The Phillpott Family Holiday
A Family Hosted Adventure
by The Phillpott Family
We do not normally publish essentially travel logs, but because of the unusual and unique nature of this one, we have made an exception. When I was originally advised that Delta Tours would develop "Family Host" style tours, I was a bit apprehensive, thought at the same time excited about such a possibility. Now, I must say that I am very proud of this well known Egyptian Tour company for making such a success of this new style of Egyptian holiday combining tourism and an exceptional cultural experience.
We have just returned from a wonderful holiday to Egypt. We wanted something different, so after many hours on the internet and the Tour Egypt web site, I found in a tiny corner, Delta Tours, offering holidays with an Egyptian host family.
We communicated by e-mail, sent a family photograph and paid a deposit. Through many e-mails, we knew before we left England that the family had three boys, much the same ages as our own children (Toby 17 and Megan 14). There was also no problem tweaking our 13 day itinerary so that we would be able to fit in all the things we wanted to see and do. On booking the flights, I was careful not to choose one of the many arriving in Cairo in the middle of the night, as I didn't want to be saying hello and then straight to bed, so I chose one arriving at lunch time, which gave us the rest of the afternoon to get to know our hosts. Most of our friends and family in England thought we were mad, venturing into the unknown but that is what made it all the more exciting for us. It wasn't until we were on the flight to Cairo that I began to think "What if we don't like them" but it was too late for that.
We were met at Cairo airport by a representative of Delta Tours, which was such a relief, as there were so many people and such chaos, we would still be there now without that help! We were whisked through passport control and before we knew it we were in an air conditioned taxi and on our way to meet our host family.
It was rush hour, so the traffic was a bit slower than normal and it gave us a chance to take in, for the first time, what a huge, bustling, noisy city Cairo is. Soon we were at Giza, which is where our host family lives. They were all there to meet us, and they were lovely. We were all a bit shy and self conscious to begin with but it wasn't long before we were all sitting down, enjoying a drink and getting to know each other. The father was the only one able to speak good English and although I think the others understood a lot more than they could speak, this really was not a problem. Before long, the children were playing cards.
Our hostess throughout the stay was very keen for us to try as many different Egyptian dishes as possible. She was a good cook and we thoroughly enjoyed all of her meals. My daughter was the only problem, being a bit fussy about her food but as most meals in Egypt involve rice and that is the one sure thing she will eat, she ate a lot of rice!
We had two twin rooms, clean and air conditioned with plenty of room to leave clothes and luggage that we did not need on the next leg of the holiday.
Next day we set off on day one of our excursions with our guide, Ally, a lovely man with a sense of humour, who we all warmed to immediately. Any time we were going out, day or night, our guide and taxi came to the apartment to get us. We did venture out on our own a few times, just locally and felt perfectly safe in the district where we were staying, which was very close to the pyramids.
Our tour then took us on the overnight train from Cairo to Aswan and then a cruise ship for three nights along the Nile, a night in a hotel in Luxor, a hot air balloon over Luxor and then an overnight train back from Luxor to Cairo. Throughout this time, our guide usually slept in a room down the corridor, so that he was there if we needed him. Through the day, he was there at all times and believe me, what a bonus. He was able to tell the hawkers to leave us alone and they did; he was able to translate in shops; and he was able to advice on how much to tip different people, As a small party of four we were able to hear his every word, instead of being at the back of a party of 30/40 tourists struggling to hear what the guide is saying!
About five days into our holiday, Ramadan started. I knew from the internet, that as tourists, this should not affect us too much but we did feel sorry for Ally, during those hot days in Luxor with the sweat on his brow so we tried very hard not to drink in front of him. On our return to Cairo, as a special treat for Ramadan, our host family took us out into the heart of Cairo where we mingled with other local families, to a place where they all seem to go. Then we all went for a special meal, which included stuffed pidgeon and all this at 1 o'clock in the morning, which was certainly strange to us but quite normal during Ramadan. (We had purposely had a sleep in the afternoon to cope with this) There is much food on offer at this special time and lots of sweets and desserts. We certainly ate more than we needed to, and 9 times out of 10, we really liked it!
It was at this point that we reluctantly had to say goodbye to our guide, Ally, who we had grown quite fond of but his expertise did not cover the desert. Our guide for the next 3 days would be Taha, whose grandfather had been a Bedouin and who had been brought up in the desert. He certainly was a character and with many Tally Ho's and Lovely Jubbly's, off we went.
The driver of our 4 wheel drive jeep, did not take long to work out that everyone apart from me was absolutely delighted to be going at great speed over very steep hills and sand dunes. Most of the delight was at the horror on my face! We went to as many valleys and mountains as were possible in three days and came home with a small rock or piece of crystal from each.
The trip into the desert had been a last minute adjustment to our itinerary. We were originally going to Hurghada, but we are so glad we changed our minds. It was hot, sticky and so very tiring but wonderful at the same time. Sleeping in the White Desert, looking up at the stars, is something we will never forget.
We were never so pleased to get back to our host family and shower. Our host family were quite sad that we were going home the next day but cheered up when they heard there was a baggage handlers strike at Heathrow, London and if our flight was cancelled, we may have to stay another night. Needless to say, that didn't happen.
They are a lovely, friendly family who welcomed us into their home and made us feel at ease. There was talk of us returning to Egypt again in the future and a suggestion that their eldest boy may come to England, perhaps next year. Whatever happens, we have made new friends and we will certainly continue the friendship by e-mail and who knows what the future holds.
We were looking for a holiday that would suit both adults and teenagers and at the end of the day I think we succeeded. I would recommend this sort of holiday to other people as it is certainly a way of getting more of a feel of what life is really like for a typical Egyptian family, instead of being cocooned in a 5 star hotel, without any contact with locals at all.