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Egypt - Travel AFTER the Egyptian Revolution of Jan 25, 2011

Egypt - Travel AFTER the Egyptian Revolution of Jan 25, 2011

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Old Jul 21, 11, 11:22 pm
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Egypt - Travel AFTER the Egyptian Revolution of Jan 25, 2011

Having recently booked an Aeroplan Mini RTW, I spent a lot of time on Flyertalk. The research was invaluable and I found myself wanting to give back to the community.

I recently went to Egypt after the Revolution. I had a large amount of concern booking this trip. Should I believe the Reuters news reports that rioting and anarchy was everywhere in Cairo? At the time of our travels in May 2011, demonstrations were erupting in Syria, Libya was upside down, and Yemen looked as though it was about to fall. There was still a travel advisory up by the Government of Canada & USA recommending against non-essential travel to Egypt, although the British Government had recently cancelled their travel warnings. I couldn’t find anything on Flyer Talk about Post Revolution travel to Egypt , so it seemed fitting that my very first Trip Report be about travel in Egypt after the Revolution.

Egypt Air IST-CAI-SSH

Our starting point for this trip was Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul Turkey (IST). We had booked flights on Egypt Air from IST to Cairo (CAI), connecting on to Sharm el Shiekh (SSH).





Knowing that alcohol was very expensive in Islamic counties, I tried to hit up the duty free store in IST with the intent to carry in wine duty free. They wouldn’t sell to me given that we had a connecting flight in CAI (and another security checkpoint to pass through). I tried to have our bags short checked to CAI, but the check in counter at IST wouldn’t go for it. Sadly, I resigned passing by the duty free in IST, in hopes that I might find wine somewhere else. “Buy in Egypt” everyone told me.

We headed down to the smaller aircraft gates downstairs at ground level at IST. We boarded a bus for the trip out to the post to board the Egypt Air plane. The aircraft was decorated in the new color scheme since the last time I had visited Egypt in 2007. The interior was spartan, but they still wished us En-Shallah (god willing) that we would make it to Cairo on the flight safety announcement. We flew in economy, so not much to report here in the way of photos.

The flight to Cairo was uneventful, although the sight of the Nile Delta on the in flight screens certainly got me excited.

Once on the ground, the effects of the Egyptian protests could immediately be seen. Stacks of wide body aircraft were sitting around at stands at the Cairo airport, just waiting to be used. The tourists flying into Egypt were definitely down, and made me wonder if I had made the right decision for us.



We had obtained our Visa’s in advance in Canada and passed through immigration. We were led up to the Domestic floor. I noticed a duty free shop there, but approximately half of the shelves were bare. There was no alcohol there. The airport was almost totally deserted.

We boarded the Egypt Air flight to Sharm el Sheikh which was on an Embraer 170 today. Egypt Air used to have almost hourly service between CAI and SSH, but this had been reduced to about 4 flights a day. I had read that the scenery on the flight between CAI and SSH was interesting, and it even with the haze, it didn’t disappoint.



Upon arriving at SSH, we parked at the ramp and took the bus to the terminal. One thing that I love about Africa is that most of the deplaning occurs at stands, and you get a breath of fresh air immediately at the door.

Once we got into the terminal, all the bags were put out. Unfortunately there was no sign of ours. After a few minutes, I realized that our bags were behind a glass wall on the international side of the terminal. It turns out that we were supposed to clear customs in Sharm (having cleared immigration in Cairo). The only problem was that no one told us that, it was different that checking other belts in the same hall- this was an entirely other side of the airport. We flagged down an airport security guard, who flagged down another guy with the keys, and they let us through to the international side.

After Customs, at the exit, I found an “Egypt Air Duty Free Shop”. The Egyptian government runs duty free shops and allows foreigners to purchase 3 bottles of wine within 4 days of arrival in Egypt. I quickly bought 3 marked bottles and they recorded it by pen on my entry Visa.



When we planned this trip, I wanted us to stay a bit away from the masses and strip of Sharm, so I found us a resort up in Dahab, which is about 75 minutes north of Sharm by car. I booked the hotel car, and arrived uneventfully.

LE MERDIEN DAHAB

We arrived to a beautiful almost new resort. Ms World Traveler 73 is Starwood Preferred Gold, but there was no complimentary upgrade offered. This was despite it being very obvious that the hotel was probably 15% occupied. I saw maybe 15 guests over a 4 day stay in a resort with 200 + rooms. The place has a wonderful view and the rooms are of good standard. The real hook was the price – we stayed for 4 nights for about $110 USD an night. My impression was that in Egypt, you got exactly what you paid for.
























Last edited by worldtraveller73; Nov 1, 14 at 11:48 pm
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Old Jul 21, 11, 11:26 pm
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Part II

One of the draws of this place was that it had snorkeling available from shore. The lifeguards actually prevented people from walking into the beach. We brought our own snorkeling set (which we had bought at the Costco in Maui, Hawaii) and saw some lovely fish.

I was on high alert for jellyfish as there were several floating around, and the lion fish (circa The Naked Gun movie from the 1980’s!), which could sting and not be pleasant to deal with! The mountain views from behind the resort were also fantastic, as well as overlooking the country of Saudi Arabia when we sun tanned.

We had a few nights in Dahab, which was a 5 – 7 minute cab ride ($5 USD) from the hotel. I had brought some USD with me, in addition with several $1 singles for the baksheesh that is so common in this country. Dahab was beautiful in a rustic, unrefined way. There was a quiet natural beauty, that made it seem serene at the same time.











The restaurants in Dahab cost us about $20 for a 3-course meal in the tourist area. There were a few bottle shops in town, and you had to BYOB (no corkage fee). Dinner out with Egyptian wine was about $25 with taxes and alcohol.



While we were in Dahab, I learned on CNN that Osama Bin Laden had been killed. Did this have an effect our security concerns in Cairo? Did it have any affect? Dahab appeared unfettered by this news, and there was no mention of sign of it around the mellowed out town.

Soon it was time to return to Cairo. The news of daily protests had died down since the boiling point of the Jan 25 revolution. Egypt Air was kind enough to treat an Air Canada Star Alliance Gold with a free drink voucher, in absence of any lounge in SSH.



CAIRO - Fairmont Nile City

On the approach, I couldn’t resist taking some photos. The approach into CAI is probably the most exciting approach I have ever been on. The sand, contrasted with the low-rise towers is so unique.



Upon arrival, I looked for the “well marked” taxi counters but couldn’t find any, except for some pop up displays in the baggage hall with the recommended prices to town. We ended up in an old Peugeot with a driver with broken English as we tore into town.

We arrived at the Fairmont Nile City Cairo where we checked in and were upgraded (having only basic Fairmont’s President’s Club status) to a Nile View Room. The property was probably 2 years old and well furnished. It was situated on the Corniche el Nil, prime river front location. The back of the hotels were slums, which you could peek a boo through the hotel windows. The room was about $150 USD for an Advance Purchase (no cancellation), but Fairmont did not charge our credit card until we checked out.





Cairo after the revolution was a different city compared to my last visit. It was hard to explain it, there was desperation, but a sense of renewal and pride. Egyptians that I spoke to were very proud of the “peaceful” revolution.



On the ground at Tahrir Square, it appeared normal, except for signs on the side by the American University in Cairo. Most of the protest camps that we saw on Al-Jazzera or CNN were gone. The American University has a fabulous bookshop and I picked up a wonderful book on Egyptology.





We headed out to the National Museum. Upon exiting we noticed that the building next to us (beside the old Nile Hilton) had been completed burnt out. I later learned that these were the political offices of Hosni Mubarak.



The Arcadia Mall next to the Fairmont was also burnt out and looted.



FAIRMONT DAY TOUR

I booked a day tour through the Fairmont hotel. It was $350USD for a private car for the day, an outrageous price for a day tour. However, I didn’t want to deal with an independent agency, and I wanted to be assured of someone who spoke English and Arabic. I also didn’t want to haggle or be bothered with negotiating a date rate with independent taxis or getting side tours to carpet factories. For that, we were promised a private guide, a driver and a customizable tour.

On the day of our tour, a brand new beautiful Mercedes E class was made ready for us. It was stocked with Egyptian newspapers, Fairmont bottled water, and a sunroof for the back seat. It was an experience to be riding in this type of luxury amid some of the more run down cars in Cairo. We did get quite a few looks as we crawled around amid gasoline fumes, honking and 30 km/h traffic. I felt like the child in Empire of the Sun riding around Shanghai in a Rolls Royce as the world passed beside the glass.



Our full day tour took us to the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx (with lunch at the Oberoi Mena House) and onto the step pyramid at Saquarra. One thing that I noticed is that the attractions were completely deserted. There were a mere 2 tour buses at the Pyramids (I think there were about 20 the last time I was there), and almost nobody at Saquarra. It was absolutely surreal to have these wonders to ourselves, away from all the crowds. The pictures tell all about the lack of people here.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Nov 2, 14 at 10:13 am
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Old Jul 21, 11, 11:28 pm
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PART III

















Our visit to the Khan el Khaili was a reminder of the worlds’ most pushy salesmen around. There were no customers to be found so the store keepers were extra pushy, desperate to most extents for a dollar Outside of the Khan, the city retained still much of it’s charm, and business like atmosphere in the non touristy streets. I was able to buy some Egyptian Revolution stickers for 0.40 cents that most Egyptians proudly display on their cars in town.









We also took the time for a felucca ride. Since there was no one around, we managed a private sail boat similar to the one in the picture here. The Nile at dusk was a lovely way to relax from the chaos of Cairo.



We made our return flight to IST the next day. We took a public taxi from the Fairmont and had our luggage strapped to the roof rack as we crawled back towards CAI.

My closing thoughts are that the city HAS changed after the Egyptian Revolution. It has more of an edge and has lost some of its innocence. Security and volatility takes more of a front stage when you’re out and about. I was checking over my shoulder much more than I expected. Is there a protest around the next corner? Would we be scampering for our lives? ? ?

Having said that, in hindsight, it was a fabulous experience and Ms World Traveler love almost every minute of it. Egypt is one of the better bargains going right now. We had 5 star luxury for a song. The experience of seeing the Pyramids of Giza without a soul will probably a once in a lifetime experience. And although there were signs of the revolution, there wasn’t a feeling like that was at a flash point.

I will return. If you’ve had Egypt on your list, I encourage you all to make the trip when you feel comfortable.

Last edited by worldtraveller73; Nov 2, 14 at 10:23 am
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Old Jul 22, 11, 12:15 am
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Awesome pictures! Thanks!
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Old Jul 22, 11, 12:59 am
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Interesting report from an area that (I completely agree) has changed over the last 6 months.

Shame you didn't get any form of an upgrade with such a small amount of people at Le Meridien, looks like a nice property.
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Old Jul 22, 11, 6:30 am
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great TR!
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Old Jul 23, 11, 4:08 am
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Amazing report!
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Old Jul 23, 11, 5:31 am
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Ms World Traveler 73 is Starwood Preferred Gold, but there was no complimentary upgrade offered. This was despite it being very obvious that the hotel was probably 15% occupied. I saw maybe 15 guests over a 4 day stay in a resort with 200 + rooms. The place has a wonderful view and the rooms are of good standard. The real hook was the price – we stayed for 4 nights for about $110 USD an night. My impression was that in Egypt, you got exactly what you paid for.
Well, my experience is that in Egypt you rarely get what you paid for, more often you get what you've managed to negotiate.
Did you ask for a complimentary upgrade and was straighforward refused?

What I do in Egypt is book the standard room, insert a $20 note in my passport when checking-in and say "gimmie the best room you can ;-) ".
Never dissapointed.
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Old Jul 26, 11, 11:20 am
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Speaking of travel to post-revolutionary countries, when I was flying into Tunis in April, the passport control officer that stamped my passport wasn't wearing any uniform at all. Just jeans and an ugly shirt.

But I guess no one cares in the current situation.
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Old Jul 26, 11, 10:11 pm
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Thank you all for your wonderful comments.

Upon reflection, I do hope that the Egyptian people can get back to when tourists openly visited their country.

Originally Posted by abeyro View Post
Did you ask for a complimentary upgrade and was straighforward refused?

What I do in Egypt is book the standard room, insert a $20 note in my passport when checking-in and say "gimmie the best room you can ;-) ".
Never dissapointed.
In this case, we presented our SPG Gold Card at check in along with our passports.

We did get credit for the room stays with Aeroplan points awarded, but it appeared that the room was pre-assigned. There was strong up sell before hand through email via the Merdien Dahab concierge (upgrade for only $20USD per night!!) but we didn't answer. There was no mention of upgrade upon check in.

Although I think I will try your method next time!
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Old Jul 27, 11, 12:59 am
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I love Egypt.

Great trip report. Thanks for posting.
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Old Jul 27, 11, 10:12 pm
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Great TP!! Very interesting to read. Its funny because twice my partner and I have been booked to go and twice we've been cancelled. The first time was due to the snow that hit london back in november/december and the second was right when all the trouble started....we just wrote it off in the end...but as you say, there must be some great hotel deals at the moment! Might have to look into it again.
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Old Jul 28, 11, 4:21 pm
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Weren't you scared of sharks after what happened in Sharm.

I would be terrified to go into the water. And now you mention jelly fish ++++
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Old Jul 31, 11, 4:19 pm
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Originally Posted by camsean View Post
I love Egypt.

Great trip report. Thanks for posting.
This is not the most well-traveled statement, but I hated Egypt. The majority of people would outright lie to us for their benefit and being of Indian origin, we were treated as second class tourists.

But that's not my point - I agree with camsean; this is a great TR. Thanks very much for posting and hopefully paving the way for large scale tourism to return to Egypt.
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Old Jun 5, 12, 10:49 am
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This is a very nice report. Apprecaite it.
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