Being close to the Mediterranean, excellent fruits are available in Cairo.
I had planned a visit to Egypt when things appeared to have cooled down there after some unrest. However just about 3 days before my date of departure quite suddenly on 2nd February, a tragic event took place in an Egyptian city where over 70 football fans died. This sad incident triggered off protests in various places in Egypt. The Tahrir Square, Cairo too saw demonstrations leading to some unfortunate deaths. I had a take a decision – ‘To go or not to go’ (with apologies to Shakespeare). I took the decison to go and this 68 years plus took the flight to Cairo in early February this year. It turned out to be an eye opener of a visit. Egypt is really the ‘mother’ of all civilizations. The pyramids, the Sphinx, the Cairo museum and the absolutely amazing sites of Luxor and Karnak are places to visit that I would strongly recommend to all.
Now from the beginning. I was tempted by the advertisement put up by the welknown travel house ‘MakeMyTrip.com’ (MMT). MMT is a great success story and the founder and CEO, Deep Kalra, an IIM Ahmedabad alumni, has shown how customer trust can be won and retained. I chose MMT because when going on a trip abroad, one must have a totally trust worthy agency to deal with. My trust was totally vindicated.
Two executives of the MMT, Jessy Mammen and Gurleen Kaur explained all the details of the trip to me by email and phone and Pawan Chauhan advised me about the visa application process. Ultimately I was ready to leave, when I received a surprise call from Jessy, “Sir would you mind if we upgrade you to a Five star hotel in Cairo, within the package price, she asked. Please go ahead and thanks, was my prompt reply without much thinking.
When I landed up in Cairo I found a handsome young man waiting for me with a placard. He introduced himself as the customer care executive of Sankarra Travels, which handles the Egypt operations for MMT. From that moment till I left Cairo after ten days this young man was really present with me, helping me as long as I was in Cairo.
With Walid, Customer Care executive at the Cairo airport.
Catching back the thread, when we reached the hotel after a long over one hour drive, it turned out to be a huge resort, on the Cairo -Alexandria road. The place looked quite swanky but there were hardly any tourists around. While completing the checking in formalities, the person at the reception sprang another surprise, ‘Sir would you mind if we upgrade you to a suite?’. I almost automatically said OK but then got worried lest I may be billed for a suite. Why do you want to put me in a suite when I am paying only for a single room I asked? Sir, you are travelling with MMT and they are our very special partners. OK, I said. An unstated additional reason appeared to be that the 474 room resort was having only about 20% occupancy as the exxagerated reports of the unrest had scared some tourists away.
The suite was a dupleix- ground floor being the sitting space, with a little kitchnette, a tolet- bath, a frig and an attractive plate of welcome sweets and fruits. The upper floor had a huge comfortable bed and a bath-toilet.
Some Egyptian sweets
A few trips up and down and I was exhausted. Next morning the first thing I went and told the surprised person at the Reception was, please shift me fro the suite to a normal smallish room. Yes, once shifted to a normal room, I felt much more at ease.
Nest day was spent in visiting the Pyramids and the Khalili Market. I was lucky indeed to have been assigned Ms. Samah Gamal as the guide. I have been to various parts of the world and would rate Sami, as she is addressed, as one of the most knowledgeable and most capable guides that I have come across. Her knowledge of Egyptian history was really thorough and she spoke in a typical American accent. She had spent a few years in the US doing higher studies, she told me modestly.
With great guide Samah Gamal at the Khalili Market, Cairo.
Mohamed was the driver of the car. I was pleasantly surprised at the choice of music which he was listening to in the car- Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley, The four Seasons…He told me a bit reluctantly that he is a Scuba Diving expert and in spare time drives a taxi. Wow!
With scuba Dive Master cum part time driver Mohamed at the Giza pyramids.
Train from Cairo-Giza reached Aswan early in the morning.
The trip included a 4 day cruise in the river Nile. When I reached Aswan, the representative of the Sakkara tours told me that the cruise ship in which I had been booked (Diana) had been cancelled. I felt a little uncomfortable when he told me that I had been booked in another cruise instead. And to my pleasant surprise he told me that the ship in which I would now be travellng (Monaco) was a superior and more expensive trip but I will not have to pay anything extra. Who was I to complain?
Spacious room during the cruise with a view of the Nile
Wth the Aswan-Luxor-Karnak guide
In the ship I met two young Indian couples on their honeymoons. We were billeted on the same table in the dinning hall. Soon we became friends. These young people really took great care of me and took me along where ever they went- for shopping, sight seeing or trying out the hookah!. They made me feel like part of a big family. God bless them
I may end by clarifying that I was a full fare paying passenger of the MakeMyTrip.com, Sankara Travels and the Cruise.
Photographs and text by K.J.S.Chatrath.
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Grave matters….matters of graves…graves and cemeteries….tombs and graves…cemeteries and graveyards….photos of gravestones from all over the world…inscriptions from all over the world…sad, inspirational and some with a sense humour… I look forward to receiving your encouragement and advice.
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