Egypt: Beyond Imagination

A stunning video that takes you through some of Egypt’s most beautiful areas, with a great soundtrack and gorgeous footage. Get a glimpse of an unforgettable journey into one of the world’s richest countries when it comes to things to see and do, and start planning your trip today…


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The Nile on the Move at Sunset – A Video

The Nile at sunset from a felucca is stunning! Beautiful hues and scenic silhouettes. An experience you will never forget! This video conveys to you the magic of the region put to lovely music. Enjoy.


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Sun to Illuminate Inner Sanctuary of Pharaoh’s Temple

Abu Simbel

Source: National Geographic News


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For most of the year, the inner sanctum of the main temple at Abu Simbel is shrouded in darkness.

On two days, traditionally the anniversary of the birthday and coronation of pharaoh Ramses II, a shaft of sunlight pierces the gloom, illuminating statues of gods and the king in the temple’s inner sanctum.

On February 22, a day celebrating the king’s birthday and again on October 22, a day celebrating his coronation, sunlight illuminates seated statues of the sun gods Re-Horakhte and Amon-Re, as well as a statue of king Ramses II. The statues sit in the company of the Theban god of darkness, Ptah (who remains in the shadows all year).

The spectacle—which has endured more than 3,200 years of Egyptian history—draws thousands of tourists to Abu Simbel to watch this ancient tribute to a pharaoh whose name is still known up and down the Nile Valley for his military exploits and monumental building projects.

Temple of a God-King

Ramses, who ruled Egypt for 66 years from 1270 to 1213 BC (about 50 years after the death of Tutankhamen, better known as King Tut) made a name for himself by battling the Hittites and the Syrians, Egypt’s enemies to the north.

To celebrate his victories, Ramses erected monuments up and down the Nile with records of his achievements. He completed the hypostyle hall at Karnak (Thebes), and completed the funerary temple of his father, Seti I, at Luxor on the West Bank of the Nile.

The main temple at Abu Simbel, which Ramses ordered built near the border of Nubia and Upper Egypt, was dedicated to two sun gods, Amen-Re and Re-Horakhte. Standing 100 feet (33 meters) tall, the temple was carved into an already-standing sandstone mountain on the banks of the Nile.

Four colossal statues of Ramses, each 66 feet (22 meters) high, guard the entrance to the temple. Rising to the pharaoh’s knees are smaller statues of family members: his mother; favorite wife, Nefertari; and son, Prince Amonherkhepshef.

Inside the temple, three connected halls extend 185 feet (56 meters) into the mountain. Images of the king’s life and many achievements adorn the walls. A second temple at Abu Simbel is dedicated to Nefartari, who appears to have been Ramses’ favorite wife.

“Abu Simbel was one of, if not the largest, rock-cut temples in Egypt,” says Bruce Williams of the Oriental Institute of Chicago, “The rock was sacred because the Egyptians believed the deity was living inside the mountain.”

Rock-cut temples may have been especially significant in ancient Egypt because the bulge in the otherwise flat land may have signified the location where the gods emerged from the Earth, says Williams.

Monumental Move

The Abu Simbel temples do not sit in their original location. Egypt’s growing need for electricity prompted the controversial construction of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960s.The dam created Lake Nasser, and rising waters flooded a number of important archaeological sites along the banks of the Nile and displaced thousands of people who lived in the area.

The rising waters threatened the temples at Abu Simbel. Members of the United Nations Education, Science, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) orchestrated a massive construction project that moved the temple back 690 feet to its present site.

Piece by piece, craftsmen cut the temple, and the nearby temple of Nefertari into massive blocks of sandstone up to thirty tons. Both temples were carefully reassembled on a new steel and cement “mountain,” safe from the water’s edge.

The only result of the move is that the days of illumination have shifted by one—the illumination used to occur on February and October 21.

Festival of the Sun

That the days of illumination correspond to actual days in the life of Ramses is highly unlikely, says Leo Depuydt, an egyptologist at Brown University.

“The Egyptian calendar was based on 365 days and while it was precise, the solar calendar is minutely different from year to year,” says Depuydt, who adds that it is also difficult to know the precise date of the birth or coronation of Ramses II.

“Regardless of the alignment, if the temple faces East, the sun is going to shine in it twice a year,” says Depuydt, who adds that “excitement is the key here—people are going to come to see the sun in the temple. But science is a different matter.”


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Egypt’s Coffeehouses

Tea and shisha, a water pipe with flavored tobacco, are standard in Egyptian cafes.  Photograph by Pascal Meunier, Cosmos/Aurora

Source: National Geographic


Tea and shisha, a water pipe with flavored tobacco, are standard in Egyptian cafes. Photograph by Pascal Meunier, Cosmos/Aurora

By Carl Hoffman

Writer Carl Hoffman traveled to Egypt in February 2011, a week after popular demonstrations led to the president’s resignation. These are his observations. 

The air was smoky but sweet, the sounds unmistakable: glasses clinking and dominoes and backgammon dice clacking, newspaper pages turning, and the constant low hum of voices.

In Egypt there is a coffee shop on every corner. Sometimes in the middle of the block, too, and even right next to another one. They’re all different and all similar—open to the street, often old, with feral cats prowling underfoot and ceiling fans slowly turning overhead. Men drink tea, smoke water pipes, play table games, and talk or read the newspaper. Some cafes are tiny holes in the wall; others are large and sprawling. Often they fill whole alleyways, especially at night.

Called ahwas, the shops are an Egyptian institution. Mostly you’ll find only men in them, though tourists are almost always welcome, and in parts of downtown Cairo, accompanied Egyptian women are seen.

As protesters and revelers moved in and out of Tahrir Square I took refuge from the action to slip inside an ahwa for a shisha and sweet tea.

The tea is always in glasses served on an aluminum tray and the shisha, or water pipe, comes with fresh, flavored tobacco topped by hot coals. The smoke is smooth and gentle, even to a non-smoker like me. Sit as long as you want; there’s never a hurry, and there’s always time to talk.

One afternoon I fell into conversation with Shady El Tawansy, 26, who gave me the lowdown on Egyptian dating.

“We don’t date,” he said, taking a long, slow drag on the hookah. “You go out in groups. To the mosque on Fridays. The parents and families are very involved in the process all along the way. It is very complicated.”


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Egypt Revisited




Who hasn’t dreamt of going to Egypt?

We were recently in Seattle talking with the executives of and while all of them are well travelled and have been all over the world. When we told them they were going to Egypt next, they talked of how it was either their favourite destination or for those who hadn’t been there, their dream destination.

Everyone fantasizes about this ancient land.

We loved Egypt

It is filled with iconic landmarks and remarkable landscapes. It has a rich history and strong culture and it boasts world class diving, incredible beaches and exciting nightlife.

Egypt has it all.

In honour of our current trip to Cairo where we are speaking to the tourism industry about working with Travel Bloggers, we thought that we would revisit our favourite sites in Egypt. We spent a few weeks there before and during our cycling race from the top of Africa to the bottom of the continent and we are so excited to be going back to see more!

Pyramids of Giza

We hired a camel, a horse and a guide to take us to see the pyramids. Weaving through the back streets of Cairo on our trusted steeds, we entered what seemed like a shady opening to the grounds. Are we going to get anywhere near them? Well actually yes!

We road our camels through the desert right up to the massive structures. Our guide urged us to walk up the steps and we weren’t sure if we were allowed or not, but we graciously accepted.

After touring around the 3 main temples, they took us to a high dune overlooking the complex. Yes, we were being scammed and taken to the cleaners by the nice old man that kept layering us in robes and head dresses, but even though it cost us a bit of cash, we couldn’t put a price on securing this photo.

White Desert

We arranged a $15 a day tour to the White Desert through the Dahab Guesthouse in downtown Cairo. It ended up being an incredible trip. We were told, if there is one thing you should do in Cairo, it is see the White Desert. We listened and it didn’t disappoint.

Giant White structures jutted out of the desert landscape creating incredible formations. Brought on by erosion, these chalky mounds create the illusion of massive mushrooms, eagles and turkeys and even one that looks like a camel.

Experiencing a true Bedouin experience, we camped out under the stars. With just 3 walls made of blankets to blog the cold desert wind, we slept under thick sleeping bags and blankets grateful for the warm tea that our guides made us after our delicious Bedouin meal.

Abu Simbel

Located on Lake Nassar we caught a glimpse of this monument from our ferry to the Sudan.  The staff of the ferry told us to make sure we were out early in the morning to witness this wonder as we passed by.

Originally located on The Nile, Abu Simbel needed to be moved when the Egyptians created the Nile Dam project. It would have been engulfed by water never to be seen again until the government came to its rescue taking it apart piece by piece and rebuilding it high on the banks of the lake.

Built as a monument for Ramses the IV, this would definitely be enough to deter invaders from entering his kingdom.

Nile River Cruise

When in Cairo, you must book a dinner cruise on the Nile. It is here that you can sample Egyptian entertainment such as belly dancing and the Whirling Dervishes. Pass along the cityscape while you enjoy authentic Egyptian cuisine and imagine what legendary heroes and villains floated along these waters over the centuries.

Valley of the Kings

We were all fascinated with King Tut as children and it is here that you can visit his tomb. It is here that you can visit every King of the Pharoahs tombs. Ramses, I-V and everyone else in between were laid to rest here in extravagant tombs filled with riches and jewels.

You won’t see the treasures in these tombs today, but you will see the paintings and heigroglyphics drawn on the walls of these massive chambers that are as big as a house.

The tombs are impressive but the valley itself is even more incredible. I can see why the ancient Egyptians chose this as the resting place of their most important leaders.

Temple of Hatshepsut

This impressive temple is dedicated to the female King Hatshepsut . Leader for 27 years, she has a monument to rival even the greatest of kings. Built between 1490-1460BC.

It is impossible to imagine that the Nile reached the grounds of this temple complex and that the area surrounding it was lush and green. Today the desert is dry, but the temple is no less impressive.

Felucca Ride in Luxor

So your Egypt holidays are going great.  You’ve done a Nile dinner cruise in Cairo, now its time to feel the wind in your hair on a sail boat in Luxor. We simply walked down to the river to find ourselves a boat for the afternoon. We walked along until we found a captain we felt comfortable with and negotiated a deal for him to take us out for a few hours.

Sailing along the fabled Nile, I wondered exactly what bank Moses was left on? I don’t know a lot about the bible, but I do know that he was sent floating down the Nile somewhere!

The sun was shining as we lazily drifted pass the cityscape. Camels and goats walked along the river banks and the day was silent as we fulfilled yet another one of our dreams.

Checking off the Bucket List

When visiting Egypt, you will  check of many of those items on your bucket list. For us it was Sleep in the Desert, Sail on the Nile, See the Pyramids and Visit King Tuts tomb. We did it all and what do you do when you’ve accomplished something?

Add to it of course.

We now have a new bucket list that is ever evolving.

This time in Egypt, we’ll actually make it inside the Egyptian museum and take a tour to Alexandria. Stay tuned for more coming from Egypt.

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A Dahab Christmas





I was awoken at 5am on Christmas day by the local Muezzin, giving Allah his dues. The last time I was up at 5am on Christmas day I was six years old and had peed myself with excitement.

This time I stayed dry and instead of rushing to the Christmas tree I headed to Cairo Gateway bus station to get a bus to Dahab in the Sinai.

I arrived shaken & stirred many hours later and headed to Dive-Urge where I had organised a room at last minute. The greeting was warm and I was given some Bedouin tea (with sage) and told that there would be a Christmas dinner on the beach in a couple of hours.

I skedaddled to the local bottle shop (imaginatively titled “Drinks”) and purchased some Stella [sans Artois]. Safely back on the beach, the food was slowly served up and honestly [sorry mom] it was the best Christmas meal ever. It was like the Egyptian chef had taken a Christmas dinner cooking course. Succulent turkey, red cabbage, stuffing, crunchalicious roast potatos, bread sauce… The works.

Spent a week in Dahab, which is as relaxed as it gets. Diving, sleeping, eating, sleeping, diving, repeat until done. Dive Urge is a fantastic place, highly recommended. But after this it was time to get on the road again.


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About the Red Sea

Swimming in the Red Sea

Source: Visiting Egypt

To anyone standing on its shore and gazing out across its heavenly waters, the Red Sea may seem to be a mislabeling. Its blueness is eternal and anything less red cannot be fantasized. The Red Sea, where the desert meets the ocean, is truly one of the planet’s most exotic and fascinating natural seascape environments. The Red Sea is located between Asia and Africa. At its most northerly point forms the Sinai Peninsula and stretches over 1000 miles south to join the Indian Ocean, between Ethiopia and Yemen. In the north and west are desert plains, while in the south a mountainous region (2642 meters high), which is part of the mountain range stretching from deep in Saudi Arabia, across the Sinai and then into Nubia of the African continent. The Red Sea holds beneath its crystal blue surface an oasis of living creatures, reefs, and coral formation. Its use as a highway between East and West has attracted man since the beginning of time.


The Red Sea was created by the movement of plates in the Earth’s surface about 30 million years ago. In that time, the Arab peninsula started to part from Africa along a thin break line which was filled by the ocean’s water. However, “Mother Nature” did not stop there. Twenty million years ago another geological movement started. The Arab peninsula which parted from Africa, started to move to the north. That movement struck resistance in Turkey and swung to the east, and another break line was formed. This one stretching all the way from the northern part of Israel, through the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea, and finally through the Gulf of Eilat to Ras Mohamad at the southern point of the Sinai. The young age of the Gulf of Eilat is what makes it so deep, 100 meters in Dahab and 1800 meters north of the Straits of Tiran. On the other hand, the old Gulf of Suez is relatively shallow, with a 85 meters maximum depth. The Red Sea is still widening at about one-half inch per year, the rift is the youngest region of continental breakup on the planet, allowing geologists to learn about processes that occurred in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans hundreds of millions of years earlier.

Water temperatures in the Red Sea remain unusually constant year round, averaging 22^ C in the summer. Low pressure systems develop in the Sahara Desert and draw hot dry east winds from Asia which cause the temperature to rise frequently along with sand storms. At the same time, lows develop over the Red Sea, bringing moist cold air from the south and creating clouds, haze, and more often rain. The northern land mass is the primary influence over temperature in the gulf, but this decreases to the south the closer you get to open sea. The open sea’s cooling effect creates an interesting temperature pattern: maximum summer temperatures are lower in the south while minimum temperatures are higher in the north with the opposite occurring during the winter. In any case, the coldest moth of the year is January and the warmest months are July and August. The Red Sea is notorious among seafarers for its high speed surface winds and aggressively short irregular motion. It may be calm on the inward shore, but journeys to exposed sites like The Brothers islands, a remote off-shore site east of El Quseir, can be perilous and boats have been seen literally to fall apart under the force of the journey.

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Nile Valley and Luxor

This video is an advertisement by a UK tour operator, but it really shows you the sights of Luxor and the surrounding Nile Valley in an informative way. You can also find out about the different activities on the Nile and around Luxor as well as the different types of Nile Cruises available to tourists. Perhaps you’ll get inspired and find yourself booking a trip!
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Castle Carter & Deir el-Bahri



This morning the air felt much cooler as we had our morning coffee on the roof terrace and I noticed the haze that has been around since we arrived in Luxor seems to have finally cleared. Sam and I decided to drive over to the West Bank again.

  Once more crossing the bridge and turning right along the pretty tree-lined road towards the Gezira cross-roads, I noticed again the activity involved with the sugar cane harvest. Trucks, tractors and donkey carts trundled along the road piled high with canes. One interesting development I’ve noticed this year is the arrival of a new type of vehicle in the form of a motorcycle with a pick-up back, like a motorised donkey cart but much faster. I guess this progress is inevitable and I wondered how long it will take before we no longer see donkeys on the roads. Is this a good or a bad omen for the donkeys who will become redundant?



We stopped briefly at the Colossi of Memnon, the statues of Amenhotep III at the entrance to his Kom el-Hettan temple, because the sun was lighting them perfectly in the late morning. After mid-day the front of the statues are in shadow. A long screen has been erected in front of the excavation area so there was no chance of seeing any work in progress. We had a glimpse from the road of the statue of the king that has been re-erected in the temple area with its replica head. Knowing that visitors are quickly turned away, there was no point in stopping.

Sam drove along Monument Road again slowly so that we could see what has been going on excavation-wise. How lazy is that? But we were on our way to the Carter house, where the famous discoverer of Tutankhamun’s tomb had lived and worked.




I had expressed an interest in seeing the recently re-opened ‘Castle Carter’ last week.  I remember from my first excursions onto the West Bank years ago, several people told me that ‘Castle Carter’ was the domed building on the hill at the entrance to the road to the King’s Valley. I was even once taken inside part of this building, which was also a dig house. Later however, I learned that Carter’s house was at the foot of this hill and surrounded by overgrown trees that went a good way to hide it. The larger and more prominent house on the hill is in fact Stoppelaere House, built to a plan of Hasan Fathy in the 1950s as both a guest house for the Department of Antiquities and the headquarters and apartment of Dr. Alexander Stoppelaere who was the chief restorer of the Department at that time.


The real ‘Castle Carter’ was in fact Howard Carter’s second home on the West Bank, his first being near Medinet Habu. The one we visited today has been beautifully restored and we, the only visitors, were welcomed free of charge and shown around by a guide. A fantastic job has been done on the restoration of the house. It is an Egyptian traditional mudbrick house with a dome in the centre to keep it cool. Each room is furnished with lovely period pieces from the time when Carter lived there and even though I knew they were not original to the house they felt like they belonged there. It certainly captured my imagination. There are many copies of photographs and reproductions of some of Carter’s original handwritten notes and his drawings to add extra interest and the present Lady Carnarvon has done a beautiful job of designing posters and history boards with photographs of the two famous men.

 Howard Carter built this house shortly after beginning his association with his benefactor Lord Carnarvon of Highclere Castle in England, in 1910. He lived in Luxor for many years and it was his base while excavating in the Valley of the Kings and searching for Tutankhamun’s tomb. Carter’s story after his 1922 great discovery is well known and his last years are rather sad, but it was lovely to see the life this house must have had while he lived there.

The most interesting part for me was the darkroom, now lit with  the traditional red light and looking like Carter or his photographer Burton might step out at any moment. The walls were hung with black and white photographs and there is even a huge wooden plate camera on display. The restored house is surrounded by a newly-planted garden that will be very pretty when the plants grow and there are shady rest areas where visitors will be able to get refreshments. Outside there is a wonderful view of Thoth Hill, and with my long lens I was able to take a picture of the temple on it’s peak. I’ve never yet managed the two-hour trek to the top.



After leaving ‘Castle Carter’ Sam and I decided that Deir el-Bahri, where we were headed next, would still be too busy with the morning rush, so we went into the Ramesseum rest house for a drink to while away an hour or so. We finally arrived at Hatshepsut’s Temple around 2.00pm when most of the visitors had gone. Deir el-Bahri has also changed since my last visit and now has a big new visitor’s centre. We were told we were not allowed to walk up to the temple but had to go on the little taf-taf train. It’s becoming like Disneyland here. We bought our tickets (30 LE plus 2 LE for the taf-taf) and off we went.

 I visited each terrace in turn taking photographs of the walls. because many of the reliefs have been newly cleaned since I was last here. The right-hand second terrace is looking especially good and the shallow relief depicting the divine birth of Hatshepsut now shows up well. The Chapel of Anubis has also had a face-lift and the painted walls are now bright and colourful. I love to visit the little Chapel of Hathor with its lovely Hathor-headed columns and today with my zoom lens I got some good pictures of the adjacent Middle Kingdom Mentuhotep Temple from there. I also got some pictures of the old Metropolitan dig-house, a magnificent huge building to the south of the temple that for many years has been used by the Polish Mission working at Deir el-Bahri.

We left Deir el-Bahri when the temple closed at 5.00pm, making our way through the bazaar that is now the only exit. Sam had to park on the road because the enormous car park is now for coaches and taxis only. We drove back into Luxor in the crazy evening traffic, trying to work out why drivers mostly ignore the red traffic lights.





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Shopping and the Markets of Luxor



Luxor is not a place to go for large, glamorous shops. There aren’t any. There are, however, bargains to be had, as well as souvenirs.

Typical souvenir items include carvings and mouldings of gods, pharaohs and queens, papyrus illustrations and glass scent bottles. The bargains include egyptian cotton, leather, gold and silver (but in all cases be careful about manufacturing quality).

Prices in hotel shops will normally be beatable, but they are worth checking if only to give you a benchmark for when you go to town.

It is also worth visiting non-tourist shops in town, where prices are marked and where, as far as we can tell, the tourist pays the same as local people. Most of these shops are in and around Station Street and Television Street. Station Street is the wide road that leads from behind Luxor Temple towards the railway station. Here you will find shops selling shoes, clothing, small electrical items and an optician. Television Street is a long road that leads from behind the Old Winter palace and runs more-or-less east (away from the Nile).

It helps to have a note of Arabic numbers because although prices are often displayed, they are usually only written in Arabic.

arabic numbers

Haggling – the price you have to pay

You don’t have to haggle in normal shops, such as the ones along Television Street and Station Street.

Elsewhere, you haggle for most things, especially in the market and in the tourist shops. Once upon a time the general advice (which is still given by some tour reps) is that you start to haggle at half the price asked for by the merchant and meet somewhere in the middle. The shop and market people are wise to that, so they up the starting price. It is not at all unusual for a seller to start the haggling process six, eight or even ten times higher than the price they would accept.

The best bet is to become familiar with value of things by checking the price charged in the government shop, other fixed price shops, non-tourist shops used by local people and hotel shops. There is no magic formula. Do your homework and with that background information decide what you are prepared to pay, then barter. If you buy for that or a lower amount you have a bargain. If you want to know the lowest price, just show interest, barter a bit, then walk away. The price he shouts after you as you begin to disappear back into the crowd is probably as low as he will go.

Fruit & Veg shopping

There used to be plenty of fruit and veg stalls in the tourist market, but most of these have now gone. There is a new fruit and veg market just across the railway line, behind the station. This is where local people buy their fruit and veg, so look for one with the prices marked, go armed with the arabic number list (above) and shopping is easy!

There are also lots of fruit and veg shops and stalls in Medina Street, which turns off Television street at the Vodaphone shop and more scattered around town, especially close to the railway crossing near the station and between Station Street and Television Street.

Government Shop

There used to be a big and dusty Government Shop in the maze behind Luxor Temple. There is now a new Government shop at the southern end of town. To get to it, go down the road opposite the Lotus hotel, past Joan’s, Snobs, Casablanca etc to the end of the road. The Government shop is on the corner of that road and the busy main road. On the ground floor are clothing and linens, such as sheets, table cloths etc. Downstairs there are fabrics and domestic machines. This is not the same as a duty free shop. It is simply owned by a government company.

It helps to know the procedure for buying here. The shop is similar to a British corner draper from the 1950s. There are counters and each member of staff has their own territory and specialty. Prices are marked in arabic. Staff speak English. They will willingly show you what you want to see and tell you the price. Prices are fixed but seem to come with an automatic discount.

When you have chosen your purchase(s) you are given a chitty. Take the chitty to the cash kiosk opposite the main entrance. Give the chitty and your payment to the cashier. He will receipt the chitty and return it. Now take the receipted chitty to the dispatcher who has his own counter to the right of the cashier. If the goods have not already arrived at the dispatcher’s desk he will go to the place where you started, to collect your purchase. He then wraps it and gives it to you with your receipted chitty. If you buy things from more than one counter, collect your chitties as you go round and take them all to the cashier together.

Many of the people involved may ask for tips, but this is out of habit. Tips are not really expected or normally given.

Tourist shops

Tourist shops in town tend to be clustered and they all sell similar things, especially alabaster, resin mouldings, leather, t-shirts, other cotton and jewellery. The goods in tourist shops are rarely priced. Hassle and bartering are the order of the day. One cluster of tourist shops is along the main Corniche either side of the Winter Palace, extending into the Marhaba centre, to the left (as you face it) of the Winter Palace. There used to be more around the Horus hotel, between the market and Luxor Temple, but these have been cleared as part of the town improvements. For a while they were relocated along the main road on the town side of the El Luxor hotel. They are now in a new purpose-built shopping centre, called Savoy Market (see below). At the other end of town there are plenty of shops along the main road from the Nile Palace hotel (previously called the Meridien hotel), all the way through to the Sheraton and down some of the side streets along the way.

Savoy Market

The Savoy Market has replaced many of the tourist shops that used to be clustered close to the Luxor Temple. This is part of the thrust to improve facilities for tourists, but it was also necessary as part of the clearance of a tract of land between Luxor and Karnak temples to reintroduce the ancient avenue of sphinxes.

The Savoy Market is on the town side of the El Luxor (previously the Mercure) hotel. It has an arcade at ground level, which goes through to the road at the back, and two further floors. There are dozens of shops, selling the full range of tourist souvenir things. There are also several toilets, which were once quite acceptable by local public toilet standards but have not aged well, and an internet cafe. Some of the best known local low-cost restaurants have also been relocated to the Savoy market with the shops. Altogether there are three restaurants, El Hussien (yes, it is spelt that way outside) and Amoun are on the second level and King Tut is at the top.


Luxor Market

For atmosphere when shopping, a must-visit is the traditional market in Old Market Street. There are many access points into Old Market Street. For one, start at McDonald’s. With your back to McDonald’s, go right, past a few shops and to the junction with the main road. The main road is Station Road. Cross this road and look for the new sign “Le Souk”. This is the entrance to the market.

At this end of the market most of the shops sell jewellery, bags and leather goods, souvenirs, spices, scarves, T-shirts and other clothing, and other items aimed at the tourist. As you progress through the market, the emphasis changes, with fewer shops targeting the tourist. There used to be lots of stalls selling fruit and vegetables, household utensils, tools and other goods providing for the needs of local people. However, most of these, especially the fruit and veg, have now been moved to a new fruit and veg market on the other side of the railway line, not far from the station.

Some guides and occasional visitors to Luxor will advise against shopping in the market. Their reasons may include the inevitable hassle from shop or stall holders and the possibility that you will pay too much for your purchases.

As far as the hassle is concerned, certainly there will be plenty of local people keen to ‘help’ you and you will not progress far in Old Market Street without being ‘encouraged’ to go into shops or to look at wares on a market stall. That kind of hassle is hard to avoid anywhere in Luxor. A little tolerance and good humour will usually be enough to get you by.

What you pay for your purchases is largely up to you. Many of the stall holders work on commission. Everything has a minimum price that the owner will expect. If the seller can get more than the minimum then the difference will probably be his earnings so yes, many may maximise their earnings when they have a chance. Some guides will suggest that you offer half the starting price. The sellers are wise to that advice and so will often start much higher than twice what you need to pay – even ten times as much.

There is no magic formula. Do your homework in the hotel and local shops.

With that background decide what you are prepared to pay, then barter. If you buy for that or a lower amount you have a bargain. If you want to know the lowest price, just show interest, barter a bit, then walk away. The price he shouts after you as you begin to disappear back into the crowd is probably as low as he will go.


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For miles and Niles: Watching the sun rise while floating high above Egypt’s treasures


By Rosa Monckton

Egypt has always held a fascination for me. I have travelled all over the Middle East, and to parts of Africa, but for some reason had never made it to Egypt.

So when we were deciding where to go for a family holiday, it seemed an obvious choice.

Discover Egypt organised the trip for us and were efficient and helpful, particularly as at the last minute we had to split up, two of us flying to Luxor and the other two flying straight to the Red Sea.


Everything was re-organised with the minimum of hassle and I caught my first glimpse of the Nile with my youngest daughter Domenica when we arrived at the Maritim Jolie Ville Luxor Island hotel.

The hotel is in a superb position, on the shore of the Nile, with a beautiful infinity pool looking over the river. A new reception area was being completed and I hope that the next bit of updating will be to the rooms, which are pretty basic.

We had breakfast on the terrace before the heat of the day, watching life on the river, including vast boats passing serenely in front of us. From there we drove across the desert to El Gouna, on the Red Sea, where we stayed in the Movenpick Resort and Spa.



This is a vast complex with several restaurants, swimming pools and beaches. It is overwhelming until you have worked out where everything is.

Then it is like being a part of the computer game The Sims, a virtual world where the player is in control of the people and the buildings – you make it exactly as you would want it.

In Movenpick everything interconnects and works like clockwork and the rooms are comfortable and well-thought-out. The food was exceptionally good, particularly the buffet lunch and at the fish restaurant.

The Movenpick is one of a series of hotels built around the lagoons of El Gouna, an artificial construction on a vast scale.

It is a hugely ambitious project and we spent a morning going through the lagoons in a boat to get a sense of its size.

Satellite masts are hidden in fake palm trees and everything is pristine and spanking new, which reinforces that computer-game feeling.

That evening I went with my eldest daughter Savannah to a Bedouin dinner in a strip of desert outside the main compound.

There were camel rides, an ostrich to look at and food served while we sat cross-legged on cushions in the sand.

The Moon was full and it was a lovely, if somewhat touristy, night, complete with whirling dervishes and plaintive Arab music.

Water sports are a theme in El Gouna so I persuaded my husband Dominic and Savannah

to have a go at parasailing. We were driven to the Old Marina, which is an isolated spit of sand with a hut and an incongruously placed sofa on the beach.


Just seeing Dominic and Savannah’s faces as they were strapped into their double harness on the parachute before they had even taken off made the whole trip worthwhile.

Savannah has a certificate from her school on the kitchen wall at home for the dubious accolade of ‘probably attending the least number of PE lessons in her year group’.

And Dominic hates all ‘unnecessary’ movement. To see the two of them suspended high above us, attempting – as they told me later – to have a normal conversation to disguise their fear, was a sight to behold.

When they were reeled in they had a ceremonial dunking in the sea. I asked Dominic what it had been like and he replied that he would like a ‘gin and catatonic, please’.

One night we went to dinner by the harbour in El Gouna. It was a balmy night and the harbour was busy – one had a sense of being in some recently constructed Mediterranean port.

In a few years, when everything has mellowed, it will be a very different, vibrant place. As it stands, its very newness is somewhat disconcerting.


Savannah and I spent a morning snorkelling along the reef, seeing all manner of brightly coloured fishes, and then we set off across the desert plains to return to Luxor for our last two days.

Dominic and I got up at dawn, were driven to the Nile, crossed over in the dark, and emerged on the west bank to a surreal landscape of billowing hot-air balloons.

We clambered into a corner compartment of the basket of a huge balloon, and – very slowly – we rose majestically above the Nile to watch the sunrise.

It was stunningly beautiful, eerily quiet and one of those dawns and sunrises that one will never forget. There were muted colours and stirrings of life and then the sudden explosion of light shattering across the desert landscape and shafting on to the temples.

We landed abruptly in the middle of a smallholding, with ancient, inscrutable men in traditional robes rushing forward to help us alight. From there we went to the temple of Queen Hatshepsut, built on three terraced levels.

She was one of the rare female pharaohs, and in order to legitimise her position, she depicted herself wearing a pharaoh’s kilt and a beard. This temple is an extraordinary monument to the first known reigning queen.


The advantage of going to the temple so early in the morning is that it was completely empty. By the time we got to the Valley of the Kings the crowds had appeared, and that, coupled with the intense heat, makes the viewing conditions of the tombs very difficult.


You feel as if you are on a conveyor belt and, just as you are beginning to understand a particular piece of wall painting, you are pushed forward. I would recommend going out of season if you are serious about Egyptology.


The scale of the tombs and the extraordinary sophistication and elaborate detail overwhelmed me. All this was achieved at a time when in Britain we were rushing around in loincloths and living in caves.


The following morning I went to the temple of Karnak, with an informative and charming guide, and from there went to the temple of Luxor.

There is work going on to uncover the sphinx road that connects the two, so in various places in the hustle of Luxor you come across destroyed buildings, and, emerging from the rubble, sphinxes that have somehow survived unscathed throughout the centuries.

The temple of Luxor has traces of so many different civilisations, from the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, the Greeks, the Christians and the Muslims. The original temple was completely buried for hundreds of years and was re-discovered when a mosque was built on top of it.

The mosque is now an integral part of the site. We spent a last afternoon visiting the Winter Palace Hotel, which used to be the Winter Palace of King Farouk. I had a family interest in visiting this, as my grandfather had been King Farouk’s lawyer, and wrote his abdication speech.

It is now a very grand Sofitel, and requires a king’s ransom to stay there. From there, we took a boat meandering down the Nile back to the hotel to watch the sunset from the water. On one bank of the river, nothing appears to have changed since biblical times.

You see children playing in the water, women swaying through the fields as they carry their shopping home on their heads, and donkeys carrying their loads.

Yet, on the other bank is all the bustle of modern-day Luxor. It was a perfect end to the trip – a contrast between the ancient and the modern, with a glorious sunset to end it all.


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Top 15 restaurants in Alexandria from Trip Advisor

Ollie#1of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
Cuisines: Egyptian, Grill, Halal
Good for: Business, Local cuisine, Outdoor seating
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Takeout, Delivery
  •  the Barbeque reality  8 Nov 2011
  •  Overated!  5 Nov 2011
Ollie#2of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
Cuisines: Contemporary, Ice cream, Italian
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch
  •  A Great Cup Of Coffee With A Comfortable Setting  12 Nov 2011
  •  great coffee, poor food  9 Nov 2011
Ollie#3of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
  •  Good food and nice place:)  16 Aug 2011
  •  Really best place for a family meal  30 Jul 2011
Ollie#4of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
  •  My favorite pizza!  16 Aug 2011
  •  Exceptional  31 Dec 2010
Ollie#5of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
  •  Excellent food and kind employees  22 Sep 2011
  •  Ausgezeichnetes Fisch-Restaurant  7 Aug 2011
Ollie#6of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
  •  wow wow wow  5 Sep 2011
  •  Authentic  2 Jul 2011
Ollie#7of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
Cuisines: Egyptian
Good for: Romantic, Business, Local cuisine
Dining options: Breakfast/Brunch, Takeout, Delivery
  •  If you find it, it’s worth it.  9 Nov 2011
  •  Best grill and egyption food  5 Nov 2011
Ollie#8of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
Cuisines: Café, Dessert, French, Greek, Mediterranean
  •  Delices since 1922 must not miss for their desserts  30 Oct 2011
  •  Elegant meals with a sophisticated atmosphere  12 Mar 2010
Ollie#9of 63 restaurants in Alexandria
Good for: Romantic
  •  Good food, good location  4 Oct 2011
  •  nice place located at Alexandria Cournich  30 Jul 2011
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Go Shopping Alexandria Style!



Shopping in Alexandria

If you are thinking about the various things to do in Alexandria in Egypt, then we can assure you that you will be spoilt with plenty of options. Shopping in Alexandria is a delightful experience. Alexandria is dotted with several colorful shops. The shops offer you everything under the sun from fruits to vegetables, desserts, food, gold and jewelry. These goods and products come in unbeatable prices.

If you are seeking to shop your heart out, then SOUQ is the place to be in. This market place offers you everything you need, from old watches to fresh fruits and groceries. This multi-storied shopping center makes for an excellent shopping experience. Alexandria is home to antique malls, art centers, cigar shops, children’s stores, ladies’ boutiques, spa centers, gift shops, souvenir shops and florists.

The antique malls offer a gamut of shopping options. You can collect excellent antique furniture, glassware, silver, art, jewelry, lamps and other decorative items. The best English, French, and American antiques are exhibited at these beautifully decorated antique stores. The malls also have fine boutique items and gourmet items on offer.

If you are seeking for fine art pieces in Alexandria, you won’t be disappointed. A sophisticated array of bisque pottery, different paint colors, design templates, brushes, stamps, and stencils are all available at the stores. A variety of cigar shops are also found in the city. The cigar shops offer cigars, humidors, cigar gifts and cigar accessories.

You will find the choicest variety of children’s clothing at the various specialty stores dotting the city. The specialty stores offer baby furnishings, clothing, rugs, and accessories. Several boutiques offer a fine selection of ladies clothing, lingerie, jewelry, accessories, and unique gifts.

If you want to revive your mind, body and soul, day Spas are the ultimate place for you. The packages offering therapeutic massages, facials, manicures, pedicures, and body treatments make for holistic healing. The florists offer gifts, lamps and accessories. If you are looking for gourmet foods and coffees, candles, canisters, lotions, throws, books, home decor items and gift baskets, the gift and souvenir shops will offer you the same. You can also collect some fine and exquisite jewelry at Pattons Fine Jewelry.


Markets in Alexandria Egypt

Alexandria in Egypt is rich in history and culture. The historic sites, churches, businesses and museums are major attractions for tourists and locals alike. Apart from visiting the major historic and cultural sites in the city, you can also indulge in a delightful shopping experience. Alexandria is dotted with several shopping malls and markets. Markets in Alexandria, Egypt are bustling with life and color.

Features of Markets in Alexandria, Egypt:

The local markets exemplify an animated look. The markets are popular with the local people. Men sitting outside the cafes with their hubbly bubblies dominate the local market scenario. The best bargains from the local markets would be fruits, vegetables, desserts, food and animals. The markets sell everything from old watches to fresh fruits and groceries.

Shopkeepers try to draw in visitors with a wide variety of goods. You can return home glad after some successful bargaining. If you are seeking to buy food to gold and jewelry, Markets in Alexandria, Egypt offer you the same. The local markets embody the true Egyptian way of living. Popular with the Egyptians, the markets offer them everything under the sun at unbeatable prices.

The items found in the markets cater to the needs of the young and the old alike.

Zaharan mall, imperial mall and other major malls of the city offer everything from expensive gift items to local goods.

The stores offer attractive holiday items.

Supermarkets in Alexandria sell most of the common food items like cheeses, meats and cakes. Clothes, shoes Pizzas and donut shops and more traditional kebab shops are found in the markets of Alexandria.

The Green Plaza is a shopper’s paradise dazzling with cinemas, restaurants and outdoor cafes.


San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall in Alexandria

Shopping in Alexandria is a memorable experience. The major shopping malls in Alexandria are Deeb Mall, Mina Mall, San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall, Zahran Mall, Kirosez Mall and Imperial Mall. San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall in Alexandria in Egypt befits the taste of the contemporary and international visitors. Pulsating in the center of San Stefano area, looking down upon the Mediterranean, San Stefano Grand Mall offers a delightful shopping experience. Strategically located, San Stefano has some of the best districts in Alexandria nearby like Gleem, Zizinia, Roushdy and Lauren. The mall was designed by one of the premier consultants, Canadian “D.I. Design & Development Consultants Ltd. An extensive research and survey ensued in order to estimate the improvements that were to be made. What followed was what the world sees now. San Stefano Grand Plaza Mall boasts of being one of the best shopping malls across Europe, the United States, Canada and Egypt.

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St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria: The Oldest Church in Africa



St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral in Alexandria is the seat of the Pope of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church. The cathedral is said to stand on the site of the church founded by St. Mark the Evangelist in 60 AD.


St. Mark the Evangelist (author of the second Gospel) has been connected with the city of Alexandria since earliest Christian tradition. Coptic Christians believe he arrived in Alexandria around 60 AD and stayed for about seven years.

During this time, Mark converted many to Christianity and performed miracles. He is considered the founder of the church in Alexandria and the first Bishop of Alexandria. According to tradition, St. Mark was arrested during a festival of Serapis in 68 AD and martyred by being dragged through the streets. He was buried under the church he had founded.

In 828, the body of St. Mark was stolen from the Alexandrian church by Venetians to be enshrined in the grand new St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. However, the head of the saint remained in Alexandria and every newly-appointed Patriarch of Alexandria began his service with holding the holy head of St. Mark in his lap and changing its cloth shroud.

The head of St. Mark was moved around a great deal over the centuries, and has been lost for over 250 years. Some of the relics from the body of St. Mark, however, were returned to Alexandria from Rome in 1968.

What to See

The present St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral is of recent date, but is said to stand on the site of church founded by St. Mark himself.


Quick Facts

Names: St. Mark’s Coptic Cathedral; St. Mark Coptic Orthodox Church; St. Marcos Orthodox Church; Morkosia

Location: Alexandria, Egypt

Faith: Christianity

Denomination: Coptic Orthodox

Dedication: St. Mark

Category: Cathedrals

Status: Active


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Top 10 things to do in Alexandria from Trip Advisor

st mina
#1 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4.5 of 5 stars 20 reviews

Located near the site of the ancient library of Alexandria, this modern version is an eleven-story, cylindrical-shaped building that houses more than eight million books.

Attraction type  Libraries
Ollie #2 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4 of 5 stars 15 reviews

It’s worth going early in the morning when no one else is around (before the tour buses arrive). With no one around, it can be a great experience. There are guards up above and also at the bottom of…

Attraction type  Ancient Ruins
Ollie #3 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4.5 of 5 stars 2 reviews

This sprawling property was the summer home of controversial King Farouk who assumed power at the age of 16 in 1936.

Attraction type  Historic Sites
Ollie #4 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
3.5 of 5 stars 6 reviews

Royal gardens of King Faruk. The king was the last Egyptian monarch.

Attraction type  Gardens; Parks
Ollie #5 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4 of 5 stars 8 reviews

More than 1800 archaeological pieces are exhibited chronologically from one floor to the next: the basement is devoted to Prehistoric and Pharonic times; first floor to the Graeco-Roman period; second floor to the Coptic and Islamic era that highlights artifacts raised during recent underwater excavations.

Attraction type  History Museums
Ollie #6 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4 of 5 stars 6 reviews

Built in the 2nd century AD, this Roman amphitheater has 13 semicircular tiers made of white and gray marble.

Attraction type  Ancient Ruins
Ollie #7 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
5 of 5 stars 1 review
Attraction type  Museums
Ollie #8 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4 of 5 stars 3 reviews
Attraction type  Religious Sites; Architectural Buildings
Ollie #9 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
4 of 5 stars 1 review

These desert building are all that remains of the monasic Christians that fled Roman persecution in the 4th century.

Attraction type  Religious Sites; Architectural Buildings
Ollie #10 of 22 attractions in Alexandria
5 of 5 stars 1 review
Attraction type  Religious Sites; Monuments/ Statues; Historic Sites
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Egypt diving – Best sites

jewel fairy

posted by Gulliver on Daily Scuba Diving


Crystal clear water and red hot desert sun enriches each dive with beautiful play of colors, and perfect as precious stones coral walls and reefs running from the shore are breathtaking. Discover for yourself hundreds of varieties of corals, mysterious ship wrecks and some of the most beautiful reef walls in the world.


Sharm El Sheikh

Sharm El Sheikh has quick become an ultra-modern diving site for a short period of several years. 65 km long reefs are among the richest and most famous in the world. Mile after mile hard and soft varieties of coral reefs and fish abound in the dazzling display. There is no place in the area, which is not hide a small miracle, but, due to inaccessibility and inconvenience, diving is usually limited to a few sites. Here you can read more about Sharm-El Sheikh dive sites


Straits of Tiran

Little straits of Tiran Island are like closing the Gulf of Aqaba from the 12 miles to the north-east of the port of Sharm El Sheikh. These straits are formed in the east of the island of Tiran and the Sinai coastline to the west. Deep water, the continental plateau and a narrow corridor create a kind of bottle neck through which a strong, dense flow of plankton is literally thrown out on the coral reefs. Circulation of food chain of the plankton brings coral organisms and reef fish together with predatory sharks, which find here easy prey. Of course, this is the place where you can still encounter the shark actually during each dive.

Jackson Reef

This is a 70 meter canyon cut from an edge of a plateau at a depth of 15-20 m. Sharks and big fishes are around here; dangerous currents. Wrecks of Lara ship.



Lies between the reefs Gordon and Jackson, is a long, narrow reef running from the north-east to south-west. Its shallow peak drops sharply on all sides by a sharp angle.


Thomas Reef

Sharply cut reef is composed of several sections, the plateau and a very deep canyon, stretching from the south reef. This is the smallest of the 4 reefs, and because of its location in the chain, the most exposed to the strong currents.


Gordon Reef

This reef is a 10-20 m wall extending down to 70 m. Sharks and other fishes around here. Strong flows and wrecks of Loullia ship.


Ras Nasrani

Sand Canyon is next to a sandy plateau, and then goes down to the abyss. Barrier reef and coral slopes.


Shark Bay

A small canyon, extending to a depth of 10 – 15 meters. Entrance is from a sandy beach.

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Things to do in Marsa Alam from Trip Advisor

marsa shoona
#1 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
4.5 of 5 stars 28 reviews

Based in the Port Ghalib marina with classroom, equipment room and a training pool next to the jetty at the Marina Lodge Hotel.  An established operation and part of the Emperor Divers group…

Attraction type  Tours


Ollie #2 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
5 of 5 stars 9 reviews
Attraction type  Reservations
Ollie #3 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
5 of 5 stars 3 reviews

Popular dive site minutes south of the Port Ghalib marina.  Large bay offering excellent training facilities since it offers a number of dive routes ranging from only a metre in depth upwards.  Sandy…


Ollie #4 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
4.5 of 5 stars 4 reviews
Attraction type  Water sports
Ollie #5 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
3.5 of 5 stars 27 reviews

Spinner dolphins are often (but not always) seen at this reef, as a result it is one of the most popular attractions in the area.  Access is managed to help protect the dolphins, boat numbers are…

Attraction type  Reefs
Ollie #6 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
4.5 of 5 stars 2 reviews
Attraction type  Sports Camps/ Clinics; Tours
Ollie #7 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
4.5 of 5 stars 3 reviews

A beautiful large offshore dropping reef offering a range of dive options and certainly providing some great photo opportunities on the right day. Popular with both liveaboards and day boats due to…

Attraction type  Reefs
Distance  15.9 miles from city center

Ollie #8 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
4 of 5 stars 2 reviews
Attraction type  Beaches
Ollie #9 of 9 attractions in Marsa Alam
3 of 5 stars 2 reviews
Attraction type  Boat Tours


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Great Video on Kite surfing and Diving in Marsa Alam

Watch this interesting video to get a glimpse of Marsa Alam’s water sports. The video is fun and there are interesting shots so you can enjoy it even if you do not understand Spanish. The interviews discuss the great wind conditions and the sport of Kite surfing in Marsa Alam, and about the wealth and uniqueness of the marine life in the Red Sea.


YouTube Preview Image

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Touring and Diving Post-Revolutionary Egypt

Blue O Two staff in front of Blue Horizon and Blue Fin

From Red Sea Dive News


“Touring and Diving Post-Revolutionary Egypt” by David Hartman


April 20th marks the one year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The event is one to forget for tourism in Florida and the Florida Keys because overblown and exaggerated news reports kept travelers away for months while no oil affected most parts of South and East Coast Florida. I witnessed the frustration of tourism industry first hand as a resident and local dive instructor in Key Largo, Florida. A year later, I am witness again first hand to frustration of a tourism industry but this time the country is Egypt. The recent revolution in Egypt that ended the President’s 30 year reign was dramatic, poignant and indeed a landmark event in world history. Egypt’s revolution was quick, decisive and officially over a month ago with resignation of Hosni Mubarak. The protests in late January and February that filled Tahrir Square captivated the world for weeks but were also limited to a small part of Cairo. Most of the day to day affairs of Cairo and the rest Egypt, especially in the Red Sea resort areas, were amazingly unaffected by the protests in Tahrir Square. There are parallels of the Gulf Oil Spill’s affect on Florida Tourism and the Revolution in Cairo’s affect on Egyptian tourism. Both events cost a tourism industry billions of dollar in lost revenue, were portrayed to affect areas that were unaffected and continued inaccurate and misguided reporting by media kept travelers away long after the extent of area affected was long determined. Tourists are beginning to return to Egypt with numbers growing everyday but the state of Florida is an example where recovering from major events that affect tourism may be a long road.

I am proud to be one of the first Americans to visit the new Egypt. As the dive travel specialist and marketing consultant for Learning Through Travel (LTT), a New York based destination tour operator for Egypt travel, I have both the enjoyment and challenge on educating tour group leaders and travel professionals on how to sell dive travel to Egypt and the Red Sea. Learning Through Travel had a previously scheduled familiarization (FAM) trip for March 5-19, 2011 that was in jeopardy of cancellation due to the recent events in Cairo but was put back on schedule once affairs in Cairo stabilized after the resignation of President Mubarak. After in depth analysis of the post revolution status of Cairo, Afifi El Shimy, Head of Egypt Operations and Cairo Office Manager, assured the safety of our FAM trip travelers and approved moving forward with the trip. One of our FAM trip travelers, American dive shop owner and PADI Course Director, David Valaika of Indian Valley SCUBA in Harleysville, Pennsylvania was committed to make the trip to Egypt in lieu of a group trip he had booked with LTT for April of 2012. I planned to meet Afifi and David Valaika in Cairo and see for my own eyes the status of post revolution Egypt and why travel warnings were still in effect.


My trip began March 4th on a direct flight from JFK airport in New York City to Cairo on Egypt Air. I had the pleasure of sitting next to a wonderful Egyptian tour guide on the flight who was returning from promoting Egypt tourism for a Cairo based tour operator. The American based tour groups the woman presented to were hesitant but receptive to traveling to Egypt. I enjoyed sharing stories with the tour guide and we both found a common ground in our passion for travel to Egypt and our frustration with continued bias news coverage and unneeded government travel warnings. My delightful experience on my flight to Cairo was a precursor to a similar theme I would experience throughout my week in Egypt.


Upon arrival in Cairo, my mood was both positive and curious. I had questions and concerns but none involved safety. The LTT FAM trip was my fourth visit to Egypt and safety was never a concern and I know Afifi always takes good care of our customers. (100% escorted travel is the only way to effectively navigate Egypt). My concerns were mostly about tourism in the country. Were tourist sites open? Had travelers returned to Egypt and in what numbers? Were sectors of the government critical to tourism still operational under the new military interim government? The answers to all my questions were quickly apparent as affairs in Cairo operated normally just as my last visit in September 2008 only now there was a calmer mood and a more aggressive attitude by all Egyptians to make tourists feel welcome. Tourist sites were open including the Pyramids of Giza and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities but low attendance at these sites made touring a breeze. The military has a stronger presence in Cairo but on only few occasions was army personnel visible during our tours of the city. Life in Cairo was moving along on its everyday fast paced including the usual snarls of Cairo automobile traffic. With first impressions of Cairo in hand, I headed toward my hotel to start the everyday obligation to our followers on Facebook who eagerly awaited updates on travel to Egypt and the Red Sea.


I arrived at the Le Meridian Pyramids Hotel in the early afternoon on Saturday March 5th. I immediately ran into a couple of nice ladies who I met in the Egypt Air check in line at JFK airport. The two women just booked a trip to Egypt on Monday to return to one of their favorite countries and to support the Egyptian people who they love so much. We discussed the future of Egyptian tourism over a couple of cocktails at the pool bar and we were all concerned but optimistic. David Valaika arrived on a later flight in the early evening which gave me a chance to set my theme for the trip on Facebook and our blog. The goal was to have fun with this trip and to show interested travelers and even naysayers that travel to Egypt is fun and the people are warm and welcoming especially to American tourists. I took some nice photo opportunities by our pool overlooking the Pyramids and announced to all of our followers that I was in Egypt safe and sound and ready to tell the real story on the post revolution Egypt.

David Valaika arrived in the evening and it was time to welcome him to Egypt the appropriate way with a few Egyptian beers at the hotel bar. David V. was excited for the trip, his first time in Egypt, and to check out the legendary diving in the Red Sea. An early start on Sunday morning brought us to the foot of Pyramids of Giza to tour the most famous antiquities of ancient Egypt. David V. was riding a camel in front of the Great Pyramid before our tour guide Manal could brief David V. on how to handle the local merchants and camel tenders and their aggressive sales tactics. I have been to the Pyramids of Giza twice previously and each time the immense structures appear more impressive. My task on the LTT FAM trip was to take numerous pictures and video of David V. enjoying his travels in Egypt and to discover new experiences myself. My third trip back to the Pyramids brought me to the South side of the Great Pyramid which provides an entire different perspective on the last remaining ancient wonder of the world including the granite floor of the now missing mortuary temple and a chance to enter and view the Solar Boat of Cheops Museum.

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Grab some Indian in Cairo

Indian in Cairo

Wesam Masoud of Cairo360 writes:

Massala at the Karvin Hotel: Finally, India comes to Heliopolis
Massala at the Karvin Hotel: Finally, India comes to Heliopolis
Name: Massala
Cuisine: Indian
Category: Restaurants
Address: The Karvin Hotel ,11 Mohamed Ebeid St.
Area: Heliopolis
City: Cairo , Egypt
Telephone: 0226906453
Open: 2pm – midnight

As a district of Cairo, Heliopolis isn’t known for its wealth of decent dining options. To test out this theory yourself, ask a friend where you can get excellent Indian food in Heliopolis. Puzzled look? Check. Scornful laugh? Check. Recommendations for Indian restaurants not in Heliopolis? Check. Rejoice, Heliopolitans; you now have a reason to be proud.

Massala sits tucked away in a far corner of the Karvin Hotel lobby and has the atmosphere of a local restaurant in New Delhi. Salmon pink walls, decorated with tapestries and wood carvings of Indian deities and images contrast with tables topped with a metal sheet into which Indian designs are engraved. After being seated by the attentive wait staff, take a minute to appreciate the diverse menu. Caveat emptor: bring your friends and a healthy appetite.

Start off your gustatory journey with the garlic naan (8LE), prepared to order; and the mint sauce, tamarind sauce and mango chutney– the best mango chutney you’ll have here in Cairo. While you’re at it, grab a plate of potato samosas (13LE) too. This may seem like a lot of carbs to load up with for appetisers, but the portions are even-handed; plus you should be sharing anyway.

For the main course, continue your education with the chicken tikka, a demonstration on how it’s done right. The murgh makhani (46LE), aka butter chicken and a close relative of Chicken tikka masala, should not be missed. It arrives on the table, resplendent in a copper bowl, expecting your gratitude and thanks for the enjoyment that your taste buds are about to receive. Be forewarned: many menu offerings do not come with rice, but you’ll soon discover that it’s an excuse to try out another exquisite menu option: the biryani. If you’re coupling it with a meat main dish, then opt for the vegetable biryani. And remember to share; these portions tend to be on the larger end.

Finally, end with a refreshing mango lassi or the almost sickly sweet gulab jamun (13LE), which swims in a syrupy sugar and coconut milk mixture. If you don’t have room for dessert, head up to the rooftop for tea and shisha, while you digest the food and marvel at the cost effectiveness of the meal.


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Check out this amazing dive adventure from Hurghada!

The Blue Water Dive Resort staff has alot of fun as do their guests. Enjoy this entertaining video and get an idea of just how much fun it is to dive in the Red Sea. Dive centers such as Blue Water can be found all around the Red Sea, but we can’t guarantee they’ll all be this crazy!

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Bedouin Cultural Centre – Jebeliya the mountain people of South Sinai, Egypt


The Bedouin Village at Saint Katherine conserves and exhibits the rich culture of the Jebeliya Bedouin. Here it presents this clip which highlights the lifecycle of the Jebeliya tribe. The Jebeliya community has unique traditions related to each stage of their life cycle. Traditions related to the life cycle vary: there might be specific clothes to be worn by at different stages in their lives or specific customs to distinguish each life stage. Birth, marriage and death are three different stages that have various traditions for male and female Bedouins.

Address : Wadi El Dier Saint Catherine – South Sinai Contact Person : Saleh Soliman Eid Abo Fares Mobile no. 002 016 2783327 Email address.:

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How to live like a desert-dwelling Bedouin


There is much to learn from traditional Bedouin life, such as understanding nature better and engaging with it in everyday life. Inspired by the lives of Bedouins in Sinai, an important community in Egypt‘s social fabric, Amr Bassiouny has taken the initiative of starting the School of the Desert.

The school is essentially an alternative tourism company: Bassiouny and his partners plan group trips into Sinai and offer travelers tips on Bedouin desert life. Although people do not have to stick to the schedule, and can instead laze about the camp, many go on the excursions specifically to learn about survival and enjoy the phasing out of the city.

“Last trip, travelers were interested in getting back to nature,” explains Bassiouny, who has been traveling to the desert for years. “A Bedouin friend of mine thought of the School of the Desert idea, and after the success of our first trip, I’m planning the next one for 6 October.”

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The festivities of a Nubian Wedding from Nat Geo

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An entire Egyptian town parties the night away when a Nubian man finds a beautiful bride. The Nubians of Egypt live mostly around Aswan on the Nile. There us much song and dance in the village and with this video we are able to witness some of the fascinating heritage and traditions of the Nubian people.

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