Our Upcoming Tour of Egypt
by Jimmy Dunn
Egypt calls, but that's nothing new. I always miss Egypt when I am back home in Texas, and there is only one way to fix that. Therefore, I will be returning at the end of November (2004). This, however, will be a very unusual trip. First of all, I am taking a small group of Tour Egypt employees and supporters who have never been to Egypt. They are all excited, which makes planning the tour more fun for me. Furthermore, I have never been to Egypt just for a vacation, but I mostly plan on enjoying this visit, including spending some time with my good friends who live there. Of course, I will be doing a lot of photography work on some of the temples that we visit for future articles, and will also further explore some of the private tombs, but I can do this in the normal course of the tour as we travel throughout Egypt.
Another difference with this tour is that it is not a free, promotional trip. Most of the time, I do not pay to go to Egypt, but since I am taking a group, we had to shop around for some good pricing. I ended up choosing Misr Travel as the tour operator. Misr can be translated as Egypt, and Egypt or Misr Travel is one of the largest and oldest tour operators in the region. They are actually the governmental tour operator of Egypt, and thus have a lot of pull. I went to them because I know their personnel in the US very well, and also some of their staff in Egypt. I also knew that they could swing the price I sought for a good tour.
Outside of Egypt, there are basically three types of companies that sell tours to Egypt. Travel agencies can, of course, sell Egyptian tours, which they usually arrange through ground operators in Egypt, or their agents in the local country. Usually, they are by no means specialists on Egyptian tours. A second type are companies that specialize in Egypt as one of their destinations. These companies usually provide tours to a few other destinations as well, and arrange their tours through one or more ground operators in Egypt. Some may have contracts with these ground operators and do considerable business with them. A third type of company are the foreign offices of specific ground operators in Egypt. They frequently offer wholesale pricing to various travel agents and specialists, but may also provide tours to the general public. Msir Travel is one of the latter, with offices in many different countries, including the US.
have been working with Misr Travel for years, and I know the members of their staff in the US very well. Samir Khalil, who runs the New York office is an old and trusted friend who has helped me out on more than one occasion. He has run that office since 1977, and before that he headed the New York office of the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA), so he knows just about everything there is to know about Egyptian tourism, as well as just about everyone in the industry. His office is well staffed with exceptionally experienced people, and is one of the very few offices directly connected to an Egyptian tour company where someone is always available to take a call.
Also in his office is Hisham, another Egyptian who has worked for Misr Travel in New York for some 17 years, and 7 more years prior to that in Cairo, and Eunice, who has been in the office for 23 years, and prior to that also worked in the New York office of the Egyptian Tourist Authority. I can think of no other US office with more combined experience in Egyptian Tours. Incidentally, Misr Travel also has considerable support back in Cairo, where they have substantial offices (throughout the country in every major tourist destination). They also have an interesting board of directors, including such people as Zahi Hawass, Chairman of Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities.
This probably explains why we are not the only ones to use Misr Travel out of the US. The Smithsonian Institute uses them for their Egypt tours, as does, for example, the Montreal Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Art Institute.
Another first for me will be using the services of Movenpick throughout the tour, which will allow me to review a number of their hotels in Egypt, as well as one of the HS Radamis Nile Cruisers, which they operate. Movenpick is an international hotel chain with facilities throughout Egypt. They operate a total of 49 hotels in 16 countries.
I previously reviewed their well known hotel in Luxor, getting the feeling of a well run, reasonably priced family oriented resort with guests that return again and again. We will actually be boarding the Nile Cruise in Luxor, so we will not be staying at that facility, but I believe the boat docks at the Island. We will be staying at the Movenpick Pyramid Hotel in Cairo, and will also be using their facility in Sharm el-Sheikh. I remember a few years ago spending a very enjoyable evening in their outside club at Sharm, watching a very wonderful Romanian stage show (known as an animation). While those in the US may be somewhat unfamiliar with this Swiss hotel chain with facilities throughout Europe and Northern Africa, people in Boston can experience their rather unique Marche restaurant in the Prudential center.
Movenpick is also known for their golf courses in Egypt. In fact, the first ever professional golf tournament to be held in Egypt was at their Sharm el-Sheikh golf course.
We will actually be taking a fairly standard tour through Misr Travel. In fact, the tour will specifically be their "Extraordinary Egypt", with the Nile Cruise and Sharm el-Sheikh add-ons. This is a very flexible tour which also allows other add-ons besides those we have chosen for this trip. The tour will be for thirteen days, beginning in Cairo, moving on to Luxor for the Nile Cruise, then transferring to Sharm el-Sheikh and back to Cairo. It hits all of the major sites, but also allows some free time and a chance to relax, or visit some selective sites.
By the way, we will, of course, utilize my favored means of transport to Egypt, EgyptAir. I like traveling to Egypt on EgyptAir for any number of reasons. Egyptians are great hosts, and so too are the flight attendants on Egypt's primary airline. Furthermore, the passengers are usually either Egyptians, are foreigners heading to Egypt for tours, and I enjoy talking to both. I might also add that their in-flight magazine usually has some nice articles on Egyptian travel and various destinations.
Now while I will try as I might to think of this as a vacation, I will also be filing reports from Egypt about our experiences, live from Movenpick Egypt!