We just got back from 16 days in Egypt, and it was a pretty nice way to spend the holidays. Getting there was a challenge, though.

We had been thinking we would go to Italy for Christmas, but realized it rains just a little too much there in December to be sure of good weather. We thought Egypt would be a sure sun holiday, considering it hasn’t rained in Luxor for 15 years, according to one person we met there.

When we first looked into tickets, we found an Expedia-like site that found us the cheapest tickets, and the dates and times happened to work well for us. Unfortunately, when we hit the “Book Now” button, the site said it couldn’t be done and we’d have to buy tickets from three carriers, Aer Lingus, Egypt Air, and Tarom, a Romanian airline we‘d never heard of. I knew this would involve a whole lot more work and suspected that we would probably buy tickets for one leg of the trip only to discover the other legs weren’t really available, which is exactly what happened.

I had purchased the first leg from Cork to Amsterdam through Aer Lingus but couldn’t get Egypt Air’s website to work to arrange the flight from Amsterdam to Cairo. Amy had no better luck, and an email and phone call to the company didn’t help. The person on the other end of the line just answered, “Hello,” and then explained to Amy that tickets couldn’t be bought over the phone. Somewhere we’d read Egypt Air tickets couldn’t be bought in person, so that meant that their tickets couldn’t be bought online, on the phone, or in person, which is pretty remarkable for an airline.

It didn’t help when I looked at the flights out of Egypt and discovered that while Tarom’s website showed that flights flew into Cairo, they didn’t actually fly out of Cairo. Someone needs to look into what Egypt is doing with all those Romanian planes that land in Cairo but don’t leave.

So, a trip to a travel agent later and we were set. We had decided that we would take some lessons in Arabic, to learn just a little of the language, meet people, and, we hoped, provide us with a local contact that could be helpful if we needed something, a basic safety net without giving up control to a tour group. It didn’t work out quite that way, but the trip was wonderful and went surprisingly smoothly.

In part because the Arabic lessons were in Luxor, we spent ten days there, then three days in Aswan, and finally three days in Cairo before heading home. Over the next week or so, we will post a few highlights and our thoughts about Egypt and each of the cities. In the meantime, it’s good to be home in Cork, even if it is 10 degrees Celsius colder here than in Egypt, and likely to rain at any moment.

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