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If you've always longed to see Egypt's mysterious pyramids and its majestic Nile River, now is a great time to add the stamp to your passport – and save big bucks in the process.
Despite an ongoing U.S. State Department warning against "non-essential travel" to Egypt following the country's recent uprising, some U.S. tour operators and adventuresome tourists are venturing back, thanks to the lure of huge discounts (and perhaps the chance to witness history firsthand). Egypt's brand-new minister of tourism, Monir Abdel Nour, has even jumped into the initiative, reportedly inviting Oprah Winfrey and other celebs to broadcast shows from Cairo's Tahrir Square.
No word on whether the media queen has accepted his offer. But the crowds – and normally high prices – will eventually return to Egypt's tourism industry. Here are a few travel deals to take advantage of now.
The Seattle-based Caravan-Serai (www.caravan-serai.com) tours has added an 11-day "New Egypt" tour to its offerings, billing the trip as a sort of real-life, walking history lesson "without the throngs of people usually present" and a chance to "hear firsthand from people who were present during the many days of protests at Tahrir Square." In addition to a four-night Nile tour, as well as excursions to major attractions in Luxor and Alexandria, the tour will also include lectures from an Egyptian psychologist and a professor, who will discuss the recent news, according to organizer and Egypt native Maha Sarhan.
If that's not enticing enough, consider this: The $975 per-person rate for double-room occupancy covers five-star accommodations, a four-night Nile cruise, all attraction and guide fees and some meals. The total for all airfare, including round-trip flights from New York's JFK to Cairo, plus two domestic flights, totals $1,220. Sarhan notes that those rates are even lower than off-season rates during Egypt's scorching summer months.
Only a handful of slots remain for the trip, which will cap at 16 travelers; if you'd like to reserve a spot, contact Sarhan via email at email@example.com (offices are closed on Fridays but the trip will be finalized by early next week).
The Boston-based Overseas Adventure Travel (www.oattravel.com), which also has three offices in Egypt, is returning to the country with a March 14 trip. The soft-adventure operator is offering discounts of up to $1,000 per couple for departures on its 38-passenger river cruise on the Hathor between September and December if reservations are made by April 1.
Sunny Land Tours, based in Palm Coast, Florida, is offering an incredible deal -- $1,299 for a 10-day Nile cruise, including airfare (www.sunnylandtours.com), which is half off the normal price.
Discounts are also expected to be announced soon by General Tours (www.generaltours.com), which specializes in upscale river cruises and offers an 8-day Cairo and Nile cruise excursion. Company president Robert Drumm just returned from a five-day trip to Egypt to assess the status of attractions and partner properties, and as a result, the company is planning to resume tours to the region well in advance of its previously announced May 31 date, said marketing manager Mickey Huang. Available discounts will be posted to the website.