Friday, March 27, 2009

Baksheesh or tipping, some guidelines

In the West, we call it "tipping" or "service." But those words don't fully express the breadth of flexibility and purpose of the practice known as "baksheesh." Egypt appears to run on baksheesh and the protocol of the practice becomes evident quite quickly once in the country.

Basically, there are three kinds of baksheesh. The first is baksheesh as "alms giving." One of the 5 tenants of Islam is the giving of alms to the poor. The giver is made more holy by the action.

The second type is baksheesh as "for services rendered." This is the closest to the western tipping practices. Except it goes further. There are people at the airport whose only job appears to be opening doors. Of course, they require baksheesh. And every bathroom has an attendant, who expects a little for keeping the place clean (supposedly). One is continuously passing out a few pounds here and a few there. Guides and drivers use it as feedback and like others their basic pay only covers simple food.

The third kind of baksheesh is "for the granting of favours." Want to see what's in the tomb which is posted as closed? A few pounds will see a key miraculously produced. Want to see an excellent photo location? Want to see a forbidden mummy? The amazing thing is that you don't even need to ask for the services. Upon identifying a mark, even the museum guards will follow you around and provide services and grant favours. Interestingly, after getting over the initial adverse reaction to the practice, it becomes expected and even pleasurable.

Yes, I know it is strange but we pay it too. Everyone seems to expect it, though even I was surprised when Mahmoud paid the Doctor a hefty baksheesh when I was ill recently.

Toilet money 1LE
Small service 5 – 20LE
Medium Service 20 – 50Le
Big Service 100Le upwards

The biggest tip one of my drivers got was $1,500 USD, the lady concerned sent it after she returned home as she wanted to help him send his child to a good school

Please be generous, many rely on these tips for doctors and medicine, schooling and books etc.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Flats in Luxor launches multilingual website 欢迎你!Willkommen Bienvenido

An especial welcome to our Chinese, Spanish and German visitors from Flats in Luxor, Egypt. Our website has been translated just for you and we hope to have other languages shortly for Russian, French and Portuguese. .

The Flats in Luxor website goes multilingual reaching out to visitors from all over the world.

Everyone knows that China is becoming a serious new tourism market and we wanted to make a special welcome to visitors from that country. Independent travel is still a new concept for the Chinese and we are the first to make them feel that independent does not mean lack of support. We welcome Chinese visitors and hope to encourage them to find the real Egypt beyond the group tour.

German guests are common in Egypt and there are many facilities on the West Bank that they can relax in, restaurants run by Egyptians with German partners and even a German cultural group. Our new German website makes sure potential German guests understand our offering and find us in the search engines easily. We have had German guests in the past and we look forward to welcoming even more.

Spanish is one of the most common world languages and we want to increase our exposure to South America, which has so many common historical monuments. Jane says “I am sure South American visitors will find Egypt a fascinating place to visit. Hassan Fathy the famous architect built a village in Mexico as well as Luxor so we have links throughout the ages.”

Jane continues “We are going to be developing the website in other languages, there are many Russian visitors to the Red Sea but few visit the historical sites. By putting our website in Russian we will bring our offering to this large tourism market. Both Japanese and French versions are also planned.

Since 2003 we have been providing accommodation and tours to people all over the world but most of our guests have been English speaking from America, Britian, New Zealand and Australia. We hope putting our website into other languages we will increase the number of international guests.”

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

Now some 6 years later their company Flats in Luxor Group, which is registered in Egypt, have 4 apartment blocks with 21 flats and lots of land for development, some sold but the majority are available for holiday rentals. They feature in the Lonely Planet, Rough Guide, Responsible Travel, Tour Egypt, Trip Advisor and Virtual Tourist. They offer exciting and unusual tours which include the more remote places in Egypt, like Tel el Amarna and sailing holidays on traditional feluccas through

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hathor Flat Sold, Luxor, Egypt

We are delighted to announce that we have sold the Hathor flat at Goubli. The new owner does not intend to be there all the time so it is still available for rent but this welcome injection of cash will enable us to set up our own electric substation which will make a terrific difference to the a/c at Goubli. Especially as summer is coming.

Mahmoud has already bought some land, within 40 minutes actually, :), next to Goubli and intends to develop some more property as well as a Nubian eco village on our existing land. So he is going to busy for the next year.

The new owner had taken the precaution of checking with Samir Farag, the governor of Luxor, who confirmed that our land was not scheduled for redevelopment and was a good position to buy. Which was nice confirmation for any other potential buyers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Giving to the poor

Recently I was asked about children begging and what to give them. The writer was upset about it and wanted to give appropriately. So I thought I would give a general reply.

I live on the West Bank and my husband is a local. Many members of his family are poor. His sister is married to man who gets work on the roads and fields and could not break into tourism as he speaks no English. She had 5 children, four living and one died in a tragic accident. There is no running water in her house, they share communal toilet. But they never go hungry because my husband, her brother always buys extra and give her some. This is the way the West Bank works, a neighbour would always help you out, generally that neighbour is also a relative.

In her family an illness, the beginning of the school year when books have to be bought, the children growing out of clothes is a burden. It is hard for her family and we have to help out, I feel it is a privilege to help her. She does not let her children beg and would be mortified if they did.

However some families do, and the children make good money which they bring back to the family. This will buy much needed medicines, books for school, meat, clothes but being kids some of it will go on sweets.

If you really want to give money I would suggest giving it to the mosque, they will pass it to poor families, widows, orphans etc that you will never see. With the children at the sites I would give sweets, pens, hair slides AS YOU LEAVE.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Cheap Flights

There are some great cheap flights around at the moment on

Glasgow to Sharm El Sheikh, 15 March, 14 nights, £164 return

Manchester to Sharm El Sheikh, 29 April, 4 nights, £187.50 return

Bristol to Sharm El Sheikh, 16 March, 14 nights, £216.50 return

Luton to Sharm El Sheikh, 16 March, 14 nights, £201.50 return

Gatwick to Luxor, 16 March, 7 nights, £216 return

Gatwick to Marsa Alam, 18 March, 7 nights, £260 return

Manchester to Marsa Alam, 18 March, 14 nights, £290 return

Friday, March 06, 2009

Meena Team Office

It has been great fun accommodating the Dr Melinda Hartwig and the TT69 Meena tomb team. They have converted their lounge/dining area into a lounge office area. chock full of technology. I was chatting with her and we were discussing how much Egyptology has changed these days with the advent of so many technologys and what they reveal. Especially in a non destructive way, it is certainly an interesting time for Egyptology.