A dream of mine finally came true in recent months. After being held in the top #1 position on my bucket list, I finally got to witness and experience the majestic Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
After researching affordable places to live in Southeast Asia and Central America, Alex and I eventually decided on Egypt – a romantic spot that has been widely known as a honeymooners destination in the beginning of the early twentieth century.
Egypt is on the rise as a top vacation-spot, thanks to Instagram and travel blogs, and I knew it was going to become a major hotspot in the coming years, so we decided to visit while it was still a fresh mystery. I mean, isn’t that why we all travel…for the mysteriousness of it? For the discovery? I wanted to witness it while I could still discover it for myself.
In this post, I’ll be sharing some of our favorite spots, experiences and our itinerary/review with Travel Talk Tours before we settled down along the Red Sea in Dahab.
Aside from the fact that Alex and I didn’t receive our passports back until 5 hours before our flight – because it took so long to get French visas approved in Washington D.C. – Alex and my flights from New York J.F.K. were severely delayed….which caused us to miss our flight from Paris to Cairo. After Alex so patiently talked with agent after agent at our airlines to figure out another way to get to Cairo, we finally got word that we could get a flight out the next day, and they put us up in the fancy Marriot hotel at the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, which I, of course, ordered plenty of room service and added to their bill – hey, they totally messed up on scheduling our flights!
Needless to say, it was a rough 2 days traveling to Egypt, and I was not a happy camper. I fearfully complained to my newlywed husband the entire trip wondering aloud if the universe didn’t want us to be there as nothing aligned or flowed to us. I’ve learned over the past few years that things unfold easily when they are meant and when you are in alignment, so needless to say, I was a total wreck the entire way there. We forced and pushed ourselves to make it happen, and naturally, because we forced everything, we ended up burned out and more miserable by the time we landed in Cairo. But don’t worry, I can assure you – the honeymoon gets better!
After arriving in Cairo, the immediate hustle and bustle overtook me as we stepped into the dry, arid desert heat. We got into a cab and zoomed alongside the tuk-tuks, the groups of friends huddled together, hanging on the backs of trucks and the donkeys and camels pulling barrels on the side of the highway. Alex and I held onto each other for dear life, as we stared aghast at a world we’d never experienced with our own eyes before. Endless deep piles of trash littered the roads as lone Egyptians walked – literally walked – on the busy highway, darting behind and alongside the speeding trucks.
Alex and I made eye contact, our faces of shock and wonder – oh how humbling, how surprising it is to visit a country that is not as developed as your own. A mix of wonder and humility swept through me, my eyes glued to the taxi cab’s windows. I was awe-struck, albeit marveled by this new place.
Police forces and their dogs sniffed our cab and luggage before we entered through the security-heavy barriers and entered our “home” for the next 3 days. It was finally time to rest and celebrate at the Le Meridien.
Personally, I didn’t think Le Meridien Pyramids was all that special. It’s an older-built resort that needs a bit of modernization For the price that we paid, it could use some renovations. However, the waterfall pool and cafe inside the lobby totally makes up for the steep price! Plus, how can you beat this view of the Egyptian Pyramids?!
After living in the pool, watching the World Cup and suffering intense jet lag from the little sleep we had over the previous days, we finally felt well-rested enough and headed out for 9 days of adventure! Before meeting up with Travel Talk Tours, we ventured out into the busy Cairo streets and caught the golden hour sun hitting the pyramids.
Photo Tip: For the best views of the Sphinx and Pyramids, visit the hotel rooftops near the Pizza Hut!
We met our group and our wonderful tour guide Sameh at the Oasis Hotel and began an intensely fast-paced tour of Egypt. Except for our friend Steve, the entire group of travelers were millennial backpackers on their holiday after finishing university. Loud, young, partying Aussies – God love ’em.
Our whirlwind trip started with the longest day: a long morning trip to the Pyramids and Sakkarra with an amazing Egyptian lunch at the Sphinx Resturant afterward. Being in the middle of summer, it was pretty painful to walk around the Pyramids in the intense dry heat, but I was too much in awe to complain as we walked around, gazing up at the stone structures, smiles plastered on our faces. We gladly ate delicious hummus and pita, falafel, Baba ghanoush, and vegetarian mousaka for days, and after lunch, we gratefully escaped the dry desert heat and boarded our air-conditioned bus. This bus would become home to us for the next week, and we scouted the backseat and made the long 9 hour trip to Luxor.
…this tour is not for you. If you can carry on with long days adventuring and having little to no sleep, this tour is manageable. But if you’re like me and you need 6-7 hours of sleep every night in an actual bed, I don’t recommend traveling with this specific tour company. It’s constantly go-go-go and when you finally fall into bed at your hotel, you’ll get a few hours of rest before having to wake up bright and early to see the next temple. Because I enjoy slow-paced travel, proper rest every night and leisurely taking all the surroundings in my travels, I was miserable for most of the tour and ended up not going to many of the temple excursions. Rest is more important to me than getting sick. I ended up sleeping in and meeting up with the tour group later for many of the days, and of course, as many of the young travelers began to get sick with having no sleep and everyone being in close proximity together, I ended up feeling peaceful with my decision.
After skipping out on Valley of the Kings and happily opting in for room service, I met up with the rest of the group before traveling out to Aswan. Aswan is a dream, a cool, breezy picturesque dream. While the rest of the tour went to sight-see Philae Temple and the High Dam (which both, our awesome tour guide said, were not a must-see), Alex and I boarded a small motorboat and ventured past the narrow wetlands along the Nile River to the small and colorful Nubian village in Aswan. We walked through a Nubian family home located in the village on the West bank of the Nile and toured past the brightly colored houses and camels, spices and market shops. The Nubian village was my absolute favorite part of my experience in Egypt, and I can’t recommend travelers enough to experience this.
Nubian Village Tip: Go Early in the Morning when it’s not too hot, and please don’t financially support the captured and tightly caged alligator – it’s almost painful to witness.
To see more of my photo diaries from the Nubian village, click here.
The rest of the tour concluded with sailing and sleeping aboard a Felucca sailboat down the Nile River for two days, which was my own personal horror brought to life, and I share all about the experience here. The last remaining days were delightful as we wandered the markets in Cairo, the hanging church and citadel, followed by a visit to the Khan El Khalili Bazaars and oriental cafes. Oh, and not to forget studying the mummies at the Egyptian Museum!
If you want to see everything in Egypt in only 9 days, enjoy hanging out with a young vivacious crowd of travelers, (and are fine with long buses, sleeping all night in a car, etc) and don’t care to miss out on sleep, the Felucca Odyssey Egypt tour with Travel Talk is a great choice. For myself personally, I’d rather take a slower paced tour where I can take it in more and spread out my long travel days, but for our budget and goals, this was the best choice for us at the time, and I don’t regret it. Except for the Felucca. I totally regret the Felucca.
If I could do it over again, I would have chosen to take the optional cruise for those two days and book a felucca for an afternoon trip, as opposed to living on it.
The memories that come most vividly to me aren’t witnessing the majestic Pyramids, the historic Sphinx or the glittering Temple of Karnak. It was the people I shared experiences with along these travels through Egypt.
One of the days I ditched my tour group to go get lost on my own with my camera, I wandered a small village outside of Luxor and met the sweetest little girl named Kanek. She took me by the hand and I met her family in their home, where they gave me tea and we talked and shared in the ways that language cannot. I took portraits of them, and we exchanged words through facial expressions, pictures, and the few words we could exchange together.
I think of the families and children I met in the small Nubian village in Aswan, the little boy and the camel that he so loved and cared for. I think of the people that left these permanent footprints on my heart. The children on the beach in Dahab, my incredible tour guide Sameh and his lovely family whom we had lunch with weeks later in Dahab. I remember the conversations, the shared experiences, the glances and smiles,
I don’t remember the hieroglyphics, while although mesmerizing and exquisite, or the sights like I do the people. People interest me more than landscapes. Conversations with my fellows pull at my heartstrings more than the sheer wanderlust of traveling alone. And it is for this reason, that I choose intentionally to travel slow and travel less. It is for these reasons I don’t run a travel blog or have an interest in writing about travel alone. The fire in my heart lies in the stories of people…the people I meet along my travels.
Optional day tips and activities included the Essence Gallery Visit, Nubian House Dinner, trip to Abu Simbel, hot air balloon, and the beautiful Sound and Light show alongside the Pyramids (which you can also see for free inside the Pizza Hut!)
Steigenberger Nile Place was both of our favorites (it’s absolutely beautiful!), and I particularly loved the Oasis with it being outside and close to lots of green grass, plants, and trees. Egypt is all desert, so when you see some lush plant life, you hold on!
I hope this review helps you in your planning if you ever decide to venture out to Egypt! This post is not at all sponsored and just a sharing of our experience. Have you traveled with Travel Talk Tours before? Let me know what you think in the comments below!
February 28, 2019
2016 - 2019 Helena Woods | Helena Woods Portraiture is located outside New York City in Fairfield County Connecticut and travels worldwide for her clients. Helena Woods is New England and Connecticut’s premier family, children, baby and newborn photographer specializing in modern classic custom family photography with a timeless look that's always in style. As a professional photographer, Helena captures maternity, newborn, baby and family portraits in NYC, Westchester, Trumbull, Easton, Weston, and Westport, Greenwich, Darien, Westport, Norfolk and all Fairfield County surrounding areas.