Posts Tagged With: The Valley of the Kings

Egypt travel tips

Spending a week in Egypt has been great, and we’ve gathered a few tips and helpful things along the way. Some were passed on by our tour guide, some were learned the hard way. Here’s a list of things we think you should consider when traveling in Egypt.

1. They will ask for tips (“baksheesh”) everywhere. Except perhaps Aswan. But still, expect to be asked for tips. In most places, tips are appropriate because that is really a part of how Egyptians earn a living. Their wages are too low to depend on those alone. But be reasonable and don’t let them bully you into much higher tips that you think are deserved.

2. Nothing is free in Egypt. And if someone gives you a very cheap price on something, there’s probably a catch. For example, getting a horse carriage ride around town may only be ten pounds, but getting off the carriage afterward will cost quite a pretty penny. If vendors at huge attractions push things into your arms and tell you it’s free, don’t believe them and push it back into their hands.

3. Egyptian museums aren’t the best in the world, so we were glad we had a guide to explain most things to us. There usually aren’t signs or any details at ruins or old temples either, so either have a guidebook or an actual guide. Several people told us that the big Cairo Egyptian museum wasn’t really worth it unless you paid the extra fee to see the mummies, so we didn’t end up going. They are building a new museum with lots of exhibit halls now, but that probably won’t be open until at least 2016. When it’s open, it will be amazing!

4. Egyptians, like many people around the globe, have a very flexible, fluid approach to time. So when someone tells you “ten minutes,” don’t expect it to be an actual ten minutes.

5. Many taxis do not have meters, so it is important to negotiate a price BEFORE you get in the cab. Yellow taxis usually work by reservation only, and black-and-white taxis are more likely to have meters. All others (varying shades of white) have no meters. Often taxis will charge an extra 10 pounds to put luggage in the trunk or to turn the car off at the destination while they help you get out of the car and to the place.

6. When a temple site says “no photos,” such as Abu Simbel or the Valley of the Kings, they mean it. There are guards in normal clothing patrolling the area, watching for cameras. If you’re caught, they will delete your photos for you, and if you resist, suggest calling the police. If they begin to call the police, it’s usually because they want you to bribe them to put their phone away. So just don’t get in that situation, and enjoy the tombs and ruins peacefully.

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Categories: Egypt, Practical Matters | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Luxor and the return

After arriving in Luxor (ancient Thebes) we rested, then went out to a nice, Egyptian dinner. This restaurant was a little more tourist-friendly than others, partly because it was in a very touristy area. Pizzas were listed on the menu right next to camel meat. I did try the camel meat, and it tasted a lot like beef.

Luxor’s population is almost 32% Christian, though nation-wide Muslims make up about 90%. It was immediately evident by the number of church towers throughout the city. We stayed in Emilio Hotel (a nice option for people on a budget, so we recommend it) just a block from the Nile and the ruins of the Luxor Temple. While we could’ve paid to get into the temple area, instead we walked around the perimeter and saw everything we wanted to see.

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In the morning we went to the Valley of the Kings. This is rather expensive, but it’s also a must-see, so we tried not to grumble and went in. For a donkey ride to the valley and a three-tomb ticket, we paid roughly $56. There are over twenty tombs to pick from, some of which are open or closed depending on the season. Our guide suggested that we try KV14 (Tausert and Setnakht) or KV 15, KV11 (Ramses III), and KV6 (Ramses IX), because they have the most color in them. Really, it was amazing to see colorful pictures and hieroglyphics. Only two of the three tombs we went in had glass covering the walls.

“It’s really incredible,” Jordan told me. “There’s nothing here to keep me from reaching out and licking these walls!”

He didn’t. Don’t worry.

There’s a running joke among all tourists in Egypt that nothing in Egypt is free. Ever. Period. People will randomly come up to give you direction to a place you don’t want to go and then ask for a “baksheesh,” or tip (Except for in Aswan, we noticed). So while we were down in one of the tombs, a corridor was without light. A French tourist had a flashlight with him and shined it down for everyone to see. As we passed by the platform and then went on, I thanked the man for the light. He said “you’re welcome,” then laughed and stuck out his hand. “One euro,” he deadpanned. We just laughed together and moved on.

The Valley of the Kings is incredibly strict about no photographs, so I have none to share this time. Jordan was quite bereft without his cameras and made many comments about how he wished he could sneak something in. On our way out of the grounds we had to pass through a tourist bazaar, which our guide jokingly called the “Valley of the Hunters.”

After the Valley of the Kings we visited Hatshepsut’s partially restored temple. She was a very successful pharaoh and the one of the only woman pharaoh, her reign lasting around 22 years. She began as the primary queen of her half brother, Thutmose II (both children of Thutmose I) but outlived him. After a few years of acting as regent to her stepson/nephew (Thutmose III, her husband’s son from another wife) she grew tired. She then said she was supposed to have been the heir of her father from the beginning, as she was older and the child of his father’s primary wife, unlike her deceased half-brother/husband. After she died her stepson/nephew took over the throne and tried to erase most images of her as pharaoh in the country.

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Once we finished up in the desert, we had lunch with a local family in Luxor (whose dish of mixed vegetables was sublime) and later spent some free time bartering in the markets. I’m still practicing my bargaining skills, but was able to team up with a girl in the group who has a first-class poker face. I think we did well together.

It was our last night together, and we spent it hanging it out at the train station waiting for the overnight train to come. From there, we went to Cairo, the beginning and end of our journey.

Categories: Egypt | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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