Monday, January 10, 2011

8 Tips for Sightseeing in Egypt with Baby

We went last week to Luxor with my sister. For those of you who don't know what Luxor is, well, it's basically where all the *good* stuff is to see in Egypt.

You want well-preserved walls covered in brightly painted hieroglyphs. Well, you have to go to Luxor.

You want building-high obelisks and large-sized statues of pharoahs or ancient Egyptian gods in their original positions of glory. Well, you have to go to Luxor.

You want to walk through the corridors of Egyptian history at night - perhaps the Sound & Light show at Karnak. Well, the only place you can do that is Luxor.

I guess you've got the picture.

Now I have done a lot of sightseeing in Egypt over the years. But I hadn't done any with my son before now. So when it came to planning our trip to Luxor, I was a bit nervous because I wasn't quite sure how he was going to do.

I had a lot of questions about trying to go sightseeing with a young child in Egypt.
  • Would I be able to use our stroller or would I be limited to our carrier? Would my son take to the carrier (he hadn't been much of a fan of it when he was younger)?
  • What about meals? How were we going to find food for our son? Would any of the restaurants have highchairs?
  • What about the hotel? Could he sleep in a bed provided by the hotel or should we bring our own?
These are good questions to ask whenever you go just about anywhere in the world with a baby.

I find that no matter where I go with my son that I need to be as flexible as possible. While it's good to plan in advance, I always keep in mind that plans (particularly in Egypt and ESPECIALLY with a little one) are mostly suggestions than actual step-by-step guides.

For example, I brought the carrier with us to Luxor planning to use it solely as a backpack. Having been to Luxor myself once before, I knew that most of the sites were not stroller-friendly so we wouldn't be able to bring the stroller along.

And our son was pretty happy the first couple of days sitting in the carrier as a backpack. We went to the Valley of the Kings that second day in Luxor, and he even slept about halfway through our time there. We just pulled that sunshade up over his head and off we went down into all those tombs.

However, our second day in Luxor ended at the Temple of Karnak where we went for the Sound & Light show. It was dark and we had to walk in the midst of a crowd of people for a while and then stand waiting for the next part of the narration. My son was happy during most of the walking part in the carrier on my husband's back. However, into the 2nd part of the show he started fussing as we stood for maybe 10 minutes listening to the narration.

Nothing my husband could do was making him happy. He bounced him around in the carrier. He took him out of the carrier. He let him stand on the base of one of the big columns (although I promise his little hands didn't touch anything ancient).

Finally I took him and realized that my arms were not going to hold out till the end of the show. So in exasperation I decided to try switching the carrier to the front instead of the back.

Problem solved.

Here are a few things I would recommend regarding how to make sightseeing (and travel) in Egypt with baby easier:

1. Don't go it alone. Quite frankly if my husband hadn't been there to take my son at times, I couldn't have made it to that last day in Luxor. It would be extremely exhausting if you don't have someone to help carry baby or feed baby or play with baby while you're trying to see the sites.

2. Invest in a baby carrier (or borrow one). We bought this carrier before our son was born and had used it only once since he was born. But like I told my husband last week, that carrier more than paid for itself during our trip to Luxor. I would highly recommend one that is back-friendly such as the Beco or Ergo carriers. You will thank yourself after you're through climbing out of one of those tombs in Luxor (after having climbed down into it). Oh, and don't forget to use that sunshade included with the carrier - there may be no real break from the sun until you're done at that site.

3. Use a travel highchair. A friend lent us a Totseat for our trip to Luxor, and even though I was a bit skeptical at first about using it, it became a very useful item during our trip. I take our stroller everywhere in Cairo, and it often doubles as a highchair for us when highchairs are unavailable. However, in Luxor we were often out without the stroller (or it took up too much room to keep it out for our son to sit in). So as a last resort I packed the Totseat in my bag thinking we'd just hold him in our laps anyways. I was wrong, and I wish I'd had one of these portable cloth travel highchairs earlier.

4. Pace yourself. You can be out all day in the hot sun when you don't have kids with you. Sure you'll suffer a bit later and come back to the hotel exhausted, but you'll be okay. This is not a good idea when you have a little one.

I would definitely recommend that you take a break in the middle of the day with a young child. Sure they can sleep in the carrier, but it's a lot hotter in Egypt than you realize so they may just need the break from the sun that going back to the hotel affords.

Plus if your child is anything like mine, he or she will enjoy the freedom of playing on the floor of the hotel room with toys from home than being cooped up all day in a carrier.

5. Bring baby bowls and utensils with you. This seems like a no-brainer to me, but I thought I'd throw that in there. I was able to snag some fruit off the breakfast buffet for our son, cut it up, and feed it to him later while we were out. Cheerios and Kiri-sandwiches are great for snacks, but fresh fruit is even better.

By the way, those plastic bowls also make great bath-time toys (rinsed out, of course) on the fly when you suddenly realize that you've got nothing to keep your son distracted while you scrub all that ancient dust off of him.

6. Double-check that the hotel has baby beds available. We were so very close to having to let our son sleep in between us on our big bed that I was almost too scared to think of how I was ever going to manage that. Be very clear that you need a crib for a baby (or cot, as the British call it) so that you don't end up with a rollaway bed for an older child (what they tried to give us at our hotel).

7. Be flexible. Like I mentioned earlier, if there's one thing I learned again last week about taking my son along on a sightseeing trip, it's that I should go with the flow. So even though we started each day with the most difficult thing (farthest tomb up in the Valley of the Kings or the Temple of Hatshepsut, etc.), we didn't stick 100% to our plan. We moved things around a bit in the schedule. We ordered sandwiches in the room one day rather than going out for lunch when my son and my sister both fell asleep right after coming in from our morning sightseeing (this was AFTER our sunrise hot air balloon ride so we were all exhausted).

8. Bring a hat and sunscreen for baby. This was the first week of January! But even though I'd been to Luxor around this time of year before, I'd forgotten how hot the sun can get there. Even though it's not summertime, you still need to be prepared to protect your child (and yourself) from the sun year-round in Egypt. So don't be like me and forget your son's hat at home!

Would I have chosen to bring my son to Egypt to go sightseeing if we didn't already live here? Probably not. But I'm sure one day he'll grow up and look at the pictures and enjoy the fact that he was experiencing history even before he could walk (maybe).

Plus if there's anything I've learned about being a mom overseas so far is that you don't have the luxury here to be afraid of the unknown. It might be scary to get out of the house sometimes to try something in Egypt that you've never done before. But if I didn't try it - well, I might NEVER get out of the house (and that, my friend, would not be a pretty picture).

You just do what you need to do... and baby just goes along for the ride. Sightseeing in Egypt for me was no different.

What about you? Have you been sightseeing with a young child in Egypt (or another country)? If so, what other tips can you share?


  1. Yes, yes, I did fall asleep like my baby nephew. ;)

  2. We took a trip to Sharm El Sheikh when our son was 4 months old. He wasn't a particularly happy baby (is a very happy 3 year old now) and thought we would give him his first taste of swimming after he had been crying all morning. We covered him in sunblock, put his sun hat on, swim nappy ready for his first little splash in the pool with his Daddy. His screamed so loud he was out and back in the room within a couple of minutes. Well done on surviving the Luxor trip. It is definitely different to the pre kids days :-)

  3. Trust me Chels I was right there with you (LONGING to fall asleep) =)

  4. Thanks Ruby! And thanks too for the help when we were in your neck of the woods - luckily we didn't have to buy a baby bed after all. Whew! That was really close! =)

  5. We went to Sharm El Sheikh with our baby was 2 or 3 months. We all had a great time.


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