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  #1  
Old 17 Jan 2012
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Egypt - route planning

Hi all

I have made a couple of notes from the different threads, but would appreciate if the more experience travellers want to share some tips

We are planning ship to Alexandria at the end of April and hopefully get the 4x4 through customs within a week. Then we should have another 10 days to cross Egypt to catch the Aswan ferry. Based on the 10 days to cross Egypt - Which route would you advise, head straight down the Nile, where should we go to experience a bit of the desert? We are currently travelling on our own so don’t want to go too far into the unknown, but also don’t mind to be a bit adventurous . I have read Chris Scott Overlanders handbook, but any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers
Vleis
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  #2  
Old 17 Jan 2012
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10 days in Egypt, nice

Hi Vleis, you have options, but decisions to make as well as nice places to experience in Egypt are quite distant one from the others.

If you wish to see the great sand sea, then head West out of Alexandria and go South to Siwa 300 km off Marsa Matrough on the Mediterranean coast. So after one day traveling to Siwa and one day there, 3 days are gone by the time you hit Cairo heading back North and East towards Alexandria but shunting South-East from Al-Alemein towards Cairo. Drive daylight only, too risky otherwise.

In Cairo, you can go see the Giza pyramids and a few more in Saqqrah and Dashur just South, then head for the Read Sea or visit the Egyptian Museum downtown. 2 more days are gone, total 5.

Following the Red Sea coast South from Ain Sukhna, you'll take 4 hours to reach Hurghada along the coast, and then some more going in-land towards Luxor by the Nile. One more day is gone, and 2 more to visit the Kings'Valley and Karnac temple, total by then: 8

Head South to Aswan, it will take a few hours from Luxor, find the ferry people, enjoy a few Stella (local ) before entering dry (and hot) Sudan.

Other than that: Instead of going to Siwa for example, you could head to the Sinaï entering from the Suez tunnel, meaning instead of leaving Alexandria going West, you would head East, follow as much as possible the Mediterranean coast road all the Port-Saïd stopping on the way to Ras-El-Bahr and Damietta, and from Port-Saïd then South and into the Sinaï if the Japanese built bridge is open, or down to Suez. This will take one day.

Entering Sinaï, either you head South towards Sharm-El-Sheikh and cut East towards Dahab before reaching Sharm (I don't like Sharm), or you head East and cross the Sinaï to Taba and then South to Nuweiba and further South to Dahab. The Southern triangular part of Sinaï is fantastic, just impressively colored and nice. Two nights in Sinaï, I'd recommend in Dahab, would be enough unless you feel like diving and exploring further, e.g. the St-Catherine's Monastery and else.

Coming out of Sinaï, you will have to decide whether you wish to enter turbulent and dodgy Cairo or just head South the Red Sea coast and eventually go in-land towards Aswan. It's all up to you!

Good luck with customs, brace yourself with enthusiasms, think of something nice throughout, and sing songs when you feel like punching one.
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  #3  
Old 17 Jan 2012
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Thanks Squire, this is very helpful info, just like so many of your other posts I have read in the last couple of months. Clearly my schedule won’t allow going west towards Siwa and East to Sinai and still making the Valley of the Kings etc. Usual I try avoid travelling at night, if you don’t mind me asking why did you mention not to tackle the road back from Al-Alemein to Cairo at night?



I assume once in the desert you can just camp away from the main road or is campsites a must? The Overlanders handbook also mentioned the route via the Farafra oasis with camping in the desert at night is a good alternative to heading down the Nile. This still gives me the option to catch a section of the Nile route between Asyut and Aswan. Any advice with regards to this route?



Sorry for all the questions, but I am a complete novice at desert travel. I think all of this will be dependent on how quick I can navigate the Alex customs maze. For now I want to work out a couple of options and confirm how suitable wild camping is in Egypt.


Cheers
Vleis
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  #4  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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alternatively

Hi Vleis, indeed I was going to add a reply suggesting the Western Oasis route, quite nice for what I know if it, I must admit not having done the whole loop due to lack of time.

The South part of Sinaï and Siwa are 2 great places to see in Egypt, and driving to and from very easy, paved highway for most of it, although again driving at night is NOT recommended, in fact driving in Egypt during the day is already dreadful, at night it just becomes hairy.

So, heading South to Cairo out of Alexandria -- I'm afraid you won't find much camping opportunity around Cairo, but a vast variety of hotels -- you'll have to hit the road West to Wahat Bahariyya (400 km) and then enter the White Desert and hop from one oasis to another coming back to the Nile thereafter not very far from Luxor. Many Hubbers have done that trip, and a great deal of updated information is available already. That is also very nice, and camping would be easy compared to other route options.

Alternatively, you could go to Siwa and then cross the desert to Bahariyya, a route improving I am told, upon authorization obtained locally, and subject to being accompanied or being part of a convoy. Not a problem as many locals do the trip regularly, and ask for an affordable amount that can be negotiated. Just have an extra spare, the road is infamously known for punctures, again less likely if accompanying locals. I leave others fill-in gaps here.

Looking forward reading more on your preparation and plans!
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  #5  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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Hi Vleis,

We spent 7 weeks in Egypt in August/September on our way back to Europe from Namibia.

If I were you I would go from Alex to Cairo, visit the pyramids (I'm sure you would visit Giza anyway but I actually enjoyed Dashur a lot more). You can camp at Salma camp which won't be the best campsite you've visited but is OK. From there take the Western Desert loop out via Bahariya, Farafra, Dakhla, Kharga. You can camp out in the desert easily enough (though tell the checkpoints you're heading for the next oasis town) and it is wonderful. Lots of interesting things to visit in the oases on the way through. The White Desert in particular is an amazing place to camp and there are official camping spots there in great locations.

From Kharga if you are doing OK for time follow the loop up to Assyut then head south down the Nile stopping off to visit Abydos and Dendera (two amazing temples - relatively little visited) on your way to Luxor. If you are tight for time go straight to Luxor. I'd try and budget for 3 days there.

Then down to Aswan and if time allows have an overnight at Abu Simbel and visit the temple early (before 7.30am when the convoy arrives and it is packed).

You will miss the coast but it's easy enough to visit this another time.

I'm attaching a link to our webpage which has some pictures.

http://off2africa.synthasite.com/egypt.php

Whilst you are waiting for your car in Alex you can easily travel to Cairo by train and visit the sights in the city (which is much better done without your vehicle!). You could also hop on a bus to Siwa and back. Though the crossing Siwa/Bahariya requires a permit (and also a guide and a sat phone if you do it in your own vehicle) the road in from Alex is easy tar, no permits required.

You will have a great time.
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  #6  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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Thanks guys, I'm also following this thread with interest...

Any other websites or sources of info would be appreciated.... I'd like to avoid the tourist stuff and roam around in the desert areas more, though it sounds like it is all a little 'permit required'?
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  #7  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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From Alexandria, Sinai is a bit of a detour, and ten days is a bit tight, but camping on the beach at Ras Mohammed and snorkeling in one of the best sites on the planet is something else - not to mention all the local diving. Think you might struggle to make the detour on that timescale though (and enjoy yourselves)

On ten days though, maybe go into Cairo, camp at Salma camp as mentioned (take LOADS of mozzy repellent, the air is BLACK with them), take a look at the museum (presuming it's open?) as it is AWESOME, then head out on the oasis route through Bahariya etc as itchyfeet says - the road is good, the scenery is stunning. Spending a night camping in the White Desert under a full moon was like being on the moon itself. Also going past the massive dunes of the western desert was nuts. I headed off into them just so I could say I'd driven it. Didn't get far

Follow the circuit round then head for Luxor, there is a good campsite there and the temple is a must see. Good for a couple of days chilling by the pool before heading down to Aswan.

Just be aware when travelling about in Egypt (assume all this is still the same after the recent probs) - the Tourist Police have a duty to monitor and protect foreign tourists. All hotels and tourist spots are guarded to some extent or another by them. When you go off piste and are travelling independantly or bush camping, you will be approached by them as they will need to know where you are going and whether you will be somewhere they can 'manage' you. You will be asked where you are going to stay - don't say 'bush camping' or 'we don't know yet' - have a prepared answer, or you may find you are escorted out of the town and dumped into the next commanders juristiction. I was a bit slow with my response one time and we were escorted to the next town, placed under the eye of the local police dept, who then took us to a hotel where one poor cop had to spend all night in the room next to us as a guard. Some overlanders misread the reasons for these escorts, and as long as you understand the system you can avoid problems.

And you only need a permit to head out on the Siwa road, as it's a bit ruftytufty deserty out there. Don't need anything for the oasis circuit.
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  #8  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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Hi Roaming Yak,

In the Western Desert, unless you are thinking of serious deep desert expeditions eg into the Gilf, it's only Bahariya/Siwa that requires a permit as far as I know and it isn't hard to arrange. For that stretch in addition to the permit you need a guide (not to find the route but it is a reqirement that tourists are "accompanied") and we were asked to demonstrate our SAT phone worked. You may also need to take a military escort (otherwise known as a soldier who wants a lift) from one of the military checkpoints but we had no more room in our car and it wasn't a problem. It took us 7/8 hours but we did stop and have tea with the soldiers a couple of times.

If you're really interested in the desert try and get a copy of Cassandra Vivien's book on the Western Desert which has all kinds of fantastic information and routes. A real must if you want to get off the main thoroughfares with hand drawmn maps, GPS points etc. One thing I wished we'd done is drive across the desert from the Bahariya/Cairo road to the Valley of the Whales in the Fayoum. We thought it might be a bit hardcore but once we were in the Valley of the Whales numerous vehicles seemed to arrive this way. It would also be worth making contact with a guy called Peter who runs International Hot Springs in Bahariya. He is very knowledgeable about the desert - where you can/can't easily go - and very helpful.
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  #9  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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Siwa-Bahareya road progressing + cairo accommodation

For Information, we most recently did the Bahareya to Siwa road last month and even more has been paved/built. They've made more progress in the last year than several before. It is now perfectly doable in a 2WD even, as the section through the dunes from Bahrein to Sitra (dubious spelling) is now a massive ramparted base for the road, just missing the top coat. They are also working hadr and fast on the only remaining crap bits towards Bahareya.

Despite this, and having done the road solo several times, the very annoying military required a seperate vehicle escort. Absolutely nuts really and very expensive.

On a seperate note, we are developing camping and parking for overlanders at our place (well, us + downstairs neighbours) so if people want a basic (as yet) alternative to the mosquitos at Salma Camp, then get in touch.
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  #10  
Old 19 Jan 2012
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jamieT View Post
On a seperate note, we are developing camping and parking for overlanders at our place (well, us + downstairs neighbours) so if people want a basic (as yet) alternative to the mosquitos at Salma Camp, then get in touch.
I don't think it would be out of order to post your location and details up if you're planning some facilities - I quite liked Salma camp in it's broken outdated middle eastern way, but the mossies there are a serious health hazard and it would be good to know of an alternative.
A chap we met there was eaten almost alive one night, bitten literally thousands of times - eyes. mouth, privates the lot
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  #11  
Old 20 Jan 2012
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Siwa - Egypt

I can confirm as others have. Siwa is a must in Egypt. I would personally head west from Alex likes the otherposts have mentioned and go to Siwa. Even if you don't venture too far into the Sahara there, go to Siwa and spends a few days there, even sleep in the dunes and maybe a hotel. This place is a treat and lovely rooms/showerrs/good food

http://www.epoquehotels.com/h.php/si...shalhotel/l/en

Get a permit and cross the desert to Bahariya, permits easily got from tourist office. forget the name of the man who runs it. If you have no sat phone, you will go in convoy which is fun and it takes 7-8 hours across piste, dunes and is a blast and not too hard. As long as uou have someone to follow ( route in Chris Scotts book)

fron there head through the white desert and there is a route to luxor following good tarmac road.

Pick up nile route after luxor

Enjoy
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Old 23 Jan 2012
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Thanks everybody, this is great info. I am leaning towards the Siwa/Bahariya loop and then continue with the Oasis route to Luxor. 10 days seems reasonable. How tricky are the pistes or is it only pistes when you head off the road? I am experienced off-road but mostly mud, rocks and beach, never done desert pistes. I also don’t have a roll cage yet( still figuring this out). I will read up on desert driving in advance, just don’t want to go mad in the first country we planning to visit... : )
Also, budget wise what are we looking at for permit and guard if required)?


Thanks in advance, I will try and send route conditions updates at least to make up for all the free info


Cheers Vleis
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  #13  
Old 23 Jan 2012
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No Pistes

Hi,

There's no pistes on that route unless you choose to turn off into the desert (which you should do,if only to camp). Even the middle section of the Siwa to Bahareya road is now very well prepared base layer.

If you pass through Cairo at the weekend, we'll happily take you out to play in the sand.

That offer actually applies to both bikers and cars, just don't expect expert tuition or anything.
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  #14  
Old 2 Feb 2012
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I haven't read all the replies to your query, but I would propose driving out of Alex due West to Matruh, then South to Siwa, then further South/East to the Bahareya Oasis, off road, where you join the paved road, and carry on South to Farafra Oasis, Dakhla oasis then Kharga, from where you carry on to the Nile valley in the vicinity of Luxor.
With all the events taking place in Egypt nowadays, it is better if you avoid as much as possible the Nile valley, you could face some violence, not directed at you, but it is not generally safe, roads could be blocked, and there is nowadays definitely a fuel crisis in Upper Egypt! Driving South along the "oases" is in my opinion safer, you can camp wherever you want, just drive a few kms away from the paved road!
A permit might be needed to drive from Siwa to Bahareya offroad though, obtained at Siwa, but that should be investigated, I am not sure if things changed with the current events!
Cheers!
Jean-Paul
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  #15  
Old 3 Feb 2012
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Thanks all. What about availability of diesel around Siwa and when travelling to Bahareya. I can carry up to 140 litters, but don’t really want to travel too heavy if not required. So in other words, can I get fuel in each of the towns that is part of this route?

Also, from the post above it seems like you can do this in a day, but can you also sleep over en route - or is this no go since you need a permit?

vleis
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