Slow Travel is a phrase that was new to me until recently
One thing many solo travelers say to me early in our correspondences re trips is “I don’t want to spend my time rushing around from temple to temple, I like to travel alone and take my time” This is what I want to talk about today, whether slow travel in Egypt is a good idea or not.
We all love our holidays – and because we are all uniquely individual, each of us has different ideas as to what makes our holiday a success or failure. Everyone has different expectations and that is why many people like to travel alone. Some people are happy just to have a break away from work and home. And so they are content to let their traveling companion/s make the daily decisions regarding activities.
However, many people like to travel alone because they have specific interests they want to pursue, agendas for their holidays and they prefer not to be doing a daily balancing act with other people as to what to do and where to go – and finding something that suits everyone. That and chatting with the locals seems to be the definition of “slow travel”.
FACTS re time in the monuments in Egypt:
- you are NEVER going to be left alone – sorry.
- Opening times of ticket offices vary from 8 or 9am to 4 or 4.30pm
- distance to sites can dictate possible length of time allowed anywhere
Never Going to be Left Alone – a lamentable fact. Forget about sitting quietly and absorbing the atmosphere if you are going there without a guide. As for a guide, don’t assume that if you tell him you want some time on your own, that he actually understands that also applies to him and you don’t want to sit and chat. The guardians at the temples will not let you alone. One after the other they will approach you to “show you something private and very special”… Uhh no! He just wants money. At the Pyramids of Giza you will be mobbed by vendors and camel owners.
Ticket offices and distance to sites: In Egypt you should never assume and never presume anything. You are now entering a world where logic seldom prevails. On the West Bank of Luxor for example, you might expect to find the ticket office outside Medinet Habu Temple. It’s not. It’s a short drive away and that is also where tickets for other sites are on sale, except for Hatshepsut Temple and Valley of the Kings. This is a typical example of how your time can be wasted. If you are going to Abydos and Dendera then if you leave at 7.30 (you also have to be back inside Luxor City limits by 6pm) the most you can hope for at Abydos is about 2 hours and the same at Dendera. There are two roads to Abydos and it depends on which road the driver is told to take, by the police at the checkpoint, how long it takes to get there. One hour minimum in the difference depending on what road you have to take.
Time to Wander & Ponder – apart from the Temples and Monuments: Cairo is quite alright for wandering around on your own. But you should have your destinations and how you are going to get there, sorted out well in advance. Cairo is a huge city.
In 2011 – 2013 I spent a lot of time there on my own. I wanted to explore and I did. With all the time in the world at my disposal and my books plus the internet, I still found it extremely difficult. Between battling with taxi drivers who don’t always want to travel right across the city, coping with the heat and the crowed streets as well as the language problem it was really difficult – not to mention that mostly when I arrived at my destinations I usually had no idea what I was looking at! It was out of that experience that the Mara House Tours evolved. I could not imagine the stress that tourists undergo when under pressure to see as much as possible in a couple of days. The positive about Cairo is that mostly you are left alone and not hassled in the streets.
Luxor and Aswan are quite a different story to Cairo. Here you will have someone constantly calling at you in the streets – taxi drivers, shop vendors, calesh drivers, felucca men. Apart from that, so many view tourists as an opportunity for commission – if they can take you to a shop, any shop at all or even a restaurant. Hence, ordinary people will come up to you and offer to show you the “local” market etc. No peace here.
These days most of our guests are met at Cairo Airport by Ahmed. They take our Cairo, Luxor, Cruise and Aswan Tour or a variation of same with us. My biggest regret with this is that the people who spend all their time in Egypt with us, never actually realise what they have missed (should I say “rescued from”) by not going it alone.
Lately I had some friends come to stay with me on a surprise visit. They went to Hurghada and Cairo prior to arriving on my doorstep. To say the least of it, they were not happy campers. All due to the hassle and misinformation they received from the moment they landed. Also they were totally unprepared for the level of hassle that exists here. Their experience reminded me again of the value that Mara House offers with our tours and packages. The unique thing about my guides, and everyone who works with me, is that they are willing to forego the commissions they could earn by taking my guests shopping, in favour of giving a genuine service. They like their work and they like the respect they get for it.
Egypt is not a country for doing your own thing UNLESS you have as much time as it takes – and that could be a very long time.
3/4 of the following video is about McDonalds in Cairo 🙂 go to 12:33 for his experience at the Great Pyramids. I have no idea what “tomb” he got scammed into visiting – and paying for – but where his time and video should have been about the marvellous Great Pyramid, it wasn’t. Google scams in Luxor or Cairo for many more – don’t take my word for it.
Egypt is a country where you want to talk with someone who knows how everything works, the fastest time to get from A to B, can tell you what you are looking at – and where to find anything special that you are looking for in a temple etc. It’s a country where it really is a good idea to have someone organise your transport and be willing to adapt to your wishes where and when it is possible, but also who is honest enough to tell you when something is not worth your time. That is what we do at Mara House. And we have all been doing it for so long now that it is totally natural and instinctive in each of us to understand what you are looking for, even if you can’t actually put it into words.
So, now you know 🙂 It’s up to you to decide – wander and ponder or play it safe?