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Egypt is a faraway land that I’ve always longed to visit. As a child Cleopatra intrigued me. I dreamt of gazing up at the Great Pyramids of Giza and revelled in the idea of learning the history. Exploring the temples was a huge goal of mine. Plus, I appreciate anywhere that values cats as much as I do.
In 2009, my high school planned a trip to Egypt. Although I had graduated the year prior I asked if I could join and happily they consented. Not so happily, the trip had to be cancelled and the destination changed to Greece (I went anyway and loved Greece but it was supposed to be Egypt!). Ever since being so close to my goal and missing out due to the conflict going on, I pined away for another chance.
Egypt is one of the bucket list places that people dream of going to one day. In May of 2018, I finally fulfilled one of my top bucket list goals… I got to see the Pyramids of Giza firsthand. And it was worth the wait.
Egypt had a recent period of turmoil. This has led many travellers to stop visiting. The “I’ll go one day” got pushed to a much future date for a lot of people. The Government of Canada, still lists Egyptian travel advisories. As do many other governments. However, the maps of Egypt do show that the areas around the Nile often do not fall into the conflict zones. Convenient as this is where a lot of the big-ticket sites are. If you’re wondering what those sites are, check this out.
When my partner and I first started discussing a trip to Egypt, we wondered, is it safe? After extensive research, we concluded that it is. But, it seems that most people are still recommending that you do a tour group. I did worry that I pushed a risky trip onto him just to fulfill my dreams. Of course, he also wanted to see Egypt one day too.
We decided that we would book a tour with Intrepid as they had fair prices, a sale on at the time, and their Egypt Experience tour covered almost everything that we had hoped to see and more. For the things that it did not include, we were able to add them either during the trip or after. I’ll discuss those additions later. Egypt Experience seemed to cover all of our most important desires with room to fill in the remaining wishes.
Egypt Intrepid Tour Day-by-Day
In this post, I will break down the day-by-days of the Egypt Experience with Intrepid. However, if you are interested in the few main points then scroll to the bottom for a summary!
We arrived the night before our tour was to start and we extended an extra day at the end to add a few things that the tour did not include (More on that later).
Intrepid arranged to have someone meet us at the airport. This man helped us get our Egyptian visas while we waited in the security line. By helped us get, I mean he was able to purchase our visas without us even being present. Once our bags were ready, he drove us to the hotel. Intrepid arranged our extra few nights at the hotel.
The Cairo hotel that we stayed in was called, Mercure Le Sphinx. We had a lovely stay here. Our room got upgraded to one with a Pyramid view. A PYRAMID VIEW! What a dream. But we arrived after dark so we didn’t fully appreciate it until the next day.
Since our tour officially kicked off with a meet and greet at 6:00 pm, we had the next day to explore. Our hotel helped us arrange a driver who took us to the Cairo Citadel and Coptic Cairo. The driver waited for us the entire day, making it quite easy to do excursions on our own. The Cairo Citadel is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is quite expansive.
On the drive down, we were able to see the Pyramids. I don’t know why I expected them to be further away from the city but there they were. In all their awe-inspiring glory.
At 6:00 pm, we met our group. Our guide Mohamed reviewed some basic information such as tipping (635 Egyptian was to be collected from each of us for tipping the porters, drivers, etc. But Mohamed would handle those details for us), we discussed the safety of the drinking water (The water in Egypt is drinkable but it is highly chlorinated so travellers might not be used to the levels), and some dress code suggestions.
Mohamed let us know that dress code at landmarks tends to be a bit more open as the locals here are used to seeing people wearing less clothes. However, in the streets, while we are welcome to wear what we want, we might find that the locals seem a bit more uncomfortable.
We were also introduced to the rest of our group. Our group consisted of ten people, with ourselves being the youngest, a few people in their 30s, and two older couples. With Intrepid, the maximum group size was 12. A smaller group means less waiting around for others and a better chance of meeting new people.
Once the introductions were completed we reviewed tomorrow’s itinerary. Personally, I would have liked to receive a more specific breakdown including accommodations and flight information but I was able to reference the Intrepid website for what we were roughly doing every day.
Mohamed let us know that receiving a pre-arranged itinerary was not possible as we did not have set times for activities since there are things we could decide upon as a group.
Day 1 Experience Egypt with Intrepid Begins:
The tour officially starts in the evening to allow everyone time to arrive. The Mercure Le Sphinx had lovely rooms and friendly staff. However, the hotel food was quite poor. It was very Americanized and I hoped for more authentic Egyptian food. When we mentioned this to Mohamed he suggested the restaurant, Felfela, up the road. About half of our group went here for dinner afterwards.
We tried the pigeon. It was good but not that meaty. Overall, our first taste of Egyptian food was divine.
Day 2: Pyramids of Giza and The Egyptian Museum
Today was the big day. The first official Intrepid tour stop was the Pyramids of Giza. Mercure le Sphinx serves a complimentary breakfast (Again with the Americanized food). Once everyone was fed and ready to go we were picked up by an air-conditioned bus.
Before we went to the pyramids, Mohamed gave us a lot of valuable information about the history of the pyramids. Mohamed, like all Intrepid tour guides, is a local guide. He speaks with such passion about his country that you can’t help but feel the passion as well. Mohamed is also well educated about Egyptian history, he attended university to study Egyptian history. We really appreciated not only having a local tour guide but having one with such an extensive study background.
To go inside of a pyramid, it is an extra 300 EGP but to me, this was worth it. However, it is a confined space that can be hard on the knees and back. It might also make some people feel claustrophobic.
At the Pyramids of Giza there are three separate stops with free time at each. So, after going inside the Pyramid we were able to wander around and take loads of pictures.
The next stop is up above the Pyramids for that classic shot of the three of them with the camels. Of course, we did it. I no longer need to ride a camel again for as long as I live because I’ve ridden one at the Great Pyramids of Giza.
The final stop is for the Sphinx. The great cat. At the time we were there they were starting a reconstruction process so I’m glad I saw it untainted and in a more original form.
Once we finished our time with the Pyramids, we made our way to lunch. Mohamed took us to a koshari restaurant. Koshari is a traditional Egyptian dish consisting of lentils, chickpeas, pasta, and tomato sauce. Outside of our group, the restaurant appeared to contain all locals. A win in my book.
We also squeezed in a stop to a papyrus shop. Naturally, we couldn’t resist buying some.
The next stop of the day was the Egyptian Museum. Mohamed gave us a tour of a few the pieces before turning us loose for free time. We visited the Mummy Rooms (Again, an extra fee but quite worth it). The museum is in the process of moving to a new home closer to the pyramids. Even though all of the pieces weren’t there, the collection was so expansive that I don’t feel like I missed anything.
However, even with the free time, I felt a bit rushed and would have liked more time to explore. That’s a downside to group travel. Sometimes I like to do things slow, sometimes I like to do things quickly and I don’t get that freedom in a group.
For dinner, we went back to Felfela. The food here was just so good!
Our first official day of the tour went off without a hitch. It more than exceeded my expectations (Aside from feeling a bit pressed for time at the museum).
Day 3: Alexandria
Today we drove from Cairo to Alexandria. This is about a three-hour bus ride including coffee and washroom stops. Our bus experienced a slight delay as we had a flat (But not much to be done about that other than change the tire).
Our first stop in Alexandria was the catacombs. They were interesting but less so if you’ve been to Paris or Rome catacombs.
After we visited the new library. The Alexandria library is one of the most impressive libraries I have ever visited. There is a museum inside of it and the study spaces are incredible. In my opinion we did spend a bit too much time here though.
After we went to the site of the old lighthouse. Then we went to the l Montazah Palace & Gardens. While the gardens were pretty, we couldn’t actually go inside the Palace. I would have been happy to skip this stop.
Day 3 was nice; however, I was disappointed by the lack of time in Alexandria. That night we stayed at Hotel Azure Mediterranean, which was located on the Mediterranean Sea. However, by the time we made it back the beach was closed and it didn’t open again until after we were scheduled to depart. This meant that my partner didn’t get a chance to swim in the Mediterranean for his first time.
Day 4: Alexandria – Cairo
For day 4, we had been given the option to spend free time in a local mall but Mohamed recognized that we might not be interested in a mall and proposed the alternative of El Alamein World War II Military Museum, which was located on the way back to Cairo. The group was much more on board with this idea!
Since this involved a detour from the pre-arranged schedule, Mohamed had to get permission from the tourism police. We were allowed to go but we had the company of a guard. We found out that when you do a group tour, the tourism police essentially arrange a certain number of plain clothes officers to be at all of the sites thus ensuring your safety without you even knowing that it’s happening.
Since we had to be back in Cairo for our overnight sleeper train, we didn’t even really get a full 24 hours in Alexandria (Unless you would like to visit a mall).
Day 5: Aswan
The overnight sleeper trains were tiny but we still slept well. Our first stop in Aswan was to visit Philae Temple. Philae Temple was moved from its original location but you could never tell. One of the perks to visiting Egypt right now is that there are less tourists to be in your photos.
Enough of the group wanted to visit the High Dam that we went after Philae Temple. We had an afternoon of free time. We opted to visit an essence factory, while others in the group opted to wander the market or check out some monuments.
For dinner, we went to the Nubian village. It was quite an experience to be invited into someone’s home and have their family prepare a meal for us. One thing that struck me was the bright colours of both the house we were in and throughout the village.
I wish that I had fit in the Nubian Museum. Overall, we have been getting to see a lot of what we wanted.
Day 6: Flight to Abu Simbel
Intrepid arranged for a flight to Abu Simbel, which is about 45 minutes long. However, our flight got cancelled and merged with a later flight. This caused us to wait at the airport for a very long time. Another consequence of this was that we arrived in a much higher daily temperature. The flight was nice as it saves time but flights can be so unpredictable that I almost would have preferred a bus.
Due to our new flight departure time we were left with approximately one hour at Abu Simbel. This is another reason I would have preferred a bus. With a bus we could have adjusted the time.
Either way, Abu Simbel is breathtaking and you have to go no matter how you get there! You do have to pay extra to take pictures inside but it is worth it! The reason that you will find payment for pictures at a lot of temples is because it helps preserve them. Less people will take pictures if you charge them for it. This means there are less flashes and people ignoring signs.
Day 6 also marked the start of the Nile Cruise. We hoped to swim in the Nile but Mohamed advised us that we would need to take a water taxi to a different part of the river for this. But, he did offer to help us out with that if we ultimately chose to (We didn’t end up doing it).
Unfortunately, again, we experienced a lot of Americanized food on our cruise. There were also a few people in our group that experienced some sickness.
In the evening, we went for our Felucca. This is a traditional way of spending time on the Nile. It’s also quite relaxing.
Day 6 worked out well in the end despite the flight delays. We were still able to see and do everything that we wanted to.
Day 7: Aswan to Kom Ombo
For day 7, we sailed to Kom Ombo. We made it to the temple around 5:30, which provided plenty of time for exploring plus a nice sunset over the Nile.
Day 8: Edfu and sailing
The cruise stopped at Edfu temple; however, the only way of actually getting up to the temple is by the use of poorly cared for animals. As such, Intrepid does not endorse going there as they are encouraging travellers to hit the locals in the only place it hurts- the money bag. Intrepid’s stance on animal care is a reason why I like them. Mohamed mentioned that the men are known for being particularly pushy at this stop. Egypt Experience does allow for time to visit this temple if you decide to not make animal welfare a priority in your travels.
Instead of visiting Edfu, we slept in, had massages, and relaxed.
Day 9: Luxor
At Mohamed’s suggestion our group got up very early to attempt being one of the first groups to Karnak temple and to avoid the high heat of later in the day. It paid off.
As Mohamed has done so many tours, he is quite aware of busy times and how to avoid them.
Before our afternoon of free time, we had one last stop. Intrepid does Foundation Projects and in Egypt they have an Animal Care centre. Here, they provide care for injured animals. Which, unfortunately, there seemed to be a lot of.
For our afternoon off, we decided to visit the Mummification Museum. However, we could have skipped it since it was basically a super mini version of the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Mohamed suggestion Snacks for lunch. We went for it as it served traditional food, which we are all about.
While you can see Luxor Temple for free from the street, we did opt to go inside and explore.
Myself and some other group members had expressed an interest in trying camel so Mohamed was happy to help us find a place that serves it. In addition, he took us to a well reputed Silver shop.
Mohamed was always eager to help us get what we wanted.
Day 10: Luxor
A portion of our group was interested in doing the hot air balloon ride in Luxor. However, this was the one thing Mohamed was unable to help us out with. Intrepid hasn’t looked into hot air balloons to decide if they are okay with them. Fortunately, we were able to find a company. Since they happen at sunrise, it also didn’t affect the tour in any way. Mohamed was able to have the bus pick us up from the end point and continue on with the day.
The hot air balloon ride was incredible. Intrepid should seriously just add it as an optional activity.
The first official stop of the day was the Colossi of Memnon. This is a brief stop as there isn’t actually much to see here. But, the Valley of Kings rightfully gets all the glory.
The temples in the Valley of Kings all cost extra for photos inside. Again, this is a preservation technique. Another way that they preserve the temples is to rotate which ones are open. This means, that if you visit the Valley of Kings in 2019 and again in 2025. You might not get to see the same temples. They only open a limited amount at a time and rotate through them. We paid extra to see as many temples as possible.
After the Valley of Kings, we swung by an alabaster shop. Of course, I bought a few things.
The afternoon of day 10 is spent at Hatchepsut Temple. She was a pretty badass ruler.
On the previous day, Mohamed had mentioned Dendera Temple as being a site to check out if we ever found ourselves back in Luxor. However, it was only 60 km away so my partner and I were like, “Can’t we do it now?” Mohamed helped us arrange it with the hotel for this afternoon. It did make for a super long day but the temple ended up being one of our favourites! I can’t believe we almost missed it.
Day 11: Cairo
This is essentially the last actual day of touring. From Luxor we flew back to Cairo. The only planned activity was Khan al-Khalili bazaar. I love a market. So, this suited me quite well. I love wandering! After the market, some group members expressed interest in Tahrir Square and Egyptian cotton shops. Mohamed happily arranged for both.
Day 12: Cairo
Day 12 is actually an empty day. I believe part of this reason is for people to have flights out of Cairo. Also, Intrepid offers a combined tour of Egypt and Jordan so this is the day that those heading to Jordan venture off. I sure wish that I had realized that when we booked our tour! You get to stay with the same group, this is great if you enjoyed your group like we did.
Part of me wishes that they had just used this extra day to spend more time in Alexandria.
Unofficial Day 13: Cairo
We extended our trip by an additional day because we wanted to visit Bent Pyramid and Saqqarra. These two pyramids were not included with Intrepid as they aren’t some of the main sights but we were glad we went. Our goal for this trip was to see as much as possible. This was the best way of completing our Egypt experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Egypt but with so many other places I want to see, I might not make it back for awhile.
Mohamed was one of the best tour guides that I have ever had. He was funny, incredibly knowledgeable, and exceptionally helpful. He worked very hard to ensure that we got everything that we wanted out of our trip. Mohamed always had the answers. He was witty and easy to get along with. I can’t say enough good things about him!
If I ever do another tour of Egypt, I want him as my guide again!
Experience Egypt with Intrepid:
I love the Intrepid stance on animal welfare. Any tour company that prioritizes animals gets a priority from me. The Egypt Experience does a great job of covering most of the bases for a 12-day tour of Egypt.
I would have loved if there had been some Mediterranean Sea time in Alexandria. Throughout the trip, there was a fair bit of free time for adding a variety of activities. We did utilize this as much as possible. However, we don’t feel that we would have had time to squeeze in every single optional activity that the Egypt Experience lists.
Dendera Temple was one of my favourite places but Intrepid didn’t include it! They should seriously consider adding it. The other key thing that Intrepid should add is the hot air balloon ride in Luxor. This was the one thing that Mohamed was unable to help us out with as Intrepid hasn’t decided if they should endorse it or not. Intrepid should really just look into it because the hot air balloon ended up being one of my favourite things about the trip.
Experience Egypt definitely covers all of the highlights.
I would absolutely consider another trip with Intrepid. They go to so many places that I would love to see such as Antarctica, the Middle East, and Jordan. Based on my Egypt experience, any of these trips would be incredible.
Choosing a Tour Company if Experience Egypt isn’t Right For You
If you decide to skip the Experience Egypt or go with a different tour company. The biggest things to keep in mind are what you actually want to see while in Egypt. Plan your own Egypt experience ahead of time. Do your research, figure out what is most important to you. Then, research tour companies by looking at what stops are included and if there are ways to add the things that aren’t. For us, the flexibility that Intrepid offered allowed us to fully complete our Egypt experience. But, you might not want to see as much as we did, which is cool too. Just make sure that you will get everything that you want out of a tour before booking. For a starting place to build your Egypt bucket list, check this out!
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