Subject: Back from Egypt
Hello everybody !

I came back last week from my Egypt holiday, and I cannot stop recommending the visit to this amazing country. I had a wonderful time there, and although we were waking up early and going to sleep very late, I managed to come back home fully relaxed and really happy.

The weather was quite hot, around 35š Celsius, but after this hot European summer, it hasnīt been a big problem. I was travelling with a group organized by a Bilbao agency, and their professionality level was astounding. Our group increased suddenly from 20 to 28 people, and there were two accompanying spanish guides. In Egypt we had two more guides, Ahmed 1 in charge of stones and other stories, and Ahmed 2 who was a rep from the company owning the cruise ship. Both of them spoke very good spanish, and also english. The links for our ship and our hotel follow :

We flew with Egyptair. Non smoking and non alcohol flights, no delays, we couldnīt complain. We landed in Luxor and from there we began our cruise down the Nile, from Abydos and Dendera to Aswan, stopping in Luxor, Edfu and Kom Ombo. We were the only tourists in Abydos and Dendera (it is a bit difficult to do it on your own from Luxor), and on the other days we tried to be very early on the sites. We were at Queen Hatshepsut's temple before the sun rose over ancient Thebes. We were the first there, and had the whole site for us during precious 30 minutes, and we really enjoyed. I preferred the Valley of the Queens to the Valley of the Kings, less people, more intimate tombs ...

More high points. The Horus temple at Edfu, strangely impressive and huge, even in the middle of the town. The market in Aswan, some of us went out at midnight with Ahmed, and we came back loaded with pepper, pistacchio nuts and wonderful cinammon. Swimming in the Nile (yes, it can be done, the crocodiles are in Lake Nasser) and riding a camel on my own (although my beast decided to go and drink water :) ). Flying to Abu Simbel, and walking inside those two huge temples.

After 5 days of sightseeing and relax (I couldnīt stop looking around) while sailing in the Nile, we flew back to Cairo from Abu Simbel. The temperature dropped a little bit, and we witnessed the famous Cairo traffic jams (they came handy, because our guide kept buying flower and dates and mangoes for us while stuck in the bus :) ). That night we went to the Sound and Light show at Giza. Remember not to use flash when taking pictures, the show uses laser rays, and the photographic flashes make it very hard for the eyes. But previously I had been able to swim a little bit at our hotel swimming pool, I couldnīt resist it when I saw it from my balcony.

The next two days were fully packed with visits to the Pyramids (yes, I went into one of them, and it is slightly claustrophobic, but I had to do it. It is better if you donīt have mobility problems. We got stuck in a traffic jam going out, because of a woman who had to be pushed by the people behind her), the Sphinx (smaller than I thought), Memphis, Sakkara ... almost 5 hours at the Egyptian Museum, the Saladdin Mosque, the Iran Shah tomb, Saint Sergius church in the coptic Cairo, and a final evening in Khan-al-Khalili, mostly spent inside the cafe were Naghib Mahfouz used to write, and buying peanuts, chick peas and pumpkin seeds.

The last night some of the group went for dinner at the revolving restaurant on top of our hotel, and the rest met downstairs at the terrace by the river. We enjoyed a long dinner and a long chat, and afterwards we went dancing at the Hard Rock Cafe, that is located by the hotel Hyatt where we were staying. It was real fun, but we had to get back at 4 oīclock. Wake-up call was at 6 am, and we hadnīt packed yet. Of course, I slept almost all the way back to Spain next morning.

Some important issues. There is a lot of security all over the place. X-Ray controls, police patrols travelling with the tourist buses, police in every monument. We had guns on board our ship when sailing between Luxor and Abydos. There has always been a lot of security measures, but they were increased after the traguc events of 1997 in Queen Hatshepsut's temple. Those killings really affected the egyptian economy ... Money, the change against the Euro was around 7 egyptian pounds, but the Euro is used all over the place, and it came handy at the end of the trip, when we didnīt want to change Euros into pounds. There is a lot of people asking for baksheesh. I think it is really up to you. Give if you want, if you donīt, there is no need (but I always ended up giving). Bargaining ... I donīt know how to do it, and many times I was happy enough with the price, so I didnīt mind paying it. But if you are good at it, you can find some real bargains.

Well, thatīs all for the moment. This has been one of my top holidays, and I know I must go back there. Maybe a tour of the Oasis, or a visit to Mount Sinai ...

Kind regards, Covadonga Bilbao - Spain