Thursday, December 22, 2011

Reflections around our cancellation of trip to Egypt

Scenes from the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Photo: Ramy Raoof
This Sunday we decided to cancel our Christmas trip to Cairo. This due to the protests on Tahrir Square. I was doubtful then, and I am even more so, that it was the right decision, even though we were to stay a mile away from the riots on Tahrir Square. It was a decision to be taken not by me, but by three, and I did not want to travel alone, even to an intriguing destination as Cairo. This process  has, however, given new knowledge, as this was the first time I had to cancel a vacation in this manner.

We had, through the latest crisis, consulted the website of the Norwegian Embassy in Cairo. They had not updated their travel warnings beyond the general advice to be cautious when traveling. The latest riots were concentrated at Tahrir Square, a very small area in a city of close to 20 million people.

Our biggest mistake was probably to book accommodation close to this symbolic hot spot. The Kempinski Nile Hotel is located in Garden City, an area originally built around the British Embassy.

The Garden Citys area location would make it a potential danger area if the conflict had escalated. Looking back, I would have recommended to book another hotel further away as the riots started, preferably in Heliopolis or Gizah, the latter close to the pyramids.

Secondly I would have chosen another destinations less likely to experience such political turmoil. Today I would stayed away from the entire Middle East and Northern Africa except Morocco: I would also avoid Greece. So when booking our next Christmas trip I will strongly recommend other less interesting destinations, meaning interesting in more than one sense of the word.

No refund of airline tickets   

I checked with my Travel Insurance Company, and was told that I would get no refund unless the Foreign Office issue an official travel warning.  We cancelled our hotel within the 48 hour deadline, saving us around € 1000. My travel agency did ask me to monitor the situation up to the date of departure in order to make a claim if the riots worsened.

Now the situation is calmer, and I learned yesterday that sister of colleague did not hesitate to book a ticket, leaving on Christmas Eve. Now it's too late for us, so we just have to settle for a quiet Christmas in the snow.

Earlier stories on Enjoy Food & Travel

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