A beginners guide to using Uber in Cairo

The recent news that Uber had been ‘banned’ in Egypt was discussed at length in the media, especially in the women’s groups I belong to. The common theme was ‘How will I get around now? Local taxis just aren’t safe’, ‘This is going to put women at the mercy of unregulated local taxis’ and ‘This is not going to help tourism!’. I feel privileged that I drive in Cairo; yes the roads are crazy but I’m too stubborn to relinquish my independence. However, for lots of people in Cairo, Uber is a fundamental part of their lives – it’s how they get to work, go shopping, meet up with friends and feel safe doing so. Luckily it doesn’t seem that the ban is imminent. It will go to through further judicial proceedings and it will be a drawn out process so, for the time being,  it continues to operate as normal and that’s a huge relief for people who rely on the service for a safe taxi ride. It is also important for tourists to know they can get an Uber rather than rely on less regulated services.

Official Uber Statement

However, in saying that I woke this morning to a series of tweets about a lady in Cairo who had been sexually harassed by an Uber Driver. Uber Egypt replied swiftly and have asked for further details but unfortunately this isn’t the first time I’ve heard people having unpleasant experiences with Uber. I was going to say ‘I’ve been lucky’ that it hasn’t happened to me, but I think that’s the wrong phrase. Luck shouldn’t come into feeling safe or not being sexually harassed. The main issues we’ve had with Uber have been;

  • The driver who decided to reverse for several hundred meters down Suez Road because he missed the turn.
  • The driver who, after many near misses and almost driving over a roundabout, pulled over and after a few minutes of searching pulled out his glasses.
  • The driver who drove the wrong way down a dual carriage way because ‘it was better’!

So, in the light of this news, the reports from customers and my own experiences I thought I’d write a quick guide to ensure a safer Uber ride, whether you’re a visitor to Cairo or a resident.

Check the drivers rating– when I order my Uber I usually check the drivers rating. For me, if anyone with a rating less than a 4 accepts my fare I cancel because it suggests to me there’s been issues previously.

I don’t set my location precisely where I live – the pin for my pick up location isn’t directly outside my house. For my security I drop it close by, but nobody picking me up would be able to tell which house I came from.

Check the driver matches the photo on the app – if I’m getting in by myself I always check that the Driver is the person shown on the app. Once Greg and I got into a car that we assumed was our Uber. It was only after he’d driven for a few minutes and asked where we were going we realized we’d been complacent and got into a random car and we quickly got out!!

Check the driver is using the app – it sounds obvious but a lot of drivers don’t like using the app because it uses data. Quite often they’ll turn the app off and ask for directions. If it’s somewhere I know I usually don’t mind and I’ll direct them, but if it’s not a place your familiar with insist they use the app. If they refuse, get out!.

Check the condition of the car – Cairo traffic is notorious and so too is the quality of driving and the condition of the cars. I have had many online conversations with Uber when cars have arrived with no working seatbelts. This is something for your judgement but we tend not to get in a car without working seatbelts especially if it’s a trip using a main road. If you report this to Uber you will be refunded. I asked Uber if cars have to be fitted with seatbelts in Egypt but they wouldn’t give me a definitive answer simply saying that cars have to ‘comply with local laws’.

Continue to use your own GPS – if I am going somewhere unfamiliar I always have Google Maps on ( it works offline too) so I can track where I am.

Learn and use basic Arabic– a few key words will definitely help with navigation. I don’t speak very much Arabic but when I Uber I do! Ones to know shimal (left), ya – meen (right), ala tul (straight), hena (here), shukran (thanks), ma salama ( goodbye). It’s also good to learn Arabic numbers so you can recognize car number plates.

Think about your conversation – again this is personal, you may be a naturally chatty person but sometimes this friendliness can be misinterpreted. If you don’t want to talk a quick ‘hi’ and then putting in headphones is usually works. However, I’ve had lovely drivers who want to chat and develop their English skills! A lot of drivers have Uber as a second job and many of them are genuinely interested in your Cairo experience.

Have the right change– if you’re paying cash make sure you have money similar to the quote you were given before booking the ride. It saves the hassle of not having change. I know some people don’t like to tip but if a driver has driven well, looks after his car and is professional I always tip, not a huge amount just a gesture. For example is a fare is 85LE I’ll give 100LE or if there’s 4 people and it’s 25LE give 40LE. If you pay by card have small tip 5/10LE ready for a short ride and 20LE + for a longer drive.

Be dropped off away from your home – similarly to when I get picked up I’ll get dropped off close to where I live but not directly at the door.

Check your receipt – once, after a ride, the receipt was more than I’d expected. I looked at the timings and the ride had not been ended until 10 minutes after I’d actually been dropped off! I have no idea how this happened but I was refunded. Always check and only pay what is shown on the green screen. Tolls are included in the fare, you do not need to pay extra.

Don’t answer your phone – this may or may not be a coincidence but the nuisance calls I’ve had have often been after I’ve Ubered. My advice would be to answer and if the person constantly says ‘hello’ keep the call going but don’t respond. This costs the caller and they soon get sick of it. The longest I’ve had someone shout ‘hello’ down the phone for was 12 minutes. I just left the phone on whilst I gave a running commentary of the bechamel sauce I was making for dinner. They never called back………

Rate well – if a driver has been good rate them well. If they’ve been awful rate them badly. Eventually over time the good drivers will prevail ( I hope).

Report any issues with Uber – in my experience Uber is very good and responding to complaints and questions. You can do this via their website, app or using social media.

Uber complains form

This is by no means an exhaustive list and most of it is common sense,  if you have more to add please let me know. Personally I don’t think twice about using Uber  and I would always use Uber rather than a ‘normal taxi’ but there are so many scare stories and misinformation online I thought this practical advice might be useful. The vast majority of Uber drivers are kind, honest, hardworking people simply earning a living getting you to your destination safely. Please remember to report any incidents that do happen to Uber – by doing this you’re ensuring the safety of other customers.

Thanks for reading!

The Oberoi, Sahl Hasheesh

Over the years my views on holidays have changed. When I lived in the UK and only had the chance to go away for a couple of weeks a year all I was bothered about was that the sun would shine, the beach was nice and I could go a day trip or two. Now I’m much more interested in experiencing the places that I go to, living in ‘hot’ countries for the last 4 years, I’m not to fussed about lounging by a pool or beach. I love visiting historical sites and understanding local culture, I don’t even mind if it’s cold. But, now I’m going to completely contradict myself with this write-up of our stay at The Oberoi Sahl Hasheesh, where we did pretty much nothing other than lie by the pool – our own private pool!

Sahl Hasheesh is about 30 minutes south of Hurghada and the journey from New Cairo took us about 5 hours. After the long drive it was lovely to be warmly greeted by the security guard and shown to reception. The grounds of the hotel are absolutely beautiful, credit to the staff who maintain the grounds they were always immaculate and it’s clear they are expertly cared for. There was some grounds work going on, I assume they are getting it in tip-top shape for the main tourist season.

I think check in was the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. We were given cool towels, a refreshing glass of hibiscus juice and sat on comfortable chairs in the reception area while the paperwork was carried out discretely by Sami.

Once this was done we were taken on a brief tour of the main facilities and then given complimentary tea and coffee while we waited for confirmation our room was ready. We arrived at 11am and luckily our room was ready shortly after. The property sits on 48 acres of land so golf buggies are available 24hrs a day if required. After a short ride we arrived at our grand suite which was just beautiful. I had read so many glowing reviews of the hotel that I had very high expectations and it didn’t disappoint.

Our suite

The suite we booked was a grand suite and it aptly named. With a light and airy open floor plan, a spacious lounge led through to the king size bedroom, a walk in closet and stunning bathroom with rainfall shower and sunken bath. I really loved all the local touches such as the rugs, furniture, lights and artwork. The Egyptian linen was such excellent quality and many items in the room could also be purchased from the hotel boutique which I thought was a lovely idea. The lounge had a comfortable sofa, TV, fridge, mini bar and all of the windows were fitted with blinds so it was completely private. Each day we received complimentary fresh fruit and bottles of mineral water. Small cartons of milk are also provided free of charge from the mini bar so you can make your own tea and coffee.

The bed was extremely luxurious with feather pillows and duvet and each day it was made up and decorated with ‘towel art’.

The huge walk in closet ensured there was plenty of room for suitcases plus lots of hanging space, drawers, a full length mirror and a safe. We were also provided with slippers and robes. I loved the attention to detail such as proving electrical adaptors, a beach bag and insect repellent!

The bathroom gave us some serious interior design inspiration. I loved the wall of glass onto the small garden creating an ‘inside outside’ feel. The shower was very powerful and the sunken bath with candles was just lovely.

At times we did struggle to get hot water, we had to run the water for a while (which felt wasteful) but it did heat up eventually. The toiletries and towels were very good quality and it was always spotlessly clean. I have a real dislike of hair dryers which are hard-wired into the bathroom drawer so even though it was powerful, next time I’ll take my own because I hate drying my hair in the bathroom due to the bad combination of humid air and frizz! During our stay the housekeeping was superb. Each morning when we came back from breakfast our room had been made up and each evening the turn down service took place when we were having dinner. This discreet service was excellent, we didn’t need to wait around so they could carry out the service.

The garden

This for me was my favourite part of the suite, I have never stayed anywhere with my own private pool and this one has set a high precedent for future holidays. Leading off from the lounge a glass door opens onto a shaded patio area complete with a dining table and chairs. The sizeable pool takes up the majority of the rest of the garden and it’s just wonderful. It benefits from the sun all day with occasional shade provided by the palm trees.

There are also 2 sunbeds and a big umbrella. I loved only having to walk a few steps before plunging into the pool. It’s about 4ft deep but there is no shallow end; something to consider if you are staying with children. I have to say we spent the majority of our time by the pool and it was blissfully quiet (this is quite rare for Egypt) with only the occasional sound coming from the birds in the trees. If you order in room dining they set up the indoor or outdoor dining table so it feels like you’re still at home! On an evening the pool was lit up so you could enjoy a bit of night swimming and, if you’re staying in winter, the pool is heated.

Food

We really enjoyed the food during our stay, it wasn’t outstanding but it was consistently good from breakfast to dinner and in-room dining. Our stay included breakfast but all other food and drink we paid for separately. Breakfast is either served outside overlooking the pool or indoors with views across the sea.

Two options are available; an open buffet or you can order from an a la carte menu.

I can definitely recommend the crepes, French toast and eggs Benedict.

The hotel also caters for dietary requirements offering gluten-free, organic and low-fat options. You can also order breakfast to your room for no extra charge which we did on our last day as it was more convenient.

We ordered in room dining for lunch, and again the food was delicious. The pepperoni pizza in particular was very good as was the chicken shawarma. The in-room dining menu isn’t huge but there’s enough variety if you’re only staying for a few days, a children’s menu is also available.

Dinner is served either under the stars in the courtyard or indoors. Both have wonderful musicians playing traditional instruments which added to the atmosphere rather simply creating noise. It really is a lovely place to spend the evening and the service was good.

It is obvious the hotel prides itself on its menu, offering seasonal dishes and themed nights. I wasn’t aware that the menu changes daily so if you see something you fancy order it because it may not be available the next night!

The bar offers a variety of drinks and snacks. We became rather partial to a gin fizz cocktail, berry mojito and shisha while playing cards! A couple of times the chef came out to ask us about our meals which was a lovely touch.

The beach

To be fair we hardly made it to the beach but it is very pretty. Fine golden sand fringed with palm trees and crystal clear water. Like many places on the Red Sea there is a lot of coral which makes it ideal for diving and snorkeling but dangerous to walk on without shoes.

However, the hotel has this covered by providing shoes free of charge and also the option of going into the sea via a jetty to avoid walking on the coral reef. There are many sun-beds and umbrellas, plus staff are on hand regularly bringing over complimentary cold towels, drinks and suntan lotion!!

I imagine if you’re staying in one of the suites at the ‘top’ of the hill the walk to the beach in the summer could be quite a challenge. But, as I said, there are loads of golf buggies around so if you have mobility problems or you just don’t fancy the walk you can just grab a buggy back!

The pool

During our stay the hotel was operating at 40% occupancy and it was blissfully tranquil. The only time we really noticed the number of guests was at dinner when most the table were taken. As many people have their own pool and other guests use the beach the pool area was generally quiet. The pool is ideal for children as it has a shallow end and steps at each side.

The setting overlooking the sea is lovely. Even on an evening it was nice to sit by the pool watching the sun set.

Other services / facilities

There is a tennis court on site and all equipment can be loaned from the hotel. The court wasn’t busy when we were there but in high season you may need to book.

There is a gym (which I peered at through the window) which looked well equipped. I’m really annoyed that I never booked a spa treatment, next time I will for sure because based on the rest of the hotel I’m sure it’s superb. As mentioned earlier there is a Boutique selling beautiful fabrics, ornaments, jewelry and toiletries. This is a perfect place to pick up a souvenir as the quality was very good and the prices fairly reasonable. It was nice to be able to browse without being hassled! I loved the reading room which was styled like a gentlemen’s club and had lots of book about Egyptology. This was a quiet, relaxing place to sink down into a sofa and find out more about the history and culture of the country.

The hotel offers a daily program for children and adults such as cooking classes, games and activities. They also have selection of trips available such as a boat trip to Giftun Island, glass bottom boat trips, visits to a nearby monastery, quad biking and snorkeling. On leaving the hotel, within walking distance there are a few souvenir shops and further towards Hurghada there is a mall with a Spinney’s supermarket and KFC etc. Although there is no ATM in the hotel you can use your bank card at the front desk to get cash back, they charge 5% for this useful service.

Some other points

The hotel doesn’t encourage the use of mobile phones in the restaurants and this was actually quite refreshing. We didn’t have to endured listening to other people’s conversations, in-fact I rarely saw anyone with their phone out. This made it quite awkward for me trying to take photos of the food and rooms as I was definitely the odd one out!

The hotel discourages individual tips. They ask at the end of your stay to place a gratuity in an envelope which is distributed amongst all staff. I loved this, we didn’t have to try to find small bills each time we got a buggy or ordered food and drinks. However, I did write onto the envelope the name of our housekeeper who did an excellent job so I’m hoping he received his share.

Unlike our recent stay in Ain Sokhna the prices at the Oberoi do not include service charge and taxes but I personally much prefer having everything included. I’m not sure if this is hotel policy or all hotels in the Red Sea Governorate operate this way. It’s something to take into account if you’re on a budget, you need to add roughly 25% to each bill.

As you can probably tell we absolutely adored our time at the Oberoi. I don’t think I’ve had a stay where everything was so relaxed and the staff were so professional, we came home feeling totally refreshed. I can’t recommend the hotel more highly if you’re looking for a total escape and luxury. This all however comes at a price……..I’d say taking the room, food, drink, taxes, tips into account we probably paid about £400 a night. Was it worth it? Yes, we will always look back at our 5th wedding anniversary with very fond memories (especially considering we spent our honeymoon in a Premier Inn!). If you are considering making a booking I’d recommend you book directly with the hotel as you will get a better rate. If you do go, please let me know what you thought.

Now, I’m pretty sure Hani, one of the waiters, told me the Oberoi brand operates a luxury Nile cruiser between Aswan and Luxor so I’d best look into booking that……!

Thank you for reading, liking, sharing and commenting 🙂

Andiamo, Heliopolis

Tucked away behind an unassuming garden gate on a busy road in Heliopolis, Andiamo is easily missed. Luckily Greg had been a couple of weeks ago and knew where to go or we’d have been wandering around for ages, something we seem to do quite often in Cairo!

Andiamo, Heliopolis

Stepping into Andiamo you feel like you’ve walked into someone’s back garden. The compact, cosy space, cleverly manages to accommodate a fully stocked bar, a handful of tables, TV and a pizza oven. It’s very cute!

Andiamo, Heliopolis
Andiamo, Heliopolis

There’s no chance of poor service here, it’s so small the staff only have to walk a few meters – in fact you can probably just call out your order! The food menu is simple; its pizza. There are several varieties to choose from, all are thin crust with crispy bases and topped with good quality, fresh ingredients. I think our food arrived after about 15 minutes cooked to order in the pizza oven. The drinks menu is more substantial, from soft drinks to beer and sangria, cocktails to spirits.

Andiamo, Heliopolis
Andiamo, Heliopolis

We ordered two pizzas to share, one with smoked ham and mushroom the other with merguez sausage. They were so delicious with generous toppings and a perfect ratio of tomato sauce to cheese, plenty for 2 hungry people. Washed down with a few Desperados, it made for a very relaxing Saturday afternoon.

Andiamo, Heliopolis
Andiamo, Heliopolis

If you like authentic pizza in a relaxing setting with good service Andiamo is the place to go. We both said how much it reminded us of the small pizza places we visited in Venice and Florence a few years ago. For me there is nothing better than a movie night with pjs and a chicken ranch pizza from Papa Johns, but, for a more refined pizza experience Andiamo is a must!

Andiamo, Heliopolis

We paid just over 900LE for 2 pizzas and 6 beers including taxes and service. When we arrived just after lunchtime it was fairly quiet but I would recommend you make a reservation for weekend evenings.

Movenpick, Ain Sokhna

Going to the seaside in January may sound like a crazy idea but I assured myself that in Egypt it hardly ever rains so I went ahead and clicked ‘reserve room’. I was soon proven completely wrong……

Movenpick Ain Sokhna

Ain Sokhna is about a 90 minute drive east of Cairo and is a popular seaside destination for those wanting to escape the city. We had a long weekend and, after much research, opted for the Movenpick located right between the mountains and Red Sea.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna

We arrived after a pretty daunting journey (I’m sure we weren’t traveling on an official road for some it) at about 8pm and, after checking in, arrived at our room – except it wasn’t the room we booked. It didn’t have a sofa, bath or a double bed so after a quick call to reception, apparently they thought we’d like this room better, we were told we could move rooms after dinner. Not quite the relaxing start we’d hoped for. We booked our room on a half board basis so our rate included breakfast and dinner* with both served in the Cataplana restaurant. This is the hotels main restaurant and has several ‘overspill rooms’ a conservatory, terrace plus the primary dining area. Throughout our stay the restaurant was extremely busy, the staff were efficient at clearing spaces and replenishing cutlery but it was a bit of a scrum at times especially at breakfast. However, this was understandable due to the adverse weather which meant the outdoor terrace couldn’t be used.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna

After dinner we went to reception and we were allocated our new room, a deluxe double with garden views. The room was a decent size with lots of storage space, fridge, tea/coffee facilities, safe, large bathroom and a lovely balcony overlooking the grounds. It was fairly obvious the room wasn’t ready to be occupied. It was quite dusty, there was an empty water bottle in the drawer and the safe wasn’t working. However, we were tired and we decided to report these issues the next morning.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna room
Movenpick Ain Sokhna bathroom

We awoke to a stunning view of the mountains and sea, the landscaping of the hotel has been very well thought out; it was lovely. The less said about the weather the better!

About 9am we headed down for breakfast and it was packed! Each of the ‘overspill’ rooms were in use but the staff quickly found us a table and we enjoyed cooked to order omelette, fresh fruit, muesli and pastries. We then wandered through the grounds to check out the beach and other facilities.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna breakfast

Inside the main building there are a couple of shops selling clothes, jewelry and souvenirs and an ATM. Also, just across from reception, there is a bar with TV screens, pool table, comfy sofas and huge windows allowing in lots of natural light. Steps lead to lower ground floor which is where the spa well equipped Gym is located.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna Zen Lounge
Movenpick Ain Sokhna gym

My favourite part of the hotel were the grounds, credit to the staff for keeping them immaculate. The little river meanders from the hotel to the beach ending in a small lake and is cross-crossed with small bridges and a paved walkway. If you want direct access to the grounds I suggest you book a room on the ground floor with a terrace.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna gardens

Eventually you arrive at the sea-shore. The beach is to the right, a long strip of golden sand with sun beds and umbrellas. From here you can also book pedlos, kayaks and go on inflatable rides. The entertainment team were also organizing beach volley ball and yoga here. The water is a lovely turquoise, very clear and perfect for snorkeling and diving in warmer months.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna beach
Movenpick Ain Sokhna beach

The pool is also well designed, it’s a really good size and surrounded by sun beds and umbrellas. The pool is not heated though and it was freezing so we weren’t able to use it!

Movenpick Ain Sokhna pool
Movenpick Ain Sokhna pool

To the left there is a El Gezirah cafe with a large terrace overlooking the beach. Admittedly there is also a view of the industrial site from this side which isn’t quite so picturesque but growing up in Teesside it was a reminder of home! The cafe serves alcohol and non alcoholic drinks, food, shisha and ice cream. There’s also a couple of hammocks to lounge around in.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna grounds

We had a quick chat at reception to ask them to fix our safe and give the room a thorough clean. Within minutes maintenance arrived to reset the safe but unfortunately during our stay the room wasn’t particularly well cleaned. I know that tourism numbers are down and if hotels aren’t bringing in revenue then it’s difficult to upgrade items but small things can be fixed. For example the wardrobe door needed fixing, the hinge on the mini bar was broken, the bath needed a proper clean, the glass on the outside table wasn’t attached to the table – all of these little things could be addressed through a maintenance program. I wouldn’t say that these things particularly effected our stay but it just gives a general poor impression.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna deluxe room

Dinner each night was fairly good. A selection of hot and cold buffet items, an outside barbecue, desserts and cheeses. The roast on the last night was particularly tasty and the staff were helpful and friendly.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna restaurant
Movenpick Ain Sokhna buffet

The hotel is definitely family friendly with an entertainment team putting on activities and shows. There is also a children’s playground and outdoor table tennis.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna childrens area

On an evening the children’s entertainment took place in the bar, so unfortunately there was nowhere for us to relax after dinner and have a couple of drinks although I guess normally these activities would be outside. The ‘over 18’ rule was not applied to the bar. Throughout the day there were children in there unsupervised which was a bit frustrating, but I guess if you have children and you want a drink it would be fine. It was also, like many places in Egypt, very smoky. Nevertheless we enjoyed sitting here, playing pool and cards with friends.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna bar
Movenpick Ain Sokhna Zen lounge
Movenpick Ain Sokhna bar

The room service we ordered was fast and sensibly priced, the burger came within about 20 minutes and was priced at 90LE. I was hugely impressed that they brought me fresh milk for tea with no fuss and no charge, small things that matter but which are overlooked! The food in Zen bar again was good although the menu is quite limited. I felt the pricing of drinks and shisha was very reasonable for a hotel with soft drinks costing about 25LE and beer about 70LE. I also liked the fact that all priced included tax so what you saw was what you paid.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna bar food
Movenpick Ain Sokhna room service

On our last day the sun eventually shone, it was beautiful. We managed to go for a paddle and have one last drink before heading back to Cairo.

Movenpick Ain Sokhna beach

So overall I’d go to the Movenpick for;

  • Beautiful scenery and lovely grounds
  • Spacious, well equipped room
  • Range of activities especially for families
  • Clear sea water and large pool / beach
  • Friendly, helpful staff

I think our stay could be even better if;

  • Rooms were maintained better
  • The over 18 policy was enforced in Zen bar

Would we go back? To Sokhna – Yes! To the Movenpick- probably! We know what to expect and it would be even more enjoyable in nice weather. If you book this thinking of a usual seaside hotel property in Egypt / Turkey you won’t be disappointed.

Have you been to Sokhna or the Movenpick? What did you think?

*no drinks at all are included at dinner, only food. Tea/coffee and juice is included at breakfast*

From Qatar to Egypt – Highlights of 2017

If someone had told me in December 2016 the following year we’d be living in a new country, with new jobs I don’t think I’d have quite believed them. At that point we weren’t sure if we were leaving Qatar and Egypt wasn’t even on our radar. So, here we are December 2017 and I’m writing this sat in my little garden in New Cairo, proof that you should always expect the unexpected……Looking back 2017 has been a funny, challenging, exciting, crazy year. If you ever want any tips on how you should relocate to a new country feel free to DM me but I’ll give you some tips.

  1. Try not to move to a country which has cut diplomatic ties with the country you’re moving from. It means you, your husband, your dog and your shipping can’t get there directly!
  2. Try to avoid moving during Eid (especially when moving from and to a Muslim country).
  3. Make sure the Air B n B you’re going to stay in when you arrive actually exists.
  4. Don’t put your dog on a flight with a connecting flight – you may panic when you’re told he missed his flight in Jordan.
  5. Don’t cry in the car of an estate agent you’ve only just met.
  6. Don’t let your dog meet the ‘friendly’ cat which repeatedly will attack him until he’s so scratched you have to put him in a T-shirt as you still haven’t found a vet.

Now the dust has settled and I can just about laugh at how stressful the move was, here are 2017’s highlights.

Once we knew we were leaving Qatar we decided to spend the Easter holidays there completing our bucket list. One of our most memorable parts of the holiday was our stay at Regency Sealine Camp about 1hr south of Doha. A luxury camp right on the seashore we loved how relaxing it was, the tents were incredibly comfortable and the sea was wonderfully clear. If you read my post you’ll know our last morning was a bit of a let down, but I would have loved to go back and stay there again. I definitely recommend a visit here, it’s family friendly too.

The second hotel stay to mention was my solo staycation at the Kempinski Royal Maxim Palace, New Cairo. I’d had a tough couple of weeks and my stay here gave me some much-needed ‘me time’. I loved the sleek design of my room and the huge pool, plus it does a great staycation rate. I recently went back for a massage and made use of the indoor spa facilities which were very good.

One thing I miss desperately about Doha is having so many bars, restaurants and cafes on our doorstep. Cairo has been better for our waistlines and wallets, but I have found it hard to find consistently good places. I miss having the Marriott Marquis literally over the road for breakfast at Quickbites and sliders at Champions. On reflection, one of my most memorable meals of 2017 was at New York Steakhouse’s during their ‘chocolate menu experience’ with this venison dish. Their Ramadan tent was fabulous too.

In Cairo I’m so happy to have found Kazoku. Offering modern Asian food we’ve been several times on a Friday afternoon and never been disappointed with the service or the food. If you haven’t been you’re definitely missing out!

We also found Casper & Gambini’s is consistent and offers a wide-ranging menu. We often pop into the one at Cairo Festival City for brunch.

Pub wise we like to go to the Tap East in New Cairo for food and drinks. I think we’ll make more of an effort to go and listen to some live music here next year.

My New Year resolution for 2017 was to get more exercise and I started by walking 10,000 steps every day. This was mostly done walking along the corniche every afternoon with my headphones in listening to podcasts. I love being by the water and every day I noticed something different and enjoyed watching the weather and landscape change. Since moving to Cairo I’ve joined Fibers Gym but some of the classes have been a bit disappointing, hopefully they’ll improve in 2018.

I have loved having a garden and seeing Dyson playing on the green spaces that we have where we live, it’s so pretty. He’s such a good dog and manages so well moving from country to country. After saying goodbye to his Doha dog friends he’s made a new friend, our neighbors dog Zoe!

One thing I will never forget was the first time we saw the pyramids. A couple of weeks after moving we were driving around on a mission and trying to work out which direction the pyramids were in. We thought they were miles away but, literally seconds after discussing it, we drove up a flyover and, as we turned a corner, they were there in front of us. I nearly crashed! On our official tour there recently we were blown away by how big the pyramids actually are and the skill and ingenuity that went into building them. I think what I love even more is that there are still so many unknowns and so much still to be discovered.

I enjoy being by the water and one evening I went on a boat trip along the Nile. It was so special sailing along, listening to the call to prayer, watching the sunset and the realization I live in Cairo! It’s a lovely way to spend an evening.

It’s strange looking back at 2017, it feels like we’ve lived two separate lives this year – the familiarity of Qatar and the brand new experiences of Egypt. For us 2018 is going to be an exciting year. I turn the big 40, we have an epic summer trip planned and we are looking forward to exploring more of Egypt and Africa. Thank you to everyone who had read my blog, followed me on social media, messaged me with advice and tips – it really is appreciated. I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and family and friends.

See you in 2018!

Why I think you should visit Alexandria 

Greg and I have quickly come to the conclusion that there’s so much to do and see in Egypt we probably won’t always travel overseas during our holidays. I have already added Sahel, Sharm, El Gouna, Hurghada, Luxor and Aswan to our ‘must visit’ list! However, we decided to spend October half term in Alexandria, a city neither of us knew much about other than that it’s on the North Coast and its famous for the light house which was one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. We chose the Four Seasons at San Stefano mainly due to its location and facilities plus the fact we’ve never stayed in a Four Seasons property before (I will write a separate review of the hotel in a future post but I can’t recommend it highly enough, it was just lovely).

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Four Seasons Alexandria

 

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Pool, Four Seasons Alexandria

History 

The city dates back to about 300BC and for history buffs it offers so much. To get the most out of our visit, and because we don’t know a huge amount about Egyptian history, we booked a guided tour of the main sights. I’d recommend this as a good introduction not only to Alexandria, but to Egypt as a whole because it was so informative. Our first stop was to the Catacombs which were discovered accidentally when a donkey fell down a hole exposing an underground burial chamber! Photography is not allowed so you’ll just have to take my word for it that it’s an incredible venture into the ancient practices of mummifying bodies and burial chambers.

Catacombs Alexandria
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99 steps leading underground

​We also drove past Pompey’s Pillar and through the old town which, rumor has it, was built on top of Alexander’s tomb.

Pompey’s Pillar

Many people are surprised that there is a large Christian community in Alexandria and our next stop was to St Marks, the oldest church in Africa. This religious complex is also home to the Pope of the Orthodox Church and it was a lovely oasis of quiet in the middle of the city.

St Mark’s, Alexandria

Our final stop was to the Roman amphitheater, again only discovered accidentally in the last 50 years when foundations were being laid for a new housing development. The site has lots of artifacts from the sunken city in Alexandria harbor, as well as an amphitheater. What is fascinating about this historical site is that it is actively being excavated and it’s obvious there is a lot more to discover.

Roman amphitheatre, Alexandria

Independently over the course of our stay we visited Biblioteca Alexandria which is a hugely impressive building inside and out. We also took a short trip to Qaitbay fortification which was built on the old foundations of the lighthouse and has magnificent views across the city and coastline.

Bibliotheca Alexandria

 

Fort Qaitby

Sea air 

Coming to Alexandria from Cairo it was so nice to breath in the sea air and smell the saltiness after a day out and about. Our hotel had a private beach and fabulous views across the beautiful blues of the Mediterranean Sea. It was lovely to sit and have lunch watching fishermen going about their daily business as well as people enjoying the beach.

Alexandria coast line
Alexandria corniche

Food

One of the things I was most looking forward to, and what everyone told us to do, was to eat the seafood here. Our most notable meal was at the Blue and White restaurant on the second floor of the Greek Club near Citadel. We sat outside on the terrace overlooking the harbor and it was stunning. The restaurant is renowned for its fresh fish cooked to order and we thoroughly enjoyed the red snapper simply grilled with lemon, herbs and oil. Although we found the service indifferent the food was very good and it’s a place we’d go back to.

The Greek Club, Alexandria

People 

The one thing I can hand on heart say about Egypt is that the Egyptian people are the nicest I’ve ever met and Alexandria was no exception. From the staff in the hotel who took time to chat to us about our day to our guides Mohamed and Omar who answered our (thousands) of questions about Egypt. We also met a lovely Uber Driver who told us that he used to be an engineer but as there’s is no work for him he now uses his car for a livelihood and, despite his circumstances, invited Greg and I for dinner with his family. Sometimes Egypt has a reputation for scams and hard sells but we didn’t experience this. Alexandria is also a university city and it was nice to see groups of students sitting reading and socialising along the corniche and in the parks, it gives the place a young vibe.


You can probably tell from this post that we both enjoyed our time in Alexandria and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy history, good food and being at the seaside! Have you been?

Tips:

We hired a Driver from New Cairo to Alexandria, it cost 1700LE for a return trip which took about 3 hours eat way. If you’re close to the train station I know it’s significantly cheaper, perhaps 140LE return per person – I think the train takes a couple of hours.

As already mentioned, we stayed at the Four Seasons which was wonderful,although it is one of the more expensive options. If you’re looking for a bit of luxury I definitely recommend you stay there.

We booked our guided trip with Ramasside Tours who were very good at tailor making a trip to suit our requirements.

If you chose to have dinner at the Greek Club booking is recommended especially if you want a table with a view.

Keep in mind when planning your days out that the traffic, especially along the corniche, can get gridlocked. For example it took us almost 45 minutes to get from Qaitbay to our hotel so try to pick quieter times for longer journeys.