Tag Archives: Cairo Egypt

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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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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Living on Plan B

Transporting the Wedding Dress

TRAVEL THERE: GOING WITH THE FLOW IS JUST PART OF THE JOURNEY

Last week I admitted how much I loved the neat little packages called hours, because they keep my days in order.  I’m also fairly fond of making a plan and then executing it.  As you’ll see as we travel along, I had a plan for Egypt and much of it came to fruition, but having the ability to just go along with whatever happens is really a skill you need to develop, if you want to truly enjoy Egypt.  Being married to Bill has given me a head start on this ability and I’m glad I had it to pull out of my kit.

Plan B
So, Plan A had gone awry and we had a choice. Welcome to Egypt!

Bassem could drop us off at Mona’s (Bill’s sister/Bassem’s Mom) or we could go with him to Mariam’s (his fiancee). This caused a slight frisson for me. All that hurried gift fritzing was immediately rendered useless.  The five gift bags settled around my feet in the car would do me no good.  To boot, I’d have to continue carrying them around until I could deliver them to the appropriate recipients.

I also had another dilemma. Egyptian protocol suggests the appropriate moment for gift-giving is the first time you see the donee. You get a pass at the airport with those who pick you up, but after that you should greet people with their gift the first time you see them.  I desperately wanted to run back into the hotel and trade my Mirette family gifts for whichever would be right for wherever we ended up going.  That wasn’t possible, because we were already out on the street and even by the measure of Egyptian time, we needed to hustle.

The time crunch was creeping up on us, because the Easter Luncheon was scheduled before too long.  So it was decided we’d go to Mariam’s and save Bassem from having to stop by his parent’s house to drop us off and then pick us back up.
So, off we went!

I wasn’t too worried about the gifting thing. I would have preferred to show up with something, but we’d hosted the Ghaly’s at Christmas and exchanged wonderful gifts. I sort of had a deposit of goodwill in the Egyptian gifting bank with them. I want you to know they are delightfully gracious people who would not have cared whether we ever gave them a gift at all, but I was trying my best not to drop any Egyptian balls.

The Excitement Builds

Going to Egypt under any circumstances is a pretty exciting adventure, but going for a wedding explodes the thrill factor. Seeing Bassem having his mani/pedi got the wedding juices flowing, but arriving at the bride’s family’s apartment turned that flow into a gushing fountain.

The bride’s parents were thrilled to see us and in true Egyptian fashion starting bringing out food. Homemade cheesecake, cookies from a wedding shower, various pastries, cupcakes, you name it – even though we were saying, “No thank you. We had a late breakfast. No thank you. We’re only here for a minute. No thank you. We don’t want you to go to any trouble,” the whole time.

Also appearing in the Ghaly living room was the bride, a huge pink bag full of wedding dress and luggage for the honeymoon. As I feared, we were presented with a beautiful gift, a spray of decorated chocolates adorned with Easter decorations. Her parents insisted that they were treating us to a dinner boat cruise later in the trip and as we headed out the door, we were forced to take the decorated wedding cookies from the shower. I love Egyptians!

Look guys! Sat 7!

One side note. The TV was on in the apartment, not that anyone was paying it any attention.  Since I volunteer with Global Heart Ministries and they create Christian programming for satellite broadcast in Central Asia and the Middle East, I couldn’t help peeking to see what they were watching.  Sure enough, the tv was tuned to one of the channels which airs our programs. We are not broadcast in Egypt, because our shows aren’t produced in Arabic (yet), but I was thrilled to see the Ghaly’s were watching our channel.

We loaded up and headed to the hotel.  That time in the car with the wedding dress in my lap, the undelivered gifts around my feet and my armload of chocolates from the Ghaly’s is one favorite memories of the trip.  It perfectly captured my time in Egypt – running late on Egyptian time and executing Plan B, but loving every minute of it.

Back at the hotel I had to hustle.  I had all of about half an hour to fluff myself up and get ready for the next event.  That meant shuffling more gifts.  Since the party was honoring the bride and groom, I couldn’t deliver any of the other presents, but I did need to get the wedding gift ready.  A driver was scheduled to pick us up and while the rest of the country might be on Egyptian time, the drivers were prompt.

I’ve rambled on for long enough now. Come back next week for the Bridal Luncheon.

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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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Filed under Accommodations, Attractions, DESTINATIONS, International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, Travel Planning

What’s Planned vs. What Happens

TRAVEL THERE: LIVING ON EGYPTIAN TIME

Time is both my ally and my enemy.  I like having something that divides my day into neat little pieces.  If I look at my clock at 3:30 AM then I know I can go back to sleep.  If I arrive at a destination at the appropriate time, it’s a little victory I can savor in this world of frustrations.  However, those neat little pieces don’t always fit the crazy life I live.  I sit down at the computer to write and a day is gone before I even realize it and rarely have I accomplished what I hoped.  In Egypt the concept of time is a whole ‘nother matter>

The Plan

One of my priorities at this point in the trip was to quit carrying around all the gifts and get them to their appropriate recipients.  The last thing I wanted was for something to get lost, broken or otherwise damaged, before I put it in the hands of the donee – especially those all important bottles of scotch.

As I mentioned last week, Bassem was going to pick up his bride, and suggested we spend some time with family over at Mirette’s.  That would reduce my load by five presents.  I was glad for the opportunity to do that, but I was also looking forward to meeting her twins – teenagers who have been my friends on Facebook for a long time, but I’d never met in person.

So after we saw Bassem in the salon, I hurried back to the room to fix up the gift bags for Mirette’s family.  That took more fritzing around than it sounds like it should, since I had to unpack everything, sort through it, match it up to the gift bag it was meant for and adorn it with tissue and bows.  Though it made us a little behind schedule, it was only by a few minutes and we were on Egyptian time.

Egyptian Time

If an Egyptian tells you he’ll meet you at 9 AM, I suggest you ask him if that is real time or Egyptian time.  If it’s Egyptian time, then you might be cooling your heels for a couple hours or you might actually have to wait until bokra (tomorrow).  Don’t be afraid to ask.  They know how they are.  And here’s a further warning, like the Mexican manana, there’s a silent “or maybe never” inferred in the word.

So, while I was a few American minutes late to the lobby with my bags of gifts, I was right on time by Egyptian standards, but this is also the point where the plans went awry.  It seems Mirette was not home, because she had been recruited for a final wedding errand.

Kudos to Bassem’s sisters Mirette and Maggie.  Without them there would have been no wedding.  A wedding coordinator was hired, but titles can be a fluid thing in Egypt and she was more of a florist, so Mirette and Maggie filled the gap.  Just to make things more interesting, it was a holiday weekend and the wedding coordinator/florist was out of town.  We were left to the whims of the people she had convinced to stand in for her.  Every other moment she was calling and delegating yet another wedding errand to the bride and groom, who in turn found someone else, usually Mirette or Maggie to take care of it.  That Bassem actually got married rather than murdered is a kind of miracle.

My first few hours in Egypt I had managed to stay on American time, but before they served me my first lunch, that was over.  I was now on Egyptian time.  Set you clocks for next week and join me for a little fun with the bride and groom.

 

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Good Morning Cairo

Hookah Anyone?

TRAVEL THERE: MY FAVORITE THING AT THE FAIRMONT HELIOPOLIS

My favorite thing at the Fairmont wasn’t a thing at all.  It was Ahmed, the waiter in the Le Marche Cafe.  Le Marche was my favorite place for breakfast during the whole trip.  Having to face down a buffet every morning actually gets pretty old.  Le Marche was a little a la carte cafe and while the food was good, Ahmed was marvelous!

Breakfast Not Included

Breakfast-included is kind of an Egyptian thing, but since the Fairmont is so Americanized, you could make breakfast-excluded reservations.  And this is a good place to tell you, it is very Americanized.  Except for a few decor items and the over-abundance of Arab-looking staff you could be in a hotel in Middle America for all you could tell from the interior surroundings.

For some folks that’s a recommendation, but not so much for me.  I love my American creature comforts, but I also like them to come in an exotic package if at all possible.  Our next hotel will do just that, but let’s get back to breakfast.

Before we headed downstairs, I dutifully perused one of those huge leather-covered tomes I’d hidden away from us the night before.  With it I got a feel for breakfast possibilities.  Here’s a rundown from the hotel’s website:

Dining choices at Fairmont Heliopolis are truly endless that varies from Lebanese favorites at Al Dabké, genuine Egyptian cuisine at Egyptian Night, authentic Thai delicacies at Lan Tania, modern Chinese specialties at Noble House, authentic Mexican cuisine and fantastic margarita’s at Maria’s, classic Italian cuisine with a modern twist at Leonardo, All-day dining at My Kind of Place, the freshest sushi and sashimi at Saki Sushi Lounge, Indian cuisine at Raj, chill-out outdoor venue at Pizza bar, contemporary international cuisine at Aqua E Luce, French patisserie at Le Marché, fast dining style at Marilyn and pool bar serving light snacks at Blue Lagoon Bar.  

My reading told me we’d end up at Le Marche, but we were having a lazy, late morning, so I wasn’t opposed to browsing the lobby.  We walked past Le Marche and saw My Kind of Place, which had a sign announcing, “Breakfast Performing Here.”  I certainly wasn’t looking for dancing eggs and the sight of a buffet didn’t seem tempting.  Price being one barrier and the number of upcoming breakfast buffets being the next.

Marilyn’s was a Marilyn-Monroe-Themed cafe, but it looked closed right then.  We saw the Thai restaurant, the Mexican Restaurant, the Italian Place and some of the others, all waiting for dinner time.  Continuing through the lobby we happened on Aqua E Luce on the Towers side of the hotel.  They didn’t have a sign telling us breakfast was performing, but there was a buffet, which by the way did seem a little more inviting than the one over in My Kind of Place, if you are ever interested.

We kept on walking and found the Towers Pool.  It had a Pizza Bar and lots of hookah equipment.  Before I left Egypt, I also discovered it was the location for their Egyptian Night, but that story is for another day.  We began to re-trace our steps and found our way to Le Marche, just as I had anticipated, but I hadn’t imagined there would be an Ahmed!

Le Marche – ask for Ahmed!

Le Marche Cafe

Le Marche has a pastry counter filled with delectable treats and we were salivating over them when we were approached by Ahmed.  We confessed to be overwhelmed by our breakfast choices and Bill asked him if there was a menu.  Ahmed and Bill were soon swapping stories in Arabic as I drooled on my own.  Ahmed ushered us to a seat and continued his banter with Bill.

Bill suggested we share one of the croissant sandwiches with turkey and while I really wanted one of those humongous pastries, I acquiesced and asked for the bonus of a Coke Zero.  Bill isn’t much of buying beverages in restaurants, but we had come down without our water bottle, so I got my Coke Zero.  This was treat, not only because it was a splurge to get a restaurant soda, but because most of Egypt has Diet Coke, not Coke Zero and while I’d prefer a Diet Dr Pepper, I prefer Coke Zero to Diet Coke.

Ahmed was polite, solicitous and not at all inappropriate, but he should have just set down at our table.  He and Bill became fast friends in about two minutes.  The two of them chatted throughout the meal.  When we got the croissant sandwich it was delicious and plenty for two.  The conversation was so friendly I was concerned that I might be sitting most of the day.

The Rest of the Hotel

When breakfast was over, we headed out to check out the balance of the hotel.  We found the gift shop, laundry and offices.  Then we found out way out to the primary pool complex, which was extensive.  There were a number of pools, a hookah cafe, indoor squash court and clay tennis courts.  We found a pretty nice playground and gave the fitness center and spa a thorough inspection.  High marks on all counts, including the friendly staff.

We looked at our watches and realized time was flying.  Bill contacted the groom, who was in the salon getting a mani/pedi.  He was about to head over to his bride’s home to transport her to the hotel, but he offered to drop us off at his sister’s place.  That sounded good to me, because I was ready to quit carrying around gifts and start delivering them.

Come back next week for the fun!

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