Tuesday, January 26, 2010

One of the new villas

What is your opinion of Egypt as a tourist destination?

I am a member of LinkedIn which is a professional networking site. Most of my contacts are people from my past life as an IT consultant. Some are guests who have stayed here. I asked them for their opinions of Egypt as a tourist destination. It was very interesting to get the feedback. Interestingly the only ones concerned about safety were those that have never been here. Coming from Ealing, West London to my wonderful Luxor I have never felt so safe in all my life. Anyway these are people’s reactions.

“Egypt is magical, wonderful and amazing. Luxor Aswan and Abu Simbel will never bore you. Jane has a lovely setting with very, very nice apartments. My family and I enjoyed every minute there, especially with the nice breeze from the Nile. We took early day trips to the sites, and enjoyed calm evenings. In the afternoons we would shop; amazing artist there. The S3aedi (people of Upper Egypt) are so accommodating and we felt safe the entire time. Don’t expect New York City but do expect to experience a beautiful part of the most interesting history of the World”
“My perception of Egypt as a holiday destination? OK if you have friends there who you can rely on to show you the ropes (as I had).”
“As a holiday destination Egypt is definitely an excellent choice for value and friendliness.

Nothing is too much trouble for the Egyptian’s hospitable friendly and relaxing time is what you will get when you go to Egypt as well as lots of sunshine all year round.

Out of the whole of Egypt my most favourite place is definitely Luxor, this is what i studied in school the magic of the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens it was out of this world and as ever magical as I had thought it would be.

For me, a major concern about visiting Egypt would be hygiene and sanitation, so adding comments about the style and standard of toilet/bathing facilities in the apartments (better than a French hole-in-the-floor, I'd hope) and cleanliness might help allay fears for the first-time visitor to the Middle East.”

I like that one, yes we do have western style toilets in all tourist establishments

“Always sunny, rain free and interesting food. I was only thinking about doing something in Egypt this past weekend for the Christmas period or New Year.”

“I've been to Hurghada on the red sea & thought it was fabulous.

For me (even before I went) Egypt wa/is mysterious with lots to offer. There were 3 or 4 times on our private beach that we were the only ones there. The sea was crystal clear, the hotels spotless and the one excursion to the tombs was well planned & a great day out. I think it also offers value for money, hot weather, something different, not too far away which all adds up to something quite memorable.”

“Sun, desert and history!! Could do with some of that at the moment! Sounds like you have a lot of interesting activity on the go, from your FB posts.

You might want to pick up on concepts like peaceful, security, tranquillity etc if you're aiming at the affluent rather than hard-core adventurous.”

Actually Egypt has both, it depends on where you go felucca sailing boats and desert safaris for the adventurous and all the tourist destinations like Luxor for those wanting more less adventure

“I personally think Egypt has a great deal of mystery surrounding it (in a good way) and is an aspirational destination for many around the world. I know I myself have always wanted to take my family there. I think there are some hurdles of course and they are no to dissimilar from other international destinations. Air schedules into the country, access to information about how to get around and more importantly if you want an "Authentic" experience how to find a trustworthy accommodation source outside of franchise hotels.

There are a few outliers that in my opinion could certainly be show-stoppers for consumers going to that part of the world. The deluge of reports of violence in the area regardless if it’s in Egypt in the surrounding area. I know there is growing popularity of guided tours to the area which is one way to provide a better sense of security for travellers. I am not quite sure how to message the fact the Egypt itself is not a hotbed of trouble and that there is ample opportunity for a fulfilling, memorable holiday. I believe it may reside in getting significant feedback and testimonials from others that have taken a holiday there in the past and allowing potential holiday makers read those to get a better sense of real life experiences.”

Exactly!!, if you have been here you KNOW it is safe.

“I must need to confess to you that I never been outside India and hence I don’t have any idea about Egypt as a holiday destination. But I have lot of friends who been to Egypt and they say it been a great experience. Egypt is truly a great place to visit with and pyramids are your gateway to tourists. I would love to visit /Egypt one day but not sure cos financial limitations. I am also looking for a mortgage here and I am striving hard to get a loan to pay for it. I wish you all the best and luck in your venture.”

“I visit Sharm El Sheikh regularly and have an apartment there myself. Impression is, consistent warmth and sunshine, great if you love diving - it’s superb, good standard of accommodation, plenty of bars and restaurants at reasonable prices, friendly people, easy to get to.”

“Cheap, (not euro based) good all inclusive hols, sunny, downside potential terrorist attacks higher than normal.”

Now this is one from someone in the UK who has not been here. Actually the UK has had many more terrorist attacks that Egypt has.

“I might be a little biased since I've been fascinated with ancient Egyptian history as long as I can remember!

I perceive Egypt as an incredible opportunity to visit ancient historical sites. It has the air of a "trip of a lifetime" - most people react with interest if the topic comes up. Luxor was particularly wonderful in that it has a more calm and relaxed atmosphere, but has plenty to see.

I felt reasonably safe (but then again we've lived for a bit in Iraq and Sri Lanka), but feel it is important to have reliable & knowledgeable guide(s) - such as you and your network - to take you around.”

“I'd love to visit Egypt but am fearful of going there as a destination being a young (ok I lie!) lone female... Escorted holidays are I think my only option. However, after I have been once, am sure I'd be in touch to rent out one of your apartments!”

Another one that actually needs to visit, I have loads of single ladies coming here; they have a great time and never feel worried.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Some more Luxor photos

These wonderful photos of local life in Luxor were taken by a guest staying at our Arabesque House. This is the Egyptian experience we at Flats in Luxor try to give our guests, local life happening in front of your eyes.

And lastly a beautiful picture of a sailing boat, felucca, on the Nile

Flats in Luxor New Year Party

My own photos were pathetic of the Flats in Luxor New Year Eve party but I just received these wonderful photos from a guest. In fact she took such good ones I have asked her if I can use them all. See what you think.

She also took some great photos of some of the staff

Nasser the doorman at the Arabesque House with Greg

Mohammed Garden, mainly responsible for gardens but turns his hand to anything

Ahmed our mini bus driver

Little Ahmed general dogsbody and cheeky boy

Gamal our chef, best food on the West Bank with Mahmoud who helped out as a waiter that night

And the best photo of all, the boss, Mahmoud Jahlan with Judith

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Due to personal circumstances the owner of the Shu flat on the East has returned to the UK. This means this flat is now available to rent. With two bedrooms and two bathrooms it is the perfect holiday apartment and competitively priced at $60 USD a night, minimum 3 nights.

Shu is on the second balcony floor and the large lounge/dinning room opens out onto the balcony. The building is situated in a quiet road in the heart of tourist town on the East Bank and we have staff on the premises 24 hours who will help and advise you.

There is a large double bedroom with ensuite shower and toilet, a twin bedroom, family bathroom with shower, toilet, bath and sink and a fully equipped kitchen. When I say fully equipped I really mean fully equipped as the owner was a chef, there are even juicers and smoothie makers as well as a large fridge, washing machine and cooker.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Reviews of Flats in Luxor on Trip Advisor

We do get some great reviews on Trip Advisor and it is always nice to hear someone has enjoyed themselves but this one really touched me. It is so nice to be a fairy godmother.

I had been planning this trip to Egypt since I was 7 years old. Doubting that at the ripe old age of 64 I would be able physically to visit all the ancient sites that interested me, I forged ahead anyway, with fingers crossed, and set off with my 21 year old son to stay in Luxor, courtesy of Flats in Luxor.

This was a private tour with accommodation arranged with Jane and Mahmoud Akshar, the uncrowned King and Queen of Luxor! The accommodation was lovely, with tiled floors, large shower room, kitchen, very large sitting/dining room, two huge bedrooms with very comfortable beds, a large terrace and some gorgeous arabesque lamps. All the furniture had been made locally by craftsmen on the Luxor West Bank, and Mahmoud was obviously very proud of this.

We were met on time at Luxor airport. In fact for every trip we had arranged through Jane and Mahmoud the guides were spot on time. In fact the guides were marvellous, very courteous, extremely knowledgeable, patient and humorous.

On our first morning I opened the door to the terrace at 7am to be greeted by golden sunshine streaming through the palm leaves on the 40 ft date palms opposite the apartment building, and coming down the road I spotted a young lad on a donkey, having a conversation on his mobile phone.

It was also surprisingly chilly, I could see my breath on the air, and we were thankful we had followed Jane's excellent advice to bring fleeces. However, by mid morning the sun had warmed up considerably, and we passed the two weeks of our holiday in temperatures ranging in the daytime from 22 - 30 degrees.

We first of all did the Nile Sunset Felucca cruise with dinner and a visit to Banana Island. What an amazing experience. The sky and river turned blood red at sunset and we took some beautiful photos. Dinner cam onboard from a local restaurant and the food was truly delicious. Ismail our guide told us that every evening the sunset was like this.

Next trip was a two day exploration of Cairo organized by Jane and Mahmoud's colleague Walid in Cairo where we had two different guides on each day. These two fully qualified guides were very informative and they both, Shaimma and Ahmed, had a terrific sense of humour, obligatory for me and my son. We visited the Tutankhamun exhibition at the Museum (and later the Pharoah himself in his tomb in the Valley), the Pyramids (my son went inside one of them), the Citadel (which contains the original walls built by Salah Al Din) and also the Coptic Hanging Church with its amazing decorations inside and mosaic pictures outside. The final visit was tea in the famous Old Cairo bazaar, packed with intriguing shops and where we also had a good laugh at the expense of the hawkers, having learnt some interesting phrases in Arabic!

The Akshars have several properties for holiday rental. We were staying at the apartment block called "Arabesque", and about 300 yards down the road was "Goubli", which also has a swimming pool and where Gamal, (pronounced "Jamal"), the wonderful Chef de Cuisine, was based. On our first night we were too tired to walk the 300 yards, so Gamal came to us, finished off the cooking in our kitchen, served it up to us in our dining room, and even did the washing up afterwards!

Nothing was too much trouble for the dedicated team who run this enterprise. Whether it was asking Jane's advice on Egyptology, or Mahmoud to suggest and arrange a trip for us - the last one being an exciting sunset desert ride on quad bikes with Moustafa and Adam - our every wish was their command. If you mention the names of Jane and Mahmoud Akshar to anyone in Luxor you will find that they are revered and very well known indeed for the way in which they are helping local people to better lives by encouraging tourists to use local services instead of visiting Egypt via big tour operators and therefore ploughing money back into the local economy.

Mahmoud is presently building his next project, right next door to the apartments at Goubli. This is a set of new villas which are absolutely exquisite being architect designed in the Arabesque style. They are planning a swimming pool there too. Seriously thinking of jacking in all my investments and buying one for myself!!!!!

One of the most endearing features of this holiday was the way in which the local people would all smile, wave and call out to us as we sat on the terrace drinking Hibiscus tea in the evening along with a good shisha smoke. This caused some amusement amongst the locals, especially when I decided to have a go with the shisha! It was wonderful that so many of them wanted to get to know us, and we were issued countless invitations to go over to their homes and have tea with them. We were also invited into the local madrassa school at the end of our road to visit a class of 10 year olds doing an Arabic lesson. I wish the children at the school where I work could have been there too. Perhaps then they would value the education they get in the U.K. with all the fancy paraphernalia provided by the State. Over there it is wooden desks and benches, reminiscent of the 1800's in Britain, with a blackboard and chalk. Forwarned that this might happen we took with us a stack of pretty crayons and coloured biros for the children and also gave a donation to help the kids whose fathers had died and whose families therefore couldn't afford to buy the writing paper etc necessary for school life.

Both my son and I couldn't praise this trip and its organizers enough. A huge hearty "THANKYOU" to Jane and Mahmoud, Nasser (house guardian), Ismail (Boat Captain and guide), Ahmed (tour driver), Hossein, (guide), young Ahmed (cheeky-boy), Gamal (Chef de Cuisine), Mohammed (Mahmoud's right hand man), Sayeed The Taxi, Walid in Cairo, Shaimma and Ahmed our Cairo guides and all the others whose names I didn't find out. It was indeed the dream trip of a lifetime, unforgettable.

We will be back.