Today, I will take a little break from political analysis to rant a bit about my vacation woes. My particular problem is unlikely to be of direct relevance to the greatest majority of Egyptians who are struggling to gain some mastery over their future and trying to eke out a decent existence in a very cruel economic environment. Continue reading if you allow me a degree of self indulgence.
Having decided that I desperately needed a respite from the madness of Cairo and the political malaise and growing pains and that the country is going through, I headed south. I sought peace and tranquility in Soma Bay an incredibly beautiful resort that I have been frequenting for years. This is I decided to spoil myself a bit and stay at the exquisite Kempinski Hotel. A wonderful place that I would strongly recommend to all my friends.
My trouble started when I decided to do some a bit of windsurfing with a friend of mine, who happens to be champion surfer and a winner of numerous awards in competitions in Egypt. We went to a surf center that was conveniently close to our hotel. It was managed by the the well regarded Robinson Club. However, our experience there was nothing short of agitating.
It started with the overtly blasé staff member who explained that we really can not use their equipment without going through an orientation session the following day. They then went on to explain that have there own clock, they operate in a time zone that is in sync with Berlin, not Cairo. We were given a time to drop by the following day for their so called “orientation” session. Note that the club is not in anyway particularly remarkable, it nothing more than a fancy shack with a non-impressive storage space for windsurfing and sailing equipment, it was not like we are going to be handling deadly chemicals. We were also told by this unfriendly guy that a license is need if we were to use there catamarans, but that windsurfing would be okay. We were summarily given their price list (pretty standard) and the guy walked away to carry out more pressing duties (such a picking his toes, ….or so it seemed!).
My friend and I were not too happy with such treatment, but we decided to shrug it off, a couple of hours surfing the bay would surely make us for such nastiness. We were also pretty mad about this whole time zone thing and how it is disrespectful to our country, but decided that we fight out this battle latter. After all we are supposed to be on a vacation.
We showed up the next day at what we thought was the appointed time. We were told that we got the time zones wrong and that we have to wait for another hour. After waiting we were promptly asked by another equally unfriendly member of staff if we carried a windsurfing license to which we replied that his colleague (now mysteriously vanished!) told us the day before that it was okay. That new super rude guy then said “Sorry, our rules!” and he shooed away with a hand wave and proceed to help his German customers. When we tried to explain to him that this does not make sense and that this is unacceptable, he dismissed us with a shout in thick German accent “I TALK TO YOU …LATER!”
We latter complained to our hotel, who got us in touch with a manager in charge at Robinson club, who offered nothing more than saying “I am sorry!”. This reeks of racism. It seems to me that they were making ridiculous rules just to keep the locals ways. It would be easier if they just put up a sign at their entrance:
Dogs and Locals are not welcome!
The Kempinski’s guest relationship manager was truly embarrassed by what had happened and was very upset with attitude of the people at Robinson club. She arranged for us to do windsurfing at the Sheraton’s surf center where the Egyptian staff there were incredibly friendly and helpful. So our story had a happy ending, but with a unpleasant latent bitterness.