We started our tour on Friday and arrived back to Cairo from Aswan the following Friday. As those of you following recent Egyptian history carefully will know, Friday is protest day. Apparently the pattern was established as part of the Arab Spring. People would go to mosque and then spill into Tahrir Square to protest the regime.
We met Sonia for the first time on Saturday afternoon – and she told us we had brought luck as Friday had been very quiet (unlike the previous week when I was already en route checking the BBC on a regular basis trying to understand precisely what was happening in Cairo.
The scarab is a good luck symbol in Egypt. There are scarabs everywhere! There are all kinds of symbols in Egyptian culture. It adds extra meaning to some of the jewelry I purchased.
Even more fascinating was trying to understand Egypt in 2012. It’s not too often you see things on a holiday tour that have just been in the recent news headlines. I think I already mentioned that we saw Mubarek’s former headquarters looking like something from World War II and the bedraggled remnants of the Arab Spring in Tahrir Square. Apparently the scattered tents are homeless merchants who came to sell their wares to the crowds and now have nowhere else to go. When we got back from Aswan, they drove us by the Defense Ministry, the site of all the protests I had been following on BBC the week before. We also saw some live electioneering on the streets.
More fascinating was Riccardo’s account of how they got the A&K tourists out of Cairo the week one million tourists fled the city. The staff set up camp for five days at three different hotels, including the Four Seasons I stayed at in downtown Cairo, one in Giza near the Pyramids and the Fairmont at the airport. They shuttled people to the airport hotel as they found them seats on planes.
They ran the gauntlet of the airport staff and walked each tourist through the airport and safely on to his plane as other stranded tourists looked on enviously. To get the final tourists back home, they chartered a plane and flew them to Jordan where they could secure them connecting flights back to their home cities. What was even more impressive was that Riccardo told us they had achieved all of this despite all communications in Cairo being shut down for 3 of the 5 days!
A&K definitely has your back and the level of service is exemplary even when you are not in the middle of a revolution. Riccardo practically put me on the plane at the airport and I told him it was going to be tough having to take care of myself again when I landed.
So, really, the least we could do for them was act as human scarabs and help to keep Cairo safe so the staff could get some sleep 🙂 Most of the staff had barely worked since the revolution so the atmosphere during our trip was highly charged with hope and I don’t think any of us will ever forget the wonderful A&K staff who guided us through their home country as though we were on a royal tour and they had cleared away all the pesky tourists just for us 😉
I really hope good luck will continue and the historic elections in Egypt this week will yield a productive government. If that happens, get there as fast as you can! Before the other tourists catch on…