Follow by Email

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

DOWNTOWN CAIRO -- 9

 DESIGNED TO BE THE PARIS OF THE EAST

Egyptians love their food, and the center of town offers it in abundance.

There are cheap chains and independent holes-in-the-wall that have been kept in the family for generations.

As millennials and hipsters begin to revive Downtown Cairo with their presence, you’ll also find some gourmet gems.

Monday, January 25, 2021

DOWNTOWN CAIRO -- 8

 DESIGNED TO BE THE PARIS OF THE EAST


A stroll through the district takes pedestrians past buildings that meld Islamic and European motifs, neo-classical columns and ornate decorations.

But its elegance and prestige are fading, as the one-way streets and former palaces fall into ruin and shops selling cheap clothes and odds and ends have moved in.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

DOWNTOWN CAIRO -- 7

 DESIGNED TO BE THE PARIS OF THE EAST

Historically a meeting place for the upper crust and intellectuals, it’s no surprise that there are several spots to have a drink in Downtown Cairo. 

Don’t expect mixology and million-dollar interiors, though. 

The charm of downtown watering holes is the wear and tear on the historic spaces and the no-frills experiences.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

TURKISH AIRLINES: I USED TO RECOMMEND YOUR FLIGHTS TO EVERYONE

YOUR COMPLETE INCOMPETENCE AND REFUSAL TO ACKNOWLEDGE MY  CLEARLY-WRITTEN LETTERS SEEKING COMPENSATION DUE – MEANS I WILL NOW STEER ALL MY ASSOCIATES TO RIVAL CARRIERS

On Saturday March 13, I arrived early at the Cairo airport, 3 hours ahead of the 9:35 a.m. scheduled departure of Turkish Airlines Flight #691.  The scene at check-in, for the boarding pass was chaotic.

The call went out for passengers of Flight TK691 to come to the boarding area. Rumors abounded but there were zero announcements. We ultimately left more than three hours late. There never was a single announcement and there was no gate agent for 90 minutes.

Finally, someone brought water for parched people who had to give up liquids at the boarding area security check. The gate agent, who never used the speaker, but talked to a few people one-on-one before hiding for more than an hour – flat out lied. He said there were across the board 3-hour delays in Istanbul, so even though we would arrive 3 hours late, we would make our connections.

In flight, the crew claimed it had no way of checking in on connections – a claim I do not believe. When we landed in Istanbul, folks learned they had missed about a half dozen connections to North America, as those flights took off on time – proving the gate agent who hid and never made a public announcement was lying. This is the opposite of what I expect from Turkish Airlines. I have told hundreds of friends that TA combines old world Turkish hospitality with modern aircraft and the best connections around the world.

When we arrived – at what is one of the largest airports on earth – there was not a single person to help.  Hundreds of us walked past passport control, connecting international flights area, visa purchase and more.  Some mistakenly exited too soon.  Finally, after almost giving up, I found a Turkish Airlines desk. 

A female in a TA uniform handed out my boarding pass and said to get a visa. Because I have visited Turkey many times in the past few years, I knew about this – but others were confused and given little information.  Once I got my visa, I walked thousands of feet back to the TA desk – only to be told I wasted my time and should have gone through passport control and found the TA hotel desk.

I doubled back, went through the lines, and then exited. There were still dozens of football field sized parts of the concourse to navigate – without a single TA employee to help. Finally, I found an area marked Turkish Airlines. They man took my boarding pass and said to wait. No more information, no sorry, no we’ll take care of you.

Maybe 15 minutes later, I was given my boarding pass and herded into an area to wait for a shuttle. The drive spoke Turkish only and kept complaining to the group for the hour drive. There was no Turkish Air employee on board to tell us where were we going, what kind of hotel we’d be getting, etc.

Finally, we reached a Ramada and were checked in and told dinner was set, not off a menu of choices, at 7 p.m. I was even charged for a simple stomach-settling Sprite when I wanted it in addition to juice and water provided. We were told at the airport that we’d be reimbursed for the $30 USD visa, but no one ever came to the hotel, got on the shuttle back to the airport or was at the gate to help or give us that money. We also never received a text, email or phone call to explain.

When the shuttle arrived at the airport at noon Sunday March 14, I realized my ticket (for Flight TA 77 IST-MIA) was far back in coach. I had paid $109 to upgrade to a legroom seat – but lost all value of that by being seated in the back. By being delayed a day – 100% the fault of TA for leaving Cairo 3+ hours late, my wife, who uses a wheelchair for mobility, had to hire a personal care attendant to watch after her for two shifts on March 14 – at a total cost of $66 USD.

I tipped the hotel waiter for dinner and breakfast and the maid with Lira left in my room. The total, plus the sprite, is about 60 TRY + 60 TRY I spent at the airport on a bottle of water and pizza – fearing that I better line my stomach in case we would once again be 3 or more hours late taking off and trapped with zero provisions after security (like it was in Cairo).   So that’s the equivalent of about $18.50 USD.

I understand weather and other circumstances delay flights. What I cannot comprehend is how my once-beloved Turkish Airlines dropped the ball so much on customer service – at both Cairo and Istanbul Airports. There were hundreds of TA employees around – why couldn’t dozens of them deployed to keep us informed with honest information (Cairo) and precise directions (Istanbul)?

At a minimum, I am due: $30 for Turkish Visa, $109 for seat upgrade lost when flight forced to next day (Turkish Airlines at fault for delay), $66 for my wife’s care and $18.50 for food, beverage and tip associated with the one-day delay in departure. That is $223.50 for pure reimbursement, calculating in nothing for the time I have spent gathering figures and composing this letter.

To truly be the elite air carrier it claims to be, TA should refund the $223.50 + double that amount in a voucher valid for future travel, once it is safe to fly post pandemic.



 


Friday, January 22, 2021

DOWNTOWN CAIRO -- 6

 DESIGNED TO BE THE PARIS OF THE EAST


Downtown is a shared meeting point for Cairenes of every age and socioeconomic background. 

Built in the late 19th century, Downtown Cairo is still home to architectural gems from Egypt’s ‘belle epoque’ and streets designed with pedestrians in mind.

The area has become a lot more crowded, especially among the city’s younger citizens, who head there to eat, shop and visit art spaces and cinemas.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

DOWNTOWN CAIRO -- 5

 DESIGNED TO BE THE PARIS OF THE EAST


Downtown Cairo is haunted by fading classics such as Café Riche, which opened in 1908 and has been a meeting place for intellectuals and revolutionaries.

Downtown’s cafes witnessed many historically significant events over the 20th century. 

Patrons included the iconic Egyptian Nobel Prize winner and novelist Naguib Mahfouz and the then-future president Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

DOWNTOWN CAIRO -- 4

 DESIGNED TO BE THE PARIS OF THE EAST


Downtown Cairo was once home to the prosperous elite of late 19th and early 20th century.

It is a relic of a bygone era — Egypt's belle epoque and demonstrates the vision for developing Egypt.

Decades of neglect by the neighborhood's landlords and tenants have left the splendor of many its ornate edifices mired in decay.