A solo trip to Egypt was in my mind from last 2 years..In 2011, when I decided to visit this land of fantasies, this country became paralyzed by series of riots and demonstrations due to the changing political situations. Tourism dropped there rapidly because of the advisories issued by various countries worldwide and I also decided to postponed my programme for Egypt. Meanwhile, when a fried, living there in Cairo, left Egypt in coming months, I cancelled my plan entirely.
Then a day came in 2012 when I booked a return flight to Cairo. I am in a habit of using flight search engines to get cheap air tickets to various possible destinations and I do it at least once in a month to know about any cheaper deal. I always set some targets to decide whether I should buy that ticket or not? For example, To Bangkok I want to spend 10000 INR, To Europe 25000 INR, To Middle East 10000 INR , on a return ticket departing from Delhi.
In the last quarter of previous year when I was searching for the cheap flight tickets, I found a good deal to Cairo on Saudi Arabian Airlines. In fact, it was an amazing deal and I couldn’t expect any cheaper price than that. I immediately booked that flight of Feb.25, 2013 including the return ticket on March 11, 2013.The total ticket cost was 15845 INR and due to having a credit card from the particular bank I again got 1250 INR discount on that price.
After booking my flight, I started preparing for this trip. I went through some blogs, articles and web-pages on Egypt to have a clear idea about what to visit there in 14 days. Finally, I decided to visit Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Sharm-El-Sheikh and Suez. But after the suggestions from some friends, I skipped Sharm-El-Shiekh for any future trip and included Hurghada in my itinerary.
Next move was to get an official leave and approval letter. Approval letter from the employer is required to get a tourist visa to Egypt during the visa application process. Getting 15-days Earned Leaves was not a major issue, so I got 15-days leave and, in a month got the approval letter also.
I was really worried about the visa approval. I had only 70-80k INR cash in my bank accounts and I thought it was not sufficient for 15-days visa approval. I went through the various forums, but did not get any satisfactory answer. Then my friend Priyanka gave me a big relief. She had already visited Egypt one year back and at the time of her visa approval, she also had almost the same amount in the account. So, after completing all the documentation formalities and online accommodation bookings in Egypt, I applied for a tourist visa to Egypt. It was approved in three days for 30 days single entry. Now, I could officially enter in the land of pharaohs.
There was no direct flight between Delhi and Cairo. My Saudi Arabian Airlines flight was a connecting flight via Jeddah with 40-minutes stop-over at Riyadh. At check-in counter, I requested the customer service representative to allot me a window seat, if available and he accepted this request. Unfortunately, both the window seats allotted by him did not allow me to click the clear picture from the B-777s aircraft in both legs of flight. Still, I managed to get some shots from the aircraft. Flight departed from Delhi on its scheduled departure time.
It was my first flight towards the western side of Delhi and also in day-time, so I really enjoyed the views from the window. Being an Air Traffic Controller, what interested me more in the flight information displays were the maps rather than the entertainment programmes. So, I usually played with the the maps, compass, front and below cameras of the flight entertainment system. I also tried to locate Indus River while flying over the Pakistan, but I am not sure, that big river identified by me was really Indus or not. The Arabian Desert and water bodies looked amazing from the plane.
Since, I had a restricted Economy ticket, I did not expect any hospitality in the flight except the water. But as flight continued moving to Jeddah, I was amazed by the hospitality of the airlines. From Delhi to Riyadh, they offered juice, tea, coffee, lunch and then snacks. From Riyadh to Jeddah, they again offered a snack with juice.and from Jeddah to Cairo, again a dinner with juice.
Last year, I went to South East Asia by Air Asia and did not get any service despite of the same ticket price bracket. This is the difference between a low cost airlines and a full-service carrier. So, my learning from this trip is that if you get the same price bracket with a full service carrier, then better to go with that. However, it is not possible always and for cheaper flight tickets, we have to rely on the low-cost carriers only.
My connecting flight from Jeddah to Cairo was within two hours of my arrival at Jeddah. I was really worried about it as I never went through a connecting flight and did not know anything about the time required for a connection. But that flight reached Riyadh on time and after 40 minutes stop-over at Riyadh, it again departed on time. That gave me a big relief.
In the Delhi-Jeddah flight, there were lot of fellow Indians traveling in the air, many of them are working as low-skilled workers in the Middle East. So, all the Flight Stewards were also talking in Hindi. It was my first experience, when Air Hostesses were talking in Hindi by themselves. Even during my domestic travel in India, I never saw such scenes.
After landing at Jeddah Airport, all the connecting passengers again went through a security check. This time they took out my small scissor from the hand baggage. Jeddah Airport is near to Makkah, the most sacred place of Muslim religion. So, it was crowded with the people that day, who came there for Haji Umrah.
From Jeddah, the flight to Cairo again took-off at scheduled time. The landscape after Jeddah was very beautiful. We flew over the desert, where I saw the center-pivot farming in the desert and then most of the time we flew over Red Sea. I could easily sea the ships sailing on the Red Sea. After sometime it became dark outside.
With lot of excitement and expectations, I landed at Cairo International Airport about 9:00 PM. I only had cabin-baggage with me, so straight went to Immigration. It was very smooth process. After withdrawing some local currency at an ATM, I came out from the airport to haggle with the taxi drivers in Egypt and then I reached in the heart of Cairo, Downtown to spend next 14 days to search out the cheap ways to travel in Egypt for a backpacker.
During 14-days stay in Egypt, I travelled to Alexandria, Cairo, Giza, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel and Hurghada. I visited many temples like Karnak, Luxor, Abu Simbel, Philae, Edfu, Kom Ombo, Dendera, Abydos etc, did snorkeling in Red Sea at Hurghada, walked along the coast of Mediterranean Sea in Alexandria and explored the Pyramids of Giza, Dahsur and Sakarra. It was a great trip and I really enjoyed every moment of the trip. One by one, I will share all the experiences, plans, cost-effective tips etc in my subsequent posts. So, Let us enjoy our travel moments and celebrate our lives on the Road.