Another great Adventure Jamie!Have to write that wasn't going to write a trip report this time, a lot going on in our lives at the moment due to B, shutting down our business, planning to move plus other stuff. There is also a longer rail journey coming up later in the year which we have every intention of documenting and one large trip report was enough, so I thought.
But yesterday having finished reading Seaboard92's 'Music Across America' journey I felt inspired by the quality, effort and detail he put into that. Made me think what's the matter with me, if I put a quarter of the effort in that he has it will still be a substantial journey report, and there will be people here who are interested in all things train in Egypt too.
So here we go, it will be a bit rough and ready as not had the time to do a fraction of the planning we usually do, but have a route and all accommodation booked. Whether all the plans are feasible I don't know, but we will give it our best shot.
We visited Egypt on the spur of the moment about 20 years ago. Flew to Luxor on a last minute 1 week holiday, visited some amazing sights then took the express train to Aswan. Aswan is very pretty, has sights but not to match Luxor. We decided at the time that a visit to Cairo was a must (the Egyptian museum and never visited a city of 20 million people before), also the Suez Canal and the Nile Delta. This trip covers all of that plus a little more, here is the route :
Fly to Cairo for 5 days ->
11 hour express train to Luxor for 2 days ->
Train to Aswan ->
2 days Aswan including a complicated visit to the unique temple at Kom-Ombo. Next door is the Crocodile museum. Rosie is the temple and tomb person, I'm fascinated how crocodiles feature in Egyptian ancient history. The journey to Kom-Ombo is complicated for 2 reasons. There is no timetable for most of the stations, only the termini plus Luxor. Online the intermediate station tickets aren't for sale, only the through destinations. The area between Luxor and Aswan is a military zone due to security concerns, so moving freely between Luxor and Aswan by road has to be authorised, another reason to take the train. There are tour trips from both Luxor and Aswan to take in 3 or 4 temples along the Nile and Kom-Ombo (KO) in a day, just not our style of travel. All train tickets have so far been bought online, with the help of Seat61 to start me off I plodded through the booking process, and once the sequence is found it's fairly easy. But, and a big but, as it's not possible to buy tickets to intermediate stations, that's any of them. I bought tickets through to major cities and hope we can get off where we want to. To cover all possibilities we have bought an early morning train ticket from Aswan to Luxor, and providing the train stops at KO we are ok, we get down to the Nile nice and early. If not we'll be travelling back to Luxor the day after we left! Getting back to Aswan is more complex as there is a train out of Luxor headed to Aswan that arrives only about 3 1/2 hours after we arrive at KO. So now have bought 2 sets of Luxor to Aswan tickets for the same day. We thought what if 3 hours in KO is not enough time to have breakfast, see what we want to see and get back to the station in time, we have to cover all bases. This is not a tourist town, but full on agricultural area so won't have all the visitor facilities or even English/French/German speakers you find in the larger better known places, it may take us little longer to arrange or understand things. With that in mind we have bought the two sets of 2 tickets, one pair for the mid-day train and a second pair for the evening one from Luxor to Aswan, what can go wrong... ->
Aswan to Cairo on the Watania Sleeping Train, a privately owned company which will be a first for us having only ever travelled on national railways until now ->
Cairo to Alexandria for 3 days ->
Port Said across the Nile Delta for 1 1/2 days ->
Up the Suez Canal to Ismailia for 1 1/2 days, Ismailia has an interesting recent history ->
Cairo for 1 day and back to London.
Thanks for sticking with it if you got this far, it could be a great trip or chaos. We think that having visited Egypt already we are very hopeful there is a good chance of this being a memorable trip.
If others are interested in links to or methods on how to book these Egyptian train tickets please ask, like most things, it's easy when you know how... oh and if you are quite patient.
Note on ticket prices: As we all know Egypt is not a wealthy country, ticket prices are very low cost. Buying online allows us to pay what locals do, tourists often have to pay a higher price for various things. The three sets of 2 tickets all 1st class with A/C for three journeys between Aswan and Luxor cost a total of 399 Egypt Pounds (EGP), equivalent to 27 USD. Another detail is Egyptian National Railways (ENR) only release tickets 14 days before departure on a rolling hourly timed release. All the 1st class seats Aswan-Luxor which we booked a maximum of 24 hours ago are now all sold out, 2nd class is available though.
We shall use 2nd class across the Delta and back to Cairo, apparently that may be an experience?
Us too, it's been a long time since the last Austin visit.Another great Adventure Jamie!
I'm sure that you and Rosie will have a ball being the World Travelers that ya'll are!
I definitely look forward to your trip reports and am thrilled that we'll see ya'll in San Diego this Fall!
My wife and I took the overnight train from Cairo to Luxor last April in a sleeper cabin that slept two, perpendicular to the direction of travel. As a result we slept better, since most pitching is L/R, not forward/back, on a train. Got dinner and continental breakfast, which were adequate, inferior to Amtrak, about like the old "free" meals on long US coach class flights. Then we took a somewhat longer overnight train from Aswan back to Cairo.I love that I’m part of the influence for this report. I am really looking forward to this one. I’ve wanted to ride the rails in Egypt for a long time, so you will give me some great insights on your marvelous sounding trip.
You have encouraged me that I need to ride the Trans Siberian Railway soon. And I plan on doing that as soon as I can find three weeks off work.
Wow, I'm convinced that yall could go anywhere in the Universe and get around fine! More!, More!Friday 28 February 2020 Day 2 ~ Cairo, first look
Updated central Cairo, Egypt ~ Saturday 29 February
Before we landed a cabin crew member walked up and down the aisle spraying something into the air both directions. Hardly anyone had coughed up until that point but that set many of us off.
On entering the terminal building we were asked where had our travels originated from and if we had flown directly from London. Then our temperature was taken with the scan of the forehead. Passed through the arrivals quite fast as the airport was not too busy at 5am, there was our booked driver to take us to the hotel.
This ride from airport to downtown Cairo if all conditions are just right can be done in 45-50 minutes, usually 1 1/2 hours is the norm but 2 hours if conditions are very bad. Our driver did it in 25 minutes.
That was one of the really interesting rides of my life and had one or two. Early twenties driver in a lightly damaged reasonable car, the horn worked very well and he probably had brakes too but didn't use them often. Flashing headlamps worked amazingly well, a bit like the parting of the waves in the Red Sea. I did mention we were not in too much of a hurry but he just turned round and smiled "no English" and continued. Mainly we were only a little fazed by some amazing driving and co-operation of other road users which even at this early hour there were quite a few, but we did have seatbelts which was comforting, until we realised that the buckles we needed to attach the belts to were missing...
We then convinced ourselves we were visiting Cairo for a little excitement, just didn't expect it to start quite so soon.
Arrived at our hotel in one piece and have to write he was one of the most talented drivers we have ever driven with. Smooth and calm, nothing bothered him at all including red stop lights, they were obviously for other drivers, and any pedestrians along the way were all good sprinters.
He stepped out the car grinning, possibly he now held the world record from Cairo International to central Cairo. Couldn't help myself but congratulate him on an accomplished bit of driving, then turned and there was the smiling manager of the hotel ready to carry our bags, what a smooth hand over.
Usually I carry my own bags as I need the exercise, but the young manager insisted it was important for me to let him carry at least the cases. In the past this had been a grand apartment block, it's about 120 years old, now it had plenty of faded grandeur. In the imposing entrance hall, we were told the hotel is on the 3rd floor, that's 3 floors above the ground floor but make that 3 and a half as there are a set of steps to get into the building first. Wonderful worn broad marble steps, all 97 of them from inside the entrance hall. Did I mention there is no elevator?
The manager had to stop twice before we reached the hotel floor, we gasped a little and sat as soon as we reach the front desk. The staff are friendly and helpful, the room is more than basic and very clean, we wanted to be in the centre of it all and we are, it's 20 USD a night with breakfast, perfect for our purposes.
After an early check-in we slept for 6 hours and decided to try to find the tourist office less than 10 minutes away, it's Friday and a day off for many, the city is buzzing, the air is also highly polluted with traffic fumes.
We are in an area where people work and live, there are no 'sights' here at all. Every road has shops with added people on the pavement selling just about anything and everything. Quite a few disabled folk hawking packs of tissues or other cheap small items to earn a little. In the main though the people are well dressed and happy looking, and as it's Friday families are out window shopping, as well as small groups of teenagers doing what teenagers do the world over, and lots of people just milling around. A real kaleidoscope of Egyptians, some Africans but no obvious tourists.
They are a friendly bunch as sometimes we got in the way, we are still learning how to move around here. When people realised we were visitors the remonstrations always ended with "welcome to Cairo" and always with a big smile, something we could learn from these people.
It was a superb afternoon although didn't find either of the two Tourist Offices, but we had a lot of fun diving into here or there, down alleys and into businesses asking for a tourist office. Never a word of English spoken but always a smile, even if they thought we were a little crazy.
Gave up on the tourist office and headed for the main rail station, Ramses. I knew just about where it was but by now the world of central Cairo had become very busy, it wasn't obvious. Used a high level pedestrian bridge and spotted an ancient train in front of a bland building, it had possibilities we thought.
As in Russia you have to pass through security to get into the station, there are a number of entrances only and exits only, but it doesn't appear to slow people down too much. One poor young man had a huge suitcase that was too big to go through the scanner, had to unpack it on the station floor.
The train schedules are shown in Arabic only, but if you wait long enough (a long time) they are displayed in English briefly too. Most of the platforms don't have numbers, but we found two that did and knew which direction to count from when we come back next Wednesday for our train to Luxor.
When looking for the first tourist office a very kindly soldier we asked offered us a tour of the closed temple he was helping guard, he also pointed a good restaurant out too. He found the temple curator then waved us goodbye, we explained to said official we were looking for the tourist office not the temple, he couldn't help either even though we were at the address given.
On the way back from the Ramses station we did have an evening meal at recommended restaurant, very nice indeed and not at all expensive by western standards.
Back at our hotel and long discussions with the manger about religion, people around the world, more religion and his world in Cairo and at hotels on the Red Sea.
What a first day in Egypt, interesting, happy, amazing, colourful and hate the small of vehicle fumes, but what a place and we haven't scratched the surface.
The hotel's 3 flight of stairs
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This elegant enormously tall minaret
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Minaret in it's full glory
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Moving towards rush hour
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This train engine looked original, is that possible? In front of a bland building that had the be the railway station
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Then the bland exterior turned into this
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This sort of reminds me a little of Grand central in NYC
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Same colour scheme as earlier Amtrak cars?
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To be continued...
We didn't realise the extent of the storm at first, or that it was the second in 2 weeks. Yes it did affect our and many peoples plans as has the Coronavirus, will explain when I get the rest written out over the next week. Will say we left our hotel in Alexandria at 11:00am on Thursday morning, got back to central France at 11:30pm this (Saturday) evening, without stopping and without any sleep until this lunch time. We got very very lucky with our disrupted travels, almost everything went wrong and the replacement plans went very right, just lucky and quite funny too.Great report. I like the pictures an your story-telling. Another destination added to my list.
I hope you all are okay weather-wise; there was a big storm in Egypt...
Thanks Jennifer. We wouldn't know how close we got to infected persons, we were mainly in cities and Cairo and Alexandria are teeming with people everywhere around the clock. All the advice except hand washing can't be put into practice easily, just impossible unless we were to lock ourselves away for our entire visit and travelling to and from. We read what we could before travelling, assessed the risk, worked out we are not in a high risk group, and took into account that most people recover perfectly normally from this infection. We worked on the basis there is a risk and it could if everything went wrong be dangerous, but if we shied away from all risks we would never travel again, and travel is what we exist for so prepared to take calculated risksAnd while I very much appreciate the photos and the travelogue, I do hope that you don't have too close a brush with COVID-19. I see that Egypt has 93 cases, and I know that number is bound to go up. I hope you are able to practice social distancing and stay well.
We did our best, but walking through a bazaar with thousands of people and animals milling around there is no chance of keeping your distance. Still, so far so good.I was just thinking the same as Jennifer--things are escalating quickly in the COVID 19 world. Hope you are keeping safe and healthy!