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Trip Report “Extensive tour around Egypt in 36 Days”

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Let me ask you a question first: Would you think it was safe for a young,white Australian woman with congenital heart disease to travel all around Egypt? Well, speaking from personal experience,I can tell you that it is safe. My partner and I researched tour operators online and found a couple of well established tour companies. While these companies had positive reviews in their thousands, they had a small number of damning reviews. Another tour company we contacted refused to consider us due to my medical condition. As our intended trip would be very expensive, and I had to undergo a cardiac procedure just to qualify for travel insurance, there was no way that we were going to take any risks with our tour operator. However, it seemed that we would have to... until we found a video for Real Egypt Tours - Samir Abbass on you tube, then we looked up their website. It was well set out and had a form where we could submit our personal details and interests with respect to visiting Egypt so that our trip could be tailor made. That was new to us as all the companies we had seen tried to get us to accept a standard itinerary. We looked at Egypt Tours - Samir Abbass on trip advisor and couldn't believe it – all the reviews were excellent.
After we contacted Egypt Tours - Samir Abbass, we received an email asking us to Skype with them in order to better understand our interests and my medical situation. That meeting was the first time we "met" Samir. He spoke to us for a whole hour without any obligation from us. During this time he helped us to map out our itinerary (which would grow to an extensive tour) and explained the physical demands associated with each activity on our list. At this point it is important to know that we didn’t just plan to go to the major cities, our tour also included cruises, camping in the desert and hiking at Mt Sinai. Samir and his team made several arrangements due to my medical condition. These included taking a GPS and satellite phone on our desert tour so that emergency services could be notified of our location in case I became ill, working INR blood tests into the itinerary, arranging a camel for transport on Mt Sinai, and ordering low salt meals where possible.
Samir and his team did a fantastic job to ensure that every transition went smoothly. His team is located all over Egypt, so he was able to contact them to organise what we needed in advance without wasting any of our time. We met Mohamed in Aswan, who took us to the sound and light show in Philae Temple, arranged for a doctor to visit my partner on board the Dahabiya when he was suffering from heatstroke and traveller’s diarrhoea, and even bought us gifts! Mohamed and Gamal, the “desert tigers” were also wonderful hosts on the desert safari. They prepared delicious food and set up the camp site after some very long days of driving. Youssri, our driver for the first week, also made us feel very comfortable upon arrival in a new country by negotiating the complicated streets of Cairo.
Over the five week tour, we must have stayed in at least 20 different locations and visited close to 100 sites. Our accommodation ranged from five star hotels to tents in the desert. Within this range some of the more unique places we stayed at were the Taziry Lodge and AdrereAmallal eco lodges in Siwa (which were made of salt and sand), Bait Sabi guest house on the west bank of Luxor, and the Nubian guest house on Elephantine Island in Aswan. The tents in the desert were also surprisingly comfortable!
Health and safety were of key concern the entire time. Everyday Samir checked the news reports and a few sites in Cairo were rescheduled due to the possibility of protests. On long road trips we travelled with security or as part of a convoy if it was advised. Almost all of the cars had seat belts,while life jackets were available on boat trips. Samir and his employees were cautious of our health as well. None of the drivers smoked in the cars, while Samir advised us to drink lemon juice and water at breakfast to avoid stomach upsets. One of the most critical situations for me in terms of my health was climbing Mt Sinai due to the altitude. Salem, our guide for that portion of the tour was extremely patient and allowed me to rest whenever I needed to (we took six hours all up). He had also bought biscuits and dates for the journey. The next day when we climbed down the mountain I noticed him helping other tourists as well even though he wasn’t being paid for it... which brings me to my next point.
Egypt Tours - Samir Abbass takes a very different approach to tourism in that employees are selected based on their personal character rather than their knowledge and skills alone. This is to ensure that guides and drivers are not tempted to take tourists to so called "tourist traps." These are shops where tourists are coerced into buying trinkets, perfumes, papyrus or rugs from the "museums" or "factories" at inflated prices so the guide can earn a commission. Instead, our guide took us shopping to buy the things we wanted, and told us the maximum price we should pay in order to start bargaining (for example, the original price of a cotton shirt was 120 pounds, our guide helped us to get it for 30 pounds). Another time we bought some souvenirs on our own and later that day our guide gave us the money he had received as commission from the shop owner.
Samir and the staff of Real Egypt Tours - Samir Abbass treated us like family over the five weeks we were in Egypt and made sure we were always happy and safe. We were given a phone and USB modem (for our laptop) to stay in contact with each other and home (back in Australia). Each day we were also asked if there was anything about the service that could be improved. On the last day, he even invited us into his home where we met his wife Hala and children Sara and Basil. Egypt Tours - Samir Abbass is a tour company that will do everything they can to help you to create the vacation you want and make it real. Before I went on this trip, I never would have imagined even half the things I saw and learned. I could say so much more about this invaluable experience, but I will simply say that I had the confidence to go on this journey thanks to Real Egypt and our friend Samir Abbass. Shokran!
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