Egypt, Jordan, Israel & Istanbul
My dream trip to the Middle East! I had been dreaming about seeing the pyramids since I was a kid and finally made it happen in 2015!
First tip I'd suggest is to play with the multi-city airfare -- it worked out to be $1200 each per plane ticket for us to start in Jordan than fly to Egypt and then fly back to Amman and take a bus from Amman to Jerusalem. We flew back home from Tel Aviv! Sounds crazy -- I know -- but it was pretty easy! If I had booked the flights originating in Cairo or Tel Aviv it would have been double the money -- not sure why!
Another tip -- we flew Turkish Airlines and had a 13 hour layover in Istanbul which was great b/c we got to do some extra sightseeing there. They have a program where if your flight arrives by 9 am or 12 pm you get a free tour! Our flight didn't land between those hours but we were able to take the Metro and tour Istanbul on our own since the major things to see are within walking distance of one another and the Metro stop -- Haga Sofia, Blue Mosque, Grand Bazaar, etc.
Then we were off to Jordan! Jordan for me is about 2 things -- Petra which was amaze balls -- and the desert (Wadi Rum) where we stayed in a tent overnight. Keep in mind that my husband and I are not campers and we really enjoyed the tent experience. Its one of those things that you have to experience at least once!
My husband who was skeptical about the entire trip -- thinking that at any moment we would be killed -- couldn't get over how much he loved Petra and the desert -- especially when you see the familiar part of Petra from the Indiana Jones movies or from the classic film Lawrence of Arabia!!
Egypt was crazy awesome as well!! I'll start off by saying that I made a big mistake by not staying at Mena House -- an old grand hotel right across from the pyramids. We decided to stay in downtown Cairo to be by the nightlife &restaurants instead. To our surprise -- it is very hard to cross the street in downtown Cairo without almost getting killed! We stayed at the Hilton which was very nice in every way but for some reason -- in that area -- it is very difficult to cross the street. When I eventually go to South Africa -- I may fly thru Cairo just to stay at the Mena House for a few days to make up for not doing it on this trip!
We hired a tour guide & driver while in Egypt -- different tour guide and driver in each city -- worked out to be pretty cheap to at $320 for the entire week in Egypt -- we paid entry ticket fees separately.
Pyramids were AMAZING -- going inside them is interesting but no big deal since there's nothing to see inside but is still pretty cool. What's crazy is that years ago there used to be lines of people waiting to go see all that Egypt had to offer -- now there are no lines whatsoever which is sad -- great for the few tourists -- sad for the Egyptian economy and people.
Luxor was nice but annoying -- loved our luxury hotel at $35 a night -- they could have been charging $200-$250 -- but again the economy is affecting all of the hotels there. I say Luxor is annoying b/c everytime we left the hotel to wander around -- there were people begging us for money or trying to hustle us. I should have picked a more remote hotel that had even more to offer than the one we stayed at -- since you really didn't have a reason to leave your hotel anyway after you see the tourist attractions in Luxor.
FYI -- Although we were safe at all times -- I will say that there were 2 bombings while we were in Egypt -- they happened either days before or after in places we had visited. No tourists were killed or injured in those attacks and I would visit Egypt again in a heartbeat!
We then made our way to Israel. Even though the country is the size of NJ -- they have alot going on and seemed like they loved to party -- which was fine by us!
Jerusalem was great -- chock full of history. I went to Catholic school growing up and everything I learned about was right there in person -- actual stations of the cross (Via Dolorosa), Garden of Gethsemane, etc. It was very interesting to see all of that in person. The last part of our trip was spent in Tel Aviv and we happened to be there during gay pride -- they are very pro LGBT which surprised me. Its has a great beach scene as well! There was even a beach just for people with dogs which was cool!
Israel was super safe. People with machine guns EVERYWHERE -- which didn't bother me and I found reassuring!
Going to the Middle East was a bucket list trip for me and although my husband --who thinks I'm crazy --was along for the ride and loved every last minute of it as much as I did! The only disappointment for me was how I was looked at when I didn't have my head covered -- or if I wore shorts. Women in many parts of the middle east are Muslim and covered head to toe. I did dress properly when I was supposed to but when its 100 degrees out -- sometimes you've just got to wear shorts - and I did wear modest ones.