MARHABAN, EGYPT

The land of the Nile is back in style

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Escape - - FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS | EGYPT - SARAH NI­CHOL­SON

Egypt has been tempt­ing trav­ellers since Geor­gian times when Brits of suf­fi­cient means vis­ited on ex­tended es­capades known as the Grand Tour. Tourism has con­tin­ued across the cen­turies, only stalling dur­ing in­ter­na­tional in­ci­dents such as world wars, the Suez Cri­sis, and this decade’s po­lit­i­cal un­rest which be­gan with the revo­lu­tion re­mov­ing despotic leader Hosni Mubarak from of­fice in 2011. Hol­i­day­go­ers stopped go­ing when they saw sus­tained demon­stra­tions in the news and vis­i­tor num­bers plum­meted from 14 mil­lion in 2010 to nine mil­lion the fol­low­ing year.

But Egypt is back, with the des­ti­na­tion ap­pear­ing on lists of top places to ex­plore in 2019. On The Go Tours is just one travel busi­ness re­port­ing a rise in in­quiries and book­ings since the sit­u­a­tion started sta­bil­is­ing in 2015.

“As our first des­ti­na­tion when On The Go Tours started in 1998 we have wit­nessed the changes in Egypt and how tourism has been af­fected,” gen­eral man­ager Natalie James says. “Dur­ing 2017 and 2018 we have seen growth of 102 per cent on group tours to Egypt and tai­lor-made hol­i­days also rise by 62 per cent. We’re con­fi­dent this will con­tinue in 2019, and the ben­e­fit to cus­tomers is an ex­pe­ri­ence with­out the crowds of a decade ago.”

While Aus­tralia’s De­part­ment of For­eign Af­fairs and Trade still has some con­cerns – the Smar­trav­eller web­site asks Aussies to avoid the ter­ri­tory flank­ing the Libyan bor­der TEM­PLE OF HATSHEPSUT and North Si­nai – the leg­endary lo­ca­tions around the land of the pharaohs are again call­ing.

PO­LIT­I­CAL SIT­U­A­TION NOW?

Natalie James ac­knowl­edges that the po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity since the Arab Spring up­ris­ing in 2011 still af­fects the im­age of the re­gion and in­bound tourism, but travel op­er­a­tors aren’t see­ing signs that should de­ter tourists mak­ing plans.

“We were the first op­er­a­tor back into Egypt once travel warn­ings lifted in 2014, have not needed to can­cel any tours once we re­turned, and have been able to con­tin­u­ally of­fer cus­tomers a safe travel ex­pe­ri­ence tai­lored to chang­ing events and travel warn­ings.”

HOW DO I GET THERE?

There are no di­rect flights from Aus­tralia to Egypt but Emi­rates and Eti­had of­fer two-flight op­tions via the United Arab Emi­rates, South African Air­lines goes via Jo­han­nes­burg, and lo­cal car­rier Egyp­tAir trav­els to Bangkok for Asian tran­sits.

WHEN SHOULD I GO?

We­b­jet Ex­clu­sives gen­eral man­ager Bren­dan Sawyer says while Egypt is a GIZA PYRA­MIDS year-round des­ti­na­tion, any­one who feels the heat should avoid the sum­mer months of June, July and Au­gust. Tem­per­a­tures can be “op­pres­sively high” mak­ing it un­com­fort­able ex­plor­ing out­doors.

“Most visi­tors travel be­tween Oc­to­ber and April for the iconic land­marks in and around Cairo such as the Giza pyra­mids and the Sphinx, but De­cem­ber is over­looked and can be fan­tas­tic if you wish to com­bine mild tem­per­a­tures with rel­a­tively few visi­tors,” he says.

“Many restau­rants and shops close or scale back open­ing hours dur­ing the Mus­lim holy month, known as Ra­madan, which takes place through­out June and ei­ther side into May or July, and visi­tors look­ing to in­dulge in lo­cal foods and stroll the bazaars are en­cour­aged to travel out­side this re­li­gious pe­riod.”

HOW DO I GET AROUND?

Planes and trains are the go for long dis­tances. Ex­perts rec­om­mend trav­ellers avoid the road as traf­fic can be chaotic and there are chal­lenges driv­ing dis­tances through the desert be­tween sig­nif­i­cant set­tle­ments.

Phil Hoff­man Travel project man­ager Me­lanie Wynne says there are reg­u­lar air and train con­nec­tions from Cairo to pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions such as Luxor and Aswan. “Cairo to Luxor takes one hour by Egyp­tAir, 12 hours by overnight train.” She says gov­ern­ment-spon­sored con­voys are also an op­tion to ac­cess some re­gions.

And what not to do? “I dis­cour­age peo­ple from us­ing don­keys, horse­drawn carts and hot-air bal­loons, for an­i­mal wel­fare and safety rea­sons.”

WHERE SHOULD I GO?

Bun­nik Tours mar­ket­ing man­ager Cather­ine Kelly says that while Cairo and the neigh­bour­ing Giza pyra­mids top the Egypt to-do list, visi­tors should es­cape the big-city bus­tle and head for Aswan and Luxor as well as em­bark­ing on a Nile cruise.

“A river cruise gives the op­por­tu­nity to tour in a re­laxed fash­ion be­tween these cities, and you alight at river­side tem­ples, with a more in­ti­mate ex­pe­ri­ence of­fered aboard a wooden da­habiya, a beau­ti­fully crafted ship with fur­nish­ings from the 1920s to 1940s,” she says.

“My ab­so­lute favourite sites are the im­pos­ing twin tem­ples of Abu Sim­bel, but an­tic­i­pate an early- NILE RIVER CRUISE

PIC­TURES: STOCK

Most visi­tors come to see iconic land­marks such as Queen Hatshepsut’s Tem­ple and the Giza pyra­mids; get ready to hag­gle at Cairo mar­kets; and a cruise up the Nile is un­for­get­table.

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