Live from the Longchamps
by Jimmy Dunn
I am going to begin this report with a few notations. First of all, I stated the other day that hotels could not take local currency for payment. This is not entirely true. They can take local currency provided that one can show a receipt from an official Egyptian bank for an exchange of currency from foreign to local. This is actually an old law that is just now being enforced. I suspect that this has a great deal to do with Egypt's removal from a list of countries where money laundering is a problem. Note that one may pay for hotels using most foreign currencies and by credit card. Note also that this applies both to the room charges, as well as to other subsidiary charges such as telephone bills.
There is nothing new about the second matter I would like to bring up. Tour operators normally take care of a number of little details that usually go unnoticed by their clients. However, certain matters must be handled by independent travelers, and perhaps one of the most important is reconfirming airline reservations if one is traveling by EgyptAir. This applies to both international and domestic flights. One need not reconfirm an EgyptAir reservation prior to the originating flight in a foreign country. But once in Egypt, one must take, or have their tickets taken to an EgyptAir office to have the return flight reconfirmed. This should also be done again soon before leaving Egypt. The same thing applies to domestic flights. Once in Egypt, one should also reconfirm those as well. This can obviously be a huge hassle for an independent traveler, though tour operators will handle it seamlessly for their clients. Some hotels, such as the Hotel Longchamps, can also arrange to reconfirm one's tickets for a small fee.
Speaking of the Hotel Longchamps, a long time home in Egypt to Tour Egypt staff, it has been pointed out that making early reservations can result in a better room, not that any of them are bad. However, the Longchamps is close to what in the US might be referred to as a bed and breakfast because each room is somewhat unique, some being executive class with fine private balconies. Also, many hotels in Egypt are getting very busy these days, including the Hotel Longchamps. In fact, that is why I am spending this evening in the Cairo Marriott. The Lonchamps was completely booked for this one evening by the time I made my reservations.
I chose the Marriott because, well, if I must stay in a five star hotel, this has always been my favorite. Certainly there are more expensive hotels in Cairo, but the core of the Marriott is a palace that was built for the opening of the Suez Canal and it has a certain Egyptian flare that most do not. It also has a very famous and pleasant terrace where it is not unusual to run into friends, as well as beautiful gardens that reflect the traditions of Zamalek. They offer tourists a most pleasant evening stroll after a long day of sightseeing. Also, last time I checked it had about the best TV for an American and I was sort of ready to watch a sitcom or two. Of course, it is also located in my beloved Zamalek, that I know oh so well.
If one has plenty of money, there are also many nice shops in the hotel and places where one can buy various clothes, baggage, necessities and souvenirs and good cars out front to take one about. However, even tourists with traveling on a budget can sometimes get good rates at the Marriott, walk a short distance off premises to buy cokes and shop along 26th of July for other items at good prices.
Anyway, I will only be at the Marriott for one night. Tomorrow night I will be heading for the Red Sea for a day at Ein Sokhna (Ain Sukhna) and then back to the Lonchamps. Ein Sokhna is a location about fifty kilometers south of Suez and where tourism is increasing, but certainly not a mainstream Red Sea resort. However, it would seem that Egyptians discovered it some time ago, and lately there has been more and more Italian tourists. Obviously, we work to provide information on all tourist destination, so I will go there on a short exploration. Hopefully I will be able to report from the hotel and convey some information on what is suppose to be a very fine five star hotel.
Today, I met with the Red Sea Sustainable Tourism Initiative (RSSTI). Its an interesting organization which focuses on land use planning, environmental monitoring and impact assessments, Environmental Best Practices and Environmental awareness in the southern region of the Red Sea below Hurghada. Funded by US Aid, part of its initiative is to aid in the development of environmentally responsible tourism in this region. Ultimately for most of our readers, besides being informed of Egypt's efforts to protect its environment, the organization also has collected some of the best information on interesting attractions on the southern Red Sea coast. In fact, they have provided us with much of this information, which we will use to expand Tour Egypt's resources in the region. I look forward to working with them in the future, and the importance of their environmental efforts should not be overlooked, for this is an area of Egypt with pristine coral reefs and largely untouched nature preserves. It should also be noted that they have collected information on many antiquities in the area, some of which are of considerable importance.
A variety of interesting Gallabeyas from Kerdasa
Yesterday, more connected to business, I visited Kerdasa. While there is a concentration of shops that sell all manner of items in the Khan el-Khalili, there are other bazaars that specialize in specific items. Kerdasa is a small district in Cairo where one street is dedicated almost entirely to shops selling Egyptian dresses known as Gallabeya. These dresses are relatively formless, taking on mostly the shape of a long T-Shirt, but much more elaborate. In fact, they are very beautiful, their design varying from long T-Shirts mostly in the collars and sleeves, and in the intricate design work that is many times made by hand. However, some are even more elaborate, approaching the fitted shape of a dress and others have several matched layers and include shawls.
Several Gallabeyas from Kerdasa
Actually, men also where Gallabeyas and they are common street clothing for poor Egyptian men, though the designs and decorations are usually very simple or nonexistent. They are also made for children. Female tourists frequently return home with several of these dresses which can be worn out but are also great for lounging around the house. Male tourists also buy the simpler male garments for nightwear, finding the Egyptian cotton very comfortable.
Several Gallabeyas from Kerdasa
Kerdasa is somewhat of an out of the way place, and there were no tourists when I visited the area. However, the merchants were obviously familiar with tourists and doubtless the occasional tour bus makes a stop on this street. If the Khan el-Khalili has every imaginable souvenir that can be purchased in Egypt, then Kerdasa has every imaginable Gallabeya. Soon, these garments will also show up in our own Virtual Khan el-Khalili.
Other Live from the Longchamps Stories