|Subject: Egypt trip, part 5 of 6|
We come to the next to last chapter of my Egyptian journal & I'll explain the problems with the Milano Travel company.
After walking back to the bus, being flown back to Aswan, our guide, Ayman, met us with a driver for our day#s tour in Aswan. We decided not to go to Philae because it was an additional cost of $32 per person & also decided not to go to the high dam at Aswan, which, of course, changed the lives of Egyptians. Because we live in the Northwestern US & have seen many dams this, while acknowledging how important it is to the Egyptians, held no particular fascination for us. We were also suffering from AEO##Ancient Egyptian Overload.# I was just plain, I #melt-down# & needed quiet, alone, time to watch, but not participate, in the world going by. Remember, I am used to living with one man, 23 miles from civilization, in the deep, extremely quiet, woods of Northern Idaho. The sights & sounds of Egypt over the last 10 days have been exhilirating but tiring. Ayman, who is Nubian & whose grandfather had moved to Aswan to help build the high dam, wanted to show us the new Nubian museum, built by UNESCO a few years ago & also guide us through a Nubian village. Again, I appreciated his pride in his ancestry but my body was tired after 10 days of touring, & also from getting up at 3:30am. I made it through half of the Nubian museum which was, indeed, new, well-laid out chronologically, & well-done, before my feet gave out completely. I rested on a bench outside in the shade while Margo & Ayman finished their tour. Then we took a boat across the fairly narrow section of the Nile to a Nubian restaurant overlooking the Nile & Elephantine Island with the nobles# tombs. The food was wonderful#50LE, about $8 each for salad & dips, bread, tagine..a fish casserole with tomatoe-based broth with vegetables & a good piece of cod-like fish, dessert with small, sweet, Nubian bananas. Delightful & tasty.
We took a half hour felucca ride back to the river cruise boat, Nile Jewel. We were alone on the sailboat except for a crew of 2. The ride was delightful & peaceful. We arrived back at the ship & rested on deck until train time which brings up our problems with Milano Travel representatives. Our 2 guides, Dalia & Ayman, were outstanding, professional, knowledgeable, & took a personal interest in us. The Milano reps were less than helpful. Here is the chronology of our problem written to Milano senior tour representative, Dahlia Younis. As of Feb. 21, we still have no answer, just an acknowledgement that they would look into the problem. I will give you the series of chronological events. January 22, there was a sand storm which Reham told us, caused the trains not to be running. We were asked if we would change our itinerary to go to Hurghada first, instead of taking the night sleeper train to Aswan. It had been our plan to rest in Hurghada after the busy week or so touring all Egyptian sights for a week but we agreed to reverse the schedule. Reham knew at that time that we would need to take the sleeper train which we'd already paid for, on the night of January 29 from Aswan to Cairo. But that became a HUGE problem later on in our travels. We took the fairly uncomfortable, very crowded, night bus to Hurghada & although Mohammed, Milano Travel representative in Hurghada didn't call us every day as Reham assured us he would, it wasn't a problem. He didn't give us very good information about leaving Hurghada or when or where or by whom we'd be met in Luxor & that was a minor problem. January 23, I called Reham from Hurghada to check on our future schedule. It appeared from reviewing the itinerary that we would not have the 2 nights in Cairo on the return if we took a night train & I wondered if we could pay a bit extra & fly on the 29th to Cairo instead of taking the train. Reham said she was on her way to the office & would call us back shortly or leave a message. We never heard from her. We continued on our itin & took the motorcoach to Luxor, checked into the Nile Jewel cruise ship, met Ayman Bakry, & had a lovely cruise, seeing all the sights we had wanted to see for many years. They were, indeed, awesome. January 27, we had still not heard from Reham about the remainder of our trip, specifically about flying back to Cairo or taking the train & losing a day in Cairo, so we asked Ayman to check on the return trip plans. Ayman was told by Menah, the Milano Travel representative in Aswan, that train tickets had already been purchased & that it was very expensive to fly, although I figured our that it wouldn't been much more than we had already spent for the sleeper trains, maybe $30 or so, each, from my calculations. January 28, We again asked Ayman to check on the train arrangements & he said he was in contact with Menah & waiting to hear. January 29, When Menah picked us up at the ship at 4:30am for transfer to the Cairo airport for the Abu Simbel flight, Ayman tried to confirm arrangements for the train with Menah. He said he was working on it. Yasser, a travel agent who was to get us on the plane to Abu Simbel, told us that the sleeper train left that night at 6pm. When we returned from Abu Simbel, the situation was still not resolved. Ayman told us that Menah needed our passports to take to the train station to match names on passport to names on ticket. (By the way, when we finally received our train tickets, there was no names on them!) Menah was supposed to be coming to meet us in 5 minutes or 15 minutes to pick up the passports but he never did. Ayman continued to call Menah every hour or so while we were sightseeing in Aswan & later when we were resting on the ship. We were to leave that night to go to Cairo but had no idea of the arrangements! Menah finally called at about 4:30pm to say he would be at the ship to get us in 15 minutes. He then called 10 minutes later to say he needed $50 extra per person for the train tickets because it was very busy. We said no because our tickets were supposed to be arranged a week ago & we'd already paid for them. We asked about paying extra to fly back & Menah told Ayman that the planes were full. Then we called Reham & Ayman explained the situation which she said she knew nothing about....but it had been her responsibility in the beginning to see that our arrangements were made! She said she'd call back. I think she talked to Menah because now he called back & said it would be only $25 per person for sleeper or no extra charge for sitting up. And that Milano Travel would pay us back when we got to Cairo. At that point, less than an hour before the train was to leave, we decided to each pay the $25. Menah, at 5:15pm, called to say he was on his way to pick us up, coming from the train station, 5 minutes away. 20 minutes later, Ayman called to see where he was....on his way. He finally arrived shortly before 6pm, no tickets in hand & did not speak to us, only to Ayman. Menah said he would meet us at the train station because the car wouldn't hold all of us, but we never saw Menah again & we had no tickets. Ayman was able to talk to the steward on the train & got us tickets, under the table, carried our luggage, & saw us to our cabin safely. Ayman paid the whole amount for the 2 tickets plus the $25 extra per person. He stayed with us until the train left as well as talking to the steward to make sure we were taken care of. His professionalism, dignity, respect, & integrity saved us & the situation but our last day in Aswan was ruined because of this debacle. January 30, we arrived at the Giza station & were met by Wy-el, Milano Travel representative, who either didn't speak enough English to help us with the train ticket problem or chose not to understand us. There was no resolution of the train ticket problem that day, although we were able to rest in the hotel, were taken on our scheduled Old Cairo tour, & transferred to the airport for the rest of our stay in Europe.
Since I am now back home, I wanted to explain the entire situation & receive your reassurances that Ayman Bakry would be reimbursed for our train tickets & that you would get an explanation for us from Menah on his behavior, & perhaps an apology for the unprofessional way he handled the arrangements. As I said in the beginning, I belong to a very large internet travel list & many people are thinking about trips to Egypt. I'd like to have this situation resolved before I give information & recommendations to the people about traveling in Egypt. Margo & I, even with the arrangement problems, are thinking about traveling again to Egypt & are interested in a cruise on Lake Nasser, so it is important to clear up our bad feelings about Milano Travel before we start planning another tour. That's the information I emailed 2 weeks ago to the senior representative of the tour company & then last Friday to the president of Milano Travel. No answers or explanation, so far, except a quick email after a week to say they were looking into it. I certainly will not book with Milano Travel again & we do plan to return in November or next January.
Ending on a sour note but the rest of the tour was wonderful. I felt quite responsible for Margo & me because I've done lots of traveling. But I broke one of my cardinal rules...I didn't have the phone number of someone in charge who could give us answers! And because I was tired, I wasn't assertive enough, early enough.
Carol Bailey Priest Lake, Idaho