This is a twenty-day tour of Egypt taking in Cairo, Siwa , Baharyia, Dakhla, Luxor, Aswan and returning to Cairo. The focus of the tour is to experience the different local cultures, to experience life in a way that the locals do and to not travel around in a ‘tourist bubble’. Except for Cairo and Dakhla, we stay in villas located within the non-touristy villages. You can add additional days to the Siwa stage of the trip as you will not be traveling with any other groups and so we can tailor your trip to suit your own availability and budget.
If you have already read the details for Cairo, Siwa and Baharyia in the Western Desert tour, please move straight to the Moving on from Baharyia section where the program changes.
Day 1 Arrival – Cairo
Arriving at Cairo airport, you are meet from the plane with a car or people carrier depending on the size of your group. You travel directly to the 3 star Victoria Hotel in Downtown Cairo. It has that old Agatha Christie feel, but is spotlessly clean with each room having its own en suit and beautifully polished wooden floors. Depending on what time of day you arrive you can choose what we do next. Most guests arrive on the afternoon BMI flight or the Friday BA night flight from London and due to you arriving late, have a drink or two at the hotel bar and off to bed. To organise your flights see Getting to Siwa – Planes
Cairo is famous for it’s many juice bars
The most famous ‘must see before you die’ attraction on the planet, the Pyramids of Giza
Day 2 Pyramids – Cairo
You can have a nice lazy morning and go to the Pyramids around 10.00am via Pizza Hut and KFC. You can stare at the largest man-made structures in the world along with the many other tour groups off the Nile cruise boats and be in and out in half an hour. This is how 95% of people visit the Pyramids. I always hear the same comments after doing such a trip. “That was not what I expected, I thought the Pyramids were out in the desert somewhere, not next to all this. That was a real disappointment.”
15 years ago, my wife Penny and myself saw the Pyramids in a very different way. We hung out with some students who lived nearby and at around 4.00am three horses appeared as they heard Penny as an equestrian. We galloped off into the desert with no idea of where we were going, following our guide. After a mile or two we came over the brow of a hill and saw one of the most amazing sights of my life – the biggest triangular silhouette you’ve ever seen came looming out of nowhere! It was amazing. We rode around the Pyramids without another person in sight.
I still remember that moment we saw the Pyramids rise out of the desert from nowhere, and have put together a program that gives you a similar experience.
You rise early at around 6.00am, you’ll have loads of time for lazy days later on in the trip. Breakfast at the Victoria Hotel is good. Rasha our guide in Cairo meet you at reception at 7.00am and off you go in a people carrier for your big day out. You arrive near the Pyramids around 7.45am at Tarek’s stables. If getting up early is too much for your group on their first day, you can skip ‘Day 2’ now and expedience Cairo after Siwa at the end of your tour when you won’t be tired. Just let me know when you fill in the enquiry from for this tour
Tarek is ‘Our man at the Pyramids‘. He took over the running of the family stables from his father, like his father before him. He is a laid-back character who speaks very good English and runs a tight ship. He also understands and cares about horses.
Many ex-pats who live in Cairo use Tarek’s livery facilities for their own horses and he understands the need for safe, well kept horses. When I make a booking with Tarek he always asks me who is in the group, how good a rider they are, how heavy they are and so on, so when we arrive the right horse is always ready for each rider.
It took me a long time to find Tarek, I went into every stables around the Pyramids to find someone who could provide me with what I wanted. Tarek has taken care of me and my guests now for five years. He’s a top bloke and makes the whole pyramid experience a hassle-free, enjoyable experience. Tarek is a great guy and speaks english
old stables giza = cairo” width=”500″ height=”199″ />Checking out the many liveries at Tarek’s stables in the old stable buildings If anyone wants tea, a click of the fingers and one of the grooms will scurry off to boil the kettle. A quick look around the stables, which are over 100 years old, to look for any newborn foals and to just have a look at how an Egyptian stables is run differently from home. Everyone is found a horse that is right for them and we set off through the old town. No-one has seen the Pyramids in full yet ( they are hard to avoid) and set off in search of them.
You ride for 10 minutes through the old town seeing people getting their horses and camels ready for the coming day’s tourists along with children going off to school and people going about their daily business.
You turn a corner and go through the back door to the pyramids, your guide from Tarek’s stable deals with the gate keepers requests for baksheesh. You move out into open desert. If your a rider you can gallop off here and ride around in the desert any where you want, keeping an eye on where the ones who don’t ride are and the guide.At this time in the morning there are few people around
You ride right up to the pyramids and dismount your horses. Rasha your tour guide for the day will be waiting for you at the bottom of the middle pyramid and your guide from Tarek’s stable will take you there. make sure you ride around for a full hour as that is what you have paid for. Rasha gives you many ‘wow’ facts about the pyramids and explain how they were built and how long it all took.
You can take as long as you like walking around the pyramids. Depending on what day it is, you can go inside one of the three large pyramids right down into the middle of the structure, if you can handle the claustrophobia and heat that is.
As the crowds begin to arrive, if you chose not to go inside one of the pyramids, you venture into the building that looks like a huge desktop printer next to the largest pyramid. Inside is the oldest boat in the world. rasha will take you around and explain in detail how and why it was built. It also has clean toilets, the only ones available in the pyramids complex.
After looking around the three main pyramids, you walk down to the Sphinx and with no rush, when you have had enough time, you walk back out into the main street and a short distance back to Tarek’s stables that are now buzzing with activity.
You leave the Pyramids around 12.00pm with Rasha in the same people carrier you arrived in so you can leave your bags etc in there. You head back into Cairo. Your next stop is the Knan Al Khalili Bazaar in the ancient Islamic part of Cairo but you will stop at a traditional Cairo restaurant Rasha recommends for lunch before getting to the market that has clean toilets. You will need to pay for this lunch as it is too complicated for me to get Rasha to pay for it. It doesn’t cost much and it gives you the choice to have what you want. Once your all refreshed, you are dropped off a mile or so away from the Knan Al Khalili market and stroll through the non-touristy streets to get a real feel of old city and what life was like here in medieval times. Rasha train for 4 years in Egyptian antiquities and will be able to answer your questions and islamic life here from the beginning, up to the present day.
I never get bored of coming through the old markets that lead up to the Kala Khalili Bazaar. Opportunities to take pictures of the old ways of life and the 1,000-year-old buildings are everywhere. People go about their daily business and donkeys deliver the gas bottles as they have done for years. You can smell the different sections of the market, the spices and sweet potatoes for sale from the street vendors.
Islamic Cairo has more Islamic monuments than any other city in the world and most of them are right here in the old city, all around you, giving you a real feel of medieval life. We stroll along the street in no hurry, stopping for tea or a juice from the local juice bars and using when needed the not-so-clean toilets dotted around the markets.
A workshop that invited us in for a look around and tea
You walk through the markets and monuments until you reach El Fishawi’s, the famous cafe in the middle of the Kala Khalili bazaar for tea and clean toilets;)
A local beggar in the markets, happy with her baksheesh
After tea you head off into the various markets were there are all sort of things for sale and depending on what you are looking for and depending on where we go. We have our own shop in Siwa and have wholesale prices agreed with some of the shops for jewelry and silver in the Knan Al Khalili, so you can get some good deals on certain items from us, but it’s more fun to do your own haggling and buy it here.
Most of the items sold in the bazaar are not high quality and it takes a good eye to spot the difference. You can practice your bargaining skills and test your eye for an unusual antique or just walk around and take it all in if your not in the mood for shopping.
You can spend as long as you like in the Kala Khalili market. Once you have had your fill, Rasha will telephone the car and your picked up and taken back to the Victoria Hotel. It’s a big day out, but a memorable one. In the evening you have dinner included in the cost at the Victoria Hotel, if you wish to eat out in one of the many good restaurants in Cairo which we highly recommend, we will reimburse you the price for the set menu at the Victoria when you arrive in Siwa. It’s up to you. Obviously if I am not with you I cannot pay for your dinner if you eat out of the hotel. If you are a large group, I sometimes come up to Cairo and join you for this part of the tour and so can obviously deal with paying for dinner out if I am there. As a lot of our groups are between 2 and 5 people it keeps the cost of the tour down if I do not join you in Cairo. Remember any bars or clubs you visit in Cairo will not be included in the ‘ all inclusive’ costs, but I am happy to recommend where to go if you want to experience the Cairo night life. This is the only thing that is not included in the price.
Pyramids – Cairo
Day 3 Traveling to Siwa
Around 8.00am, depending on when you want to leave, your driver appears at the hotel and your bags are all collected and put into the people carrier ready for your journey. You can stop whenever and wherever you want. Around lunchtime you pass the Commonwealth War Graves at El Alamain. It’s a moving place, and reading the stories of each solder lost in the battle here, which they say changed the course of the Second World War, makes your reflect and imagine what it was like.
The war graves at El Alamain were 80,000 men lost their lives
If I am traveling with you, lunch is included in the price in a great local restaurant with grilled chicken, salad and some sort of pies. I have no idea what they are, but they taste great! If I am not with you and you want to go for a swim in the Mediterranean your driver will stop at a 5 star resort called Charm Life for an hour or so break. As long as you buy a round of drinks they are happy for you to use their facilities but they do a great buffet lunch for around 120 EGP per person. Any costs at Charm Life is down to you.
You follow the Mediterranean coast down to Marsa Matrouh were you turn left and spend the afternoon driving through the remotest place you have probably ever been. You enter the Sahara Desert where you start to realise… your really are going Somewhere Different.
Camels are often seen on the road between Marsa Matrouh and Siwa
The road to Siwa is very good and comfortable to travel on, you can read a book whilst driving along. The desert here is vast and as you stare out of the window and see the camels grazing at the side of the road you can image traveling to Siwa like Alexandria the Great. you can stop for tea in the Bedouin tea house half way and normally sleep for the rest of the journey.
The road through the desert to Siwa
Arriving in Siwa
You arrive in the early evening in time for G&T’s on the roof terrace around the open fire and a quick tour of the Siwa Villa by Mohammad the house keeper and Penny. They are both full-time staff and are here to make your stay as enjoyable as it can be. To see detailed pictures of the Siwa Villa inside and the Siwa Villa from the outside have a look here.
One or two drinks on the terrace and off we go to the best restaurant in town for a good meal or dinner in if your arriving late. Back to the villa where you can sit around the fire till the early hours catching up with friends.
The roof terrace where you have a welcoming drink and take in Siwa for the first time
Day 4 Day off – Siwa
Unlike other adventure holidays, you’re now in your own villa and you can do exactly what you want when you want. Mohammad will bring fresh bread each morning, leaving it hanging on the door so as to not wake any one up. You fix your own breakfast with eggs, cereal and fruit and take it easy.
Mohammad is available at any time to take you off in the donkey cart around the town or out to one of the many Roman springs around town for swimming.
In the afternoon Duncan (me) can come and collect you all in the resident jeep and head out to the edge of Great Sand Sea for a spot of sandboarding down some huge dunes before watching the sun go down on the edge of the desert and heading off to a hot spring in the Bedouin camp next to the desert.
You can do all of the above or you can stay in bed for the whole day or read that book you started in Cairo up on the roof terrace. It’s up to you.
Dinner is served in the Siwa Villa on the terrace or around the enormous dining room table. If you want, Mohammad can make you a local dish know as ‘chicken in the sand’ that is cooked, funnily enough, in the sand in the garden. The town souk is a few minutes walk away where you can go exploring after dinner or stay around the fire on the roof terrace or in the living room.
Ahamed is passionate about Siwa and its history and it comes through in his talks
Day 5 The Sights – Siwa
In the morning everyone can do their own thing, go swimming in the springs, sandboarding on the edge of the desert in the jeep, walk around town or mingle with the neighbors in the Shali.
At around 2.00pm, Omar who works for the local antiquities department and who speaks very good English meets us at the Siwa Villa and we all take off in the jeep(s) for a private tour of the sights of Siwa.
The temple of Amun has huge ‘energies’ we are told by some of our guests. It has a colourfull past and is mentioned throughout Greek history.
“The famous Oracle of Siwa Oasis”
The Oracle–one of seven in the world. Each Pharaoh made the journey to Siwa to confirm they were the son of God along with Alexandria the Great.The Oracle was on of the seven centers of knowledge in the Mediterranean area
Omar takes you through the whole story from the establishment of the oracle to the time when the villagers moved out in favor of the Shali mountain. He will give you an insight into the Berber culture and way of life that is often amusing as well as interesting.
The pharonic tombs have mummies and paintings inside Mountain of the Dead has been the burial ground for Siwa for 5,000 years. There are hundreds of tombs here, several dating back to the pharonic times. The mummies inside still have their original hair and are an amazing sight.
Dinner will be at the Siwa Villa or in a restaurant of your choice in town, depending on how you feel.
Day 6 Desert Safari of your choice Siwa
Around 10.00am Nasser, arrives at the Siwa Villa to pack our tent into his jeep and collect the blankets. Mohammad runs of to the shops for the provisions for the day and we set off around 11.00am for our desert adventure.is amazing
Nasser is one of the few true professional drivers in Siwa and knows his way around. He has been driving in the Great Sand Sea in the Western Desert in Siwa for many years and enjoys taking our guests around.
Yes, this is what the Great Sand Sea next to Siwa looks like
Nasser’s jeep can take us deep into the Great Sand Sea in the Western Desert
We head out into the Great Sand Sea for some serious dune hopping. We have discovered some very interesting places out in the desert that we like to keep a secret so as to not publicise their locations to other desert travelers. Some of the fossils, mummies and petrified forests are in danger of becoming extinct (again) due to people taking home the fossils as souvenirs.
We insist that, were there are rare fossils, people do not take any home, there are places where we will take you where it’s perfectly OK to take some shells or fossilized leaves as there are many of them.
A Petrified forest 40 km’s from Siwa
There are dunes twice this size we hop over, don’t believe me … wait and see;)
Somewhere Different has its own collection of sand boards and toboggans for hammering down those huge dunes, just like in the TV ads.
Siwa is one of the best places on earth to sand board. We have the biggest dunes!
After a day of exploring the desert and flying over some very big dunes we set up camp under a large dune for protection against the wind.
Mohammad sets all the tents up ( if there is room for him to come with us) and Nasser sets about cooking the evening meal. You are required to do nothing but sip on a cold beer or climb to the top of the dune to see the sunset.
Take it all in whilst dinner is prepared and the camp for the night is set up
Barbequed chicken and vegetables or what ever you chose in the market the day before.
We sleep out under the stars in the dunes without a mosquito or bug in site.
Day 7 to 9 Day off days – Siwa
On the way back to Siwa in the morning we pass by Bira Wahed to have a soak in the hot and cold springs right out in the desert. Bira Wahed gets very busy so this is the best time to visit when no one is around.
The hot spring at Bira Wahed
Three lazy days in Siwa doing what ever you want. The donkey cart and jeep are always available to take you anywhere you want to go, so swimming, sandboarding or exploring the old town, it’s up to you. Dinner is somewhere different on this day as we go to our friend’s house for a traditional meal in a traditional Siwan home. The men have to sit in one room and the visiting women only are allowed to meet the women folk of the family in a separate area of the house. When dinner is ready we all join up together in the ‘men only’ room for dinner which is normally a bit of a feast with too much food!
The picture postcard cold spring at Bira Wayed right out in the Western Desert
Day 10 Siwa – Bahariya
Early start with Nasser arriving around 8.00am at the Siwa Villa. Mohammad packs all your bags on the roof rack and makes sure you have not left anything behind.
We make sure all the passports and permissions for the 420 km desert crossing to Baharyia are all correct and off you go.
Dinner at Mohammad’s house, it’s a real experience as well as great food.
Your first stop is around 100km into the desert on our way to Baharyia. It is a Roman settlement, which is now abandoned and totally isolated. There are mummies here in some of the tombs and some amazing views out over this abandoned oasis.
You stop half way to Baharyia for a lunch of tuna, bread, salad and of course, too much sweet Siwan tea made by Nasser. He enjoys cooking and likes to tell you stories about the old days while he is preparing the food, but he’s a bit shy and needs a little encouragement and several teas to get those tales of the ‘old ways” flowing.You arrive in Bahariya in the early evening , depending on how long we spend exploring in the Western Desert. Peter who we work with in Bahariya will have dinner prepared for you in his hotel when you arrive as there is a limited choice of restaurants in Baharyia.
You can retire for the evening or take a stroll around town and check out the bar … if you can call it a bar. There are a few shops here and there but not much to see in the town.The best thing to do is have a dip in teh very hot spring that is literlay in front of your hotel room.
We are over a 200 kilometers from the nearest well, it is spookily quite here.
Day 11 Baharyia – White Desert – Dakra Oasis
This is the most famous area of the Western Desert and is best seen before the crowds arrive. Nasser knows his way around and the first place we see is ‘Crystal Mountain’.
Large areas of the rock are covered in brightly coloured crystal that changes colour depending on where the sun is shining.
A goat on a hill near the hotel in Baharyia
Crystal Mountain in the White Desert
Just one more pic of camels on the road
Before lunch Nasser takes us around the best places in the White Desert with no other groups around. It really is an amazing place.
They say the surface of Mars looks like the Western Desert in Egypt
Time to be on your own and remember who you are.
Another one for the album
We can take as much time as we like in the White Desert to look around the various rock formations and different scenes that the white rock throws up at us. Omar is happy to stop any where we want and whilst we carry on exploring he makes lunch and, of course, lots of Siwan tea!
Lunch in the White Desert in the Western Desert of Egypt.
After lunch we move on to Farafar Oasis where we say goodbye to Nasser and travel by air-conditioned Micro Bus to Dacra Oasis where we stay in basic but clean hotel accommodation. Currently there is no opportunities to ‘live with the locals’ in Dacra, but I’m working on it;)
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