We hired our own buses with drivers and knowledgeable local guides from reputable companies in each of the 3 countries, which meant the itineraries were totally under our own control and we could go wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted for the duration. Definitely the best option for our small group in more exotic places. Each of our guides and drivers was terrific; easy to get along with, patient and knowlegable.
It didn't occur to us until later, but Noora, our only female guide was mostly accompanied by male colleagues in Egypt which we suspect was not conicidental. One of those colleagues died in later riots in Cairo - shot by the police, and we often wonder what has happened to Bashir and his big family with the civil war and strife that hit Syria shortly after we departed.
Bruce's uncanny impersonation of Barry Turner - Aswan.
Bev on the pedestal where Bruce put her. Palmyra.
Bagdad Cafe - Syrian desert. Mahmoud, proprietor and funny guy whispered to me he'd packed my shisha with some hash.
Chris buys lunch. Aswan.
Rita doing it tough - her champagne spilled onto her cashmere blanket. Emirates.
Adrian, Cairo in the background from the 6 October Bridge.
Robin finds an Arabic dog house for Adrian. Street Of The Tentmakers, in the heart of old islamic Cairo.
Sean, Wadi Rum.
Olivia I Think I'll Dye My Hair Bright Red Before Visiting Conservative Arab Countries Barnett. The best offer made for her was 124 camels.
Nick takes a deposit for his sister. Giza.
Noora - guide for Egypt. Student of Egyptology and a lovely young lady with a wealth of knowledge and an impressive appetite. As she told us - Egyptians don't waste food. Nile cruise boat.
Khaled. Co-guide in Cairo with an obsession with lunch with his repeated mantra of "chicken, beef or fish?" Khan al-Khalili bazaar, Cairo.
Ibrahim, driver from Aqaba through to Damascus. Ibrahim slept in the bus, but was always as neat as a pin.
Osama in his trademark sunnies. Guide and fixer for Jordan. Osama was knowledgeable, earnest and made sure we paid attention to the plethora of historical facts he'd gone to the trouble of memorising.
Bashir at Palmyra. Fixer and guide for Syria. Organised the bribes for the Syrian guards at the Jordanian border crossing, invited a surly, islamist bigot at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus to fuck off, squired us to darkened doorways in Old Damascus alleyways behind which were ritzy restaurants with no shortage of booze and, upon request, found and hired a whirling dervish for us on one night out. Cheerful, easygoing father of 6 daughters, who, as we parted company described his technique for trying to produce a son. Waaay too much information, Bashir!
I am sure Bashir didn't take a cut from the bribes. He was upfront about the freebies he got as a guide, which is all customary and accepted practice.
1. Giza. 2. Captains Camp at Wadi Rum. 3. Giza. 4. Wadi Rum.