When I first moved to Luxor in 2003 and wanted to buy material/cloth, curtains, sheets, house furniture etc. I had to go to Cairo for them. Anything available in Luxor was NOTHING even remotely near what I needed. Finding a laptop to buy was impossible. It took me 18 months and 6 trips to Cairo to find a laptop. At the time there was ONE computer arcade (housing about 10 shops) in Cairo so it was not that odd that nobody could point me in the right direction.
I thought I was in heaven when I discovered there was an actual ENGLISH phone directory printed for Cairo. Trouble was nobody knew where to get a copy. I was inspired on one trip to Cairo to go into the Ramses Hilton – just happened to be passing it – because it occurred to me they might have them for their guests. And so they did – the receptionist directed me to the Business Centre upstairs. Well, yes – I could look at one but could not buy it.
By now I was tired, frustrated and at my wits end. I let go at the hotel employee a tirade in English, about how useless it was for President Mubarak to be inviting the world to come and invest in Egypt, when one could not even buy a bloody phone directory, so one could actually go and find shops to spend money in or a place where a woman could get a haircut! Remember those were days when the internet did not offer what it offers today.
I think the poor man only understood the word “Mubarak” when he went white, rushed into the back room and came out pushing a brand new directory into my hands. When I asked how much and wanted to pay for it, he just kept repeating “compliments of the hotel, compliments of the hotel!”
In the end the directory did not solve my problem of where to go buy stuff because 95% of the websites I found were “dead”, their mailboxes were full so I could not email them, their phones went unanswered and it seemed most were gone out of business since the info had first been gathered for the book.
In those days one did not find furniture in a furniture shop in Luxor. You got your furniture by choosing a photo from a French catalogue and ordered a similar piece (if you were lucky) from a carpenter. Even at that it would have been faster, not to mention more likely to look like the photo, if imported from abroad!
While it only took me 18 months to build Mara House (finished in 2005), it took me another 3 – 4 years, until the end of 2008 to finally find my way around Cairo, and understand how to source the type of materials and furnishings that made Mara House what it is today.
I tell you all the above by way of explaining that, even today, guaranteed relaxation for a tourist in Egypt requires pre-planning and organisation. In Egypt we find a different mindset, different approach to life, living and life’s problems, daily usage of a different language, different values, desires, life goals, hopes and expectations.
When visiting a European or US city we mostly know what to expect. You can ask where’s the best place to get a beer or a meal and you get an immediate easy answer. The person you are asking is pretty similar to you in most aspects mentioned above. Ask the same question in Egypt and you will be lucky to get a coherent answer any time soon. If you do get an answer you will most likely end up NOT where you were expecting to end up.
SPA & MASSAGE in EGYPT
The relaxation that I am strongly advising you to take advantage of while in Egypt is the reputable SPA & MASSAGE faciliies where they are available. A massage is a massage is a massage. But a massage at half the price or less than you pay for it at home is even sweeter.
Most of my guests are from the USA and I understand the average starting cost of a massage in pleasant surroundings is around $90 per hour.
In Luxor you can have a 1 hour FULL BODY MASSAGE for $32 at the Sonesta Hotel on the tourist strip. Located on the lower level of the Sonesta St. George Hotel, the Key of Life Club is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. This full-service facility offers free weights, exercise machines, strength-training machines, stationary cycle, treadmill, sauna, steam bath, Jacuzzi and Swedish massage. Showers, day lockers, towel service and guest amenities are included.
In Cairo most of the big hotels provide a similar service – we usually use the Steigenberger El Tahrir in Cairo for our 11 night Group Trips, 9 night Egypt Package and 3 night Cairo Package and I always book a massage for the evening of my arrival if my plane is scheduled to arrive in time to get to the spa before it closes.
Our Mara House accommodation and tour inclusive packages in Cairo and Luxor have you back in the hotels, depending on the tour day, anytime between 4.30 and 6pm at the latest. The spas can only take a limited number of bookings so my advice would be to go see the facilities in the hotels as soon as you arrive and book yourself in for a few massages as early as possible.
If you would like to have a massage the day you arrive and your arrival flight is scheduled to come in early enough, you can ask me to make a booking for you.
Remember – we can all do with a bit of pampering and when better than while on holiday?