This was a last minute holiday choice which we thought might just suit us as it would allow us to travel around in a country we'd never explored and learn more about Egyptian history and culture. It felt like a bit of a risk as we've never travelled with Exodus before but it completely exceeded our expectations!
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
The Dahshur pyramids were awe inspiring. It was really special to explore inside and to see pyramids in such unspoilt surroundings. Best of all, we had them all to ourselves with not another soul in sight!
(the 'pyramid legs' stayed with us for several days afterwards though!)
- What did you think of your group leader?
Fouad really knew his egyptology, and had a genuine and infectious enthusiasm which didn't wane despite our constant deluge of questions. He definitely helped us get far more out of all the historic sites than would have been possible travelling independently.
Fouad was good at timing visits as far as possible to allow us to have a more excusive experience, not surrounded by other tourists. Most important of all, he was great company!
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Be prepared for the HEAT (or go earlier in the season!), but definitely make sure you have clothes suitable to respect the muslim culture and allow you to cover up. Pack as light as you can as this trip travels around a lot, but make sure your bag is big enough to hold everything you'll undoubtedly buy!
There is a LOT of hassle from stall holders and general salesmen everywhere you go, so take notes during your initial briefing so you know how to say 'no' politely (and sometimes not so politely). But there are some lovely things to buy if you're prepared to haggle and banter and generally get into the swing of Egyptian commerce!
If you can, take the opportunity to visit the Habiba galleries in Luxor (close to the alabaster factories) or Karnak (beside the perfumery visited during this tour) - this is a fair trade enterprise which employs women and ensures a fair price to all the craftspeople they buy direct from. It's refreshing to walk uninterrupted around the shop and be able to pick up and feel fabrics etc without being hassled, and their haggle-free prices are generally lower than you'll manage even with the strongest of haggling in the markets.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Exodus go to huge lengths to look after you every step of the way, but without the tour feeling at all regimented. There is plenty of flexibility and plenty of time to chill out or enjoy lively conversation with your fellow travellers.
This tour is really well thought out, taking you through the history of the country chronologically (although it would have been useful to get a bit more explanation of this at the beginning), and you really get to see the country because of all the different modes of transport. Despite the warnings that the sleeper train might be a bit basic, I would describe it as superior to the Caledonian Sleeper I take from Scotland to London! The star rating of the boat doesn't correspond with the star ratings we're used to in the UK, but it was good clean basic accommodation and the food on board was excellent. Travelling by boat was a brilliant way to view all the bird life on the Nile, and see the farming practices along the banks - we regretted skimping on our packing and leaving out the binoculars.
There were just 10 in our group, which we felt was the perfect number as we could travel more freely in our small minibus and could get on the move quickly with so few people so we could take advantage of the cooler early morning temperatures before the hoards arrived in their big coaches. It also meant that Fouad could take us to smaller cafes so we felt we were getting more authentic Egyptian food than would be possible in a larger group which would be restricted to bigger, more tourist orientated eateries.
We will definitely consider travelling with Exodus again and would definitely recommend this tour.