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The Electrical Emergency

What do you think? Not bad for an old lady with an electrical emergency?

TRAVEL THERE: THAT MOMENT WHEN YOU HAVE TO PUNT

Bill’s taking a nap.  Our clothes are pressed and ready to wear.  It’s time to do my hair and make-up.  What could go wrong?

The Electrical Emergency

We’d discovered an AC/DC outlet in the bathroom as soon as we arrived.  We’d been recharging our phones since then without any trouble, so I assumed I wouldn’t have any difficulty with my hair appliances.

I’d had a hair appointment hours before I got on the plane and planned to put my own hair up into a French knot, using one of those long-fingered combs that makes it a relatively easy thing to do, even for me.  This particular comb had rhinestones and pearls on it, so I thought I was going to be pretty cute.  We all know that slightly dirty hair is easier to put up than when it’s freshly-washed, so I was all set.  The finishing touch was going to be wispy tendrils all around my face and neckline to soften the look.

While Bill took his nap, I plugged in my tendril curling iron, whipped my hair into the French knot and put on my make-up.  The tendril curling iron didn’t heat up.  I’ve had it for a hundred years and don’t make tendrils very often, so I laughed at myself, thinking I’d carried a broken curling iron all the way to Egypt.  Not to worry, I still had a regular barreled curling iron, electric curlers and a flat iron.  Surely something would work.  Nada!

I began to panic.  The women in the family had suggested several times that I take advantage of the hairdresser who was coming to the hotel to do their hair.  The bride had her own hairdresser, but everyone else was sharing another guy.  I’m funny about my hair and usually when a new person does my hair they freak me out.  I end up with a bouffant larger than something from the Sixties and want nothing more than to hide until it deflates.  Right then the bouffant sounded pretty good.  Sure I’d gotten my hair up into the French knot, but I needed tendrils.

Just about then, Mr. Bill woke up and, as calmly as I possibly could, I told him I needed his help with an electrical emergency.  First he performed all the plug-ins and plug-outs I’d already performed, but that was fine.  I hoped he’d hold his tongue just right and make everything better.  That didn’t happen, but we did locate another AC/DC plug next to the desk, so we tried again.  This time the tendril curling iron heated right up and I thought I was set.  Mr. Bill headed into the bathroom and I pulled out various wisps of hair to curl.

I picked up the curling iron and was about to curl my first tendril when I realized smoke was coming out of the barrel.  I ripped the plug out of the wall and tried the next curling iron.  It wasn’t behaving properly either.  I attempted a few curls, but I was scared the overly-hot implements were going to melt my hair.  That’s all I needed to ruin my day – melted hair for the wedding and every other event for the balance of the trip.

I tried wrapping the tendrils around my fingers and spraying them with hair spray.  Nope, Lori had done entirely too good of a job making my naturally curly hair straight.  I couldn’t get it to curl for the life of me.

Thankfully, I had not pulled too many tendrils out or I would have had to start all over.  It would have looked like my French knot had simply come untied.  My look was not complete, but I had about 15 minutes to slide into my waiting clothes and get downstairs for pictures.

As I put on my dress and accessories, I had a talk with myself.  This was Mariam’s day, not mine.  I was not going to let a little electrical emergency ruin it for me.  I thought I looked a little more severe than I had intended, but I’d just go with it and pretend I’d wanted this very sleek look.

On to the family photo session.

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Filed under DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Wedding Morning Breakfast at the Fairmont

Quiche at Le Marche

TRAVEL THERE: WHAT I DID ON THE DAY OF THE WEDDING

Waking up in my hotel room, my first thought was, “This is it.  Bassem and Mariam’s wedding day.”  My next thought was a sense of gratefulness that I hadn’t allowed Bill to talk me into a tour on the day of the wedding.  I planned to relax all day.

Back to Le Marche Cafe

When we headed out of the room on our second morning at the Fairmont, there was no question about where we’d have breakfast.   We were going to Le Marche, as much for the delicious food as for our friend, Ahmed. We were momentarily disappointed when Ahmed was not there to greet us, but when we asked for him, the other guy faded into the background and a wide-smiling Ahmed appeared to welcome us back.

We sat down to peruse the menu and enjoyed several chance encounters with family, who passed to and fro in the lobby.  The groom scooted by on an errand, then along came the bride and her mother with a trail of attendants.  The attendants were in charge of the luggage and a rolling rack which was transporting the wedding gown.  Don’t worry the gown was completely covered, so there was no peeking.  Double kisses all around!

Next to arrive were nephew Steven and his friend John.  They decided to join us for breakfast and enjoy the attentions of Ahmed, the new friend of the family.  The meal was delightful.  I ordered a scone and got a second one on the house.  Steven ordered a chocolate croissant and got a Danish to boot.  Bill was delighted by his generous slice of quiche.  John, however, did not have such great fortune with his selection.

John’s Egyptian fantasy meal was a plate of fresh dates and figs.  He arrived a day or two before we did and asked for this delicacy at every opportunity and though he continued his quest throughout the whole trip, I don’t think he found it anywhere.  So much for Raiders of the Lost Ark.  Ahmed was so disappointed to admit he couldn’t provide the plate of dates and figs, but he suggested fruit instead.

John wanted to know how the fruit was presented.  “Is it on a platter or in a bowl?” John asked.  “Whatever you like,” Ahmed assured him.  “Is it a fruit salad?” John asked.  “No,” Ahmed replied, “it is a salad in a bowl.”  That being settled, John decided to see what would appear.

Ahmed roamed back and forth between the kitchen and the table.  Beverages were the first to appear and for awhile it seemed that was about all we were going to get.  Then the orders dribbled out.  First the pastries.  Then a while later, Bill got his quiche.  We were all just about done, when we started making noise about the missing fruit.  Ahmed was contrite in his protestations and assured us the fruit was almost there.

Ahmed, you were a treasure, but the fruit bowl, salad or whatever was a disappointment!  I’m sure any American could have driven to the nearest Kroger, bought some grapes, apples and oranges, returned home to chop them up into a bowl and then delivered them to the family, faster than Ahmed delivered up the same boring bowl from somewhere in the bowels of the Fairmont.  Not even a pineapple slice, no melons, nothing.  Just grocery store fruit!

Going Separate Ways

Bill was still having a difficult time believing I did not want to fill up every moment of the trip with tours and museums, but I was truly new and improved.  When Steven and John suggested he join them for a trip to the Khan-il-Kalili, I had my fingers crossed he’d join them, so I could have some alone time.

The crossed fingers worked.  The guys headed off on their adventure and I created my own spa day.  Come back next week and see how it went.

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Filed under Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, International, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Edith’s French Bistro

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images

Beyond Tantlizing

TRAVEL HERE:  BON JOUR EDITH!

I’ve been holding out on you.  In our pre-occupation with kicking off Spot On Images, I haven’t been as faithful as I once was with sharing the delights Bill and I discover as we wander about the Metroplex.  In my defense, we haven’t been quite as adventurous in recent months, because we’ve been focused on kicking off our new venture.  We got a little lazy, returning frequently to old favorites and depending on those ubiquitous chain restaurants.  Recently, we ran into something that was so good I couldn’t keep it to myself.  

My Turn to Choose, As Usual

“Where do you want to go?”

“I don’t know.  Where do you want to go?”

Sound familiar?  We say the same thing and more often than not we answer it geographically.  If we’re up north, we’ll go to Watter’s Creek.  If we’re sticking close to home we’ll go to the Rockwall Square.  If we’re in a more central location, like downtown Dallas, Mockingbird Station is a favorite.  Once at one of these areas we wander around a bit until something grabs us.

For this trip we went to Mockingbird Station.  An interesting rotation of restaurants cycles through and we’ve found several favorites there.  Unfortunately many of them have been short-lived flashes in the pan, but we keep trying, because we usually find something good.  It is our sincere hope that this new restaurant will beat the odds.  We love it and we’re sure if you try it, you will too.  So give it a spin and let us know what you think.

This time, when the usual question came up, I chose Edith’s French Bistro.  The name featured three words I love.  “Bistro” suggests an easy-going casual restaurant.  “French” is one of my favorite cuisines.  And Edith?  Well, those who know me well know it was the name of my favorite aunt, certainly a fortuitous omen.  Right on all counts.

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images

Charming Decor

While we were in the mood for an adventure, we weren’t in the mood to break the bank.  Since French restaurants can often come with a high price tag, we tentatively wandered in the door and took a look around.  We immediately noticed the decor wasn’t all that Frenchy.  Tasteful and inviting most certainly, but in a contemporary, fresh sort of way, rather than white tablecloths and intimidating waiters.

Even as we breathed a sigh of relief, the pastry counter caught our eyes and lured us to gaze longingly at the treasures waiting there.  We were greeted by a handsome young fellow who seemed glad to see us.  We’d arrived much too late for lunch and quite early for dinner, so there weren’t many other patrons to distract him.  He told us of drink specials and raved about the food.  It all sounded good, but in truth, we quite liked him and he was the primary reason we stayed.  Well, that and the pastry counter.

Edith's French Bistro, Dallas TX, Spot On Images

Sleek and Modern Space

Tyler sat us in his section and we perused the menu.  Edith’s was hitting all the marks.  Inviting decor, pristine housekeeping, charming waitstaff and a great selection of food.  I liked that the menu wasn’t one of those exhaustive tomes with a million choices and nothing I really wanted.  Instead, there was a two-sided card.  I could have easily pointed at random and ended up with something I would have loved.

Bill opted for the French Dip Sandwich, but I needed some guidance.  As tempting as they sounded, I stayed away from the breakfast options which were available all day and the crepes.  Even though I was excited by the Frenchness of it all, I found myself lost between two not-so-French options.  They had something called a Ghost Burger which sounded heavenly.  Well, maybe heavenly isn’t the exact right word, because Tyler warned me it was spicy, but just thinking about the description makes me hungry all over again.

I landed on the Shrimp Mac & Cheese which Tyler assured me was his favorite dish.  For now, it’s my favorite dish also, but I intend to visit the restaurant frequently and challenge that opinion.  We quizzed Tyler about the restaurant, wanting to know how long it had been there and if there really was an Edith.  I am proud to announce there is an Edith.  She arrives very early every morning to make the magnificent pastries in the refrigerated case.  They not only look remarkable, they taste that way, too.  I know.  I had one of the eclairs and to my delight it was filled with chocolate.  I’m sure it would have been just as delicious filled with vanilla cream, but if you know me you can imagine how the chocolate thrilled me.

When the bill came we were reminded of the friendly prices.  Certainly visit during happy hour (before 7, I believe), because wine by the bottle is half price, but don’t be afraid to go at other times, because the prices are very affordable all the time.  In fact go frequently, because we need to keep this gem around.  As we grilled Tyler about the restaurant and its Edith, we discovered that her husband has a restaurant right across from her, but as much as I’d love to check it out, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to be that close to Edith’s and not eat there.

Come back here on Wednesday, because we’ll be visiting the bride’s home in Cairo on the day before the wedding – one of my favorite events during my entire visit to Egypt!   I wouldn’t want you to miss it.

(BTW – these delicious pictures were taken with a phone.  Imagine what they’d look like if Bill had his “good” camera with him.)

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Filed under ART, Decorative Arts, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Restaurants & Bars, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Wandering Around Heliopolis

Inside a traffic jam

TRAVEL THERE: THE CRAZIEST TRAFFIC IN THE WORLD

Rent control isn’t the only problem in Egypt.  Try finding a trashcan.  If they were ever installed, they would probably be stolen.  In Giza I saw what could have been a lovely square in the town center, but all that was left was the metal frame of several benches on stark concrete.  The wooden slats had been removed and utilized elsewhere.  Weeds had filled what was intended as a garden spot and a layer of dust covered everything.  It was a small picture repeated in a variety of ways everywhere I looked. 

Our Tour of Heliopolis Continues

While I had thought Mona’s neighborhood was pretty crazy last time I was in Egypt, on this trip, super-imposed on the already crowded and confusing landscape was a construction project of gargantuan magnitude.  They are putting in an underground transit system.  Forget any American construction site where thoroughfares are rerouted with the use of bright orange detour signs and interruptions.  While these are frustrating, Americans usually keep these tangles contained in a manageable block of space.  This entire section of town was a construction site and no attempt was made to provide passage.

I honestly don’t know how the people were living in the midst of it.  All the main thoroughfares were blocked and side streets were all but impassable.  Navigation consisted of winding through the every day insanity of triple-parked cars and vendors setting up shop in the middle of the street.  And that was just the beginning of it.

I saw streets where 10-15 of the locals had dragged their lawn chairs (not that there were any lawns) out into the street for a good chat and smoke, while the detoured traffic tried to maneuver through the madness – spinning their steering wheels, honking their horns, waving their hands, lucky to make inches of progress and shouting their frustrations.  On almost every block you would come upon a small child standing in the middle of the street, with or without shoes, absently holding a toy and gazing into the distance.  Maybe they would move.  Maybe they wouldn’t.

And that dust I’ve made so much of?  The air was thick with it.  It didn’t just show up in a layer on coffee tables, it was thick in the very air you breathed.  I keep trying to figure out a way to explain it to you and all I can think to compare it to is an intense pinball machine, where the center section is completely blocked and the obstacles on the sides have been multiplied five-fold.  You would have to be the pinball wizard to play, because telekinesis would be your only hope of moving the ball.

And Suddenly We Were There

The horrendous traffic was a blessing of sorts, because no one could  throw me out of the car and drive away.  I could walk faster than they could drive.  Mirette suddenly turned into a parking lot and we were there.  We were the ones parked in the third row of the three-deep cars.

Next was the elevator.  I’m more of the stairs type, but I was warned away from them.  The apartment was ten stories up and each story had several flights of uneven stairs.  The elevator was so tiny that I didn’t know how Bill rode up with us with his extreme claustrophobia.  There were two elevators and even though there were only three of us, when it would open on a floor (and it opened on every floor), the potential rider would glance into the car and then wave us on.

Entering the apartment was like entering a riot.  Family members of all ages were spread throughout the rooms and in each room was the site of some kind of intense activity and none of the activities seemed related to what was going on in the other rooms.  One room did have several children sleeping in a bed, but I don’t know how they managed to do so with all the racket.

I have more to tell you about the fun evening, but you’ll have to come back next week!

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Filed under DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

An Interlude for Observation

TRAVEL THERE: A LITTLE NIGHT WANDERING

Our lunch at Baalbak was great and we could have easily sat around the congenial table and chatted for hours, but at seven they had to open for regular patronage.  They finally shoved the last of us out of the room at about 6:40.  To a certain extent, hysteria was setting in.  We had a wedding in less that 24 hours.

Time for the Gifts

After lunch, Bill’s family went into a variety of directions.  Some back to hotels, others to Mirette’s apartment and Bill wanted to know what I wanted to do.  Well, my number one priority was still delivering gifts.  Good husband that he is, he got us back to the hotel, gave me enough time to get the gifts wrapped and then arranged for someone to come pick us up, all so I could get the gifts off my list.  Perfect.  The bonus was that he got to take a nap – albeit one where he had his head covered with a pillow, because I was rustling tissue paper and gift bags.

In good American time, Mirette came to the hotel to pick us up.  This is the point at which I get to tell you what a doll she is.  She adores her Uncle Bill and is so sweet to me that I could just eat her up.  This girl has a heart as big as they come and it is open to everyone.  Love her!!

My beautiful nieces. Maggie on the left and Mirette on the right.

Sister Mona’s Old Apartment

Mirette’s apartment is in Heliopolis, not far from the Fairmont.  It’s in the same neighborhood her mom used to live in.  Bill was interested in driving around and seeing how things looked, because this is where Mona lived since the time he was a boy.  He has fond memories of daily trips to the area for Mona to tutor him.  Believe me, he was a lot more interested in the daily trips than he was in the tutoring.

I’d stayed with Mona for a day or two on our last trip and been amazed by a few of the constant inconveniences of life in Egypt.  For one thing, they don’t have little things like building codes which demand that you must build a parking lot to accommodate the people living in a building.  Parking cars two and three deep around a building was the norm.  The density is hard to imagine.  One huge multi-story apartment building after another built chock-a-block.  You can literally reach across and steal your neighbor’s underwear hanging on the patio of an adjacent building.

You don’t need alarm clocks, because early morning prayers and the vegetable crier with the donkey cart will wake you up.  The dust is appalling.  You cannot keep a house clean.  The water may or may not work.  The same with electricity.  Life is chaos.  And this isn’t in the ghetto.  This is in one of the best residential areas in Cairo.  I found it mind-boggling.

Rent Control vs. Life Control

My liberal friends like to tout ideas like rent control.  Before you think rent control is a good idea, take a gander at Egypt.  It has rent control.  The place is built and you pay through the nose for the most basic of apartments.  The buyer is responsible for finishing out the apartment, so while you may have a very elegant tasteful finish, the guy on the next floor can negate it with his purple porch or maybe he’ll never finish it out, leaving a hole where there should be an apartment.  Maybe he’ll put up curtains or build something on his patio.  That’s tough, because once your in, you’re stuck.  While things may seem expensive in the beginning, hang around, you’ll have a bargain in a few dacades.

My sister-in-law now lives in the apartment she renovated that belonged to her parent’s.  The rent is equivalent to $10 a month.  She’s got an absentee landlord who allows one of the tenants to be his super and the perk is this agent is allowed to run all kinds of scams – overcharging for electricity, doing faulty repairs, whatever. But Mona’s got it good.  Her neighborhood is still one of the nicer ones available.

The worst part for Egypt is that Mona is the exception that proves the rule.  She could afford to do a renovation and she works hard to keep her apartment clean and attractive.  In most cases, by the time a family has lived a lifetime in an apartment, it desperately needs to be renovated, but there isn’t any money.  The owner of the building certainly isn’t going to renovate it, because the building no longer has any value to him.  He will continue to collect the minuscule rents until the last person there dies or maybe he won’t and if he doesn’t, maybe his super will take them for himself.  Many, many buildings are in horrid disrepair.  Perhaps there’s no one living there any longer and the owner has abandoned it.  Perhaps there’s still a family or two in the building, praying they can somehow continue to get water and electricity until they are dead.

You can spend the next day or two trouble-shooting this, but you have two possible ends – the current situation remains or the government gets involved.  We Americans assume that the government is just going to come in and fix everything, but what happens if the government we are depending on is broke.  Welcome to Egypt.  Let’s just hope it’s nothing like this ever happens to us, but just to be on the safe side, let’s not have rent control.

 

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Filed under Architecture, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL

Baalbak Lebenese Restaurant in the Sonasta Hotel

Marvelous Maggie

TRAVEL THERE: EASTER LUNCH WITH FAMILY

In this particular blog, I’m going to rave about our niece Maggie, but please understand, there is no way we could have had such a great trip if not for all of our wonderful nieces and nephews.  I’ve already told you how glad we were to see Mirette and Ayman at the airport and how our trip was enhanced by Steven and his traveling companion.  The list goes on, but Maggie was my rock.  She guided me through the challenges of gift-buying and what to wear for the wedding and what to pack for everything else.  Her English is perfect, so she’s easy for me to chat with.  She’s also the one who pulled together a perfect Easter Lunch for all the families on the day before the wedding.  Kudos to this sweet, bright, beautiful lady!

Egyptian Customs

I’ll have a lot more to say about this when we actually get to the wedding, but they don’t do marriages exactly like we do.  Rehearsal dinners are not a thing there, for instance, but Maggie wanted an opportunity for all of the family to get together, so from her home in Michigan, she planned a delightful luncheon for the whole group, including a car to deliver us from the Fairmont to the Sonasta Hotel where the luncheon was.

Egyptians don’t do lunch like us either.  My lunch juices start flowing about noon, but Egyptians don’t start thinking about lunch until around 2 and a midnight dinner is nothing too far out of the ordinary, but it’s usually more like nine-ish.  Which brings me to my dining schedule while I was there.

As I’ve mentioned, we usually had a huge buffet for breakfast and according to what we were doing that day, it could be anywhere from very early to nearly 11 AM.  Whatever time breakfast happened, I needed to load up. If we had an early breakfast, chances are I wouldn’t see food again until late afternoon and that afternoon luncheon might or might not be the final meal of the day.

If we had a later breakfast, it really became brunch, and I’d try to avoid a mid-day meal and hold out until that late dinner.  From time to time that meant the application of a little chocolate to my thighs via my mouth, and I tried to keep that to a minimum, but I had plenty of chocolates, thanks to the Ghaly’s beautiful gift.

Most days I was able to keep my intake to two meals, but then something would happen and I found myself eating three feasts in one day, along with some snacks forced on me by an eager hostess.  That I only gained five pounds on this trip really was a miracle.

Lunch at Baalak

Baalak, is a lovely restaurant in the Sonesta Hotel featuring regional specialties – kofta, grilled veggies, stuffed grape leaves, eggplant casserole, macaroni in bechamel, rice, potatoes, grilled chicken – all the good stuff.  However, they only serve dinner.  As I have mentioned, Maggie planned this incredible feast long distance and it was a doozy.

When we arrived I gave the traditional two kiss greeting to everyone and while I wished I could have completed the gifting then and there, this event was to honor the bride and groom, so all I had was their gifts.  The balance of the afternoon was spend around the table enjoying one of the most congenial and delicious afternoons you can imagine.

We are an international family.  We’re spread out throughout Canada, the US and Egypt, but I’ve heard of relatives in Paris and as far away as Australia.  The careers represented range from medical doctor, to teacher, to investor, to stay-at-home-mom, to laundromat entrepreneur, to financier and the list goes on.  The children are beautiful, precocious and indulged.  We are very interesting to ourselves, but probably not to you.

The next day was the wedding, but we’re not there yet! Come back next week for more family fun.

 

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A Word About Planning

The whole gang, bride and groom front and center

TRAVEL THERE: IT’S TOUGH TO PLAN FOR EGYPT ON YOUR OWN

The big wedding day we’d come to Egypt for had arrived, but I had no role in it until about four Egyptian time, which turned into more like 5:30 real time.  It’s taken me a while, but I am finally learning to pause when I travel.  Cruises force you to do that and I have noticed that I enjoy them immensely.  I had resisted Bill’s suggestion that we go on a tour on the day of the wedding, for which both of us ended up being very grateful.  While Bill and I slept late on the wedding day, let me tell you a little bit about the planning for this trip.

A Different Travel Planner

This trip was very different than most of our travels, because I didn’t plan it.  At first, I assumed planning would fall in my jurisdiction, but since I wanted to rely on a travel agent for a trip of this magnitude and my travel agent wanted to rely on third party packages, Bill ended up working it out himself.  He looked to me to assist by researching attractions, landmarks and museums I wanted to see, but he took over the rest.  In part, that’s because he wanted to be sure we got the Egyptian rate.

Egyptians don’t pay the same amount as tourists in Egypt for most things.  While Americans will be glad to know most Egyptian hotels are bargains compared to the same quality hotel elsewhere, Egyptians pay even less.  This is not true at the Fairmont, however.  Rates in Dallas are pretty much the same as in Cairo and while other hotels gladly gave Bill the Egyptian rate when he showed them his old Egyptian passport, the Fairmont was a little more persnickety, demanding he have a current passport and proof of residency.

While I’m talking about planning, let me say this.  Trying to use the internet to research travel in Egypt is an exercise in frustration.  Since this was my second trip to Egypt, I’d already seen the obvious, well-known attractions which have an inkling of how to communicate with potential visitors.  I had a vague idea of the other things I wanted to see, but with the exception of a few reviews on Trip Advisor, I was pretty much on my own.  Please ignore most of the Trip Advisor reviews on Egypt.  I’m not sure what these folks were expecting in Egypt, but it sounds as if they thought they were going to Disney, “Nothing here except some ruins.”  OH PLEASE!

 

Heres your best bet for travel in Egypt

The Family Travel Agent

Bill’s niece, Mirette, is married to Ayman, which sort of makes him my nephew, but it’s by marriage on both sides and I have a hard time figuring all that out.  Paternal this, twice removed that and great or grand?  These things always confuse me!

Way back when Mirette married Ayman, I was told he was the manager of the Thomas Cook offices in Sharm El Shiek, but that didn’t register with me as “travel agent”.   To me that sounded like a financial position, because all I knew about Thomas Cook was that they had traveler’s checks.  (Remember Traveler’s Checks?)  Well, duh!

This trip was so easy for Bill.  I did the research and Ayman did the booking.  I think Bill wanted to show off his expertise and plan even more – hence my need to say no and no and no and no.  I found out we just might be kin to the very best agent in Egypt.  If Sharm El Shiek is on you list – then fuggetaboutit!  Just call Ayman.  He’s the unofficial mayor of Sharm El Shiek and he knows everybody in town, but he can book anything in Egypt.

Seriously, if you’re going to Egypt, call Ayman.  He manages the Sharm El Sheik branch of Travel Choice (a Thomas Cook company).  His email is tcsharm@travelchoiceeg.com and his telephone number is +2(069)3601-808-9.  His English is impeccable.  He’s a nice guy and he has years of experience.  Tell him Bill and Jane Sadek sent you and you’ll be treated royally!  BTW, the website is www.travelchoiceegypt.com.

As incredible as his work for us was in Sharm, he’s also good outside of Sharm.  He knows all of Egypt very well.  He’s the one who hired our driver and guide for Cairo and Alexandria.  Both were perfect – competent, courteous and conscientious.  The driver especially.  On the way to Alexandria, there was a horrid traffic jam.  He took the next exit and drove around like a chase scene from The French Connection.  At first it looked as if he’d made one of those turns you never come home from, but before I even had time to worry, he squirmed through several tights situations and had us on the Corniche.

Bill’s family is Christian and while I am no Islamophobe, it was also nice to know I was being escorted around Egypt by people Christians trust.  Our driver was a Christian who had a cross hanging from his rear-view mirror and informative stories about Believers throughout the Middle East who visited Egypt.  Our guide was a Muslim with whom we enjoyed several intelligent conversations about the effects of religion on Egypt over the centuries.  Riding through backstreets of Alexandria in a cab, which had a radio spouting religious antipathy and a driver whose grimace suggested he was resentful our our presence, made me appreciate Ehab and Zahran even more.  (BTW, it wasn’t Ayman’s fault I was in that cab, Bill decided we’d do Alex on our own.  More to come!)

Next week I’ll tell you about the ways I enjoyed my quiet morning at the Fairmont, but I had to give a shout out to Ayman.  It’s not just family loyalty that caused me to recommend him.  If he hadn’t done a bang-up job for us, I might have just allowed you to think I’d done my own bookings, but because I care about you getting the best when you travel, I’m urging you to call Ayman.

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