Flight Centre’s Rae Ellen toured the wondrous sights of Egypt with On The Go Tours, which turned out to be one of our seasoned traveller’s greatest adventures. She shares her experience with us, and what you can expect when travelling with this tour company in Egypt.
My love affair with Egypt began in Madame Blais’ Grade 3 history class. I clearly remember reading my very first book on ancient Egypt, the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb. Since then, Egypt’s history and culture have mesmerized me. I have dreamed about how it feels to see the Great Pyramids for the first time, walking through ancient tombs and taking a camel ride in the desert. That dream became a reality thanks to On The Go Tours. In fact, it was even more incredible than what I’d imagined.
Arriving in Cairo on a Friday afternoon was a great idea, as Friday is considered their weekend and one of the best days for traffic. After all, Cairo is one of the most densely populated cities in the world with just over 17 million people; this also means thousands of cars. I was picked up at the very modern Cairo Airport by Shady, an On The Go representative. We jumped into our transfer car and headed to the Oasis Hotel, where I would be spending my first two nights. During the drive I was in awe at the hundreds of buildings and constant hustle and bustle of the city that never sleeps. Peering out the car window I saw a sight that I will never forget: my first glimpse of the Pyramids. They stood silent amongst this fast-paced city, their beauty and presence cannot be described.
Settled in at the Oasis Hotel in Cairo, I was able to enjoy a traditional meal of hummus and pita bread and their local Stella Beer. A dip in the pool and some sun bathing was a welcome treat! Our first day of the tour started early to avoid the heat. We travelled to Saqqara to see Djoser’s Step Pyramid. In about 10 minutes I had made it through two bottles of water, yes it’s that hot! I found myself walking around the ancient ruins captivated – I couldn’t believe I was there, standing in front of dazzling hieroglyphics etched into the beautiful limestone.
The afternoon brought us to the Pyramids in Giza where I was able to climb up and touch the huge rocks. What a moment to be standing on the Pyramids! On the Go arranged a camel ride from the Pyramids through the desert to the visit the Sphinx of Giza. I think I lucked out on my camel, it didn’t spit and was a smooth ride!
That evening we boarded our overnight sleeper train to Luxor. I loved the sleeper train! Our little room converted from a sitting area to two bunk beds, I had the best sleep ever being rocked into a deep rest.
The Steigenberger Nile Palace Hotel in Luxor was beautiful with a pool looking right over the Nile River. You couldn’t ask for a more amazing view from the balcony of your room. I had to take a moment to pinch myself – I still couldn’t believe I was in Egypt, standing by the great Nile. The sunset that night was magical with feluccas and Nile cruisers heading down the river with calm and grace.
Our 4:00 am wake-up call would take us on a felucca across the Nile to our hot air balloon ride over the Valley of the Kings – a highly recommended outing. Although I was a little apprehensive about being so high up in the air, the view as we watched the sun rise over the city of Luxor with the Nile disappearing into the horizon, was well worth my unease. The breathtaking ride was one of the most memorable experiences I had on the trip.
While floating gently in the sky, we watched the harvesting of wheat below – still done as it was in ancient Egypt. Our balloon landed softly in a farmer’s field with a ground crew ready to pick us up. After a little post-balloon dance with the locals and a glass of champagne, I started to understand how Egypt can charm your spirit.
In Luxor, we visited the Valley of the Kings. I went into the famed King Tutankhamun’s tomb, where his mummy is displayed. What an incredible feeling – to be in the same room with the young Pharaoh. At the Valley of the Kings, you can pick which tombs to visit as there are a number open to the public. What is most amazing is that the tombs still have the hieroglyphics with their bright colours fully intact. You can’t help but be transported back in time and think about who had walked those same halls before you. That afternoon, we also visited the Temple of the Queen Hatshepsut and Karnak Temple. Our evening ended with a spectacular tour of Luxor Temple at night. Illuminated, shadows danced across the beautiful stone structures, as our On The Go tour guide and Egyptologist, Sam, provided us with many fascinating facts.
Our journey then took us on an overnight bus ride from Luxor to Dahab. I actually had a great sleep on the bus! I was prepared with a sleep mask, ear plugs, travel pillow and blanket. Although the bus ride was a long one, the end result of reaching Dahab was well worth it.
Dahab is the most relaxed place I have ever been to. It is a small town servicing the many travellers who come to dive and snorkel the famous Blue Hole. At 80 metres deep, the Blue Hole is home to some of the most amazing coral, fish and marine life. What’s even better about it is that you don’t need to take a boat to get there, as it’s right off the shoreline and perfect for any beginner snorkeler or diver.
Our resting place for the next four days was the new Mercure Bay View Dahab Resort, a gorgeous hotel set amongst the mountains with direct access to the Red Sea. Each evening in Dahab was filled with eating at Bedouin restaurants where you sit on plush pillows and eat from low tables. There is never a shortage of sheesha, the traditional water pipe. Although I’m not a smoker, it added atmosphere to our chill and relaxed evenings. You can order anything from pizza to picking your very own fish off the huge fresh seafood platters brought out. After filling up on amazing food you can sample the various bars set along the main street in Dahab. Our favourite hangout was Mojitos.
During my stay in Dahab I experienced many firsts; I wakeboarded in the Red Sea– let me rephrase that– I tried to wakeboard in the Red Sea– spent a day on a yacht, went ATVing, and danced under the stars in the desert. After a few days of swimming in crystal clear water, ocean-side dining and desert trekking, I wanted to quit my job and stay forever!
It was a sad day for me when we boarded the bus to start the long journey back to Cairo. I had fallen in love with the simplicity and beauty of Dahab. Our final day brought us back to Cairo, where we visited the Egyptian Museum. I have never seen so much gold in my life! The evening ended off with a beautiful dinner by the Nile with all the amazing friends we had made during the tour.
Once back in Canada, I realized that I was suffering a serious case of the vacation blues. This trip was so incredible that it left me desperate for more. It’s a good thing Egypt has an endless amount of places to see and that On The Go offers many more tours I can go on. I am still in awe that the dreams I created back in grade three, all came true for me during this trip.