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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.