The recent introduction of Egyptair to the world’s biggest aviation alliance was reason for the Dutch part of Star Alliance to organize its annual study trip to Egypt. With a group of 120 travel agents we flew to Egypt’s capital Cairo to see what this country has to offer for both the leisure and business market.
The group was divided on flights of the Star Alliance members Lufthansa, BMI, Egyptair, Austrian, Swiss and Turkish Airlines. I was selected to fly with Lufthansa’s early morning flight to Frankfurt, with a connecting flight to Cairo. After spending the night at Schiphol Amsterdam airport, I proceeded to the check-in counter where I met my colleagues on this trip, and boarded the airplane. Frankfurt’s newly renovated airport gave us a fast and convenient transfer, so at about 4.00 PM we safely reached Cairo International Airport. The transfer to the Semiramis Intercontinental hotel (5*) gave me my first impression of this capital, dirty and chaotic, with seemingly no traffic laws, as nobody appeared to worry about traffic signs or markings on the road.
Our hotel was situated directly on the Nile shore, giving a nice view from the bar where we had our welcome drink. My room was at the 16th floor, overlooking the city center and a small part of the Nile. After we had time for some refreshments in the hotel room our dinner was served in one of the restaurants inside the hotel.
The next morning we went to Giza to see the famous pyramids. The three pyramids are only a short drive from Cairo, and are considered to be part of the Eight Wonders of the World. After some photo shoots we continued to the neighboring Sun Boat Museum, followed by a quick photo stop at the Sphinx. From there we drove back to the Nile, where we embarked a river cruise to consume our lunch.
After this lunch our tour went on to the city center itself. The city is more than any other city I have been to made by its people. Like Amsterdam is known for its canals, Singapore made by its modern architecture, Cairo has is character thanks to the local population. Everywhere you look you see street vendors selling there goods. One of the best locations to experience this is the Khan Al-Khalili market in Cairo. While the entire world is currently thinking of how to spend their own money during the current economical crisis, the only thing they seem to worry about is how they can spend your money. You have to be careful, because with smooth words and techniques they manage to transfer any situation into selling their products to you. The main rule you should remember before you enter the small streets in the area is “Don’t pay more than half of the first offer”. Negotiating is what you have to do, and although it might sometimes be difficult, real bargains can be found here.
After wandering around the small streets of the Khan Al-Khalili market for two hours we went back to the hotel. The entire day we were already accompanied by an Egyptian TV crew, and a local newspaper published an article of the Dutch travel agents exploring Cairo. That night’s dinner was furthermore attended by the Dutch Ambassador, and several local representatives of Egyptair. The entire evening was transformed into a fancy show with performances of a famous ballet group and an on-stage music performance.
While the rest of the group went to the Egyptian Museum I decided to spend some more time in the city itself. After a short walk from the hotel I already got rid of all the tourist shops and found the real population, living their lives on the street. In every street I found friendly people to have a short talk with, and willing to be photographed. Walking there felt like being in a completely different world, people seemed to be more relaxed and more enjoying the simple things in life. I passed by several small bars with old men sitting outside, overlooking the street with everyone passing by.
Two hours later I arrived back at the hotel for the lunch. After the lunch we checked-out from our rooms and were transfered back to the airport. An one hour flight with Egyptair’s domestic carrier Egyptair Express brought us from Cairo to one of the country’s booming beach destinations Sharm El Sheikh. Although I don’t see myself going on a holiday to a destination like this, it was interesting to see what this newly built destination has to offer to clients looking for a standard sun, sea and beach holiday.
We checked-in at the Marriott Sharm El Sheikh Resort (4*), and got some time to relax in our rooms. At 7.30 PM we gathered in the lobby for a barbecue at the beach. From our hotel a long boulevard lead to Sharm El Sheikh’s city center. Here you can find loads of souvenir shops, bars and clubs. Although it was still low season the city centre was crowded with mainly British and Russian tourists.
Although the entire trip had been very relaxing already, the fourth day was entitled to relax and enjoy some luxury. With four big yachts we entered the open sea for a day of sunbathing, swimming and snorkeling. During the day we made several stops along the route. We were able to see the Red Sea both above and below the water surface. The beautiful coral and fishes made it a very nice, and indeed relaxing day. Although the four boats were filled with over 100 women, no one had helped me with applying the suncreen, so by the time we arrived back in the harbor my entire body was red like a lobster.
Our fifth and last day in Egypt I just slept late and after a short flight with Egyptair Express to Cairo, and a connecting flight with Swiss via Zurich I got back in Amsterdam in the late evening. After those 5 days I can conclude that Egypt has much more to offer than regular beach holidays and I am pretty sure I will get back to experience more of this country in the near future.
During the trip I took over 1000 pictures, a selection of them can be found again in the photo gallery.
Finally, I want to thank the entire Dutch Star Alliance crew, the representatives of Egyptair and all other people involved in organizing this unforgettable trip.
Star Alliance – The airline network was established in 1997 as the first truly global airline alliance to offer customers worldwide reach and a smooth travel experience. Overall, the Star Alliance network offers more than 16,500 daily flights to 912 destinations in 159 countries
More information: Staralliance.com