Foreigners aren’t allowed to take the day train from Cairo to Luxor… or so that’s what we were told. But we managed to get on that train anyway, and it was quite the authentic experience for our first day in Egypt, even in spite of the fact that we choose to ride in First Class for a total of about $12 each (vs Second or Third Class, which I’m sure would have provided an even more authentic experience).
Thanks to The Man in Seat 61, we were able to find out that by buying or tickets online ahead of time, we would be able to board the train, and once we were there, no one would care that foreigners aren’t allowed to ride the day train. The alternatives would have been either to fly or take the night train that costs about 7 times as much, and is full of very well-to-do Egyptians and foreigners.
The ten and a half hour train ride down the Nile was far from uneventful. We were clearly abnormalities on the train and were recipients of many curious looks. We made friends with the three men who were sitting across the aisle from us, despite the fact that we didn’t speak Arabic and they hardly spoke English. We took turns sharing various photos and videos with each other on our phones, and then one of the guys added Aaron (the friend I was traveling with) on Facebook and spent a solid hour looking through all of his photos. When I am traveling with male friends, it is common for people to assume that we are married, and that is even more true in more conservative countries. Often, we find it best to go along with the assumptions, and that was what we did for this trip. Now — both of our Facebook profiles tell a slightly different story; it is pretty clear that we are not married. We definitely provided some entertainment value on that front to our new group of friends. Aaron was scolded constantly for having pictures with other women in his profile. It was quite hilarious, really.
Another notable event was a rock hitting and shattering a window three windows down from me. Yup, that happened, and it scared the crap out of me! Apparently, it’s a regular occurrence for windows to be broken on the trains by rocks, though I am not sure whether it is merely a rock that is somehow kicked up by the train or kids trying to have some fun by causing a little bit of trouble.
Taking the train in Egypt was a completely different experience from taking the train in the US. Even though we had booked First Class, the seats were dirty and falling apart, the bathrooms looked like it had been a while since they had been cleaned, and you had to buy your own toilet paper at the start of the train journey (luckily, we had done this). Food and drink were both available for purchase, though the options were limited, and the food was not anything to write home about.
We had landed at 3:05am and went on to take the train at 8:00 am. In our case, it was a great way to experience Egypt, while helping us rest up for busy days of sightseeing and get used to the time change. The day train from Cairo to Luxor is definitely not an experience I would recommend for everyone, but if you are traveling in Egypt and have a little bit of time for a unique travel experience and a bit of a sense of adventure, I would highly recommend hopping on a train and making some friends.