals we had to buy totalled R1 600.
Flights were really cheap at R6 500 with Egypt airlines and everything went smoothly. It was a direct flight that took about 8 hours. I took a sleeping pill for the first time in my life and was asleep before we took off. Getting a massage and buying souvenirs added another R1 250. The total cost for the Egypt vacation totalled R28 850 for both of us. So, in summary, the traffic was crazy, the food questionable, the accommodation was the best that they could offer in Egypt, you have to avoid street vendors like the plague, but it is all worth it for the amazing sights and rich history. Not everything was enjoyable, but everything was an experience. At a cost of less than R30k, insanely cheap.
Be safe out there,
Quote of the week
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” – Jack Kerouac
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