My Topdeck Trip – Part VII: Reflecting on Egypt

It has now been exactly three months since I hopped on a plane to Frankfurt, and then another from there to Cairo. Now that I’ve been back in England, buckling down on uni work and getting on with everything that comes with student life, my trip to Egypt seems a lifetime ago.

But last week, I finally sat myself down and edited all the video footage I took in Egypt.

I love this video (though I hate my editing programme for messing up some of the quality during exporting it – I’m trying to fix it): I feel like it really captures the many things we did in Egypt, how amazing the trip was and the overall good time I had exploring the country.

As you might know, I went on the 10 day ‘Spirit of Egypt’ trip, which is organised by Topdeck Travel. They’re an Australian-by-origin company, organising group travel around the world (last week they launched their trips to Asia, and they look amazing – seriously wanderlust-inducing!). This year I’m a student ambassador for the company, and, as a part of this, I got to go on a trip of my choosing. The reason I chose Egypt in this scenario is because, of the available to me options, I deemed Egypt the country I was least likely to be able to go to any time soon. That, and it just sounded like an amazing trip!

I’d never been on a group trip before this holiday (that is, unless you count school trips abroad), but to be fair, I still don’t think I really have been as our little ‘habibi group’ was only five people strong – three Australians, one Dutchie (that’d be me), and our Egyptian trip leader. Nevertheless, it was a new experience and thankfully, we all got along fine.11891433_10207219284031609_760167916027847267_o

The trip was truly great. Over the course of ten days, we have seen a massive amount of Egypt – having travelled almost 2,500km over road and river – and learned tonnes about the ancient history (I’ve talked about the specifics in more detail in five posts which I’ll link below). It was amazing!

Honestly, if you are thinking of travelling to Egypt, I would highly advice going with an organisation like Topdeck, for several reasons:

  1. It was wonderful not to have to worry about where to go, when to go, and how to go. All our destinations had been planned out for us – all we had to do, was wake up on time (some of the times we had to get up were brutal, but worth it) and makes sure our bags were packed.
  2. As I said before, we saw an incredible amount of what Egypt has to offer (though I bet there’s so much more to be seen), and I simply don’t think it would have been possible to see that much – or that you’d take on the challenge to travel so far and wide on your own – in just ten days. It felt like we’d been in Egypt for absolutely ages, because almost every day (especially in the first half of the trip) we’d do as much as you’d usually do spread across two or three days (well, my family would anyway). True, around the sixth day we were all very tired, but right after that we were taken to Hurghada for a few days of 11865205_10207219310552272_5945558516897026569_orelaxing! And really, you need to see as much of Egypt as you can.
  3. It’s also very useful to go on a trip where you have a trip leader in Egypt: ours was able to tell Meg and me when we’d have to wear more covering clothing to avoid nasty situations. It is a Muslim-majority country and they have different values from more Western countries. However, because our trip leader told us when it was best to wear a t-shirt and longer trousers, we never experienced any problems.
  4. This one is more practical, but still true: due to the current political climate in Egypt I’m not sure how possible it would be to go there on holiday without an organisation like Topdeck. I imagine you’d be able to go to Sharm el-Sheikh or Hurghada if you’re only after a beach holiday, but if you want to travel across the country like I did, I think you’d have to have a trip leader. Every time we covered a lot of ground (so from Cairo – Aswan, Aswan – Abu Simbel, Hurghada – Cairo, etc.), our trip leader had to organise permits for us to be allowed to travel (and so, I think, the government knew where tourists were in case something happened). On top of that, when we drove from Aswan to Abu Simbel we had to drive in a convoy with other tourist vans and two police cars with armed policemen.

There were two things I didn’t like as much about the trip, both of which couldn’t really be helped:

  1. Everywhere we went, sellers tried, in rather loud ways, to lure us into their shop so we’d buy something. On top of that, if you’d actually decided to buy something you had to haggle about the price, so you wouldn’t pay something ridiculous for your keychain or magnet. I really disliked the haggling and I wish it hadn’t been necessary. I usually buy souvenirs if I go on holiday, and don’t mind shelling out €2 for magnet, but due to the constant pressure to come in, look at things and buy them, I probably bought less than I’d usually have. I understand why it is this way (since the revolution in 2010, tourism, which used to be a big part of Egyptian economy, has dropped drastically).
  2. A bit more light-hearted: I wish our Topdeck group had been bigger. True, it would have cost us space in the van, but I would have enjoyed meeting more people!

Overall, I loved getting to explore Egypt. Despite the need for the convoy, a guard with us for longer distances, and having come within metres of guns, Egypt didn’t feel inherently unsafe. Sure, I would hate to drive in Cairo (crazy traffic, I tell you), and being born in The Netherlands, I had never come so close near an army tank and guns, but they didn’t cast too big a cloud on the trip. It was rather shocking to be near them instead seeing them on TV, but in all fairness, the presence of the tank and guns, and the need for a convoy and a guard on long distances, were put in place to ensure our safety (but no, America, I don’t condone your gun policies).

I should say, though, that when we were in Aswan, a bomb did explode somewhere in Cairo. However, this hasn’t affected our trip in any way. Perhaps I was a bit more wary about returning to Cairo, but we wouldn’t stay long. Unfortunately, since that plane went down in Sinai, air travel has been limited and holiday-goers have been advised not to go.

11923286_10207219270591273_2037593435858934947_oThat being said, I still urge you to go to Egypt when you can (be sure to keep an eye out on government websites to see what they recommend when it comes to travelling to Egypt). It’s a wonderful country and so completely different from anywhere I’ve been before. It has an incredibly rich history, and there is just so much to see and learn. On top of that, I got to do, see and experience things I didn’t think I’d be doing for at least another few years! (swimming with dolphins, going in a hot air balloon, and quad biking, to name a few…) I’m very happy with my choice to go on the Spirit of Egypt trip and incredibly grateful to Topdeck for providing me with the opportunity.

As part of my role as student ambassador, I am also able to offer exclusive deals and discounts on any Topdeck trip. I’ve heard about the trips of the other ambassadors, and they, too, sounded absolutely fantastic. Whether you’re after a New Year’s trip in a big city, a few weeks in the US, a month across Europe or exploring Oceania and Asia – Topdeck has a wide variety of trips to offer, and I highly recommend you check out their website (warning though: you’ll seriously want to travel after doing so). If you’re interested in the deals and discounts, just send an email over to adventures@topdecktravel.co.uk and mention my name (Christa!).

And that is it for my Egyptian adventures. I loved going on this trip and have already got my eyes on a few other Topdeck trips that are calling to me – alas, I must wait until I have money. But when I do, I’d go on another Topdeck trip in instant.

As promised, here are the other parts in my Topdeck ‘series’:

Part IPart IIPart IIIPart IVPart VPart VI

Thanks for reading!

Love,

Christa

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