Two points I need to make clear before continuing: The hotel in Cairo has CHANGED. The contract with the previous hotel (with the bad reviews) has ended, and you will be staying a nice hotel outside of downtown Cairo. The change went into effect right before my trip started. I was very happy with the accommodations at the new hotel--clean rooms, hot water and nice bathrooms, relaxing pool/bar/restaurant area.
If you hear something happened in Chicago, it's not going to prevent you from visiting New York City; same with Canberra and Sydney. The media does a great job in blanketing "the Middle East" with problems. Don't let your relatives or friends deter you from going on this trip because of what they have been led to believe is happening through media exposure. Egypt is very peaceful and their economy is seriously suffering from tourists (especially Australians and Americans) being deterred from visiting.
QUICK TIPS: Egyptian pounds and American dollars are accepted everywhere. If you bring American dollars, get all of your money in $1 and $5 notes before you go. It's easier for tipping and buying small things. If you are comfortable with using a debit/bank card and you bank does not have ridiculous fees, there are ATMs in all places. HANG ON TO YOUR SMALL EGYPTIAN NOTES. There is a shortage on circulating 5 l.e. (pounds) and the 1 l.e. coins. A few of the small travel-size packs of Kleenex tissues are great for toilet paper (yes, you will need these). Buy your water and be careful if you get ice in drinks.
Ahem... I personally selected this trip because I have always been interested in ancient history. It was also my 30th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than being in Egypt? I am for sure an 'in-depth explorer' and I love history. I did every Optional with the exception of one--the Unfinished Obelisk & High Dam. (You can see the obelisk when you drive past and it's really not that powerful or exciting.)
THIS IS NOT A PARTY TOUR. Unlike a lot of other Contikis, you need to understand that you are in a religiously conservative country, a place where gender and family roles are still very well defined. The only time we ladies went to a club was the one inside the hotel in Hurghada.
There is one key component of this trip that I would not have appreciated without having a prior Contiki experience, and that is the tour manager/guide, Sherif. Sherif is Egyptian, lives there, and has been working with Contiki for 15 YEARS! To my knowledge, there are no other Contiki tours where one person has been doing the same tour for that long. The vendors and staff at all stops know him. 'Mister Sherif!' You can ask him anything about history, culture, religion, life in Egypt, and he will tell you all you would like to know. He has an undying love for the work he is doing, to show people like us the beauty of his country, and he does with it real passion. (And he does this solo, as he is the tour manager and local guide in one.)
If you have any questions at all about little specifics of cities or optionals, please feel free to send me a message.