When I decided to do a solo trip to Egypt, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.
Coming off of a major surgery, and being on bed rest for almost 2 months, I knew that I needed somewhere exciting, so my first thought was crossing off one of my bucket list destinations. The history, the Sphinx, the great pyramids, camel rides through the desert and more — I was sold on Egypt, which was at the top of my list. It is a land full of wonders, rich in history and holds a very real energy that one can feel almost pulsing out of the land.
My excitement was quickly stalled because family and friends didn’t believe that it was safe for a Black woman to travel alone to the Islamic country. Despite the naysayers, my curious nature was the motivation to investigate these fears. I still said “yolo” and embarked upon my first destination on my weeklong adventure: Cairo, Egypt.
First things first, I opted for a tour company to take the hassle (and honestly, stress) out of planning this adventure. There are many to choose from, such as Intrepid Travel, etc, but I opted for the sister company Peregrine Adventures, because they promise a more “luxury” experience. Keep in mind, “luxury” for this trip is not the same as what we’re used to as Westerners, so I went into it with an open mind and heart.
There’s only one direct airline that flies to Egypt, and it’s EgyptAir. After looking up reviews, I was mortified by the negative perspectives of other travelers, and almost opted to fly through Istanbul on Turkish Airlines, but in the end I decided to just go for it (I mean, who wants to connect for 5 hours when they don’t have to?). Honestly, it’s wasn’t that bad. If you don’t mind really gross (like, really gross) bathrooms during a 12-hour flight and a dry flight, you’ll be OK. The food was decent and they offered a nice selection of movies. Keep in mind, it’s an airline from an Islamic country, so they forbid any consumption of alcohol on their flights — they don’t serve it at all. However, they do let people transport alcohol from the duty free shop, although you can’t drink your own alcohol on board.
Before I touched down in Cairo, I had a candid conversation with the Peregrine team about safety in Egypt, and they expressed a genuine concern for my concerns and took the time to discuss this topic until I felt safe. From there, I was good to go!
The tour was all inclusive (even including all tips) so once I touched down in Cairo, a guide picked me up from airport and assisted me in providing my visa at customs (you honestly just pay $25 online before your trip, and that’s it). I was completely jetlagged by the time I got to the hotel, so I couldn’t wait to just go to sleep until the group meet-up that evening.
The process for check in was seamless (I didn’t have to do anything quite frankly — not even put down a credit card), and I was escorted to my room. The accommodations were… okay. We stayed at the Novotel El Borg, and while I would equate it to a Holiday Inn, or Comfort Inn, there were two things that completely turned my off about the experience: firstly, the hotel didn’t have working wifi, and secondly, halfway through my dinner at the hotel restaurant, I noticed a bunch of hair in my food, which was completely gross.
The group met up that first night at the hotel, and from there it was a worldwind, all led by the best guide ever: Ahmed Fawzy. He was knowledgeable, polite, and extremely accommodating — everything you want in a guide, in a country that you’ve never been.
The next day we traveled through the Pyramids and the Sphinx and it was everything that I dreamed of from reading history books in school. Of course, I wanted and read up on the history of these iconic sites — while also capturing photos for the ‘gram. Later, we would be transferred to the railway station for the overnight sleeper train to Luxor. Let me tell you, this was an experience. Imagine a worse version of Amtrak, where you have to “sleep” for 8 hours, and use public restrooms for all of your private needs. Despite being a tourist class train facilities are basic, and train cleanliness is not the same as what we’re accustomed to in the states. Thankfully, I was mentally prepared.
In Luxor, we visited the Karnak, which is one of the world’s most celebrated (and beautiful) temple complexes, before later being transferred to a Nile cruise boat, which was our home for the next four nights. Let me just tell you, this was my favorite part of the trip. A sailboat? Along the Nile River? Yes, please!
The Nile Cruise brought us to Aswan, Egypt’s southernmost city, where we got to visit the beautiful Temple of Isis (the Goddess of health, marriage and wisdom) that was rescued from the rising waters of the Nile and relocated on Philae Island, and the iconic Abu Simbel by plane.
At each temple we visited, there would be men from the market stalls yelling things like “Cousin” or “Nubian” (because I am a black woman), and running up trying to offer me gifts and inviting me to their booths for tea or to look at the souvenirs. I kept telling them as I briskly walked past the stalls that I would be back after my visit to the temples or flat out, “no thanks.” It was pretty darn intense actually, so just be aware that they can be aggressive — no matter where you go.
By the end of the trip we were scheduled to return back to Cairo and stay at the Novotel El Borg again, but I opted (not me, not again!) instead for a true luxury experience at the Four Seasons Cairo at Nile Plaza. It was a traveler’s dream, and definitely a completely different experience from how I’d been traveling the past week. The room, and a trip to the hotel’s spa were the best way to end my vacation in Cairo before my trip home.
All in all, it was a beautiful (and safe) experience, and I would do it again in a second! Keep in mind, I didn’t party or wander off by myself at all during the trip. If you’re unsure if a group tour is for you, I would definitely check out Peregrine Adventures, as they travel to hundreds of destinations around the world.