May 05, 2010

Pack like an Egyptian

I'm officially in pre-trip planning mode.

In July, Dana and I are taking a three-week, no-frills tour of Egypt with Intrepid Travel. It's a low-budget trip that will take us and 10 others a bit off the beaten path, and I've got to get the packing just right. While traveling light and carrying everything on our backs, we have to have gear and clothing for such things as 105-degree weather, blazing Sinai sun, 3-star hotels with no air conditioning, conservative female dress, a few funky overnight arrangements and an after-dark descent of a 7,500-foot mountain. We're not checking into any Marriotts.

First, I'm packing an insurance policy. I found a great website,, that offers an array of travel insurance products displayed to make comparison a cinch. I bought a policy that has your standard medical, cancellation and lost luggage components and also covers emergency evacuation and repatriation. In fact, Intrepid requires such coverage. Seems like a good idea to me.

Tomorrow I'll shop online for sleep sacks, also known as sleeping bag liners, because we'll be bunking down in some weird places, and I think we'll be glad to have clean cocoons to crawl into. I've been reading sleep sack reviews, and most of them suggest going for silk sacks rather than cotton, because they're stronger. I don't know... We're going to Egypt, land of cotton. Egyptians live in cotton, and my gut tells me to take my cue from them. When in Egypt, do as the Egyptians do, right? Right. I just convinced myself: cotton it is.

We'll spread our sacks, which fold into little pouches when not in use, in such places as Cairo's Hotel Pharaohs, which gets pretty low marks for cleanliness from TripAdvisor reviewers; overnight trains between Cairo, Aswan and Luxor; the deck of a toilet-less felucca (giant sailboat) on the Nile; the home of a Nubian family in Upper (southern) Egypt; and, on the Red Sea, a beach hut made of palm trees with a mattress on the floor and a mosquito net.

Our itinerary also includes a late afternoon climb up the Biblical Mount Sinai to watch the sun set, after which we descend Moses's mountain in the dark.

I don't expect to encounter any burning bushes on the way down, so we'll be packing our own torches. Sturdy, rubber-soled shoes and headlamps will help ensure that we don't have to pull out that emergency medical evacuation policy.