Wonders of the World
"Egypt has it all!"
If you want to take a trip that will include everything from culture, art, wildlife, desert safaris and cruises, all with amazing views, then Egypt has to be it. It is an undeniably popular tourist destination these days, but don't let that put you off. I found that there were many ways of getting away from the masses and discovering this country by myself. I took a three week trip round Egypt that took in Alexandria, Cairo, Aswan, Luxor and the incredibly beautiful Siwa oasis, which turned out to be the highlight. The trip included a cruise down the Nile and a cruise across Lake Nasser, both of which turned out to be a great way to see the stunning landscape. As with most countries, you need to do a good combination of cities and countryside to get the most from your trip, but obviously a priority has to be seeing the pyramids in Cairo and the Valley of the Kings in Luxor. Most of all though I would recommend GOOD planning and research before you go, as Egypt is a big country and the sights are spread from one end of the country to the other. So plan your budget well and figure out if you need to hire a driver or book certain journeys in advance.
Although some people might be a bit hesitant about taking any kind of a cruise, I have to say that me and my two travelling companions had an absolutely brilliant time on both the one on the Nile and the one on Lake Nasser. There are many, many companies to choose from and I'd strongly advise you to do your homework before booking, as some of the other boats we saw along the way didn't look so great!
On the Nile we sailed on a boat called the Sonesta Moon Goddess and it was very comfortable. There weren't too many people on board, the excursions didn't make you feel like a total tourist, the staff were very friendly and the food was good. As an added bonus, each room had it's own balcony which meant some nice evenings spent watching the sunset with a drink in hand, while the boat sailed quietly down the Nile. We flew from Cairo to Luxor and spent a few days seeing Karnak and the Valley of the Kings and Queens before boarding the ship. From there we sailed to Aswan with stops at Edfu and Kom Ombo along the way. The last day was spent visiting the temple of Philae and finally we took a gorgeous sunset sail in a Felucca around Kitshener's Island.
The cruise across Lake Nasser was even better than the Nile cruise and if you're only going to do one, then I'd recommend this one hands down. There are only around 6 cruise boats sailing on Nasser as opposed to 300 or so on the Nile! So you really get a sense of the peace and beauty of your surroundings. Also, when you stop off to see the temples along this route, you are often the only people there. We took the Kasr Ibrim cruise boat and spent 5 days sailing from Aswan to Abu Simbel, stopping off at places such as the Dakka and Merharakka temples. The boat was very luxurious with friendly staff and great food and I would highly recommend it to anyone considering this trip
The highlight of the trip to Egypt for me was without a doubt the Siwa oasis which lies in the Sahara desert, close to the Lybian boarder. The journey there takes many hours, needs a bit of planning beforehand and is very remotely located. But it is also incredibly beautiful, wonderfully undeveloped and not to be missed as part of a tour of Egypt. We chose to stay in the Adrere Amellal Ecolodge which was designed to respect the environment as much as possible, as well as revive ancient building techniques that were otherwise dying out. The result is a place that is hard to describe, simply because it is so unique and also so stunning. There is no electricity, no phones and no modern technology. Instead oil lamps and candles light your way around the mud and rocksalt houses, your meals are served on pristine cotton table cloths under a starry night sky and when it gets too hot during the day, you can bathe either in the salty lake water or in the Adrere's swimming pool, which is a natural spring.
I think most people come here to get away from the rest of the world and it is certainly the perfect place to do this. You will hardly notice if other guests are staying here and the staff only seem to pop up magically if you need them. But if you want to see the desert, the Eco lodge can arrange a great 4x4 trip for you with a brilliant guide to explain about the fragile local ecosystem and how to understand the desert better. You can also take a trip into the village of Siwa itself where there is a small museum owned by a local man, who will also tell you all about the rich history of this area. Surrounding the village the rocky hills have been used for centuries as burial chambers for the dead which is well worth a tour on your own or with a local guide as the views across the desert alone is amazing.
All in all this is the sort of place you probably only get to try once in a lifetime and if you stay at the Ecolodge as opposed to one of the few other guest houses in the village, it is a tad expensive. But it was one of the most incredible places I have ever stayed and worth the extra effort to get there.