Egypt: Eternal and Essential

There are fewer more once-in-a-lifetime places to be than Egypt, where journeys hold the promise of enchantments – both ancient and modern – on the Nile, along the Mediterranean, by the Red Sea.

Undoubtedly, these enchantments are the reason for a 17 percent jump in travelers from the United States in 2008, for a total of 319,000, according to the Egyptian Tourist Authority.

Egypt is the world’s oldest tourist destination, and seemingly an ongoing Mecca for U.S. travelers, even if travel prospects this year worldwide are not so rosy. “Egypt is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, with only about 10 percent of visitors returning for repeat visits,” says Misr Travel’s Eunice Roy, “so basically every booking is for the first-time traveler, and we work closely with travel agents—who may also be booking Egypt for the first time—to make sure the destination meets client expectations: from choosing the right Nile cruise ship to ensuring knowledgeable guides essential for explaining a rather exotic country.”

misr travel Among tour operators specializing in Egypt, Misr Travel is no exception to the fact that the usual booking from the U.S. market focuses on Cairo and a Nile cruise. The company offers an 8-night Classic Egyptian Tour with Nile Cruise. It spends four nights atHilton, Sheraton or Marriott hotels in Cairo and four nights aboard a Movenpick- or Oberoi-managed Nile cruise. The cost for land/cruise starts at just $1,745.

And Misr Travel may have just the right tour for a cost-conscious traveler who’s finally decided to take that first trip to Egypt: a 6-night Budget Cruncher, tackling Cairo and a Nile cruise in the space of seven action-packed days. Travelers spend three nights at the Movenpick Heliopolis Hotel in Cairo and three nights aboard the Movenpick H.S. Radamis I or II Nile cruiser. The lead price is $1,849, including international air aboard Egyptair’s nonstop flight between JFK and Cairo.

During the four nights in Cairo, Roy recommends spending time in Al Azhar Park, “a triumph of urban planning, filled with formal and informal gardens, a palm court, lake and water channels; and adjourn at sunset to the Al Azhar restaurant with panoramic views of illuminated mosques and city lights.

“The Revolving Restaurant atop the Grand Hyatt is another great spot with a 360-degree view of Cairo. When in Luxor, find time to explore the smaller tombs of the Valley of the Nobles, and take a walk in the evening through floodlit Luxor Temple. And on the West Bank in Luxor is the sublime Al Moudira—there’s no other hotel like it in Egypt,” Roy adds.

sita world tours Max Ali, SITA World Tours’ operations manager for Africa, also has a suggestion for those visitors traveling to Luxor: take time to wander through the spice market, he says. Luckily for your clients, SITA offers an 8-night Pyramids & Palaces tour that includes time in Luxor.

Laudie Hanou, SITA’s v.p., adds that, “the company has introduced a new series of Value Vacations for many destinations, including Egypt.” The new Egypt: Land of the Pharoahs is an 8-day tour that spends the first three nights in Cairo, staying at the Ramses Hilton Cairo Hotel, with one day of sightseeing at the Pyramids, Memphis and Saqqara and another day visiting the highlights of Cairo—Ali suggests making time to visit Cairo’s Coptic quarter. “When it comes to dining around the capital,” Ali comments, “the Al Saraya restaurant by the Nile offers a superb buffet of Egyptian specialties.”

Travelers then fly to Luxor to board the deluxe M/S Amarante for a 4-night Nile cruise to Aswan. In Aswan, everyone enjoys a felucca ride around Kitchner Island and then they fly to Abu Simbel for a tour of the temples, before returning to Cairo for a farewell dinner and folklore show and a final night’s stay at the Fairmont Heliopolis. Priced from $2,580 pp dbl, the tour cost includes all deluxe land and cruise arrangements, as well as local flights and international airfare between New York and Cairo. Guaranteed departures are scheduled monthly through September.

Hanou says that, “Travel agents, who account for 90 percent of our bookings, can and do rely on our website—specially formatted for easy use—and our policy of guaranteed departures, as well as our staff of international specialists who know our destinations and products inside out and are flexible in delivering what their clients are looking for.”