“Man fears time, but time only fears the Pyramids” – Unknown proverb
Long have I been fascinated by Ancient Egyptian civilisation, its temples, and the Pyramids that have stood the test of time. Movies like Mummy (though not entirely correct in depiction) have further fuelled that fascination. Hence when I began travelling on my own, it was only natural that I plan to visit Egypt.
First I tried for August 2013, with planning beginning as early as December 2012. A lot many people were also interested to join along and the group size soon crossed more than 10 people. It was then I decided to hire a guide to better manage all the arrangements since backpacking in such a big group is not a very good idea. Plus I wanted someone who has a good knowledge about all the sites and can take us on a historical journey as well. After talking directly to several travel/tour operators based in Cairo, I finally decided to go in with Hares Sayed who runs Lets Tour Egypt. His promptness in replying back, and extensive knowledge of various places was the key factor because of which I decided to go along with him. Our group number had swelled to 14 people at the last count, but as fate would have it a civil war triggered due to a military coup started in March 2013 in Egypt. While we hoped for things to cool down by August, the situation only deteriorated on. We decided to still go on and do the trip, but the Egyptian embassy (at Delhi) decided not to issue us the required tourist visas (possibly sending such a big group in conflict situation was not a good idea) and we had to cancel the trip at the last moment. A lot of money was lost in airlines tickets (we had stupidly booked the non-refundable ones) but thankfully Hares returned us most of the advance money he could (after deducting whatever he lost in cancellations from his end).
I managed to do a lot more travel after that, even visit Russia and Tibet. But Egypt remained like a thorn stuck-in. I had to go, hence I started planning again. This time it was a much smaller group of four people but a much longer trip of 10 days. I even stayed back a few extra days on my own and went scuba diving in Dahab, Red Sea and managed a neat one-day trip to Petra, Jordan (that too on a single entry Egyptian visa!). I started planning in December 2014 and the trip was in April 2015.
Visa : Unfortunately there is no visa on arrival facility for Indian citizens visiting Egypt. There is a visa on arrival if flying to Sharm-al-Sheikh (via transfer or directly) but it only allows stay in Red Sea resort area and not the mainland Egypt and ancient sites. Hence we took the visa beforehand from Egyptian Embassy in Mumbai. A lot of documents need to be submitted. Here goes that list –
- Passport should be valid, minimum for 6 months after the expiry of the proposed visa.
- Visa application form.
- Two Photographs. 3.5 cms x 4.5 cms with the head centered in the frame. The face should cover about 70-80 percent of the photo area. The photograph MUST be in color and have only a white background. Photos with dark, busy, or patterned backgrounds will not be accepted.
- Covering letter on business letter pad if pax was self employed. If person is employee then leave letter from Organisation.
- Invitation letter (hotel and guide bookings would be OK for this)
- Hotel conformation directly from the hotel.
- Return Air tickets.
- Credit card copy Front & back.
- Income tax Papers last 3years
- Bank statement last 6 month
Flights : we managed to get return flights to Cairo for 24k INR (chennai-cairo returns) flying on Kuwait Airlines (one change of flights in Kuwait City). One person who joined from Delhi also managed to get at same prices from there.
Here is the day by day plan we followed. Myself and Hares has planned this carefully to include some offbeat places like the oasis, white and black desert and temples like Abydos and Dendera:
Day 0 – Arriving in Cairo by afternoon, check in hotel, evening light and sound show. night stay at Cairo
Day 1 – Cairo local sightseeing : Egyptian Museum, Citadel of Saladin, Coptic Cairo. night stay at Cairo
Day 2 – Day trip from Cairo to Alexandria : visiting Catacombs, Pompey’s pillar, Roman Theatre, Qaitbay citadel and new library of Alexandria. return and night stay at Cairo
Day 3 – Visit Memphis (Colossi of Ramses, Alabaster Sphinx). Sakkara (Step Pyramid, Imhotep Museum) and Giza (three pyramids from outside, entering one of the pyramids, Great Sphinx), and then post lunch driving off to Bahariya Oasis (3-4 hours drive). reach by night. check in hotel.
Day 4 – Driving off in a 4X4 vehicle for Desert Safari across Black desert, crystal mountain, freshwater springs, White desert and camping at night there
Day 5 – return back to Bahariya oasis, have breakfast and drive back to Cairo. evening had a flight to catch to Aswan. reach Aswan, check in hotel and relax. night stay in Aswan.
Day 6 – Aswan local sightseeing – Philae temple, unfinished obelisk and high dam. Then joined the 1PM convey to Abu Simbel temple. came back in the late evening. night stay in Aswan.
Day 7 – Road trip from Aswan to Luxor, while visiting Kom Ombo and Edfu temples on the way, reach Luxor by evening. check in hotel and night stay
Day 8 – wake up early morning (4AM) to catch the Hot Air Balloons trip that lasted for an hour. Indeed a magical experience flying over the Valley of Kings, Luxor town and desert. coming back to hotel, having breakfast and leaving for whole day sightseeing – Valley of Kings, Hatshepsut temple, Luxor and Karnak temples. night stay in Luxor
Day 9 – Daytrip from Luxor to visit Dendera and Abydos temple.returning back to Luxor in the evening. night stay at Luxor.
Day 10 – morning flight to Cairo. other friends left from Cairo back to India. I reached the Cairo city central bus station and took 12noon bus to Dahab which took 10 hours and reached Dahab around 10PM at night.
Day 11 – diving in Red Sea, dive spots in Dahab
Day 12 – diving in Red Sea, dive spots in Dahab.
Day 13 – took a daytrip to Petra, Jordan. this was being organized by a local tour operator in Dahab (King’s Safari, Dahab). The prices included minivan return transfer to Ferry port, Ferry return transfer to Aqaba port in Jordan, bus transfers to Petra from Aqaba, entry fees with english speaking guide at Petra, and a buffet lunch. the pickup for the trip was at 4AM and we returned back only around 11PM. quite a long day it was.
Day 14 – diving in Red Sea, dive spots in Dahab. night bus back to Cairo
Day 15 – reached Cairo bus station early morning, from there another bus to Airport. afternoon flight back to India.
- Cairo : Oasis Hotel
- Bahariya Oasis : The Old Oasis Hotel, night camping in White Desert
- Aswan : Pyramisa Isis Corniche
- Luxor : Iberotel Luxor
- Dahab : Scuba diving and stay at Red Sea Relax Resort