Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

I recently planned a trip with a friend to Egypt and Jordan from April 21 through May 5, 2024 with the help of Arlene. Given the recent events in the Middle East, we had many concerns about our trip, but with Arlene’s and her team’s help, we embarked on our journey with a high degree of confidence that we would have good support during our trip and were prepared with options if the conflict widened.

Everyone we interacted with in both countries were well trained and experienced professionals. We were greeted by members of the local management teams when we arrived in the airports to guide us through security and to our hotels. All of our guides were highly educated and fluent in English and each of the three guides we worked with gave us deep insight into the history, culture, and people from past civilizations. They are all among the best guides I’ve had the pleasure of working with and would highly recommend all three of them. The drivers were experienced and very pleasant to travel with and we always felt safe driving with them. We felt safe throughout our journey and would highly recommend traveling to Egypt and Jordan now.

We traveled to Cairo for a short, 5-day trip February 29-March 5 since we were going to be in the region after an event. We had a great trip orchestrated by James Berkeley’s team. We were able to see all the highlights of Cairo and the surrounding environment—the pyramids and various museums—in just a few days. Despite the unrest in Israel and Gaza, we felt no tension in Cairo. Our team on the ground in Cairo were helpful, smart, and attentive. We couldn’t have done the trip without a guide and driver to get around. We stayed at the Kempinski Nile, where the team was able to get us a room facing the Nile with a small balcony. The hotel felt safe due to the security staff checking all bags as well as all cars dropping off and picking up passengers. The rooms were comfortable with good service at the restaurants, and we loved the pool on the rooftop where we could have a drink and a meal and enjoy the view of the Nile.

A highlight of the trip was the visit to the Great Egyptian Museum (GEM) outside Cairo near the Giza Pyramids. It was not yet fully open, but even so it was spectacular to see and to spend a couple of hours in it. It’s a beautiful building—open air, multi-story inside featuring a 35 ft tall statue of Rames II in the lobby area, and a large staircase full of statues that leads to a huge picture window with the Great Pyramid in the distance. When the museum is fully opened there will be many individual rooms to investigate, but they aren’t yet accessible.

We visited the pyramids in Giza and the Sphinx nearby, and in the next few days visited the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities where we were able to see King Tut’s mask up close, and the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization where we were able to see many mummies of Pharaohs—including their faces—because their heads were unwrapped. It was really interesting to see these larger-than-life characters as people, including their hair styles, all intact due to mummification.

Another highlight was visiting a couple of tombs of high-ranking officials in Sakkara. The colors and detail on the tomb walls were breath-taking. We were the only people in one of the tombs which was truly special compared to the large number of visitors we saw in Giza at the pyramids.

This was a great time of year to go weather-wise. One word of caution is to check the timing of Ramadan. It was about ten days away when we were there. As a result, we got stuck in a few traffic jams and had to scrap a plan to visit a market and restaurant since so many residents were out shopping for their Ramadan supplies, we just wouldn’t be able to get in and out easily.

There is so much to absorb in Egypt. The immense history over the millennia is hard to grasp. We’re already thinking about the potential of a future trip where we would be able to visit Luxor and the Valley of the Kings.

From the very beginning, Arlene Santos on Jim’s team was available to clear all questions and doubts until we finally agreed on a final itinerary for myself and a good friend who I was traveling with. Information on initially proposed hotels, to flight schedules in Egypt (particularly very early ones) were discussed at length in order to shape the itinerary to our needs and expectations.

Once we arrived in Egypt, the local company used by Jim, South Sinai, again met our expectations. The tour coordinators to the guides at every point of the itinerary were excellent. The Egyptologists in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor as well as during the cruise were clearly knowledgeable and helped us enjoy through historical information much more this wonderful trip. As well, the captain and crew on the dahabiya were wonderful. The cruise was not only an experience of history but also of the pleasures of Egyptian cuisine.

The friend I was traveling with did not receive her luggage upon arrival in Cairo from Madrid. The tour coordinator in Cairo, Mohammed, followed up every single day with Egypt Air until the luggage was retrieved, albeit the last day of the trip. In any case, Mohammed went well beyond his responsibilities to obtain this result.

Jim’s is a company I have no hesitation to recommend highly.

Trip was planned by Jim’s office. Seema was our main contact. First of all, everything was planned and executed seamlessly. Having a handler greet us at every stop was great. The drivers were all exceptional. The Egyptologists were all very good, but our favorite was Andrew in Cairo. We really enjoyed our time in Luxor and on the dahabiya.

Trip highlights:
Cairo: National Museum of Egyptian civilization
Luxor: Karnak Temple, Luxor Temple at twilight, Valley of the Kings with special entry to Queen Nefertari’s tomb (SPECTACULAR!), Valley of the Queens.
Esna: Dahabiya Loulia. The crew was great, bed was comfortable, food was excellent. Very relaxing after Cairo and Luxor.
Temple of Kom Ombo
Picnic dinner off the Dahabiya
Aswan: Elephantine Island
Abu Simbel tour

Cairo Four Seasons: Beautiful hotel with impeccable service. Our room was lovely and overlooked the Nile. I would suggest asking clients what they prefer: A view of the Nile which is VERY noisy at night until about 4 a.m., or a quiet room on the other side of the hotel overlooking the pool. Because you cannot have a quiet room overlooking the Nile.
Luxor: Sofitel Old Winter Palace: It’s a beautiful old hotel with stunning grounds, beautiful pool, great service, and good food. The hotel is quite dated, however, and could use a little freshen up, especially with regard to electrical outlets. There’s no place to charge devices without unplugging lamps, etc. Also, the beds are very hard and feel like you’re sleeping on a concrete slab.
Aswan: Sofitel Legend Old Cataract: Perfection. This hotel is absolutely stunning with beautiful, quiet rooms and wonderful beds. My only complaint is having to leave after only 2 nights!
Cairo: Waldorf Astoria: Lovely hotel, beautiful, quiet, comfortable rooms and beds. Excellent rooms and good food after a very long travel day. Convenient to Cairo Airport for an early morning flight.

Cairo: Khufus: Excellent food, good service, fantastic views.
Naguib Mahfouz at Khan el Khalili Bazaar: Terrible. Food was awful. Restaurant was so smoky (cigarettes), we could hardly breathe, let alone eat. Tourist trap.
Blue Lotus: Cute little family-run place with good food. Like eating at your mom’s.
Luxor: Aisha: Great little restaurant. We were scheduled to go to a cat restaurant, having over 100 cats! Glad we told our guide that I am extremely allergic to cats beforehand. He changed the reservation to Aisha. Excellent food, lovely atmosphere.
Aswan, Old Cataract hotel: 1902. Really nice breakfast. Dinner here requires men to wear sportcoats. The food was fine and the service excellent, but I don’t think it was worth schlepping a sportcoat all over Egypt.

Cairo: Andrew was excellent.
Aswan: Samir: Very knowledgeable.

Perhaps Cairo could be shortened by a day, and more time spent at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan.
The day excursion to Dendera & Abydos is far too long. If clients are not avid Egyptophiles, this is a skip. Although the temples are pristine, at this point in the trip, it was 9 hours too many.
Perhaps add a day trip to Alexandria to the library instead.

Those are our thoughts. We had an exceptional experience and appreciate the detailed planning and execution. Thank you so very much for a wonderful, memorable trip!

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