Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Part I: Egypt - 5 Reasons To Visit Now

By Jacquelin Carnegie – (Luxor, Egypt)

The Sphinx & Pyramids, Giza (photo: JCarnegie)
It’s always important to have a sense of safety on vacation. Unless you’re a foreign correspondent, you wouldn’t plan to visit a war zone. But, that’s not the situation in Egypt. There are many ways to tour Egypt in safety. Since this country has the most wondrous, man-made monuments on earth, it’s a pity not to visit. Here are five reasons to do so now. Don’t give up on Egypt!

1. The Touristic Areas Have Not Been Marred by Protests
To understand why planning a trip to Egypt is not insane, it helps to know the lay of the land. Most of the protests during the "Arab Spring" of 2011 took place in Tahrir Square in Cairo. Cairo is a huge city (with awful traffic jams) but Tahrir is just one small square. It's worth noting were the protests took place, but for tourists, the important site to visit here is the famous Egyptian Museum, right on the square.  

Cairo market (photo: JCarnegie)
While there are currently no protests going on in Cairo, if you'd feel safer outside of a big city, the country has many other major tourist areas: Giza, where The Sphinx and the pyramids are located, is a half hour outside of Cairo. The new Grand Egyptian Museum, to open in Giza in 2022, overlooking the pyramids, will be one of the largest archaeological museums in the world with some 100,000 artifacts.

To the south (Upper Egypt) Luxor, home to the most famous tombs and temples, is hours from Cairo. Aswan, with the “Philae Temple,” the Temple of Isis, is even further south. And, Alexandria, (Lower Egypt), the former home of Cleopatra, is to the north of Cairo.

2. Keeping an Eye on Progress
While the Arab Spring was short lived and Sisi, another military man, leads the country, there are still many Egyptians who'd like more moderate representation. Along with liberal-secularists, there is a sizable Coptic Christian population in Egypt who feel the current government has not adequately protected them from conflicts with hardline

Hatshepsut Temple, Luxor (photo: JCarnegie)
Nobel Prize-winner Mohamed El-Baradei was one of the chief coordinators of the National Salvation Front, concerned with protecting political and religious freedoms and women’s rights. Other opposition groups included the liberal Wafd party and the National Association for Change. Establishing a democracy after decades of political repression will not happen easily.

3. The Majority of Egyptians are Warm & Welcoming

Tomb painting (photo: JCarnegie)
Despite what you might think, having watched the protestors on TV, the majority of Egyptians want and welcome tourists. In addition to the fact that many Egyptians earn a living through tourism, they are genuinely proud to show off the ancient temples and tombs, undoubtedly the most marvelous, man-made monuments on earth.

4. The Price is Right
While the actual danger to tourists has been minimal, the benefits are many: there are currently deep discounts on excellent tour companies, first-class hotel rooms, Nile cruises, etc. And, with fewer tourists at the sites, you can walk right into the famous monuments that formerly had three-hour wait times.

Tutankhamun, Luxor Temple, Luxor (photo: JCarnegie)
5. The Best Way To Experience Egypt: Scholarly Tours
The history of Egypt is so rich, covering thousands of years, that the best way to get the most out of the experience is on a scholarly tour with expert guides and Egyptologists. These five tour companies have excellent reputations and are in daily contact with their associates in Egypt to monitor any disruptions:

Abercrombie & Kent 
Tel: 800/554-7016; www.abercrombiekent.com
“The splendors of Egypt are not to be missed. Now is the perfect time to visit since there are fewer tourists. In addition to the well-known sites, our tours feature off-the-beaten path wonders, small groups, and the top Egyptologists.” - Rami Girgis, Product Manager, North Africa & Middle East
Road Scholar 
Tel: 800/454-5768; www.roadscholar.org

Red Sea, Hurghada (photo: JCarnegie)
“Discover the fascination of ancient as well as modern-day Egypt. Right now, travelers have the advantage of better hotel prices, a Nile cruise with fewer boats on the river, and excellent discounts on tour prices. Our educational tours appeal to those with a life-long desire to learn and our Egyptologists are truly inspiring.” - Yves Marceau, Director of Program Development

Smithsonian Journeys 
Tel: 855/330-1542; www.smithsonianjourneys.org
"With our Egyptologists, the past comes alive. Travelers discover the magnificent realm of the pharaohs by visiting their temples and tombs. And, today's Egypt is explored at local markets and bazaars. Seeing Egypt's architectural gems in person is an incredible experience." - Amy Kotkin, Director

Spice market, Aswan (photo: JCarnegie)
Artisans of Leisure 
Tel: 800/214-8144; www.artisansofleisure.com
"We offer high-end, private tours and, if anything, travelers appreciate visiting Egypt now that there are fewer crowds at the major attractions of one of the world’s greatest ancient civilizations." - Ashley Ganz, Founder
Kensington Tours 
Tel: 888/903-2001; www.kensingtontours.com
"Our custom tours allow you to experience Egypt on your own or with a group of friends or family members escorted by our Egyptian guides who share their passion and enthusiasm for their country. Egypt has been and always will be a fabulous destination and now is the perfect time to go." - Karen MacRae, Egypt Specialist

While international travelers are aware of the current political situation in Egypt, many believe that their presence can be a positive force for change. Your vacation dollars will help the fragile Egyptian economy; you’ll see the most glorious, man-made sites on earth and meet wonderful people yearning for true democracy.

“Philae Temple” (Temple of Isis), Aswan (photo: JCarnegie)
Helpful Hints: a) To get the most out of your trip, read some great books about Egypt before you go. b) The U.S. Department of State Smart Traveler Enrollment Program - Before leaving on a trip to Egypt, sign up for safety updates and assistance in getting in touch with relatives in case of an emergency.

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