TRAVEL THERE: SWANKY HOTEL, BUT NOT A SIZABLE ROOM
As long as we were in the lobby, I loved the Fairmont. The place was beautiful. The service was great. We were Mr.- and- Mrs.- Sadek-ed to death. What’s not to like?
Gracious Service and Simple Perks
After check-in, we were escorted to our room. By then it was the middle of the night, but our courteous bellman showed us around our room as if we’d arrived midday. It wasn’t really necessary since the room was quite small, but he behaved as if he was showing us the Taj Mahal. Moments later the luggage arrived and we figured out just how small.
A nice touch was a plate of cookies hermetically sealed on a plate for our snacking pleasure. They also generously provided a bottle of water for each of us, each day of our stay. Bottled water is important in Egypt. You cannot drink what comes out of the tap, even if the best hotels. You’re not even supposed to wash your mouth out when you brush your teeth. You’ll find yourself searching out the ubiquitous little street-side kiosks, which sell beverages and snacks, but the daily bottle from the good hotels is helpful.
So now I have to tell you about my nephew Steven, who had a language-challenged introduction to his room. He’s American, like me, and he traveled from California with a buddy for the wedding. His very blonde wife, with two small, active blonde boys, just couldn’t see facing the risk of Egypt in these dangerous times, especially when their rambunctious boys are both too young to really appreciate what they are seeing. Steven’s very close to the groom, so there was no way he was missing the wedding. You’ll be seeing a lot of Steven and his friend, John, in our pictures.
Upon arrival they’d been presented with the hermetically sealed cookies provided by the Fairmont – round tubes of dough with a stuffing. At first glance you’re not sure if what you’re looking at is savory or sweet. The bellman handed the plate to Steven with a flourish, saying, “With our compliments.”
Steven asked, “What is it?”
The answer? “They’re free.”
“I understand,” Steven replied, “but what is it?”
“They’re complimentary. They are free. You don’t have to pay for them,” the bellman explained, wondering why this American didn’t understand his own language. Steven realized he wasn’t going to get the answer he was looking for, so he gave up.
The Language Barrier
I’d like to make a little disclaimer here. English is my only language and I speak it with such a Texas drawl that some people in the US can’t even understand me and Brits are baffled. Twenty-three years with an Egyptian husband and I recognize maybe 10 words of Arabic. At least five of those words mean OK, but I’m still unsure which one you use for what.
There’s something that sounds like “mish” and another that sounds like “tamim” and a selection of others which indicate to me, when I hear them, that the conversation is progressing in the right direction. “Urubbie” is an exclamation like “WOW” and if you want to emphasis something you add “owie,” which means very – but you don’t say “owie urubbie,” even if that’s what you’re thinking. “Shay” is tea, “shokrun” is thank you and “masalama” is good-bye. I tried to conquer the phrase for “you’re welcome” this time, but could never nail it. Thank goodness for nods and smiles.
In the Egyptian hospitality world, everyone from the manager of the hotel to the maid speaks multiple languages and they’re pretty darned good at it. Arabic, English, French, Russian – you name it and they’ll chat away. They may not have all the idioms down 100%, but they usually understand what you want and they can give you an answer. While I’m in awe of their command of languages, it’s still fun to enjoy the outtakes.
Steven is not an adventurous eater, so he didn’t try his complimentary treat until he’d checked with his uncle to find out what it was. You can understand his concern. It might have had a vegetable in it or something, right? 🙂
I didn’t have a cookie at all, but not in fear of vegetables. In spite of all the temptations, I avoided gratuitous calories and focused my intake on the magnificent meals offered at every turn. I still came home with an extra five pounds, but it could have easily been ten or fifteen. (BTW,I was a good girl and the extra pounds were gone in a week.)
In spite of the cookies and immaculate hospitality, I can’t say the Fairmont was my favorite hotel. Come back next week and I’ll tell you why – at least part of the reason.