I am the kind of traveler who doesn’t care to take an organized tour with 30 strangers packed on a bus, with every second planned. So when I go on a trip my first step is do the research, then try to find someone who knows the country intimately. Sometimes I will use a travel agent who specializes in the country, but more often I look for a resident or guide who lives in country and bypass the travel agent. This can insure a custom trip, a cultural experience and greatly reduce the cost.
This is exactly how I attacked our trip to Egypt and it worked incredibly. I searched out a very good guide, Debbie Senters. Debbie and I worked together to design a custom trip that was AWESOME!
I told Debbie that I was looking for a mix of luxury and culture so we started with a stay at Hotel Longchamps. A great little botique hotel that is a couple of blocks from the Nile and a very cultural part of town. We felt safe walking the neighborhood, shopping and to local restaurants.
Debbie also organized a trip to the Cairo Museum with our own private Egyptologist, a walk through the City of the Dead, touring Islamic Cairo, shopping in the medina (Khan el Khalili), pyramid tours where we avoided the tourist crush but still got to see the depths inside a pyramid.
Debbie was a master at undestanding what we wanted on our vacation, seeing the sights without getting caught up in long lines or playing Joe tourist. She set us up for a private boat ride on the Nile, a visit to a local farmer, eating local honey and really experiencing Egypt. While the tour buses loaded and unloaded their cattle, we were exploring the culture at our own pace changing course whenever we felt.
After a few days in Cairo we took off for Luxor, again Debbie had set us up in a incredible hotel (Al Moudira) that was unique and different then the standard chain, another private Egyptologist to tour the Valley of the Kings and a hot air balloon ride over the Egyptian landscape. All absolutely amazing.
Then it was off to Sharm el Sheikh and eventually Dahab, where we used another tour organizer recommended by Debbie (because it was not her area of expertise), Egypt Panarama Tours www.eptours.com, to organize the Sinai portion of our trip.
The Sinai is not to missed if you go to Egpyt, Dahab is a seaside village with a lot going on along the boardwalk. With just a snorkle and a mask you can walk off the shore and see amazing coral reefs. We chose to dive and it is truly one of the best dive sites in the world.
Then it was off to the desert, touring, hiking, lunch at a bedouin village and a night camping under the stars. This ranks as one of the top memories I have ever had in my travels.
Next stop, back to Cairo where Debbie had set us up at the Mena House. The Mena House is a very famous historic luxury hotel, pricey but worth a couple of nights. From here we were able to hit some of the more popular tourist spots like the Great Pyramid and the Sphinx.
Our 10 days in Egypt were magical and I can’t think of a thing I would have changed, a mixture of luxury and culture, the ability to change plans at any time, not adhereing to someone elses time schedule.
If you would like to reach Debbie here is her contact info Debbie Senters www.casualcairodetours.com.