Monday, August 25, 2008

Communal Areas at Goubli

On the ground floor we have created a large communal area. There is a lounge where you can escape the rest of the family and relax. We have a library, please free free to leave any books and if you are in the middle of one we don't mind you taking it as long as you have left one in its place.

This is also where we have free WiFi available and we have even provided a desk for you to work at. Our staff will be delighted to serve you traditional Egyptian drinks of tea and coffee. Or you could smoke a shisha.

Lastly we have a wide screen satellite TV area for those important events and programs.

And who is sitting looking important, yes it is the Boss

Goubli the swimming pool photos at last

Yes at last I have got photos of the new pool at Goubli. I wanted to wait until we had all the pool furniture. We got really lucky with that and got a lot of stuff from the New Winter Palace hotel which is being demolished. We had it recovered and that took time. But I am really pleased with the material. The pool area covers all the the back of the property with a shower area and toilet block as well as snack bar and poolside bar.
We are planning to have cold drinks, sandwiches, chips, salads available. As well as crisps, sweets and ice cream. We have planted some shrubs, I asked them to get smelly ones like Jasmine so when they get established it will be really fragrant. But mainly it is an area for sun bathing. In the afternoon you do get shade but I think we will get some umbrellas to complete the picture.

This is the view from the balcony of Out, which is the first balcony floor. Brits would call it the 1st floor but Americans and Egyptians call it the 2nd floor. As you can see the balcony is a gorgeous place to relax on overlooking both the pool and the Nile in the distance. Surrounded by sugar cane fields and farm land yet conveniently close to the ferry and the Valley of Kings and other pharaonic sites. In fact you can see the temple of Hatshepsut from the flats.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Our first guests

Someone wrote on Trip Advisor about being one of first guests and I was looking back at some of those early people. A surprising number are still with us. I say surprising because in those early days we were just a little bit less organised than we are now. I can remember driving to the airport to meet a guest and telling the driver to come back really slowly as when I left the flat there were no windows in it!!!! Bedrooms had beds but that was all. Still Mahmoud fixed it, he always does.

Neil Berry from the UK was the first actual guest to stay at the flats. I am on LinkedIn and very recently we reconnected he wrote such a nice recommendation for the Flats
“Stayed in Flats owned and run by Jane in Luxor. Wonderful place to stay and hosts were very hospitable. My whole family had a wonderful time there and Jane is a helpful and caring host. A holiday with a difference and great value for money - my four year old had more fun in Luxor than EuroDisney!!”

Mike Williams from New Orleans was the 6th guest, I still use the fantastic recommendation he wrote on the Lonely Planet forums in my auto response to Tour Egypt enquiries
“The flat was beyond my expectations !!!!! This place was the best deal in all of Luxor for independent travellers.

You get 3 large bedrooms, large kitchen, large bath with hot water, large living room, and a balcony with the most beautiful view of the lush farms lands and the barren mountains of the "Valley of the Kings".
In the early morning you can watch the balloon flights over the "Valley of the Kings". From the roof top you can get a view of the Nile River. Also, it was just a short walk to the village and the ferry to the east side.
This place is definitely worth staying at. I highly recommend that any independent travellers going to Luxor check out this place.
Jane is very knowledgeable about Egypt, and her husband Mahmoud and his brother Ahmed are available for tours of the area and felucca rides.
The best thing is that it is located in a small village and there are no large hotels as on the East bank.”

Not only that but he was also a customer of Waleed Mohammed in Cairo and was instrumental in get us together. Waleed has been my man in Cairo since then, when Mike came here. Mike was affected by Hurricane Katrina and it was never racking when Waleed and I could not get hold of him for several months. I actually got an American friend to track him down at the hospital he worked in for me. Thank God he was OK but substantial damage was done to his home

My first Japanese guest Rina wrote a fantastic reference some 3 years later to another Japanese lady nervous of coming being independent. Can’t tell you what it said as it was in Japanese :)

Maggie Bowen, Ireland, also came in 2004 and she is another of my LinkedIn recommendation. As a marketing person she gave us some terrific ideas and was also a customer of Waleed.
“If like me you want to get off the beaten track and meet local people but enjoy a little luxury then stay with Jane and her family in Luxor. On the same bank as all the sites you can escape the madness that is Luxor and enjoy five star hospitality. I would recommend them to anyone!”

Next on the list has to come Michael Campbell-Smith who in the words of the Remington advert ‘like the place so much he bought one’ yes Michael is our man on the roof. An adopted member of the family now, he spends his winters in Luxor and was the first person to buy a flat from us.

Ann E is next, she stayed with us for several weeks and recently revisited with her entire family, Keith Jones came on his honeymoon and became such a good friend he supported Mahmoud application for a visitor’s visa to the UK, we stayed with them one night on our trip to the UK in 2006.

Paul T who just recently rebooked, Antonia who did a desert tour with us and recommended us to all in sundry, Richard S who introduced us to Mohammed Ismail and another one who is coming back this autumn. Bob E from Australia who spends at least a month here every spring. Prof Dee Wymer, USA, who came here after a dig in the delta and is a firm Facebook friend. Shareen my big buddy who has moved here. Jackie C who let us do a house swap 2 years later in 2006 and has rebooked yet again this year

All these from our first year of trading 2003/4, thanks to them and from others from subsequent years who have become special friends like my 1000th guests Heidi and group from Finland.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Another Recommendation on Trip Advisor

This new post on Trip Advisor deserves a bit of a plug as Mahmoud gets a mention. He organised the cruise, hot air balloon and trip to Abu Simbel for them. Flats in Luxor is not just about apartments and flats but tours as well. I know he is a bit elusive at times so here is a photo.

We were talking by the pool and they said they had a quote from one of the agents on the Corniche and could we match it. So Mahmoud made a few phone calls and low and behold we had an offer they could not refuse. They were most impressed how easy it was for us to organise this. As I always say if Mahmoud can't fix it, it can't be fixed. Anyway here is what they said, BTW my name is spelt wrong Ashkar lol
Having been a lurker for over a year and just returned home; I wanted to write of our fab time in Egypt. I may go on a bit.

For those of you considering staying on the West Bank, do so. Like all villages they soon know who you are and you are left alone, apart from the offering of taxis to VOK when we were walking back to the flat.

We stayed at Flats in Luxor run by Jane Ashkar and her husband Mahmoud. Our choice of flat was the fourth floor of the original flats and the view from the balcony was to die for. Believe me, drinking a Pimms looking out at the Theban Hills morning or evening was something else. By the way Jane told us that in addition to your duty frees from England as long as you do not exit the airport building, you can buy a further 4 bottles per person upon arrival. Back to the balcony - watching the hot air balloons was fun particularly when my husband watched the balloon of myself and son. Following on from the discussion a while back about various balloon companies, we were booked through one company but ended up making up numbers in another companies balloon so I think they are all much of a muchness.

Apart from having booked a flight to Cairo to spend the day with a cousin and visiting the Giza and Sakkara pyramids plus the museum; we had arranged nothing else before we left. We are fairly independent types. Most of the tombs and temples we had an a/c car and the Kent Weeks book on Luxor treasures that I highly recommend but physically too heavy to take on the day.

We did pick up a boat and travelled up the river to visit Karnak picking up a caleche for the return journey and ending up that days sightseeing with breakfast at the Old Winter Palace.

We also had a lovely evening when Jane's husband Mahmoud (what a fixer) arranged for a service car (They must have known I wanted to have a ride) to take us down to the Nile where a launch took us across to our felucca and ending up with a wonderful Egyptian meal on board.

Let me see what else did we get up to. Oh yes, Jane and Mahmoud arranged for us to experience a three day cruise...request of son...and we had a relaxing!! time travelling down to Aswan on the Solaris. No complaints there, great boat, food hot,service friendly and courteous, rooms clean and a mini balcony. Joined the convoy down to Abu Simbel and the time flew by and didn't take long. AS is a wondrous place.

Our first day we took a donkey ride up into the hills behind Hatshepsut's temple. The views were superb and the chance of looking down on the temple scary but wonderful.

Baksheesh and hassle. You don't get it in the village but what we did sites and the advice is to don't get uptight about it. We smiled but we were firm and there were no hard feelings on either side with the exchanges ending in an enjoy your holiday message.

We didn't experience any stomach problems, thank goodness and took basic precautions ie antisceptic handwash.

I took along the suggested pencils, pens, sweets and notebooks and once I overcame my reticence of physically handing them out; they were much appreciated from helpful temple guardians when I had no small notes to security guards, from the smiley woman in our local, small room supermarket to the village children. I wished I'd started handing them out earlier.

I had arrived with a list of recommended restaurants but we ended up going across to the East Bank twice in two weeks...we found there was no need. There is a burgeoning of small hotels with restaurants on the West Bank. We laughed our way through an evening at Tutankhamun. We ended up with a table groaning under the weight of the food the owner wanted us to try. The view is gorgeous too. The Nile Valley has a great roof top restaurant where the views are astounding - over the shoulder there was Luxor Temple lit up. There is a lane about half way up the village that leads to El Nakhil..again a great rooftop restaurant where the waiter hurried to set up the fan behind me...I don't do heat particularly well. El Fayrouz is fairly new and they were serving meals in their luscious garden. We found this place the cheapest. A copious breakfast for two came to £3 sterling total. And a two course meal with drinks for three came to £14.80.

I did say this may be a long report but I hope it is of some help to someone as all of your contributions have been to me.

Signing off with many thanks to all.

Maclean family

Actually changing the subject for a second the photo was taken by my mate D and she played about with it in photo shop as a birthday present for me. Do you know who's tomb this really is?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Flats in Luxor announces its 1000th tour booking, Finland to Egypt for the 4th year running

Welcome back to Heidi, Arja, Hans, Tuija and Miia from Finland. our 1000th booking at Flats in Luxor, Egypt. Established in 2003 Flats in Luxor now has 1000 satisfied clients from all over the world who have used its accommodation or gone on its tours.

Luxor, Egypt (PRWEB) August 5, 2008 -- Flats in Luxor welcomes its 1000th tourist since its formation in 2003

The 1000th guests are Heidi, Arja, Hans, Tuija and Miia from Finland, who have booked tours of Luxor for the 4th year running. As members of the Finish Egyptology Society their requirements for tours are not run of the mill.

They said 'We found Jane through the blog she writes in Tour Egypt. It was very easy to contact her on her website and book trips by internet.

The beauty of her, that you can choose yourself the sites you want to see and a schedule it as well. And there are a lot of sites from which to choose from.

Jane makes you feel welcome and her humour is over the top! But she´s also a true professional in what she do. You get tours so intensive and individual, and no one explains the sites like her.

We respect and rely on her and when we get home to Finland, we miss her a lot every time. But we can always comfort ourselves, that we will see her again next year.'

They are typical of the kind of guests that use the services of Flats in Luxor for either tours, accommodation or both, they want to get away from the standard offering, be more independent, have a more in depth look at the history and get underneath the surface of the Egyptian culture. Jane Akshar of Flats in Luxor was delighted to oblige and looks forward to welcoming her favourite Finns back to Luxor.

Flats in Luxor was founded in 2003 by Jane Akshar and Mahmoud Jahlan, their mission to provide high quality flats or apartments for the tourist market and to enable them to enjoy a unique and individual tour of this fascinating and historic country.

Having rented a flat in Luxor, Egypt themselves and been disappointed by the standards of cleanliness and lack of facilities they perceived a demand for Western standard flats in Luxor. For both those guests and those staying in hotels they also provide guided tours and all aspects of holidaying in Egypt.

Jane was a computer specialist by background and an Egyptologist of 40 years. She utilised her IT contacts to set up a professional website with availability calendar and booking database. Jane says 'I was over the moon when I found the domain name FlatsinLuxor was available. However I wished I had realised that Americans have no idea what a flat is. They would call it an apartment and being as our market is international this often leads to confusion.'

Although Jane has plenty of IT, sales and marketing experience she had never worked in tourism before. That was Mahmoud's side of the business, as a local he had worked with tourists in Luxor since he was young, knew everything there was to know and had all the contacts. The internet was an ideal medium for their business and utilising her Egyptology expertise Jane built up a dedicated following in the online Egyptology community which she used to publicise their business.

Jane goes on 'Mahmoud taught me everything about tourist, tourism and renting flats. We made a few mistakes at the beginning, the flats today are not the same as those early days and the swimming pool came later but everyone was supportive of the business. We still have repeat bookings from those early guests and we are in touch with many of them.

Heidi and her party are typical of our guests, coming back year after year and recommending friends. We have a Belgium group who come with their friends and family and rent several flats, a retired Australian couple who come every spring for month, a British man, keen Egyptologiust, who spends his winters here and finally an American working in Cairo who has sent dozens of his colleagues here as well as staying three times himself. They are all like family.'

The first business success was becoming part of Tour Egypt which is the premier tourism website about Egypt. That relationship is as strong as ever and Jane writes a blog on the Tour Egypt website with over 3,500 unique visitors a day.

Then after petitioning by many of their satisfied guests the Lonely Planet inspected the flats and included it in their guide book, the Rough Guide followed and most recently Responsible Travel approved them as Luxor's only 'Green' accommodation. They feature regularly in Trip Advisor both for accommodation and tours.

Now some 5 years later their company Flats in Luxor Group, which is registered in Egypt, have 4 apartment blocks with 21 flats some in development, some sold but the majority are available for holiday rentals. Their tours which include the more remote places in Egypt like Amarna, safaris in the Western desert, are exciting and unusual. They even offer sailing holidays on traditional feluccas.

Mahmoud says 'To have reached 1000 guests is an important stage in our business. But we have even more plans for the future; especially green and eco friendly offerings, it is an exciting time for us.'