Announcing to friends and family that we were headed to Egypt brought about a variety of reactions. Excitement, worry, intrigue, anxiety… I realised that people had very mixed emotions about our next destination.
For years the coastal cities in Egypt were holiday hot spots, especially for British tourists. Nile cruises flooded the waterway, and the tourism industry thrived from International visitors. Revolution, military coup, the downing of a plane back in 2015… all factors that shattered the leisure industry. Safety for travellers was no longer guaranteed and the rifts it caused in the economy have definitely been felt.
This became increasingly clear when Mo and I tried to book our flights to Luxor, struggling to find direct routes, decent connections or at least any flight that wasn’t ridiculously priced. I’m not going to go into the full ins and outs of the trouble we faced booking our trip, I’m saving that for another post, but I wanted to touch on a particular part of our journey: the road to Luxor.
Our flight schedules meant that in order for us to get to our boat in time to start our cruise, we needed to drive from where we landed in Hurghada to the beautiful city of Luxor. I thought absolutely nothing of this journey until I started 1) speaking to people and 2) searching the route on google.
Everybody had an opinion… and it wasn’t good. You’ll get kidnapped. The road is too dangerous. You’ll have to be escorted by military. Anything could happen. I kept telling myself not to listen to it all and tried to banish out all knowledge of what I’d read on the very ridiculous dangerous roads website, which comes up pretty high on the ‘road to luxor’ google search. I reached out to a virtual friend @DanDohertyBlog, who knew this area of Egypt well and still had friends out there. He assured me there was nothing to worry about and trusting his opinion I decided I needed to stop being influenced by propaganda and try to see it for what it is, an exciting journey across the Egyptian desert.
Lo and behold Dan and his friends were right. There was absolutely nothing to worry about. The drive was FANTASTIC.
Mo and I have done a number of long distance journeys by car in many different terrains, but we’ve never driven along a road quite like this. A road where on every turn, every dip, every ascent we were surrounded by the same landscape.
Baron. Empty. Endless. Dry.
But totally spectacular desert.
I couldn’t stop staring at it. We’d go miles and although there was nothing to see I couldn’t help but think it somehow was everything. In my head I was imagining lands in ancient times. What might have lived behind the mountains. The rocks. Who knows what relics are buried under the ground. What carvings may or may not be etched inside the caves that we only caught glimpses of as we sped past.
My imagination was running wild as I strained through squinted eyes to look for signs of life. Following the paths of birds that soared and dipped, wandering what they knew.
Our drivers, Ahmed and Hisham were pretty great. A bit nuts, but they were great. Sort of left us to our own devices as bless Ahmed, he was really trying with his English but we struggled to make heads or tails of it sometimes. On the way there and on the way back we stopped halfway for tea breaks.
It was nice to stop and stretch our legs but also to walk around and just take in how amazing it was to be in the middle of nowhere. Literally nowhere (put that ‘literally’ in just for you sis 😉).
I should also point out the best meal I had was at the last service station! We weren’t planning on having a meal, but our driver insisted we have something before we trekked on. So we ordered whatever it was they had and waited to see what turned up. Grilled chicken, rice, salad, broth with orzo and a vegetable curry dish. It tasted fresh. Light. Not overly spiced and was the perfect food for being out in the heat. I did share mine with the resident kitten (I could not resist the cute ball of fluff) but what I did have I thoroughly enjoyed.
Some facts to bear in mind if you are planning on taking this route:
- The road is closed for any tourist trips once the sun has set. Any dangerous road issues happen at night, when people are reckless or decide to drive without headlights, which is why the government has decided to impose a curfew for visitors to ensure their safety. Sensible.
- There are many forums with people complaining that they are unable to hire their own cars to do the drive themselves – I haven’t looked too much into this but I think there are restrictions depending on where you’re from and what license you hold.
- Travelling in the day time will pretty much mean driving in heat. A car with AC will make a heck of a lot of difference. Opening a window doesn’t help much when the air flying in is boiling hot.
Also worth noting that of course, like most non-western destinations the driving style can be a bit, let’s say ‘different’. I noticed here in Egypt the outside lane isn’t for overtaking, but more for acting as a buffer when you want to speed around turns. Driving in the middle of the road or towards oncoming traffic to overtake is perfectly acceptable. Flying past donkey carts at close quarters is completely normal and drivers only really wear their seatbelts when they’re headed towards a checkpoint.
All of that aside, I should point out that I was in no way ever scared or on edge during our journey. The last part as you head into some of the local towns alongside the Nile are really interesting, observing the hustle and bustle of daily life.
I’m so glad I wasn’t deterred by the negativity surrounding this journey and I hope the actions of a few don’t put others off from making this trip. It reminded me that it’s so easy to get swept up in the news and random rubbish that gets fired out over the internet and that really, trusting your gut and looking at the actual facts is always the best way forward. Having a few friends on the inside helps too 🙂
My advice would always be, reach out to agencies. Travellers who have been recently – that you trust of course. Don’t always go off the news and general scare-mongering that occurs in the tabloids. Everything we do in life has some element of risk, it’s all about being sensible and listening to rules and guidelines – that applies to any destination, including where you live.
The road to Luxor was a great lead up to what became a truly momentous adventure as well as being a perfect final journey to reflect on our trip, before heading back home.