Friday, March 16, 2018

Some thoughts on the trip

If ever there was a time to visit Egypt, it is now. The country desperately needs to restore the tourist economy and your entry fees help the massive restoration projects that in some cases have come to a standstill. There are no crowds so it is easy to see most of the attractions. And it's very inexpensive.

Go during the cooler months like I did. The heat in summer has to be awful and of course, that is when the Europeans arrive in droves for their summer holidays.

Of course, there are concerns about safety in Egypt but to be honest, it is more unsafe to go to the USA these days. There is security everywhere in Egypt. It reminds me of going to Spain in 1974 when Franco was in power. There were men in uniforms everywhere and I think it was a way to solve unemployment at the time.

When you arrive at Cairo airport, make sure to use a pick-up service to take you to your hotel. They smooth the way though immigration and customs and they are doing it every day. It's not necessary in Morocco.

The people in all three countries were friendly. The food was mostly very good. The oranges in Egypt and Morocco are incredibly delicious, better than the Spanish. Vegetarians were catered for but neither of the groups had gluten intolerant people.

When I was in Egypt and Morocco, I was religious about drinking bottled water and also when brushing my teeth. It worked. The father and son who got sick during the Egypt tour wondered if they picked up a bug from the swimming pool at the first hotel.

You will get sick of the touts, sellers and other  locals trying to get your attention. Just develop that 'Lawrence of Arabia' stare into the distance and keep walking. Don't respond. If you do decide to buy something, remember that an extra dollar means nothing to you but will mean a lot to them.

I was pleased with both tour groups. Even though the Timeless tour in Egypt had 26 people, I still felt that I could talk to all of them. The smaller Intrepid tour in Morocco with 12 people (max 16) does form a closer group however. Most of us had traveled extensively, often by ourselves and had some concerns about 'group travel' but these small groups seem to work well. The biggest attraction for me now is having someone to talk to at meal times. And of course, it is easy to have the transport and hotels all arranged.

The tour guides are excellent. They have to be to keep their jobs. In addition, they have to like people and they really respond well when you talk one on one with them about their lives and how they became tour guides. Tip generously if you can at the end. When you think about it, it is one of those 'herding cats' jobs, so make their lives easier by always being on-time and let them know if you plan to be away from the group for a period.

Everybody will have their own special moments when your mind goes 'wow'. In Egypt, mine were the Temple in Luxor lit up at night, seeing the remains of Rameses II and Hapshepsut and realizing that they really existed. In Morocco, having lunch with Mustapha's parents, sitting on the sand dune in the Sahara and medina in Fes. Who can forget the camel head and hoof. And of course, wandering around the top of Gibraltar and walking the Caminito del Rey.

So the next adventure starts at the end of April when we both head off to Norway and take the ferry ride down the coast and see fjords and then head off to Poland for Marianne to see where some of her ancestors came from. Retirement is wonderful.

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