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Quality of guides( a general query)

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Weymouth, United...
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Quality of guides( a general query)

Has anyone ever had a really bad guide ?. I know theres lots of praise on the forums for certain guides but i haven't seen much criticism ?.

The only reason I ask is that when I did my first Nile cruise I had a female guide who was shocking. Didn't understand a word she said and she was far more interested in cadging cigarettes from other members of my group than actually doing her job. I recall going to Karnak with her and, in the space of about an hour she probably spoke for about 5 minutes and the rest of the time she spent either sitting down watching us or just walking away leaving us following behind without much clue as to what we were looking at!(one reason I studied Egyptology..lol..I am more informed if it happens again..lol)

But has anyone else had bad experiences ? Did you hire these guides yourself or were they attached to certain Nile cruisers or arranged by tour operators ?


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1. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

Well, this could end up being both long and longwinded. But you sorta asked for it, right ;o)

LET ME STRESS AT ONCE that I have met some extremely knowledgeable Egyptian guides along the way, but my Gosh, they are few and far between.

I've met more who simply talk crap! I've heard so much goobledegook-nonsens, pseudo-Egyptology and $h*t that you would be shocked!

Let me give you some examples:

"It means good luck/luck in love to run around the large granite scarab in the Karnak Temple."

Err. Nope. It doesn't. Not from an Egyptological perspective.

"The ankh-sign is a key"

No, its not. Its probably a sandal-strap and has nothing what so ever to do with a key.

"The scarab meant good luck to the Ancient Egyptians"

No, it meant being born again (which of course could be called good luck, okay, okay)

And much more. Those above sentences are mild compared to other things.

There is a book on the market in Egypt written by an Egyptian guide Called Mohammed Ata and its called Egypt from past to present. Its being advertized as though its written by an Egyptologist, but its so full of mistakes that you almost fall down laughing at it's absurdities, like for instance how the floor in Tutankhamun's tomb was made of radioactive stones and much more along those lines. And its comes in many languages although it is an utter disgrace to you, me and all other visitors to Egypt who can be led into thinking that is has any value at all. If that is what they learn at guide school, well, I must say, I am SO NOT IMPRESSED!

Well, I am working myself into a frenzy here and I fear I will write something which I will regret, so I better stop now ;o)

But I don't use guides when I am in Egypt, not for telling me things about Egypt's history etc because they are often (not always) not worth it, except for handling practicalities. Sorry. I actually wish that they would learn in guide-school to say: "That, I don't know, but I'll get back to you as soon as I have had a chance to look it up" instead of making up nonsense.

Alexandria, Egypt
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2. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

Glad you said all that LouiseAl!

Totally agree, again coming from an Egyptological standpoint, I have heard all the same fabrications and more.

I think the problem is that a lot of the visitors to Egypt gauge whether a guide is good based on the amount of talking a guide does at every single site - but how much of this does the common visitor take in?? Not much at all - and they probably only remember the good bits like running round the giant scarab 7 times.

A good guide will speak at a reasonable speed, not as if they're trying to get a whole thesis into a ten minute speech.

A good guide will keep to the basics - because most people that are using a guide are first or second time visitors and are normally fainting from fatigue and heat and too busy wondering if they feel sick or ill.

My biggest pet peeve about Egyptian guides is when they keep asking the question "Why?" but don't give anyone chance to answer and carry on as if they never asked at super speed and answer their own question. Does it tell them to do that in that "guide Book" Louise??

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3. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

ROFL, Egyptian Goddess. It has annoyed me to no end as well, the "examination" of guests all the time. Think its so darn arrogant to do that!

And no, the book doesn't say so, but have a look for it in Alex, you may be able to get it. But be prepared, its rubbish!

Spruce Grove, Canada
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4. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

My goodness..we must have really lucked out on our guides. My husband is a serious student of ancient history and thought our guides in Cairo, Luxor and Alexandria did a tremendous job in discussing, confirming and explaining what we were seeing. They took their time explaining, showed enthusiasm about what they were doing and would answer all questions without making us appear "dumb". And yes..they did have a sense of humour. Knowing we were married 39 years our Luxor guide did suggest we may want to walk around the scarab to ensure another 39 years, but did not suggest this had anything to do with ancient Egypt. We did stand back and chuckle at the dozens of people trying to do just that. I know that the tour company we used interviews and screens the guides they contract, so maybe this reflects the high integrity and professionalism of Royal Egypt Tours to ensure their clients have have top quality, educated, legitimate and professional guides. We would not have learned half as much as we did if we had attempted to do all of our first holiday in Egypt on our own.

Adelaide, Australia
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5. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

Same here Funsun60. I have only exprienced good guides and 2 absolute stand outs in my connections in and with Egypt. I don't doubt that there are guides in Egypt that are not up to standard but I seem to have been lucky not to have crossed paths with them. Many of these "newby" guides have only come through fast tracked Guide School and have not undergone the rigorous study culminating in university degrees as their predessors would have done.

London, United...
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6. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

Hi folks,

Got to agree wholeheartedly with Louise and EG on this one.

Yes, there are some very good guides out there, but I would say it is 1 in 10 at the most.

I would never recommend anyone to pay for a guide exclusively, because the chances of them getting a really good one is minimal.

The trouble is, 99% of visitors to Egypt, don't know enough about the archeology, the artifacts and the history, to know that the 'guide' they have got is not knowledgable, but is merely reciting parrot fashion, a 'guide school' script.

That, thrown in with the same 'guide school scripted' corny jokes and everybody thinks they are wonderful.

When you realise that every guide uses the same format, tells the same corny jokes in the same places, then the whole thing starts to look a little shallow.

It is not until Egypt becomes a passion and you start to study it all yourself, that you realise the inaccuracies of what a lot of these so called 'guides' are telling their unsuspecting tour groups.

I imagine by now there will be loads of people reading this, jumping up and down screaming 'Our Mohamed wasn't like that, he was brilliant'.

I'm not out to upset anybody with this and sincerely hope I don't. But it is my considered opinion based on years and years of experience of these 'guides'.

One thing I will admit that they are all very, very good at and that is seperating people from their hard earned cash.

Don't get me started on those bl**dy cruise ship envelopes . . .

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7. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

This is a great thread! Thanks, Obelisk.

Well, I've posted numerous times about my superb guide Mohamed Elshaer. On the other extreme, I had a guide named Marwan in Alexandria who kept saying that Cleopatra, Julius Caesar & Marc Anthony lived in the 1st Century after Christ. When I tried to correct her she became offended & argued her position. By the way, this was a private tour (just my daughter & me), so it's not like I was challenging her authority in front of a group.

But my all-time worst tour guide experience was not in Egypt. At the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, our Palestinian guide used the tour as an excuse to deliver a passionate rant of anti-Israeli propaganda.

In my hometown of Philadelphia, there is a new requirement that tour guides take a test & get licensed. Apparently, too many of our guests were leaving town with the mistaken impression that the man on top of City Hall is Ben Franklin (it's really William Penn).

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8. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

Bellydancer is right in that a lot of new guides has been fast-tracked through a "guide-school", learning virtually nothing, whereas other guides who has been in the business a bit longer has a better education, though not as Egyptologists. I know they say they are, but the large and vast majority is most definitely not. There may be one here and there with a degree, I don’t want to dispute that.

But not being and Egyptologist doesn't mean they don't know a whole lot about Egypt, ancient as well as modern, or that they are not pleasant persons, because obviously a majority of the people we meet along the way are generally pleasant. It doesn’t mean they are not helpful and unable to handle all the minor bumps in the road with hotels, tipping, transportation etc that we all experience one way or the other. It doesn’t mean they are unable to guide a tour. Of course not. But that doesn’t make them Egyptologists or Archaeologists, no matter how much they claim to be that. (And being an Egyptologist is not equal to automatically being a good guide either!!!)

Its not that I think the only way is DYI. In fact, I often recommend getting a guide or buying a package which often includes a guide. Its easy, things are taken care of, you don’t have to worry too much about all the practicalities and yes, hopefully the guide is both friendly and knowledgeable.

Weymouth, United...
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9. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

Wow, thanks folks thats really useful to know. Actually the more I travel the more I realise how diverse guides are but I guess amongst any given number you will get the good, the bad and the ugly!.

10. Re: Quality of guides( a general query)

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