I travel frequently for both business and pleasure. Of all the places I've visited, Egypt has been, by far, one of the best experiences of my life!
Prior to my departure, I cannot express to you the amount of people around me who were worried and feared for my safety and well-being, for planning to travel to a country where a political revolution was going on. As for myself, having been used to traveling solo for a long time, it was never really a worry that crossed my mind. When we arrived in Egypt, the riot was just in one part/center of the city. Everywhere else was fine and and status quo. In terms of safety, we walked outside the city in groups and did not feel we were in danger. Further, I knew that Contiki was a well-respected travel company, and that they wouldn't take us travelers towards a place that would jeopardize our safety. Basically, everything was cool. It just makes sense that as long as you stay with the group, follow instructions, and don't go towards any chaos, then you won't attract any unwarranted danger towards yourself.
The tour of Egypt was marvelous for a multitude of reasons, one of them being that we had an amazing tour manager/guide/guardian/and friend named Sherif. I believe that a huge part of a successful tour is to have a great tour guide. If it weren't for Sherif's guidance, Egypt might not have been the same for us. He really took care of the group, made sure everyone felt safe and comfortable, and guided us in our journey throughout Egypt. He exuded so much passion in all of his stories and the history lessons he provided us at each location we visited. He was always happy, positive, patient, and energetic, and these attributes really contributed to the overall quality and experience of the entire tour.
Another reason for the tour being fantastic was the people we met along the way. It may sound cliche, but it's true that the effort and energy you put into something, is what you obtain out of it. By the end of our tour, we built good friendships, and future travel buddies via Contiki.
We also met all the different local people in the towns and villages along the way. People in general were friendly. We were informed in advance of all the hustlers in the marketplaces and how aggressive and pushy they could be. It's true, they will follow you to make a sale; fib about prices; etc. All you have to do is say 'no' and just walk away, if you're not interested. Yet, still, you will definitely come across a lot of hustling from young and old sellers for money, and if you're not careful, you could easily be swindled and then lose something valuable. Just like anywhere else you travel to, not everyone trying to sell you something is going to be bad. If you have an unfortunate experience, you might get a bad seller and then get swindled. As a traveler, you are immediately exposing yourself to areas where there is a lot of tourist attraction, so naturally, you will be amongst people and stores that will target you to buy something, so there is no way to go around this. As a traveler, this too is common sense: make sure you are aware of your surroundings, and don't wear or carry anything flashy, don't carry around a lot of money, and don't trust someone you don't know to hold something valuable for you. Don't worry, your guide will inform you of all the marketplace information.
In regards to the layout of the entire tour, opinions may differ from person to person, as some people wanted to do less, and some people wanted to spend a day longer here and there. There really is no way to foretell which person would or would not like a certain place for what amount of time. In that case, they should just do a private tour. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed and loved every single thing that was planned out in the tour itinerary. In my opinion, this is the best way to see and experience everything. We even rode every single method of transportation: bus, camel, train, cruise ship, taxi, car, plane, and atv's (due to the weather, snorkeling was replaced with atv's, and it was so awesome riding through the Arabian Desert in Hurghada)! As for the overnight sleeper train experience, it was a small space, but who cares (it's just one night), and it was so much fun. On the cruise ship, it was roomy and luxurious, and we had amazing chefs on-board who cooked fabulous meals everyday. At night, the group had drinks on the top-deck and chatted and played games. On the last night on the ship, there was an Egyptian Night where everyone dressed up in Egyptian clothing and danced and had a good time (participation is optional).
There were also the optional excursion tours available for those who wanted to experience more. I did everything on the optionals, except the Luxor Light Show. We were told to just do one of the light shows if we wanted to experience that, so we chose the Karnak Show, which was supposed to be the better of the two. Please note that the light show is not the temple being lit up and being flashy like fireworks. It was a walkabout tour, where you would walk through the temple and a projector would emit light and images against the backdrop of the temple walls (images were blurry and not in focus), and a sound system would play a recording of a story that went along with each image. It sounds cool, but in reality, the Karnak Show was sub-par and very outdated. I'd suggest this one as a pass, until there is one day a major update to the show. As for the other optional tours, you must do Abu Simbel. That alone is worth your trip. It is something you have to see in person to experience everything that is magnificent and wondrous. Trust. All of the other optional tours to the different temples is also worth every penny in my book. Each temple is amazing in its own right, and should be seen with your own eye, especially because you cannot take pictures inside most of the temples itself, and pictures do not do any justice.
The only thing left to discuss would be the food. I ate everything that was provided to me without any worries (bread, cheese, falafels, fruits, veggies, hummus, yogurt, etc) and was fine for the duration of the trip. No sickness. Although, this also varies from person to person, and the sensitivity of your stomach. I'd say 90-95% of our group were fine. Sherif will let you know in advance that it is okay to eat everything at a certain restaurant. Basically, any restaurant that you're taken to during the tour is approved. The only thing that you'll be reminded of is to not drink any tap water. You should only drink bottled water. You'll also be informed to not eat the peel of certain fruits, and certain leafy vegetables. Once again, your tour manager will inform you of all of this.
I hope everything above explains in detail, and answers any questions you may have had about the tour. I would highly recommend Egypt & The Nile tour to any one of you. As long as Contiki is providing it on their site, I would be confident that it is all good and safe to travel there. Should you have any further questions, I'd be happy to answer them.
Happy travels to you all!!!