Tag Archives: Luxor

EGYPT: Back on the map

The world’s travelers are coming back to Egypt as the word spreads — gradually — that the country is safe for tourism once more.

Amidst all the furor over recently concluded war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, and the latest jihadist rampage in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East, there’s a familiar place name that seems to have fallen completely off the radar of mainstream media.

The place is Egypt. The Land of the Pharaohs may have fallen off the daily crisis du jour menu of the world’s major media, but as far as international tourism is concerned, it’s back on the map.

The US State Department, which seems to have a knack for scaring Americans out of their wits about visiting foreign countries, currently has short-term travel alerts out on four countries and more strongly worded travel warnings issued for another 38.

None of them apply to Egypt. Not one.

The UK’s Foreign Office does warn against all travel through the northern Sinai peninsula and urges only essential travel through the southern Sinai. But the Egypt that most travelers are coming to see isn’t anywhere near those areas.

Cairo, the Valley of the Kings, the monuments of Luxor, the pyramids of Giza, are all quietly, and urgently, awaiting visitors from abroad.

After a few years of political unrest, revolution and street chaos, calm appears to have returned to Egypt, and visitors gradually are returning with it.

But only gradually. It’s a tough situation for thousands of Egyptians who depend on tourism for their livelihoods.

It could be a real windfall, however, for you as a visitor.

Anthony Sattin, writing for The Guardian newspaper in London, reported earlier this year that while there has been political turmoil in recent years, tourists were seldom made the focus of violence. Still, visitors had all but abandoned the country.

As a result, Sattin wrote, all the famed attractions of Egyptian antiquity that have made the country a tourist magnet for centuries are still there, but the long lines of tourists that were commonplace in years past, are not.

“There is no shortage of brilliant things to see in Egypt,” he wrote, “just a shortage of people to see them.”

Clean, comfortable tourist lodging in Cairo and other tourist zones in the country can be had for remarkably low prices. I’m talking three-, four- and in some cases, even 5-star hotels for less than $100 a night.

Looking for guides around Cairo? Tour operators to take you to the main historic sites on land or cruises on the Nile River? You literally have your pick of tour operators.

And in the coming days, I will be introducing you to one of those tour operators in particular.

Advantage: YOU.

Egypt may have fallen off the media’s map, but it’s time to put it back on yours.


IBIT Travel Digest 6.23.13

The good, the bad and the bizarre in the world of travel

© June Cairns | Dreamstime.com
© June Cairns | Dreamstime.com

Venice has always been a photographer’s dream, but over the last decade or so, we’ve seen images out of the Italian lagoon city that can’t help but jar you, like the one above — that of massive cruise ships juxtaposed against the Venice palazzos.

Well, it turns out that Venice itself is being jarred by it.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the locals worry that wakes from the giant vessels are damaging the delicate foundations on which Venice sits.

They’re also fearful of pollution from the big ships — and when it comes to pollution, the cruise industry doesn’t exactly have a sterling reputation.

The concern is growing into anger, so much so that people have taken to lining small vessels across one of Venice’s major canals in an attempt to keep them out.

For their part, the cruise lines say their skippers are extremely careful when navigating close to Venice, even without the Costa Concordia disaster to remind of the consequences of getting careless.

This is dicey, because for all its history and beauty, Venice really doesn’t have much going for it except tourism. Cruise ships pour millions of tourists — and their money — into the city every year. Add in the port fees the cruise ships pay for docking there, and Venice has a huge financial stake in cruise travel.

It’s also the most popular cruise stop on the Mediterranean Sea, so the cruise lines have a vested interest in keeping everything nice, and staying on good terms with the Venetians.

But Venice is as fragile physically as it is financially. Every building sits on pilings of timbers pounded into the muddy lagoon bottom, not exactly a bedrock foundation. Anything that disturbs those pilings — like wakes from giant ships — ultimately could threaten Venice itself.

This will be one to watch.

It’s list time again from our friends at the BBC, and this one is all about getting around.

In most of Southern California, including the corner of it I call home, you’re pretty much a hostage to your car. But I’m actually a big believer in public transportation — and when I travel, I try to make the most of it.

The world’s great cities — with Los Angeles still among the notable exceptions — try hard to make it easy for people to get around on a combination of subways, trams and buses. More often than not, it’s easy, cheap and efficient.

Moreover, when you’re a visitor in places like London, Paris, Tokyo or Hong Kong, do you really want to take on their day-to-day traffic?

Not if you’ve ever seen it, you don’t.

With that in mind, BBC Travel has come up with a list of cities that have great public transportation, all but one of them in Europe and Asia.

The one exception? Take a bow, Portland, OR.

The Vikings are coming to America. Viking River Cruises, that is.

The company is headquartered in the Los Angeles area, but operates its cruise ships in Europe and Asia, with no cruises in the United States.

That may be changing.

The word from Travel Weekly is that Viking is planning to run cruises along America’s “father of waters,” the Mississippi River, by 2015.

It would be the first major Mississippi cruise venture since the New Orleans-based RiverBarge Excursions folded in 2008.

Viking has been building new ships at a furious clip for the last two years, at one point christening 10 new vessels in one day. It’s not yet certain if the ship would be an existing vessel or a new one purpose-built for the Mississippi, but one thing has been made clear already:

It will not be another replica of a Civil War-era paddlewheel steamboat.

With very few exceptions, Mississippi River cruises have been limited to attempts to re-create the “genteel” days of the antebellum South, complete with tours of plantations and slave quarters.

Not everyone is drawn to that, especially younger travelers of color. But a modern tour of the Mississippi aboard a 21st century vessel with floor-to-ceiling windows and balconies, and a passenger list in the scores instead of the thousands? That might draw some interest.

IBIT definitely will be watching this one.


And now, here’s The Digest:

from CNN Travel
One of the world’s smaller airlines goes airborne with some of the world’s largest seats, the better to accommodate its heftier passengers.

from The Telegraph (London)
Could the election of a purportedly more moderate president in Iran open the doors to tourism there?

from the Washington Post
Get ready to say goodbye, eventually, to that old magnetic strip on the back of your plastic. Chip-and-PIN credit cards are, or may be, the coming thing for travelers.

from CNN Travel
When that pricey first-class train ticket might be worth the added cost.

from CNN Travel
Ten life-changing travel destinations — not for you, but for your kids.

from Yahoo!
The best cruise lines for solo travelers.

from Budget Travel
Six great American wine regions, not one of which is spelled N-a-p-a.

from Associated Press via Yahoo!
In Accra, the capital city of Ghana, there’s an up-and-coming cocktail scene as bars turn to a traditional liquor called akpeteshie to generate some fresh buzz.

from Yahoo! Health
Farmers markets can be a fun weekend outing and a good way to stock up on fresh, healthful food — but you still need to be careful. Sadly, everything at your favorite farmers market may not be what it seems. SLIDESHOW


from The Guardian (London)
File this one under “counter-intuitive:” Egypt names as governor of a tourism-dependent province a man from a hard-line Islamist group linked to terrorists who killed 58 tourists in Egypt back in the 1990s. The locals are not happy. The country’s tourism minister resigns in protest.

from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
A sign of Kenya’s growing maturity as a travel destination: Demand for short-stay rental homes as an alternative to hotels is going up.

from the Daily Trust (Nigeria) via allAfrica.com
Etihad, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, apparently is serious about boosting the number of Nigerian travelers to the country — so serious that the airline is offering free 30-day visas to Nigerian visitors.

from the Los Angeles Times
Tourism in Mazatlan, hit hard by crime and violence related to Mexico’s drug war, is making a comeback.

from The Guardian (London UK)
A different kind of bar exam in San Francisco.

from BBC Travel
Ah, New York City. Where else could you find free jazz matinee concerts being offered…in someone’s house?

from BBC Travel
In Ecuador, when they talk about “living high,” they’re talking about high-altitude haciendas.

from the New York Times
Good surfing in Japan…who knew?

from the New York Times
Terrorists in police uniforms massacre of a group of foreign mountain climbers in northern Pakistan. A Sunni Muslim group claims “credit.” No Americans apparently among the victims, who were mainly from Ukraine and China.

from BBC Travel
Surf’s up…in Munich? River surfing in Bavaria.

from Reuters via Yahoo!
Ten European cities, four of them in Eastern Europe, still under the tourist radar. Worth a visit while they’re still off the well-worn tourist track.

from the Washington Post
Schöneberg is the neighborhood where John F. Kennedy forever endeared himself to the people of Berlin a half-century ago. JFK would be dead five months later, but Schöneberg remains a lively, diverse community.



The good, bad and bizarre from the world’s best travel media.

©James Vallee | Dreamstime.com

You’re at the airport, with hours to kill before boarding, but your laptop’s battery is running low. Ever wish there were a smartphone app that could not just tell you, but show you where the electric outlets are in your particular airport terminal?

Well, according to the folks at TNOOZ, there is one — or soon will be. It’s called AirportPlugs.

It’s stil in beta test mode, and so far, it’s only set for five airports in the western United States, but you’ve got to love the concept. Can’t wait to see how it looks — and performs — once it’s ready to go.

It was bound to happen: An Australian airliner blew a final approach into Singapore’s Changi airport recently. The reason: Instrument interference from the pilot’s cell phone, which he later said he’d forgotten to turn off.

It forced the crew to declare a “missed approach” and go around for a second landing attempt, which is serious business at any airport and led to an official inquiry.

They’re lucky Alec Baldwin wasn’t in the cockpit; the plane might’ve crashed.

Allegiant Airlines has become the second air carrier in the United States to charge passengers for stowing carry-on luggage in the overhead bins.

Spirit Airlines, not the most passenger-friendly carrier in the industry, started this nonsense back in 2010. Two years later, Allegiant has seen fit to follow suit. Allegiant president Andrew Levy calls this latest add-on fee part of “an ongoing effort to develop an innovative, new approach to travel.”

I have my own terms for this kind of “innovation,” but I try not to use that kind of language here on IBIT.


from the New York Times
Take advantage of the federal government’s express check-in programs to speed past security lines. You’ll have to pay for them, but the time saved — and aggravation avoided — just might be worth it.

from the Washington Post
Even as those federal express check-in programs take hold, however, one of them may already be on shaky ground. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s from the TSA. What a surprise…

from USA Today
For the airline business, rising fuel costs are becoming like Jason in all those Friday the 13th horror movies, a killer that won’t go away.

from msnbc
A TSA inspector at Dallas-Fort Worth airport finds an envelope with $9,500 in cash inside…and not only turns it in, but tracks down its owner and returns it to him. There may be hope for this outfit yet.

from CNNgo
Is airline code-sharing dead? The head of an up-and-coming low-fare Asian airline says yes, among other things.

It was Airbnb that really launched the idea of couch-surfing, travelers saving money by renting rooms in private residences instead of more expensive hotels or even hostels. Now, there’s a new site called Getaround that’s trying to do the same with cars.

It’s still in beta, but it’s a beta worth looking at.

Basically, Getaround connects people looking to rent a set of wheels with individuals willing to rent out their own vehicles by the day or even the hour. It claims to screen the renters, and even provides insurance. The renter gets cheap local transportation. The car owner gets paid.

Couch-surfing…say hello to car-surfing.


from the New York Times
With travelers able to hunt for bargains and book their own trips online, travel agents looked to be headed for extinction, but it’s not panning out that way.

from USA Today
Five smartphone apps that literally could save your life when traveling overseas.

from CNN Travel
Climate change is gradually turning Greenland into a tourist hotspot. Why? Because so much of its ice has melted that you can actually see the place.

The cruise industry has taken yet another hit with reports that the cruise ship Star Princess ignored a drifting fishing boat desperately signaling for help, even after passengers pointed out the stricken boat to a member of the cruise ship’s staff.

By the time help finally reached the boat, two of the three men on board were already dead from hunger and dehydration. In its subsequent apology, Princess said word of the crippled boat never reached the captain nor the officer of the watch.

Do you buy that? Modern cruise ships have powerful radars to detect surface traffic, and bridge officers with binoculars whose job is to scan the waters around them. It shouldn’t even have been necessary for someone to tell the bridge crew about the fishing boat and its frantically waving victims.

When your passengers are more conscientious than your crew, you’ve got a problem.


from USA Today
If you’re leaving from Seattle on a cruise and need a place to stay before you embark, these hotels come with a “cruise concierge” to help you out.

from USA Today
What do you get when you subject a 15-year-old cruise ship to a $54 million makeover? In the case of Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas, you get a virtually new ship.

from msnbc
With the cruise lines trying to shore up sales in the midst of a problematic year, this might be a good time to score some serious bargains on cruises to the Bahamas.

Quiet as it’s kept, the coast of West Africa has enormous potential as a cruise venue, and some folks are positioning themselves to make the most of it.

Already there’s an outfit called G Adventures offering 27-day all-inclusive cruises between Cape Town, South Africa and Dakar, Senegal.

In both time and money, the G Adventures cruises are out of reach for a lot of travelers for now, but they show what’s possible once more competition and more West African ports enter this market.

It’s not hard to envision a great circle trip from the United States — a flight to Cape Town, a cruise with stops along the West African coast, then a flight home from Cameroon, Nigeria or Ghana, perhaps.

It’s going to happen. You watch.


from IOL Travel
In South Africa, the Protea Hotel Ranch Resort will let you walk with a pride of what it calls “disciplined and well-trained” lions, including three rare white lions. The lions will even let you hold their tails while you walk with them. Am I the only one who finds this disturbing?

from Eyewitness News (South Africa)
South Africa has some of the world’s best surfing. Unfortunately, it also has some of the world’s most dangerous sharks.

from The Star (Kenya) via allAfrica.com
The government is urging Kenyans to embrace wildlife conservation as a way of boosting the country’s tourism.

from The New Times (Rwanda) via allAfrica.com
Another sign that tourism in Central Africa is on the rise: Expedia is expanding its presence in Rwanda.

There’s always been more to Hawaii than pristine beaches, towering waterfalls, volcanoes and big waves. Even the most casual tourist can’t help but notice everything from pineapples to poinsettias, coconuts to coffee beans, just growing wild along the sides of the roads.

It’s as if the islands were a giant collection of farmers markets.

Now, the phenomenon known as agritourism is turning Hawaii’s agriculture into a growing tourist draw in its own right. Farmers markets. Ranch tours on horseback.

And the souvenirs are delicious.

Near Monterey on the central California coast — one of the most gorgeous stretches of the Golden State — more than 14,000 acres of federal land that once belonged to the Army’s Fort Ord installation have been designated by the Obama administration as a national monument.

If hiking, mountain biking and camping on rolling hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean sound like your idea of a good time, you’re going to love this place. The fact that you can take one of the world’s most scenic highways to get there — California’s famed Highway 1 — doesn’t hurt, either.


from the New York Times
Need a reason to visit Bend, OR? If you love lots of good, locally-crafted beers, you’ve already got one.

from USA Today
For those who don’t find the Las Vegas Strip exciting enough, a zipline is being planned between the Luxor and Excalibur resorts, apparently high enough and close enough to McCarran airport that the FAA had to sign off on it first.

If you’re like me, you don’t just want to see “the sights” when you visit a different country. You want to get a feel for what real life looks like — or used to look like — before modernization swept over everything.

If you’re in Beijing, China’s sprawling capital, that means you’ve got to check out a hutong, a traditional Chinese neighborhood.

Many have been torn down to make way for high-rise apartments and office towers, while others are runddown, but a relative handful survive as well-maintained communities and are open to visitors. This slideshow from CNTV lists some of the best to visit in Beijing.


from CNNgo
At the Bamboo Nest guesthouse in the mountains of Chiang Rai in Thailand, bamboo is everything. and I do mean everything. SLIDESHOW

from CNNgo
Want to play soldier? Then put down the remote, put on your cammo gear and head for the jungles of Thailand, where the Royal Thai Army will put you behind the trigger of an M-16 assault rifle or the controls of a tank. As real as it gets, including the insects you’ll be eating for dinner.

Spotted this on the TypicallySpanish.com site. Check out what this commenter has to say about Catalunya, a semi-autonomous region where people have a reputation for being fiercely proud of their Catalan heritage:

“…here, not only do most of those involved with tourists refuse to speak English (apologies but it is recognised as the ‘World’ language) – most insist on not speaking Spanish!!! It’s a case of ‘if you can’t be bothered to speak Catalonian, then I can’t be bothered with you, wherever you happen to be from!’ “

If this is true, it’s a real problem for Catalunya and for Spain in general. This is the kind of word-of-mouth advertising no country can afford, especially one in the midst of an economic crisis.


from The Telegraph (London UK)
Speaking of Spain, an extensive guide to the Andalucia region sponsored by the Spanish tourism folks. Extensive and potentially useful.

from The Guardian (London UK)
The tiny Greek island of Kalymnos is carving out a niche for itself as a destination for climbers and cavers.

from The Guardian (London UK)
Europe has a vibrant, diverse music scene, and that extends to its summer music festivals.

Edited by P.A.Rice