Seeing Egypt the Russian Way: Scary Planes & Friendly Camels
I rarely have guest posts, in fact, this is only my fourth. So please join me in welcoming Kimberly from Go Green Travel Green and her adventurous tale of traveling with Russians.
If I hadn’t been 20, I would have feared for my life as I boarded the Soviet-era plane destined for Hurghada. It felt rickety, smelled funny, and was approximately 22 hours late. Fortunately, I was young and such things didn’t faze me, so I climbed on and found my seat next to a drunk Russian man (who would later pass out on me as his friends looked on and laughed, but that’s a story for another day).
After studying abroad in St. Petersburg, I was headed to Africa for the first time and was excited to explore a new continent. Elizabeth, my girlfriend at the time (and now wife), and I met studying abroad and decided to cut our semester short to travel. We had found amazingly cheap tickets to Egypt through a Russian travel agency. For just $330 each, we would get round-trip tickets from Moscow to Hurghada, Egypt, lodging at a hotel (two meals/day included), and travel to three Egyptian cities. In a moment of bargain shopping weakness, we chose to stay in a 3-star hotel instead of paying the extra $50 for a 4-star hotel. When the shower at our hotel of choice only dribbled out water and we saw the shabby rooms, we regretted our decision, but, again, we were young and in Egypt for the first time, so we overlooked these flaws.
We arrived in Moscow from Irkutsk, near Lake Baikal in eastern Russia. Before that, we had spent 5 days on the Trans-Siberian Railroad, not showering and hanging out with Russian soldiers in our inexpensive, but shared, car (again, our bargain shopping inclination failed us). We had seen a lot of Russia and were ready to leave. Unfortunately, Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow had other plans for us. We were stranded in the airport for almost a day due to a snowstorm and some unexplained problem with the plane. Food in Sheremetyevo was running low. As we bonded over vodka with an Egypt-bound Russian couple and their young daughter, we wondered if we would ever make it to Egypt.
By the time the plane came, we were too tired and hungry to care that it looked like it should have been retired 30 years before. We climbed on, the plane took off, and I almost vomited on the Russian man who kept passing out on me. Something was not right with the cabin pressure in that clunky plane, but we made it to our destination alive, albeit feeling nauseous.
The great thing about seeing Egypt the Russian way is that you don’t have to worry about anything. The all-inclusive packages make travel quite mindless since they take care of everything. A bus picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at our hotel, which was about 50 feet from the stunning Red Sea. Two dozen Russians on our tour were staying at our hotel, too.
Two meals each day were included in our package, but we had learned from fellow students in our study aboard program that we should avoid eating produce. One of our classmates was in the hospital for a week after eating a tainted tomato. American stomachs, it seems, just can’t handle Egyptian fruits and vegetables, so we stuck to bread and well-cooked eggs from the buffets. Not the most appetizing cuisine, but it would do. Our Russian companions ate with abandon as we looked on with envy.
In Hurghada, we visited shops during the day and the shopkeepers, assuming we were Russian like everyone else, called us “devushki,” the Russian word for girls. We snorkeled in the Red Sea, where we saw amazing, brightly colored fish. It got dark around 4 pm, so we headed back to our hotel early, but there were night clubs we could have visited.
On day three, we, along with our Russian companions, boarded a bus to Luxor and the Valley of the Kings. We learned that the bus had to travel in a caravan with other buses because tourists had been killed recently when a bus was hijacked by gunmen, but we tried not to dwell on that lovely tidbit. Instead, we focused on our destination. When we got there, we toured tombs and saw the mummies and treasures you normally find in museums. We stayed in fancy hotels that were included in the tour. We boarded a bus to Cairo, where we saw the Cairo Museum, which is home to fantastic artifacts that aren’t very well guarded. We visited the pyramids and Elizabeth rode a friendly camel.
When we were finished touring Cairo, we said goodbye to pyramids and camels and headed to our next destination: Istanbul. Touring Egypt the Russian way was a truly amazing experience.
Kimberly Sanberg’s passion for travel was born when she studied abroad in Krasnodar, Russia in high school. Since then, she’s been to six continents and is scheming to get to seven. She is the co-founder and editor of Go Green Travel Green, a top sustainable travel website that helps travelers reduce their environmental impact. Her favorite travel experiences include indulging in delicious foods in Argentina and taking in the beautiful Coromandel Peninsula in New Zealand. She lives in Minneapolis, MN with wife, son, and two dogs.