FOR just a week now, it’s been possible for Zimbabweans to travel almost direct (stop in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania) to Egypt with its ancient history visible at nearly every street corner and the stunning all year round beaches of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea, with their unrivalled scuba diving and snorkeling opportunities.
Zimbabweans travelling on EgyptAir to Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Far East, Canada or USA will have a chance to spend a few hours — or preferably a number of days—in Egypt en route to their final destination. Holiday makers, adventurers, big game fishermen and honeymooners can enjoy an unrivalled relaxing lake or beach break in this Pearl of the Mediterranean.
Nine years after abandoning flights to and from Harare because of the then worsening political and economic climate, EgyptAir has resumed operations
Egypt’s national aviation carrier leaves Cairo each Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, via Dar, returning from Harare on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays on the same route. Boeing 737-900ERs are used on the 8 hour 15 minute flight to the Egyptian capital. The return journey is 10 hours 20 minutes.
Cairo is the main aviation hub for North Africa, the Middle East and much of the eastern Mediterranean. EgyptAir serves 17 African destinations and 20 in Europe, including London and Manchester. The EgyptAir flight to Heathrow from Harare takes 21 hours 50 minutes; the return trip 16 hours 50 minutes, both including a stop in Cairo.
An EgyptAir air-line ticket with a month’s validity to London from Harare, according to Skyscanner.Com this week, costs US$988. As is often the case, the airline offered substantial introductory discounts, but you had to get in quickly.
While Egypt still experiences occasional violent repercussions from the Arab Spring Revolution, it is home to some of the world’s most popular travel destinations, including the Pyramids at Cairo; Luxor, Karnack and the Valley of the Kings, from which most of the Nile cruises operate and the all-year-round luxury beach resorts of the Sinai Peninsula, such as Sharm-el-Sheikh, with unrivalled snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, also sparkling Hurghada on the Red Sea coast.
Skyscanner.Com quotes a return ticket from Harare to Cairo as costing US$611 by EgyptAir, which abandoned Zimbabwe flights, following the lunatic land invasions, about the same time as did Qantas of Australia, Air France and Lufthansa (Germany).
Last week we looked at Cairo, itself, a must visit for every African-based traveller. Today we go farther.
Luxor is on the river Nile and was where the modern day royal family (such as the Colonel Nasser-deposed colourful King Farouk) had their winter palace (now a luxury hotel) overlooking the activities on the ever bustling river.
Nile cruise ships usually end their voyages at Luxor, with its nearby major travel destinations of the Temple of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens. This is where you’ll see and photograph the Colossus of Memnon.
Formerly the ancient Biblical city of Thebes, Luxor is totally overwhelming, whether explored by tourist bus, on foot, by taxi or seen from above, soaring in a balloon ride over this vast tract of Upper Egypt with a glass of champagne in hand.
Luxor has seen much bloodshed over the millennia and in 1997 64 people including 59 mainly Western tourists were slain by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists at the Luxor ruins and — this year—18 Asian and European tourists died when their viewing balloon suffered a mid-air gas explosion.
One tip: you’ll walk miles to see everything, usually in very hot, trying conditions even in the Northern Hemisphere winter. Wear good, comfortable but hardwearing boots or shoes before setting out and carry plenty of mineral water.
And don’t be surprised if you think you’ve seen much of it before: the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut (think “hat-cheap-suit”) looks just like a Hollywood set for a Biblical epic and has been copied in miniature by hotels as far apart as California and Dubai!
For many years occupied by the Israeli Defence Forces, Sharm-el Sheikh, Egypt’s major conference venue and known as Peace City due to the number of complex political agreements signed there, is a fascinating place of diverse marine life with hundreds of magnificent Red Sea coral diving sites, through schools of colourful tropical fish on to wrecks dating from Biblical times to Gulf War days.
It has many first class resorts, posh night life and the invitingly clear, warm waters of the Mohammed Marine National Park are close by offering an abundance of marine wildlife apparently in Technicolor and — oddly enough — scores of toilets, thanks to a freight ship carrying bathroom fixtures sinking there in a storm in 1981.
For multi-destination tourism enthusiasts, you can book day trips by coach and-or-ferry from Sharm to Eilat in southern Israel and breathtaking Petra, the once lost rose-red city in the Jordan Desert, inland from Aqaba, twixt Dead Sea and Red Sea.
Sadly Sharm had its own series of deadly terrorist attacks back in 2005, when 88 people, mainly Egyptian perished. On two occasions I’ve tried to visit the site of the three atrocities, but Egyptians have selective memories and denied all knowledge of the tragedies.
Our trip to Egypt will continue next week with a look at Abu Simbel and Lake Nasser, Hurghada, the former beatnik settlement of Dahab in the Sinai and the ancient Mediterranean port of Alexandria.
For more details or to book flights by EgyptAir, go to their offices at the former George Hotel in Avondale, on-line, or see your favourite travel agency.