How to pull off a $2,400 pyramid scheme
Take two young American sisters on a trip to Tel Aviv who are determined to do a full-throttle side trip to Egypt, and create one recipe for adventure mixed with satisfied exhaustion. We put the challenge to our friend and expert in Cairo, Anjana Das, a travel writer and consultant. And she came up with a game plan that covers it all, but doesn't leave much time for sleeping.
"What most people come to see are pyramids; museums; the Khan el-Khalili bazaar; a Nile cruise to Luxor for the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, Hatshepsut Temple, Karnak and Luxor temples; Aswan, including the Philae Temple; Esna; felucca sailing on the Nile; the Red Sea for diving; and Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada for snorkeling," Das wrote in an e-mail.
We can't promise to fit all that into your five days, but we'll hit it hard.
First, the difficult part: getting there. Traveling between Tel Aviv and Cairo is not like catching a shuttle to New York. You're going to have to either tweak your days of travel, as there is no direct, easy transportation from Cairo to Tel Aviv on Tuesdays, or take connecting flights. Royal Jordanian (http:/
(An aside for travelers who want to get to Cairo from Washington: Cost is usually about $850 round trip, and Lufthansa offers easy connections.)
Another key decision: Go it alone or book tours? Independent travel is cheap, but it can be frustrating when you're on a tight schedule, especially in a large, confusing city: Even with our guidance, you might waste time catching the right train or buying the correct admission ticket. Best bet might be doing a day or so on your own and combining that with a few preset independent itineraries.
Well-regarded companies that offer adventure tours in Egypt include:
-- Intrepid Travel (http:/
-- GAP Adventures (http:/
-- Viator (http:/
After reviewing the tour company offerings, take the Chinese menu approach. You can get from the airport to the city on your own: A taxi costs about $7 per person. Once there, take the metro within the city when possible (it costs less than 20 cents a ride).
Spend one day wandering around Cairo. Das recommends doing your own walking tour of Old Cairo, also known as Coptic Cairo. Head south along Corniche El-Nile and turn east once you pass the Mosque of Abdin Bey. You can also take Cairo's metro system, getting off at the Mar Girgis station. Sights in Old Cairo include the Coptic Museum, which holds a large collection of Coptic art; the Church of St. Sergius, on the spot where Joseph, Mary and Jesus are said to have stayed while fleeing Herod; Ben Ezra, Egypt's oldest synagogue; and the Church of St. Barbara, which houses an extensive collection of ancient icons. Then take a taxi to the Khan el-Khalili bazaar, an open-air market in the Islamic quarter. If you're there on a Wednesday or Saturday evening, Das recommends visiting the Wekalet el Ghouri Arts Center for a free performance of Sufi dancers. If you have more time, take a cab to the Zamalek area. "It's a very old neighborhood with grand villas, chic cafes, open-air bistros, some good pubs and a well-heeled populace," Das writes. "Cairo doesn't sleep until 4 a.m., so you could go for a long night." For more choices, go to http:/
While in Cairo, you could add Intrepid's Cairo City Break-Saqqara tour, which covers hotels for two nights, and then go with Viator for a long day trip that covers Giza, including the pyramids and the Sphinx, and the Egyptian Museum (price is $96 per person).
Use one of your overnights to travel by train (http:/
Egyptair has frequent flights to Cairo for about $120 one way. If you have time before you need to catch the return flight to Tel Aviv, head back into Cairo and pick up any sights you missed on your arrival day.
Total Cost: About $2,000, leaving $400 for incidentals and meals. (Das says you must try the falafel, shawarma and grilled meat available in local restaurants. But stick to bottled water.)
Interested in having us help plan your trip? Go to http:/