Most of the people will stay in Aswan just for one night because of the early morning trip to Abu Simbel. I’m glad to spend 2 nights in Aswan, this place turn out to be one of my favorites in Egypt.
Food – Makka restaurant. We had been returning to the same family restaurant for 2 consecutive days. That consider uncommon, I’ve always try to avoid the same restaurant as there were plenty out there. But the Egyptian food served at this place is fantastic with reasonable price. Try the stuffed pigeon ( yes, the bird appear in your mind now). They served main course with complementary dishes.
Felucca – A Felucca is a traditional wooden sailing boat. We had been approached by many people standing just right in front of the hotel for a felucca ride, but we decided to stand on the pier to hire the boat directly. It happen to be a wise decision as the cost was only $6 for an hour for the entire Felucca. We had a great time on the boat. The boatmen are Nubians, they are friendly and chatty.
Sunset – Aswan is the best place to enjoy spectacular sunset view. Just head to any cafe, restaurant or piers along River Nile. If you have more budget, hire a Felucca for sunset ride.
Most of the travelers will opt for sleeper night train if they planned to go Aswan from Cairo. We had chosen a different route, well it’s still a train but a second class local train. There were no other foreigners through out the journey. I’ll share the following yay and nay of taking local train.
Yay –> ticket can be purchased online, cost is less than USD 8 per pax ( sleeper night train is USD 100 per pax), seat is comfortable, traveling with locals meaning you will be able to communicate with them.
Nay –> lack of privacy, cold and windy (no heater even for winter), noisy and toilet cleanness.
Our train suppose to depart from Cairo at 7pm, arriving Aswan the next day at 9am. In fact, the departure was 7.40pm and arrival was next day after 12pm. The delayed was more than 3 hours.
Despite of all the nay effect, we did enjoy our ride. We encountered a group of street kids trying to get money from us, the locals request those kids to stay away. They also helped to translate some of the train announcements as we couldn’t understand Arabic. They made our journey warm and safe.
There were hot drinks selling every 1-2 hours, it always good to have a cup of hot coffee/tea on hand when the temperature outside was in between 1-3 degrees. There weren’t any blanket nor heater provided, a thick winter jacket is required.
We started the day by running up and down stairs looking for breakfast. After 15 minutes, more guest joining us and we all wondering if the owner had run away.
The funny part was one of the guy followed us was supposed to prepare breakfast, but he couldn’t speak in English and he wasn’t able to ask why everyone running up and down.
After a good exercise and simple breakfast, we followed our guide Khaled ( +20 111 195 5266) and started our private tour to Giza Pyramid Complex, Old Cairo and Khan el-Khalili street market.
In most of my trip, I preferred to wander around without joining tour or having guide. However, Cairo is a crazy and messy place, many sellers will approach you for a ride with camel, horse, donkey or selling souvenirs like thousand bees aiming on one flower. Another reason was to gain the basic knowledge and understanding of Egyptian history and culture. This helped for the remaining trips as we had been on our own most of the time after Cairo. The most memorable key words were crazy horse and crazy camel, it has a different definition in Egypt.
Egyptian normally take heavy breakfast in early morning and late lunch at 3PM. As non Egyptian, we had a light lunch at 12PM followed by coffee and shisha at local store, and more snacks and local food through out the day. The tour was relaxing, enjoyable and educational, with lots of silly jokes and quotes.
Khaled asked if we felt unsafe in Egypt, we told him not at all. The information or news published online didn’t reflect the actual condition in Egypt. In general, Egypt is safe to travel and Egyptians are friendly. Just beware of the taxi driver and seller. Always have small notes on hand. Do not follow anyone who told you about the secret of Egypt. Dare to say no to others or anything that make you uncomfortable.
Egypt – the country I’ve always wanted to explore since I was a kid.
The trip started with a big surprise when the airport staff informed us that our names had been listed on the upgrade list for flight from Qatar to Cairo. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to get the free upgrade, it did keep us excited for a good few hours.
Our flight arrived Cairo around 9pm. Everything went well as planned – our driver was there at the moment we stepped out from airport, the journey took approximately one hour to arrive the guesthouse that overlooking the pyramid site.
I’ve heard lots of scams and price marking up stories online. The first of many just started from this guesthouse. The owner was trying to offer us a ‘big meal’ consist of a set of roasted chicken with fries at USD 8, we politely said no, the price dropped to USD 5 in seconds. After settled down with luggage, we went out to get food and water. We found a local restaurant which is just a few steps away offered the same ‘big meal’ at USD 3.
The next day morning, a European guy who stayed at the same guesthouse told us he paid USD 13 for that big meal. In Egypt, one can bargain for a discount for anything – food, services, souvenirs, etc. Literally everything.