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Trip Report!

London
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Trip Report!

My boyfriend and I returned from our ten day holiday in Luxor in Cairo a couple of weeks ago – apologies for not writing a report sooner but work has been hectic!

We had a fantastic time – I had been before, but my boyfriend hadn’t – and it was great to have a mix of culture and relaxing.

We started off in Cairo and stayed in the Concorde in Dokki for two nights – warning: take note from the cheap prices – you get what you pay for!! As we were only sleeping there though (in single beds pushed together..) it didn’t really bother us for those two nights. Stick to coffee at breakfast – enough said. We had arranged a driver from the taxi company who took us from the airport to take us About in Cairo as we only had one full day there, but I’ve got to say it was quite an irritating experience! Firstly he wouldn’t take us anywhere to get our money changed even though I knew the places that were open (he knew best apparently) and then insisted on the papyrus ‘museum’ – grr! Following our polite refusal to buy anything he was in a bad mood for the rest of the day, especially as I put my foot down on the visit to the perfume ‘museum’. He then took us ‘directly’ to the pyramids – which actually meant to his mate’s stable – ah! After refusing to get on a horse/donkey/calesh we just walked away to the ticket office and walked up to the pyramids ourselves! Although it was fab to see the pyramids and sphinx I was amazed at how much worse the hassle had become since my visit 6 years ago – it got so ridiculous that we just left rather than waiting around to be able to go inside one of them, it seemed that being a young couple we were attracting ALL if the attention and I really couldn’t face it! So, we went back and found our charming driver and asked to be taken to change money – no, apparently all still closed! So on arrival at the Khan I was amazed when within 5 minutes I had found a bank myself and sorted it all out. We had a great time in the market – I bought some beautiful metal lamps and found the ‘hassle’ quite funny – I got called movie star quite a lot which was hilarious! We had lunch in El Husein Square and headed back to the hotel to have a rest. We ate in Felfela in the evening which was delicious and went for a drink in the Windsor hotel which was lovely.

We got the train to Luxor the next day which unfortunately took 12 hours instead of 9, but the views of Egypt on the way were worth it. We stayed at the Jolie Ville and I absolutely loved it! The infinitly pool – amazing; gardens – amazing; people - lovely. What a place – and it really is an oasis away from the noise and constant interaction which was nice at times. We’re not really resort people, so definitely couldn’t have stayed there for the whole time and not ventured out – although the food seemed ok from the buffet I wouldn’t want to eat it more than a couple of times as it was all quite average. We ate out in Luxor at different Egyptian places and had drinks in the evening at bars on the Nile – hotel drinks too expensive for us!!

Whilst in Luxor we did a tour to VoK, VoQ, Hatshepsut (and obligatory alabaster factory!) all arranged through Jolleys who were great. Something I will say though is that although our guide was really enthusiastic and very knowledgeable you do hear some complete nonsense from some of them (I have an Egyptology degree), so don’t believe everything you hear! We also went on a balloon trip which was absolutely fantastic – even though I was pretty ill that day and it meant a 3.30am wake up call, it was definitely worth it. The fact we landed in someone’s vegetable patch was quite disconcerting (for them) and I was a bit upset that the balloon pilot didn’t even apologise, but there’s not much you can do if you don’t speak the language.. the other tourists in the balloon were pretty awful though in shoving their cameras in children’s’ faces like they were in a zoo or something – shocking. We also did our own trip to Luxor temple and went to the fair trade shop for all our presents – this place is a must.

My main point about Luxor is that this holiday really changed my view on humanity – the way I think about things and how lucky I am to be British. Yes, the hassle gets really annoying and sometimes quite intimidating, but we had the opportunity to talk to some really honest, sincere Egyptians who felt able to talk about their situations and why things are as they are. We generally felt there was an underlying resentment towards tourists in a lot of the hassle / remarks and I believe from talking to people that this is down to the way tourists are valued to much more than the ‘common man’ by the Egyptian government. I’d resent tourists too if I lived under a regime that didn’t allow me to speak out and experience proper human rights. The people we met and connected with really changed out perception on the ‘hassle’ and really made us realise just how lucky we are to have been born in Britain. There’s a lot of injustice in Egypt and I felt that by being there as a tourist I was adding to the problem. Not that people shouldn’t travel - obviously, but it’s changed the way I think and live my life, so I’m grateful for that – and am going to work towards providing positive help where I can.

On a lighter note, we realised that by being funny to anyone hassling you relentlessly cools the situation and they go away – very humorous people!

We returned to Cairo by day train again and this time it was not so great. I was ‘manhandled’ by a young guy whilst getting to my seat which was pretty horrible and the response of the guards to my boyfriend who asked them to do something was derision – great. They did go off and look for the guy, but obviously didn’t find him, but we were both really grateful to the Egyptians who tried to help. By the way, the whole holiday I covered my shoulders, wore leggings and tried to be as respectful as I could, and in general I felt this paid off – even women in Cairo approached me and said hello which I thought was really nice. Some tourists were ridiculous though – there were some women at the pyramids wearing swimwear!! Added to this incident a mouse came out of my arm rest! Excellent!

Apologies for how long this has turned out – but I felt there were some things that were really important to say. I have learnt so much about other people and myself and am so glad we went on this holiday – don’t just go around the world and take what you want, have a bit of a deeper look and you’ll get more from it that you would imagine.

Liverpool, United...
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1. Re: Trip Report!

Thanks for your interesting report. Glad that you got the chance to talk to people, real locals, as the touts, shop workers in the touristic markers, camel owners and not the typical Egyptian and it is sad when people imagine that everyone in Egypt is of that type only.

With the hassle in the markets you were right that having a joke with them can change things around, you need to go into the markers with a new attitude, and don't forget that we British (yes I am British) like to be left in peace and our nature does not usually make us want to talk so much when shopping ! another tactic I use is to pretend that I cannot see the person who is trying to get my attenion, and they very soon give up - I am really good at it, practice makes perfect :)

Do not want to get political, but standards of living in Egypt are very low for a large percentage of the population, and life is tough, with no security at all. However, as you saw people try to get buy, are honest, friendly and pleasant even when they do have problems, and strong religious belief and family ties do help and keep the "system" of life going.

Glad that coming back to Egypt was a special experience for you.

Regards

Wendy

Copenhagen
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2. Re: Trip Report!

What an excellent post, Lors. I agree with you in everything you said above. And it is nice to see an honest report of the good, the not so good and the bad sides of Egypt. Well done.

Louise

Maryland, USA
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87 posts
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3. Re: Trip Report!

No need for apologies. All you wrote about was important. Moreover, the fact you kept an open mind to understand things and avoided righteous stereotyping, despite some rather frustrating or unpleasant experiences, was a valuable reminder to us tourists. The incident of how your fellow balloon riders behaved with their cameras certainly paints a shameful picture of the ugly tourist. It reminds me to remain careful and polite and ask permission before taking photos. Your application of humor when hassled by touts and salespeople was a good reminder too. I used this approach to diffuse situations in the markets in Turkey, and I am happy to see this approach can work in Egypt as well.

Kuala Lumpur
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4. Re: Trip Report!

Hi Lors. Thanks for taking the time to write such a heartfelt report. I'll be going to Egypt for the first time this December with my husband and your report has given me some great insights. Getting a bit worried about the hassling, so I've been mentally preparing myself for this. Thanks once again for your report.

Edmonton, Canada
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5. Re: Trip Report!

Hi Lors,

Excellent report. Could you please tell me more about the fair trade shop in Luxor? Where is it located at, hours, prices, hassle etc.

Thanks.

6. Re: Trip Report!

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London
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7. Re: Trip Report!

Hello,

The fair trade shop is excellent - very small, but they sell everything you could want to take back home, with the knowledge that you are giving something back to the communities who make them.

The shop is very near to Luxor Temple, on the main road that runs along behind it 9Sharia al Karnak). we did have a bit of a problem actually spotting it though as it's so small and not very well advertised, but I think it was near a cafe called snack Time.

We bought some gorgeous cotton scarves, glass bowls, candle holders and some really cute little camel and donkey toys for the children in our family - all have gone down very well (certainly no tat in there!).

The women who work in there are also very friendly and seemed really grateful that people were taking a genuine interest in what they were buying.

I'm not sure what the opening hours are (presumably most of the day), but if I find the leaflet I got from there I'll post some more info.

Thanks!

Laura

Alexandria, Egypt
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884 posts
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8. Re: Trip Report!

Thanks for the great report Lors. I think you summed it all up perfectly!

It now appears that I have to apologise to my mum though - she once claimed to have had a mouse peeping at her on the train and I laughed at her. Told her she was seeing things!

Liverpool, United...
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9. Re: Trip Report!

Found this via google for the shop in Luxor:

http://www.egyptfairtrade.org/index.htm

Also they have a shop in Cairo, Zamalek, here is a link :

http://www.fairtradeegypt.org/default.asp

For anyone who is interested in real Egyptian handcrafts (rather than the typical items at Khan Khalili, and supporting crafts people, you may also like to visit "Khan Misr Touloun", it does not advertise itself as a charity but the owner Madam Maryse does sell items from all over Egypt, and for me this is the best craft shop I have seen in Egypt :

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g294201-c67444/Cairo:…

She has been supporting local handcrafts in Egypt for about 12 years, and provides a perfect shopping experience, with fixed prices and a very wide variety of products.

Regards

Wendy

Edmonton, Canada
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41 posts
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10. Re: Trip Report!

Hi Lors,

Could you please tell us where the fair trade shop is in Luxor, prices, hours, items they sell etc.

Thanks