Notes on...

Tourists are trickling back to Egypt – to beat the crowds, go now

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

4 April 2015

9:00 AM

Egypt’s revolution of 2011 didn’t just get rid of President Mubarak: it did a pretty good job of clearing out the tourists, too. The political uncertainty since then has made people wary of visiting — meaning more space and lower prices for those who do make the trip. But you’d better be quick if you want to take advantage: this seems to be the year that Egypt is opening up again. BA are resuming their Sharm el-Sheikh flights in September, while Abercrombie and Kent are back up to three boats for their Nile cruises (they had been down to one).

I started in Aswan, home to the alarmingly named Hotel Cataract. My guide, Alaa, explained that the word denotes a white water rapid on this stretch of the river: the medical sort sends the eye the same colour, hence the derivation. (Also from Language Corner: Egyptian camels are one-humped Dromedaries, as opposed to two-humped Bactrians — to remember the difference just picture the initial letters.) We visited the quarry whose stone built many of ancient Egypt’s monuments, with what would have been the world’s largest obelisk (42 metres) still in situ on its side, the crack that rendered it worthless painfully on show. At the Kom Ombo temple we found the secret tunnel which let a priest hide beneath a statue of a god and reply when it was addressed, tricking people into thinking that the god was responding to them. (Religious leaders conning their followers — the very thought.)


Further along the river at Luxor is the temple of Karnak, home to an awe-inspiring forest of hieroglyphic-clad columns towering 80 feet over your head. If you think they look familiar, it’s because it was here that James Bond and his toothy foe Jaws did battle in The Spy Who Loved Me. After much of the masonry collapses, 007 quips: ‘Egyptian builders.’ Roger Moore had to mouth the line silently then dub the sound on later, so as not to provoke the tourism official constantly on set ensuring that the film painted Egypt in only a positive light.

To really feel the benefit of the sparser crowds, head for the Valley of the Kings, where pharaohs’ tombs that before 2011 required lengthy queuing are now easily accessible. What’s more, once you’re inside King Tutankhamun’s tomb you don’t have to peer through a sea of sweaty armpits to make out the man himself. (Or rather boy: he died at 18, having reigned for nine years.) It’s astonishing as you look into his mummified face — the teeth unnervingly reminiscent of Ken Dodd — to think that this human is 3,000 years old. As was the honey found when Howard Carter opened the tomb in 1922: it’s the one food that never goes off, so was still edible. Sweet.

Abercrombie and Kent’s Nile cruises start at £1395pp for 7 nights. abercrombiekent.co.uk

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Show comments
  • Jonathan Leibowitz

    In some related news, Egypt has filed a credible criminal complaint with the International Criminal Court against Obama: http://bit.ly/1BbITOa

    • carl jacobs

      Do you see why the US doesn’t recognize this silly pretentious court? I have no use for President Obama’s brain-dead foreign policy. But I have even less consideration for these ridiculous nabobs in robes who think they have authority to pronounce on matters of law. If they wish to fulminate on “international law” then let them tell me how they would enforce it.

      Oh, that’s right. They can’t. And law without enforcement isn’t law.

  • Mc

    “In the Valley of the Kings, pharaohs’ tombs that before 2011 required lengthy queuing are now easily accessible”

    Easily accessible to people keen on a once in a lifetime experience: being killed by terrorists. It really isn’t imperative to visit hell holes like Egypt, but some tourists are strangely insistent. There are stunning and safe destinations elsewhere to visit that are equally affordable.

    • bashstreetplug

      Exactly. Terrorists were killing tourists, (about 60), in the Valley of the Kings as far back as 1997.
      And you can be certain security is worse now, since their ‘Spring’.

      • PetaJ

        That was one isolated incident. I was there at the end of 2012 after the Arab Spring and when Morsi was in power. It was quiet and safe – and there were no queues then either. It is a fabulous, fascinating country. Mark Mason is 100% correct. I would go again tomorrow.

        • bashstreetplug

          That’s fine Peta.
          However, one of my daughters was in Morocco last year, another was in Jordan a couple of years ago and I lived and worked in Libya in the ’90s. We all had wonderful, uneventful times. But times and situations change and so these countries would not be on any list of destinations now for my family. An incident is only isolated until the next one.

          • PetaJ

            I have been to both Morocco and Jordan in the past two years as well, and would return to either country now. I have a question though, would you go to South Africa?

          • bashstreetplug

            Difficult one, but probably not at the moment with my family.

          • PetaJ

            Interesting that you say ‘at the moment’. I have family there so don’t enjoy saying that I only see the security situation getting worse. I felt safer in Egypt, Jordan and Morocco than I did when I was last in South Africa 3 years ago.

          • bashstreetplug

            ‘ I only see the security situation getting worse.’
            True. We have 2 friend returning the UK next month from Jo’burg due to the security and dire future prospects.
            However, I would like to visit Cape Town.
            When a country has a town such as Orania then I think the idea of an all encompassing rainbow nation for all is seen for what it is.
            Nonsense if you are white.

          • PetaJ

            Cape Town is very attractive – that is where my family are – but the security situation there is no better than in Joburg. Everyone – and I mean everyone other than in the shanty-towns – lives behind bars, burglar alarms and electronic gates. Every time you park your car you have to pay someone R2 to ‘look after’ it – in other words, that same person will vandalise it at best and steal it at worst if you don’t. That’s quite a lot of R2s they collect in a day! The “all-encompassing rainbow nation” is a complete myth and as such, in itself gives rise to a town such as Orania. BTW, there are “closed communities” such as Orania all over the world – it is not confined to South Africa. As long as they do no harm I see no harm if that is how people want to live.

          • R2 is 15p, cheapest parking in the Western world

          • PetaJ

            Not to them it isn’t. It isn’t about parking anyway, the parking is already paid for, it’s about not having your car stolen or vandlaised.

          • Peter Bering

            South Africa is a true hellhole.

          • PetaJ

            I don’t like it much either 😉

          • Peter Bering

            South Africa is run by black Africans. So the violence is random. Muslim countries run on Islamic hate. So the violence is targeted.

          • PetaJ

            I don’t think the violence in Africa is entirely random. It is often tribally-based, remember Mugabe’s massacre of the Matebeles and his targeting of the white farmers. That, I believe, is now happening in South Africa but we don’t hear much about it – too non-PC ;-). Muslim countries too have their divisions within Islam and also between tribes, which is why the violence there is so hard to fathom for Westerners. All that is random is general crime – robberies, muggings, some murders etc. etc. but there is less in Muslim countries because of Sharia law than there is in Africa.

          • Peter Bering

            good point about SA. Yes, tribalism AND the typical random crime of US negroes.

          • John Gatto

            Whyvwouldcsnyonecwaste vwcwtionnonnhot,filthy hellish sandy places
            Swarming with bugs?nthebgreenvsndblishbspotsbofbplwnetvewrthvwrevthenplwdesctovsee,begypt’svwrtifwctsvare bettercsensevof by Photography

        • Mc

          You clearly are completely divorced from reality, claiming that the ’97 attack was “an isolated incident”. There have been a number of terrorist attacks on tourists in the past as well as more recently in Egypt. The same applies to terrorist attacks on non-tourists in Egypt. Have a look at http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terrorism_in_Egypt

      • Bohemka

        Have terrorists been killing people in any other countries? Should we all be scared to go to such places then? Well, that’s New York, Paris and London out for starters.

        • bashstreetplug

          Don’t be so silly.
          Weigh up the risks. Then decide.
          Terrorists in Damascus, terrorists in Paris.
          Chance of harm in Damascus is greater than harm in Paris.
          See how it works?

    • PetaJ

      You’ve clearly never been there. It is no hell-hole.

      • Mc

        Guess it depends on one’s definition of hell hole. I’m going by the definition of a dust bowl filled with millions of desperately poor people, run by dictators and bedeviled by terrorists. Throw in the fact that it’s a Muslim country that persecutes minorities and where men treat their women like dirt.
        That doesn’t sound like a land of milk and honey or where I’d like to holiday.

        • PetaJ

          It has been run by dictators of one sort or another since time immemorial as has the whole of the Middle East. But you are wrong on every other point. It has a large and growing educated and cultured middle class. Large parts of it are desert, yes, but that has a beauty of its own and the people who live there have done so for thousands of years. The fertile Nile valley is the other side of that coin.

          • Mc

            You must be talking about a very different Egypt from the one written about in the media, as well as in non-fiction and fiction over many decades through to the present day.

            You really must give me the contact details for your supplier of the mind altering substances you’re consuming.

          • PetaJ

            Don’t be stupid. Sorry – I’ll take that back. If you glean all your information from the media and take it as gospel then you really are stupid and incapable of being otherwise.

          • Mc

            Contrary to your claim, I mentioned sources that are in addition to the media.

            You seem to be under the impression that people are incapable of forming an accurate assessment about a country even when gathering data from a diverse range of sources – encyclopedias, experts, academics, travel writers, documentaries, news reports, non-fiction, fiction, etc.

            If Egypt is not the country I described, I do wonder why it is suffering from terrorism, low literacy, and low per capita GDP, among many such indicators. Or am I fanticising again?

          • PetaJ

            Yes, you are, and you should also learn to spell. I repeat, try going there with both your eyes and your mind open.

          • Mc

            It is amusing how forums are populated by people like you who dispute the indisputable, in this case that Egypt is dirt poor with terrible problems.

            You also exhibit the logical fallacies of many who stalk forums: my spelling or “stupidity” have zero bearing on the soundness of my points.

          • PetaJ

            The term “logical fallacies” is an oxymoron. You, on the other hand, are just a moron.

          • Mc

            Clearly you are entirely ignorant of what a logical fallacy is. Check it out on Google – it actually exists.

            Or you could just be unhinged. Forums do attract a disproportionate number of nutcases.

          • PetaJ

            You should know about nutcases.

          • Mc

            The point is that my arguments are based on fact and logic.

            Yours are based on something outside the realm of facts or logic. As with all the unhinged, no matter how incontrovertible the facts are which are presented to you, you’ll claim that it’s all nonsense just because you say so. That not the basis for a rational discussion.

          • Peter Bering

            Until they abandon Islam they are not really part of humanity. Look also at how they treat Copts.

          • PetaJ

            Yes, the Coptic Christians are the most gentle people and don’t deserve the treatment they get. They, and other Christians are starting to fight back now though.

    • Nonsense statistically, but great that people like you think this. We just booked at 22 night luxury cruise Venice-Oman via Israel, Egypt etc. £1300 pp!

      • Mc

        Not nonsense if you understand statistics and probability. Seen outside of context, there’s a low probability that you’ll be murdered or raped in Egypt, South Africa or Syria.
        But relative to the Western First World, you have an extraordinarily high probability of coming to harm in those 3 countries, especially if you are visibly identifiable as a tourist who is foolish enough to wonder outside access-controlled tourist zones.

        Just a very small example: ask any Western woman to wonder around an average Egyptian street during daylight on her own without backup security or a companion and see how many minutes it takes before she’s sworn at, groped, propositioned or even raped. As it sounds like you’ll be going with a female companion, may I suggest that you get your companion to try strolling around Cairo on her own for an hour and see how she fares.

        • As cruise ship passengers, we’ll be going on conducted excursions only. And if you met my wife, you’d know what anyone trying to harass her would get.

          • Mc

            So in other words, the statistical probability of you experiencing the levels of harassment and crime that is shouldered by the average Egyptian is close to zero.

            But all you need is someone to take an interest in your escorted group, as per Tunisia most recently and Egypt over the years. After all, planning their next terror attack is the full time job for hundreds of Egyptians. Not something one has to factor in to a visit to a Western country.

            I suspect female Western journalists (and local Egyptians who are raped each day) would have some words of caution for your wife – bravado is not a sensible security mindset.

          • Peter Bering

            But imagine her suddenly lost in a crowd of 200 Muslim men in a square…..

          • She’s an athlete and kick-boxer.

          • Peter Bering

            it would be of no help when four men hold her while a multitude of others take turns raping her

      • Thank you for financing the state-sponsored persecution of gay people, and other minorities.

        • The majority of the money, including excursions, goes to the cruise line. Any little spent locally will be with shopkeepers and the like who you can be sure will not be paying much in taxes to their governments.

          In any event, your argument is invalid. Sisi’s government may not be gay-friendly, but they are a whole lot better than the Islamists he overthrew. And I doubt whether the wily bazaar traders who sell to tourists pay much in taxes.

          • well, boohoohoo .. “a whole lot better” … Sis’s government does arrest gays and they are imprisoned and abused by the police …state sponsored. And there are many other people persecuted by this government. Financed with YOUR money … however small the amount. Shame on you. I hope you enjoy your blood soaked holiday.

  • revkevblue

    Mark Mason, on what planet are you living on?
    Do you not read any world news?
    I just hope that no one takes your insane advice.

    • PetaJ

      Mark Mason is correct and his advice is far from insane. He’s been there, you haven’t.

      • Mc

        Again, you are expounding a standard logical fallacy. Just because someone has not visited a country does not mean that they are unable to form an accurate understanding of that country, or that they are precluded from expressing an opinion on that country.

        Conversely, just because someone has visited a country or lived there their entire lives does not mean they have their facts right.

        You are relying on exactly the same logical fallacy of the identity politics activists who demand that people “check their privilege” as a way to shut down a contrary view.

  • zoid

    much as i’m sure that egypt is a beautiful country, this article was a little bit too gushing…

    did you pay for the trip yourself mark, or did the nice people from the egyptian ministry of tourism give you a freeb in return for a ‘come to egypt’ ad?

  • Thanks Mark, I like living, if it’s all the same to you. When Egypt wants to join the ranks of the sane and the ballpark sensible, or at least not the throat-slashing, then it shall have my time and my dollars. Until that day: hasta la vista, baby!

  • damon

    Seeing that Egypt has been killing so many of its own people in the last few years, and imprisoning journalists, I’d have thought a boycott was in order.
    I was there a couple of years ago and while it feels safe enough most of the time, a short time after I had been in the city myself, a young American was killed by someone from a mob when he was photographing some street trouble in Alexandria.

    Also, why on earth do so many tourists go to Sharm el Sheikh? It’s horrible. Soulless.

  • Fak_Zakaix

    Europe is a cancer, Islam is the answer!
    Why haven’t you converted, kaffirs?
    Islam is the future of the White race.
    We hate Jews too!
    Christians are degenerate.
    We are moral.
    Support Palestine!

    • Ambientereal

      Yes you are very moral, the immorality begins in the toughs and you take the bad toughs out of people (together with their heads). You are so moral that you treat women as slaves and send children with bombs to sacrifice their lives. You are so moral that you discriminate the other religions and races (Islam is the future of the White race?)

    • Guest

      WTF is “Palestine’?

      oh wait, those peaceful mussies who have been attacking a nation stronger than them for 70 years, knowing, they will never win?

      How has that famous ISIS support working out for them, any news from Yarmouk? Pass the pop corn, munch munch munch

    • Infidelissima

      if I want to support the type of vermin that stores missiles inside schools, and uses their own children to dig killer tunnels to attack their neighbours, straps suicide vests onto down syndrome women and uses their own hospitals as missile launching pads, I’ll make a deal with the devil – one of the reasons I believe Allah hates Palestinians!
      Why else was Allah on the side of Israel in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982, first intifada, second intifada, Lebanon 2006, 2012, 2014?

      Palestinians deserve the way they live, since they can not live in peace with anybody, not Israel not Egypt, not Christians, not even each other.
      It’s just a matter of time until they start throwing each other off rooftops again.

      SUPPORT ISRAEL!

    • Guest

      hey mussie, you better remember how many wars you useless arabs have won against Israel, and who won the last crusades, cause nothing else matters!

    • Peter Bering

      Islam must be forbidden and persecuted. It has amply showed its colours all around the world by now – both in daily life and in conflict.

    • Guest

      Muslims can not live in peace with SIkhs, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Christians and even their own.
      Islam is incapable of living in peace in the west, or in their own countries, under their own laws, without a single foreigner around.

      Islam is a cancerous disease, and thankfully they are mainly busy slaughtering each other.

  • Ambientereal

    I wouldn´t go to a country whose people despises me. They hate kafirs, they hate Christians, they hate other cultures (ancient Egypt included) they even hate each other.

  • Peter Bering

    Avoid Egypt, avoid the Muslim world, and organize to send the Muslims who invaded and bred in Europe there.

  • AverageGuyInTheStreet
  • Raz Matazz

    When it comes to the situation in the Middle East, I’ve found this to be a useful overview: http://bit.ly/MolyneauxOnMiddleEast

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