On Wednesday the 27th December, after a great Christmas in Cambridgeshire, Kasia and I headed to Manchester. With suitcases, shower chair and travel hoist in tow, we arrived at a hotel near to the airport. Following a meal and pre holiday wines, we tried to sleep before our exciting journey. We were going to Egypt!
Awake at a time I hate to see, we drove 10 minutes, and parked in the Terminal 1 car park. A rather strange guy met us and helped get the luggage to the check-in counter.
We booked our Thomas Cook flights on Tripsta, and the ‘all inclusive’ hotel on booking.com. This was to fit in with the dates of Kasia’s parents Tui package from Poland – who we’d meet in Makadi Bay near Hurghada later that day.
Unfortunately various bits of information from the booking, made weeks earlier, hadn’t been passed through. Despite my having followed the correct procedures. At the check-in desk they didn’t know I’d need assistance. Nor that I had 3 bits of mobility equipment to fly with.
Fortunately the guy was very professional and dealt with it admirably. My carry-on assistance, mobility equipment, and needing to sit with Kasia was all arranged. For a minute we’d be separated, meaning I couldn’t eat or drink on the 5 hour flight!
I wrote about how I badly injured my foot getting on the plane in the previous post. It took 3 weeks to mend, but is ok now. The rest of this post is about the beautiful holiday and experiences we had in Egypt.
The 6th of 7 continents I’ve now visited. Only Antarctica to go 😓
The flight passed by well and the next thing we knew we’d landed. As the assistance guys lifted and reunited me with my wheelchair, it hit me! The warm air was wondrous. My cells started regenerating immediately from the previous weeks of cold winter.
I smiled so widely.
After gathering the luggage, we headed to the taxi rank. Hoping the accessible cab company were waiting for us. I’d found their details in the ‘Accessible Travel Club’ Facebook group. A guy called John Morris shared this post of his Cairo trip. It mentioned the London Cab Egypt website and how they are wheelchair accessible. Result!
After a bit of looking and wondering what would happen if they hadn’t received the booking (and a 100 other scenarios). We spotted a black London taxi in the distance. Just like the ones who used to take me home in my London days drunk and singing. With the built in ramp to boot! The driver was so nice, and we all chilled during the 30 minutes to our hotel.
Jaz Makadi Oasis Resort
After many years of travels that involved meetings, content creation, social media, giving talks, crazy adventures, long days and big risks; I wanted a relaxing holiday with winter sun. So before I share more, please remember the aim of this particular trip.
We arrived at the beautiful Jaz Makadi Oasis Resort. You’ll remember my mentioning at the beginning that we’d used booking.com. I’d made a slight boo boo and thought a double room obviously meant for 2 people. Evidently I needed to state that 2 people would be using the double room.
Once that was sorted, the room we were shown wasn’t with an accessible shower, as requested. However we ended up in a lovely room. The reception staff were helpful and accommodating. Literally. And all was well.
In the hotel we had 2 swimming pools, but unfortunately without a hoist. There was an indoor and outdoor bar. Which was accessible 🙂 The food and drink in the restaurant was delicious. I had freshly made omelettes most mornings for breakfast. You just asked the chef what to include and watched him cook it. The buffet for all 3 daily meals was huge!
Unlike some of these style of hotels, the beach wasn’t attached. However it was only a 10 minute walk, along a wheelchair accessible path. The food and drink by the sea was all part of the all inclusive package. So I was enjoying pizza and coke or a ‘cuppa tea’ for lunch with the above views. While the others swam (my foot was too painful to go in the sea), I listened to my Richard Branson audio book.
At the end of each day we had a massage in the spa. My masseuse was really cool about my disability. I stayed in the wheelchair and felt a lot of benefits from my back, neck and shoulders being moved around.
The evenings were so magical. Being December it was a little fresh, but way warmer than back home. After our meal we would listen to the music, watch the acts, go for walks, dance, play cards and talk about the world. Despite a slight language barrier with Kasia’s parents, we all get on so well. They’re beautiful people.
During our week there, it was New Years Eve. We met a fellow English speaker and her son. Most of our hotel was for German tourists. So the waiters match-made us with Julia and Aiden.
They’d closed the restaurant for breakfast and lunch. To prepare for the celebrations. They didn’t disappoint either! There was the usual buffet style, with some extra starter and main courses. Then there was this huge table of deserts. Each dish was like art. I felt like I was in Charlie and the chocolate factory. We all had a great meal together.
After the food and wine, there was a show in the theatre. Mainly aimed at kids. Followed by a live band, a flame thrower and a disco. We had so much fun singing and dancing and welcoming 2018 into our lives.
Naturally I would have loved to see the pyramids, Cairo, Alexandria and more. As explained I was so tired and with an injured foot. The pyramids were a 5 hour drive from our hotel. It just wasn’t on the agenda for this trip.
I’m always sad and guilty if I don’t scratch under the surface of a culture. It’s one of the main reasons why I love travel. Despite being in a relatively sheltered resort, I made an effort to chat with the staff. To at least learn something.
I learned that since the Arab spring revolution things haven’t improved so much. The waiters, cleaners, masseuses, chefs, and so on earn a low wage. While putting in weeks or months away from home and loved ones. However they’re always smiling and genuinely friendly. One guy was getting married and showed us photos of his fiance. So we gave him some money towards his big day.
On one of our walks out of the hotel, but very much inside the resort, we went shopping. I got presents for my family. Kasia’s family did too. We wrote postcards. And got chatting to the shop keepers.
While waiting outside one shop, a guy around 20 years old started chatting to me. Now, the Egyptian shop owners love a negotiation. They’re hustling, as I do in my job. It’s all good. But I was wary of yet another barter situation.
Eventually he got me inside the shop for a free present. A book mark with my name written in Arabic. The owner started chatting to me too, when I noticed he had a crutch. Then his 7 year old son spoke to me in his best English.
It was suddenly like we were all best mates. Farid, the owner, was father to the original guy and had 7 kids in total. He had polio from childhood. When Kasia and her parents joined me, Yusuf (the 7 year old) made us hibiscus tea. While we marvelled at the art from their family in Cairo on the mounted papyrus. It was mystical and educational. Then when the lights went out (we were warned), the phosphorus glowed a different picture on all of the art!
We agreed to return the next day to buy some top quality hibiscus tea. Farid gave me a present – one of the pieces of art. We agreed next time to visit Cairo together and see the papyrus factory nearby the pyramids. We tipped Yusuf for his welcoming entrepreneurial spirit. Then said our goodbyes.
My Overall Impression
Whenever I travel, I consider if I could live in the destination. There were many positives with Egypt. The climate, the people, the history and the culture. However the political and economic difficulties are horrible to see first hand. Plus I know I’d miss the greenery of Europe. The road to the airport was very dark and dusty.
Whilst I might not consider relocating permanently, I would 100% love to return. There’s so much more to do and see. Even to repeat what we did would be a dream come true. I felt very comfortable in the hotel and on the beach…
Particularly with the views of the sea, sand, sun and that awesome camel taxi!
I hope you enjoyed reading this. Let me know if you have any thoughts or questions too 🙂
Martyn ‘Bedouin’ Sibley
– World Changer @ martynsibley.com
– Captain of Inclusion @ disabilityhorizons.com
– Author @ ‘Everything is Possible‘ (on Amazon)
– Motivational Speaker @ pro-motivate.com/speaker/martyn-sibley
– Adviser @ Governments/Businesses/Charities