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.

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