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On to the Ancient World….EGYPT!

30 Sep

For so many years I dreamed to be gazing at the Great Pyramids on the day that I kissed 29 good-bye.  I can’t believe this dream came true!  As I write all the details about this 2 week adventure, I want to be absolutely sure to include as many travel tips as possible.  While there is quite of bit of info on trips and tours to Egypt online, I found most of it to be basic and somewhat vague.  I hope that my insights will be helpful, informative, and fun at the same time! (Please note: I am planning to do about 1 dozen posts on Egypt alone)

The journey started on a direct red-eye flight from Beijing to Cairo on Egypt Air (a Star Alliance Member).  Currently, there is only one direct flight a week out of Beijing.  It is 10 hours.  With stops it can be over 16 – so be sure to book early on the direct.  I should also add that Egypt Air is a dry airline.  Obviously this is not the end of the world…but let’s be honest, this blonde would have enjoyed a champagne toast to celebrate our departure!

After 10 hours at 30,000 feet, we touched down in the land of the pharaohs.  It was 7AM Cairo time.  Getting through customs was fairly easy.  US Citizens do need a visa; however, it can be purchased upon arrival for about $15.  You can pay in US dollars or visit an ATM and pay in Egyptian Pounds.  For all of the Beijing readers with a Union Pay Chinese Bank Card – there are very few ATM’s that work…if any.  We actually used our cards from the States the entire time.

A car service from the hotel met us at baggage claim, and we arrived at the hotel in about 30 minutes.  I strongly recommend booking a car service.  It was nice not to have to think too much after a such a long flight.  Upon arrival to our hotel, The Four Seasons at the First Residence, we were greeted with warmth and excitement.  Noha, the concierge who organized our stay, was particularly helpful.  In fact, she created an itinerary for us that exceeded all expectations!

http://www.fourseasons.com/cairofr/

After a quick rest in our huge suite overlooking the Nile (birthday upgrade courtesy of the hotel) including showers, a cheese plate, and a bottle of bubbly; we headed out to the most famous souk in Cairo.  Khan El-Khalily bazaar contains every treasure imaginable. Some are lovely and some are completely tragic.  Perhaps the world would be a more beautiful place if everyone owned a life size, gold leaf statue of an awkwardly anatomically correct King Tut – but I seriously doubt it.  Even in the sea of very aggressive salesmen pushing their wares from overstocked booths, Brett and I were able to find a few very special shops with years of history.  There are 2 places in particular that I would love to share.

1:  Zaki F. Boutros Jewellers

TEL: +20 5904153

As you can see in the picture, this shop was filled from top to bottom with sterling silver and gold.  Rest assured that every piece is guaranteed with the Egyptian government stamp – and it does not look like Indian silver.  We found 2 beautiful Mint Julep(esque) cups for about half the price you pay for English silver, and they engraved Egypt 2010 on the bottom for us in about 15 minutes. During our wait they told us the history of the shop and served us hot mint tea (their specialty).

2:  Venus Palace Perfumes

5. Khan El-Khalily, Cairo, Egypt

TEL: +20 932625

Egypt has been producing pure scented oils for thousands of years.  They offer hundreds of different scents and blends, and the fact that they are so proud of their craft makes the buying experience delightful.  The shop owner goes into great depth of the effects of each scent – the home remedies, the cures, and the aphrodisiac qualities.  It was perfect timing for us – as we had just run out of Jo Malone bath oils.  Even more perfect – these were 1/10 of the price!  We selected 3: Attar of Roses (similar to Agent Provocateur…my favorite), Sandal Wood (a lovely fall and winter fragrance), and Ramsis (popular for lighting a certain fire…).

My experience with haggling all over Beijing definitely paid off.  While other tourists (from non-haggling countries) seemed overwhelmed and flustered, I practiced my perfected technique to just “walk away” from the vendor until he chased me down to give me the price I requested.  60% of the time – it works every time.  Just like Brian Fantana’s (Paul Rudd) Sex Panther Cologne in Anchor Man.

The souk, minus the more modern and tacky souvenir shops peppered throughout, was like stepping back in time.  There were a handful of hundred year old coffee shops, sheesha smoking corners packed with men in long robes, and a number of other Egyptian men asking Brett, “How many camels for your woman?”  I would be lying if I said that I didn’t like it – and I would really be lying if I said that I didn’t love it when he simply replied, “All the camels in the desert!”  Just so long as he didn’t mean all the wild camels…of which there are none.

Stay tuned for more…

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5 Responses to “On to the Ancient World….EGYPT!”

  1. Brandace September 30, 2010 at 1:45 pm #

    i miss you!!

  2. Holley Grainger September 30, 2010 at 3:54 pm #

    if this was 30, i can’t imagine what you’ll do for 40 and 50!

    • Holley Grainger September 30, 2010 at 7:09 pm #

      and i want to be there with you!

  3. Rebecca September 30, 2010 at 5:18 pm #

    Love it! (And love the camel story at the end 🙂

  4. mona September 30, 2010 at 6:55 pm #

    love the pictures!! Agree with Brett…not enough camels in the desert!

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