Eight days in Egypt with James and Harry

Egypt, a country which has struggled with tourism in the recent years, is slowly, but steadily, piquing the interest of travelers everywhere again. Who can blame them when you can sandboard in the warm Egyptian sand, wade in the waters of the nile and even sleep in the same room as Agatha Christie did all in one trip? It’s those same reasons that James, our Egypt travel expert, and Harry, on our client relations team were keen to return themselves and discover this exciting new dawn for a country they both fell in love with as children. They spent 8 days soaking up Egypt’s ancient wisdom, seeing the (truly) off-the-beaten paths and came back with more than a few stories to share. Read on – we think you’ll be quite keen to create a story of your own after you’re done.

Words by Harry

Having both been to Egypt with our families when we were kids, we were both thrilled and excited to be heading there again, to see how much it had changed, explore new places we hadn’t been to previously and retrace our childhood footsteps through this incredible country steeped with fascinating history. As we were travelling out of peak season (October – May), we knew it was going to be hot. Very hot. Though if you can brave the heat, the lack of crowds is a real blessing, and the sky is painted with hues of light and dark blues, as much as you would expect in the peak season.

We boarded the direct flight from London Heathrow and landed in Hurghada, a resort town right on Egypt’s Red Sea coast, and where our journey began. On our whistle stop tour, we went from Hurghada to Luxor, down to Aswan and then on up to Cairo and Alexandria, and saw some of the highlights of this formidable land, learning about the culture, its history and picked up some expert local tips along the way.

Hurghada is perhaps more famous for Thomas Cook holiday goers, with big resorts littering the stretch of coastline. With turquoise waters, guaranteed sunshine and incredible diving opportunities, it’s easy to see the appeal. Though if, like us, you like to stay somewhere a bit more exclusive and comfortable, then the Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh is a beautiful hotel in a great location, offering delicious international and local food. It’s the perfect place to hole up for a couple of days at the beginning or end of your Egyptian adventure. The Dead Sea is famous for its brightly colored coral reefs bursting with life, and the Oberoi actually has its own house reef. So, after breakfast, we donned our diving and snorkeling equipment and headed straight out for the pier and into the action – and it didn’t disappoint.

The next day we arrived in Luxor after a four-hour scenic commute. After checking into the Hilton hotel, a mixture of comfort and luxury with views of the Nile to match, we headed straight for Karnak temple. Both of us are history buffs so this was where it got really exciting. Just walking around one of the largest ancient religious sites in the world is impressive anyway, but when you combine that with the insight and knowledge of our expert guide, you could really feel the history come to life with every step. It was the beginning of a full on couple of days exploring the ancient sites, sailing across the Nile and even cycling through local communities to visit the Valley of the Kings and Queens. It’s hard not to get lost in your own imagination here, each tomb tells its own incredible story and the exquisite detail of the hieroglyphs and paintings give the impression they were made only yesterday.

Experience: Egypt

Inspired by James and Harry’s trip? Follow in their footsteps to discover ancient wonders on a journey through Egypt.

Our next stop was Aswan. Deep in the south of the country, it is widely considered as the most beautiful region in the whole of Egypt. And it’s easy to see why. Rather than fly down, we decided to take the long scenic drive along the river, stopping on the way to see the lesser known temples of Edfu. We met some friends of our local guide, who took us out on their Dahabiya, a traditional sailing boat, where we were wined and dined with a delicious local lunch while floating down the Nile. After a quick dip in the river, we were back on the road, reaching our hotel in the early evening.

We stayed at the Old Cataract, one of our favourite properties in the whole of Egypt. It has a real colonial charm, super friendly service and probably the best view you can get anywhere along the Nile. You can see why it was also a firm favourite of Sir Winston Churchill and Dame Agatha Christie, both of whom have their own suite named after them. This was in fact the very place where Agatha Christie wrote her much acclaimed novel, “Death on the Nile”.

We were up early the next morning, off for a spot of sandboarding before the strong midday sun took over. Boarding down the burning dunes as you look down the Nile was a special experience and a great way to start the day. Before lunch, we learned all about the Nubian culture on Elephantine Island, providing yet more fascinating insight into the country’s long history.

Our next stop was Cairo, the heartbeat of Egypt. Having learned all about the wonders of Ancient Egypt by exploring the temples in the south, we arrived at the famous Egyptian Museum armed with the all the knowledge we had accumulated over the last few days. Doing it this way round really helped put everything into perspective, alongside the added bonus of an after-hours visit alongside the curator, it unfolded a layer of history and knowledge we would have never experienced otherwise.

Cairo is a great place to explore. There is a real buzz about the place and we enjoyed meandering our way through the local bazaar and stumbling across some hidden gems for some eclectic Egyptian food. To top off our trip we had the privilege to experience the musical ensemble Mazaher in a rustic underground music venue in downtown Cairo. We shared an inspired, entertaining evening with a host of local Egyptians and discerning travelers – listening to the lively, polyrhythmic beat of Egypt’s glorious past.

The experiences made on the trip are ones that we’ll both remember for a very long time. Egypt is such a special country and we’re so glad to be sharing it with you (before the ensuing rush of the crowds).

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