More Letters from Returning Tourists,
and the Commentary from our Latest Newsletter
by Jimmy Dunn
November 23rd, 2001 Jim, I read your column almost every day prior to my trip to Egypt a few weeks ago, simply because of the press reports after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
I am happy to tell you that my husband and I spent two glorious weeks in Egypt (Oct. 28 to Nov 10) which included 4 nights/days in Cairo, a nile cruise from Aswan to Luxor and 4 days at Hurghada. Our experience was the BEST and the Egyptians are wonderful people, warm, friendly, co-operative and always smiling. We received TOP CLASS service wherever we went and I cannot tell you enough how safe we felt everywhere we went. I will recommend a trip to Egypt to all my friends.
I waited 40 years for this trip and it was more than worth it. It was the trip of a lifetime. I will definitely return to Egypt.
_____ November 19th, 2001
I haven't received the last couple of Newsletters - am I still on the mailing list?
And may I just say that our holiday in Egypt was everything I could ever have dreamed of and more. Everything that you said about the culture and the people was exactly true. We met so many wonderful people andmade many great friends of whom we will be going back to visit in October 2002. The only bad part of the whole trip was leaving Egypt! I don't know how we survived coming back but we did. It's now been a month since we arrived back in Australia and only now are we settling back in.
So thanks very much for your words of advicefollowing the Sept 11 tragedy 3 days before we were due to leave. It meant a great deal.
November 15th, 2001
For the attention of Shrif Nayef, Somak Account Manager, Midland Travel, Giza.
My Wife and I have just returned from a long planned holiday to Egypt. Following the tragic events of September the 11th we were very much of two minds whether to cancel as we felt we may not be made welcome however, these fears could not have been more groundless.
Booked through Somak and organised by Midland Travel, our three nights in Cairo with visits to the Museum and the Great Pyramids and our week on the Ms Ra II were a delightful experience which we will never forget. Both the Ms Ra II and our guide 'Walid' rightly deserve their reputation as the best on the River Nile.
I have taken the liberty of writing to the Travel Editor of Daily Telegraph newspaper to advise him of our experience, in the hope that this may convince others that they will receive nothing but a great welcome in Egypt.
Our sincere thanks for your hospitality.
November 14th, 2001
My Mum and me have recently come back from Egypt and stayed at the Mercure Etap hotel. What a wonderful experience!! We also did the cruise down the Nile for a week, whilst taking in all the usual tourist spots. The Egyptian people were the most friendly I have ever encountered, and, in light of the recent events, we weren't sure if we were to book again for next year. We have booked, as the pros outweighed the cons, and it is such a beautiful country. It saddens me to think that people will judge all Egyptians just because they have heard the words 'terrorist' and 'egyptian' in the same sentence. Lets hope that there are more people like those who have written in. The most memorable experience of the holiday was when we visited Karnak Temple, and when our coach arrived a large group of young children descended on us. We offered them sweets, which they didn't want, they just wanted pens! we had brought lots of pens with us and quite happily gave them out to the children. Their faces were a picture, and we will be doing the same again next year.
November 12th, 2001
I have just returned from a study trip to Egypt (10/11/01) and have picked up this message from a colleague.
There were 18 of us in our group and we had a superb guide.
I can confirm that the people we met we friendly and helpful. Nothing was too much trouble. The issues with Afghanistan is furthermost from their minds. it would appear that a number of tourist sites have suffered heavily because of cancelled tours and this is sad.
We stayed in Minya for a few days and had secure escorts with us at all times. Having been to Egypt before I can say that it was only tighter security because we were in Minya and not the usual attractions. The sites at Cairo we practically empty and local school parties made up most of the visitors. (they children had english language questions to practice on the tourists and we were a little swamped as there was not that many english speaking tourists).
overall the only problems we encountered were security guards at the Cairo Museum. They have a reputation for being miserable and they lived up to it on our visit.
Whilst it is an individual choice as to whether to travel to Egypt or not, I can honestly say that at no point did I feel threatened or in danger. The Egyptian people were lovely (as usual) and very pleased to help.
I hope this is of use to you.
with kindest regards
November 8th, 2001
Just a short note to tell you one of the many positive experiences I encountered while in Cairo last month. I spent 10 days at the Hotel Longchamp (which by the way I thank you for recommending, it was the most wonderful and enjoyable stay I ever had in a hotel in Egypt!).
I had taken the public transport boat to go from the Cairo radio house to the Old Coptic quarter. When I got off the boat, I wasn't sure which street to take and asked my way to a police man. While he was trying to put together all the English words he knew to explain what direction to take, two young Muslim school girls (they were wearing the head and shoulder shawl going down to the waist) passed by and said they would take me to the Coptic church.
While walking, one of them took a book out of her school bag and pointed to the sentence "welcome to Egypt", which most of us have heard so many times in Egypt, but she clearly didn't feel comfortable enough in English to say it aloud! When I smiled and thanked her, she managed to make clear to me that they were asking me to have a fruit juice together. I accepted with a smile andthey took me to a place that looked very clean, nearly sophisticated in comparison to the other houses on that street. They ordered some sugar cane juice for all three of us, and when one of them took some money out of her pocket to pay, I of course stopped her and said I would do that. Well, there was no, absolutely no way they would let me pay for the juice. They wanted to invite me, as I was a visitor in their country!
A few minutes later we arrived at the metro station which I had to cross to get to the Coptic Museum, and again, before I knew what was going on they had bought mea metro ticket so that I could get across the station, to theother side. They came with me, made sure Ihad arrived where I wanted to, kissed me good bye and disappeared!....
What a wonderful lesson in hospitality and tolerance these two young girls were giving.... If they are the future ofEgypt, and the Muslim world, we can look forward to that future, even if we still have a lot to learn and also to teach to our own children!.....
Ingrid (Brussels, Belgium)
November 7th, 2001
We had a wonderful time in Egypt. I don't have much time to write, but basically everyone was nice. The Egyptians are wonderful people. We spent most of our time on a group tour, but my husband and I also spent 2 days by ourselves in Cairo, taking taxis by ourselves, going out to eat (outside of the hotel), etc... We walked through Islamic Cairo and Coptic Cairo by ourselves with no problems, besides getting lost in Islamic Cairo (a taxi ride fixed that). Basically, we had no problems at all, just a wonderful time. Don't listen to the media. It is so sensationalized. Basically, people are the same wherever you go. Actually, I think the Egyptians were nicer than the Americans at times.
Thanks Egypt for the greatest vacation!
Angela and Steve
November 6th, 2001
My daughter and I recently visited Egypt. We were there for 12 days. I can not say enough good things about this vacation. The hotels were great, the people (both working in areas and everyday on the street), were so nice . We were with globus tours, Our guide was Sammy. What a great man. He explained so many thing to us, and took care of us like family. I have told so many people about your country. I always said I had to go there, now I say I have to go back. I also learned a lot about how others think in regards to Sept. 11. Your site has been of great help to me. It got me ready for the vacation. I like the honest way you write about the views of different people. I do agree that the media gives a different picture as to what is really going on in most places. The children of Egypt, touched my heart. I will always remember the face of the boy walking beside our bus, I looked out and he stopped , smiled, then waved. He was the first encounter with the many wonderful people , I was yet to meet. Thanks again for everything. Bernadette
Pa. U. S. A.
I have been a subscriber of your newsletter and have enjoyed every edition.But this one is very special to me. I was in Egypt on September 11, 2001. I was amazed at the way people responded to the occurrences here. Everyone was so sorry for what happened and made it a point to express their feelings to me. All seemed to have a need to express their sorrow, especially the Muslim people. It was almost like it was a personal disgrace on themselves and their religion. I honestly have never felt so much love and compassion from a group of people, most strangers to me. I have visited Egypt before and know the people are very hospitable, but this time, they were outstanding.
I was in communication with friends in the states through the internet and I was very upset when they made comments like they heard Egyptians were dancing in the streets in celebration of the terrorist attacks. this was so untrue and unfair. After receiving numerous emails from American friends, I almost did not want to return to the states. The pure ignorance of their comments was more than I wanted to deal with.
In conclusion, I hope you continue to promote this wonderful land and its people. I hope others are able to experience the wonders of Egypt. I cannot wait to return. Keep up the good work.
My wife and I just returned from a two week tour in Egypt and were there from Oct 14 until the 26.
Several genuine of kindness occurred to me that were very touching. However the single most telling act happened at theValley of The Kings whenI interrupted the care taker who was having his lunch. He looked about 75 years old very thin and frail lookingand was seated at the entrance to one of the Tombs.I apologized for interrupting his lunch his response was to reach in to his bag and offer me part of his lunch. I was taken aback as he was offering me a complete stranger and an America foreigner something of which he had very little. It was a very touching gesture and one which I will never forget. I do not think this would have happened had he been a visitor in our country.
I waited seventy years to see Egypt and cannot wait to spend more time there they are a most friendly people.
I just come back from 2 weeks in Egypt. It has been a wonderful experience. People has been so friendly, helpful. We have been very sad to see that we were nearly the last visitors and we can see the damage that it will cause to Egypt and the people.
Anne from France
We have just returned from Sharm el Sheikh and could not have been better received. We go there 2 or 3 times a year and this time many of the hotels were much less busy. I am sorry for the Egyptians in tourism as I remember what happened after Luxor and how many lost their jobs.
I also noticed that there were far more Egyptian families holidaying in Naana Bay - it was good to see so many nationalities of holiday makers mixing together in the lovely new centre of the town.
The Egyptians were falling over themselves to be welcoming and we felt very safe. Egyptair seems to have good security checks so we felt ok when flying.
We love Egypt and have already booked 2 more holidays there!
Information from Our Latest Newsletter
About Tour Egypt
For those of you who are not aware, Tour Egypt is a private U.S. company working under the authority and cooperation of the Ministry of Tourism of Egypt and the Egyptian Tourist Authority as their official web site. With this in mind, readers should understand that at times (though relatively infrequently) in the past, we have had our work censored by the Egyptian government. However, since September 11th, we made the decision that, given the gravity of the current events, we would report the situation in Egypt accurately, regardless of whether that involved the Egyptian government withdrawing their cooperation and our authorization as their official tourism web site.
The Prior Month's Newsletter
In fact, as most of our readers know, we did not publish an email newsletter last month. As a monthly newsletter, events were transpiring to rapidly to report in this manner, though we have tried to keep readers informed by reports on the web site itself. In addition, we were receiving too many mixed signals to adequately analyze the situation in Egypt for foreign travelers.
We have always gathered considerable information from Egypt on a number of different levels. Each day we examine every news item we can find on Egypt. We seek out information from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the State Department, reactions on Internet newsgroups and chat and messaging systems, both here at Tour Egypt and elsewhere on the Net. We talk by phone to ex-pats (foreign residents of Egypt, including Americans) and Egyptians in Egypt, as well as by email. And of course, we receive considerable email and occasionally phone calls from travelers both in Egypt and those who have just returned from tours and we are also in constant contact with tour operators both inside and outside of Egypt. Over time, we are seeing some distinct, though not necessarily conflicting patterns. In summary, the information we are receiving range from very positive reactions by tourists, to somewhat negative reports from the media. Interestingly, first hand reports have almost exclusively been positive, while negative reports have tended to come from second or third hand information.
The News Media
Of all the sources we examine, the news media has probably been the most negative, though their negative reporting must be taken in context. They report, and rightly so, that most Egyptians do not agree with the American government's foreign policy regarding two specific areas. These are the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the bombing of Afghanistan.
We could go into great detail about the reasons for this disagreement, but we will not. Simply put, while there is disagreement on these issues, we wish to point out that they do not dominate Egyptian's lives. While the situation in Afghanistan may indeed be on most American's minds, even sometimes constantly, they do not have that relevancy among common Egyptians. Certainly these issues may be a topic of conversation, but that is about all that they are. Regrettably, since these issues are primarily what the news media is interested in when talking to people in Egypt, they seem magnified in importance.
As is not unusual with the press, sometimes reporting has bordered on sensationalism. For example, even the smallest student demonstrations have been reported in Egypt. There have been no demonstrations that I know of outside the student population, and these have been peaceful, usually limited to their campuses, and those students that have participated represent only a tiny fraction of even the student population. Basically, the few demonstrations we have seen in Egypt have not at all been representative of overall Egyptian reactions. In fact, as one reader pointed out, anti-war demonstrations were a magnitude larger in several European countries (who are staunch allies of the U.S.) then in Egypt.
The United States Embassy in Cairo
The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has been very positive. While it has had to issue generalized statements from the Department of State regarding threats to Citizens abroad, they also have repeatedly stated that there are no specific threats regarding Egypt. They have also been very complimentary of the Egyptian government, repeatedly stating that they are receiving full cooperation.
All of this is not very surprising. The Egyptian government is one of the most adamant foes of terrorism, and has been for many years. They maintain a zero tolerance for extremists, and over the past four years have an exceptional record regarding tourism safety. The Egyptian government stepped up security measures after the September 11th attacks, but security in Egypt is always tightly controlled.
Tourists and Ex-Pats and Egyptians
Our best, first hand information comes from Tourists in Egypt and those who have just returned, foreigners who are residents in Egypt, and Egyptians themselves.
Surprisingly, we expect to receive an occasional complaint from a tourist, usually regarding some sort of service issue. I can honestly report that lately we have received nothing but glowing reports (a single exception being a report on the New Palace Hotel in Cairo over service issues). Tourists are telling us that both tour operators, hotels and even common Egyptians outside of the tourism industry are bending over backwards to please them. As one tourist who is currently in Egypt stated
"I'm here in Cairo now staying in a one star hotel (!) next to the AUC and a well attended mosque. Every time [I] step out of the hotel I have to plough through the crowd. Thus I'm getting in close contact with t he locals and have learned by now that there is no hostility against westerners at all. Just the reverse. People are so eager [to] show [that] their friendly hospitality hasn't changed a bit."
This comment is not atypical of the messages we are receiving.
Egyptians have historically not associated individual tourists with their respective governments, just as they seem completely blind to race. I have, and continue to find that Egyptians like Americans, as they seem to like most foreigners. I think what is partly responsible for this is their reputation for hospitality. The Egyptians know they posses this reputation, are proud of it, and go out of their way to demonstrate it.
Likewise we have heard no problems related to foreigners living in Egypt, including Americans. Everything we have heard from ex-pats recently is, again, positive. There are many ex-pats on our messaging system and reading their comments would be reassuring to anyone. Please see http//www.touregypt.net/egyptbbs.htm .
Probably the most striking aspect to me about Egypt lately is the mixed messages. First hand information has been very different from second or third hand reports and the media. We have received countless emails from tourists specifically praising their trips to Egypt as well as their hosts. I would encourage people to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and give me your views, including if you have in fact encountered a negative experience. But currently these are practically non-existent. There is in fact sadness among these great and ancient hosts that more tourists are no coming to Egypt in these troubled days.
Last Updated: June 8th, 2011