Flats in Luxor A Review
by Jimmy Dunn
It used to be that the only accommodations offered in Luxor were hotels, but this has been changing over the years and now there are alternatives.
Hotels themselves can be divided into one of several categories. Some are members of international chains like the Hilton, le Meridian and Movenpick. Others are backpacker hostels like Happyland, for those on a budget, with dormitory-like accommodations. There are also Egyptian owned and managed family hotels like many of those on the West Bank, including El Nakhil and El Gezera, and of course there are also classics like the Old Winter Palace (also a member of an international chain) where the likes of Agatha Christie stayed.
But a new type of accommodation has arisen in recent years, and this is the self catering flat. Such facilities appeal to independent travelers who like to experience the country on a more hands-on basis, and of course to families that prefer more flexibility. It also suits those that wish to come for an extended stay or want more space in their accommodation. The standard varies enormously and you need to be sure of what you are getting. Our friends at Flats in Luxor are an example of this type of accommodation. They are run by a married couple Jane Akshar, British and her Egyptian husband Mahmoud Jahlan.
They have a small block of four flats situated on the edge of Al Gezera village with a unique feature. They have a fabulous view to the Theban Hills. With no buildings in front of them, only farm land, this view is available even to the flat on the ground floor. The temple of Hatshepsut can be seen from the front and at the rear, Luxor temple can be seen just across the Nile. Their flats are definitely aimed at the top end of the market with no compromise on beauty, cleanliness and comfort. The floor is laid in custom ceramic tiles and the balconies extend around the building.
The communal areas consist of a roof terrace which is furnished with a pool table, rest room and kitchen. Given sufficient notice they will arrange meals or private parties, hiring a chef from one of the local hotels to do the catering or providing a traditional barbecue themselves. Downstairs, there is a swimming pool with Jacuzzi again with toilets and showers. Next to that is a quiet and flourishing garden with banana, apricot, mango and a grapevine. The flats themselves are huge, measuring 190 square meters and comprise 3 double bedrooms. All of the flats have air conditioning and fans, a western style bathroom with shower and a fully equipped kitchen. There are also satellite TVs set to receive BBC Prime, BBC World for English news and entertainment, along with many other European channels.
You could cook a roast dinner in the kitchen as one of their guests did!!! The kitchens come equipped with pans, plates, bowls, utensils and cutlery. But most people prefer to use the fridge just for cold drinks and eat out at local restaurants which are only about a ten minute walk away. The lounge is enormous with satellite TV and opens up with picture windows onto a balcony fully 10 foot deep.
This facility offers a number of other services. Wake up services can be provided. Though flats are usually only cleaned once a week (or at check out), a staff, which cleans the communal areas and the swimming pool, is available and can clean flats more frequently if requested. They will also run various errands, such as shopping or picking up takeout orders for guests. Various laundry services are also available. Pricing is reasonable, particularly considering the size of the flats. They can be rented by the week or for as short a period as three days, for a rate of about $38 USD (21.43 GBP) per night during the off season and $50 USD (28.57 GBP) during the busy season.
Also, consider that this pricing is per flat and not per occupant, and that they will each sleep up to six adults in the three double bedrooms. That can make them a real bargain for a few couples traveling to Egypt together.
However, as well as renting out their own flats, Mahmoud and Jane also act as a referral center for other landlords in the area and if they are full or you would prefer accommodations that are smaller or in a different location they can help with this as well. An example from their books is a smaller flat situated down by the Nile. These are two bedrooms flats, again with A/C. Although they do not have their own pool, by going through Flats in Luxor, one automatically has the right to use their swimming pool..
As well as a variety of flats on the West Bank, there are other flats they have access to on the East Bank. There is a block of three by the Isis Hotel which are nearing completion and due to be open in September 2005. These have three bedrooms and are ideal for those visitors who prefer to be based closer to Luxors nightlife.
However, it is important to be sure of what you are getting and what to expect. For example, there will be no complimentary shampoos or daily bed making and tidying. A self catering flat is exactly that and you will be responsible for all your requirements.
Jane is an enthusiastic amateur Egyptologist and loves to pass on her knowledge either by leading tours or by advising her guests on what to see if one wishes to go independently. Mahmoud is a traditional Egyptian fixer, making anything you want accessible, including camel rides, a handmade galabeya, sail on the Nile or a birthday cake with your name on it. Since they live on site,
Mahmoud and Jane are always available to help with tours or any problems that might arise. With their extensive range of local contacts they can arrange taxis to local sites or the East Bank, balloon rides and a trip on a felucca. They also have a bilingual teenage daughter, Amira, who is happy to befriend any children in the party and make Egypt a fun place for them. Mahmoud can also arrange to get airline or rail tickets and they have a good relationship with American Express Travel Services. They can also arrange and manage more extensive tours in Cairo, along with airport transfers and travel arrangements to Luxor. They make pickups in Hurghada and do tours as far a field as Abu Simbel and even desert tours.
What are the advantages of staying in a self catering flat?
The biggest draw has to be being in charge of your destiny. Independence is key. You do what you want, eat when you want and go where you want. You make your own arrangements to see what you want, for how long and when, or you can simply sit by the pool and enjoy a no pressure afternoon.
The taxi can come tomorrow instead. For families with excitable children wanting food at different times, self catering is ideal. Staying on the West Bank is good for serious historians who want to spend a lot of time at the sites and dont want regulated trips. They are also suitable for people that want to live here for a few months and be able to entertain and make a temporary home.
But the best thing is the feeling of really being part of the local life. Sitting on the balcony watching the men at work in the fields, sharing a cup of tea with Mahmouds father who acts as caretaker and doorman or visiting the rest of the families around the village is a unique slice of real Egyptian life. Everyone in the village gets to know you and you really feel like you belong. Although they have only been going a short while, their rebook rate is healthy which shows that, at least for some people, self catering in a flat is the best way of visiting Luxor.