Dear Hubert, Apologies for the delay, I have finally written my “masterpiece” – please feel free to use it or totally ignore it as you see fit. Regards the following article, I found it quite hard and it reads rather uninteresting to me, but I was determined to keep my promise, albeit it rather late. I also wanted to be supportive both to El Gouna and the wonderful job you and El Gouna Times is doing but as I say please do not feel obligated to use any of the text I have written. I look forward to meeting you both again next time we are in El Gouna at the same time. My treat next time, I really appreciated getting to meet you both and thank you for your company and invaluable help and advice.
A SMILE GOES A LONG WAY
I have always found that a few words of the local language and a smile are all you need for a wonderful holiday amongst friendly and hospitable people the world over and Egypt is no exception.
My mother always said good manners cost nothing, but bad manners can cost you everything. So I have always tried to treat others as I would like them to treat me regardless of their background, job, religion, ethnicity, sex or age. In this way I am pleased to be able to say I have chatted to local people in many countries from China to Canada, Costa Rica to Iceland.
I recently re-visited El Gouna as a lady travelling alone and found nothing but help and kindness from everyone I met. My husband and I had been together last year and fell for the charms of the town and the people, so I felt quite happy to be returning despite him not being able to travel at that time.
The hotel staff looked after me to an extent rarely found anywhere and always with a smile and a few words. Several helped me to learn the all important few words of Arabic, they were keen to encourage, patient with my dreadful pronunciation and so pleased when the next day I had remembered what they had taught me the day before.
I frequently did not even need to ask for things as many staff anticipated my every need before I had even realised I needed it. For example, on arrival, I had my walking stick as I am prone to falling and I knew about El Gouna’s cobbled streets. The receptionist saw the stick and immediately suggested a ground floor room – how’s that for thoughtfulness?
The restaurant staff, pool and room staff were equally thoughtful and so nice to talk to, I feel I made friends not just acquaintances.
One of the security staff at the entrance way to the hotel area took time to tell me about himself and where he was from, and when he discovered I had visited his home town then chatted to me about his home and family.
Had I been like some visitors to the town I saw when I was either in the hotel or the town in general then I am sure I would not have experienced such a feeling of welcome and friendship.
I heard one guest demanding items of cutlery having barely taken their seat in a restaurant. Staff had just cleared the table from others and had not then had the time to re-equip the table. True the guest had picked up food from the buffet as they entered but demanding and not asking is bad mannered in the extreme. They were by no means the only visitors I heard who were less than courteous. However, I also met some lovely visitors too. The good and the bad coming from several nations.
During my stay in El Gouna, I wandered around shops, went snorkelling and even had an unexpected visit to the excellent hospital. Unfortunately, on the snorkelling trip it was a little windy and choppy and being me I fell as I went to walk about quite close to the start of the day out. In falling I managed to catch my hand on something and ripped the skin – not desperately, but enough to need stitching. The boat lads were great, they helped me ensure the wound was clean and supplied a ‘makeshift’ bandage. Nothing deterred me from the snorkelling but it was several hours before we returned to shore and I was able to visit the hospital.
The efficiency and care were second to none, the good old NHS has much to learn! OK, so in El Gouna it is a private hospital, but private does not always mean speedy, efficient or even good! In El Gouna everyone was totally professional and I was out again in no time. No waiting, I estimated less than 30 minutes from entering to leaving the building. Reception, casualty reception, the nurse and doctor, the clerical tasks like payment (quite reasonable) a visit to the pharmacy, back to reception for them to phone for a tok tok for me, and I was able to go, suitably stitched and complete with anticeptic, spare dressings and pain killers (should they be needed).
On my return to the hotel, the staff all wanted to know what I had done and seeing the bandage wanted to know if they could help in any way, again everyone was so helpful.
As my husband and I are in the process of buying a property in El Gouna, I had meetings with Orascom staff and they too went out of their way to be helpful and to offer guidance. I chose a number of things for inside the property and was ably guided by knowledgeable people throughout.
Several shops keepers similarly helped me with gaining ideas and discussing options despite my not wanting to place orders there and then. Having been strongly encouraged into buying elsewhere in Egypt and other parts of the world it was wonderfully welcome to have absolutely no pressure from anyone.
I met a wonderful young lady during my visit, she too always seemed to be smiling. She spent quite a bit of time talking to me and showing me her drawings etc. A very charming and articulate young lady with excellent English skills. Again, I hope that is just one of the many friendships that will endure over time. I must stress the young ladies’ mother had given me permission to talk to her daughter, take a photograph and to write on my return to the UK. Whilst Egyptians are not like us Brits scared of letting our children chat to everyone, I still felt it best to ask parental permission to chat etc, after all it is only courteous.
The friendliness, helpfulness and charm but lack of pushiness of people coupled with a splendid location, excellent facilities and cleanliness, all go to make El Gouna stand out as a place to visit and I am looking forward to returning as soon as possible. Just remembering brings on a smile.
I would like to thank everyone I met, these included staff at my hotel, Orascom staff, people in shops, taxi and tok tok drivers, the lady on the snorkelling boat and last but not least the hospital staff. If I have omitted anyone from the list then my apologies.
I am looking forward to our ‘home in the sun’ being finished and having the chance to put down some roots in the warmth and sunshine of El Gouna, albeit for a few weeks a year. Meanwhile I am living on my memories and dreams.
As a New Year’s resolution I would urge more people to try to extend that extra bit of thoughtfulness in their daily lives and make the world a happier place. We cannot change the weather, the terrain, the dreadful events and accidents that make up our world, but we can extend that extra hand of friendship to all we meet.
On another note, if you have not visited El Gouna they you should do so. Then when you do – be happy, enjoy the hospitality and above all smile it really is good for you and reaps great rewards. Also, don’t forget those Arabic phrases, a little goes a long way! (At the bottom are a few to get you going.) There are a number of useful websites to visit, so why not start learning ready for your (next) trip. Bon Voyage!
Yes na’am No laa
Thank you Shokran Please Min Fadilak
Hello Ahalan Goodbye Ma’a ElSalama
Good morning Saba’s AlKair Good afternoon/evening Masa’s AlKair
Goodnight Laila Tiaba
Information gathered, with my grateful thanks, from the people of El Gouna. Many more words and their pronunciation can be found on the travlang.com website. I have visited this several times since my return to ensure I do not forget the pronunciation.
Finally, I am pleased to say I had the pleasure of meeting up with Hubert and his good lady, and thank them again for their hospitality which I hope to repay sometime in the not too distant future. I would also thank Hubert for the wonderful job he is doing with the El Gouna Times. Readers of EGT, why don’t you write and let people know about some of the positive things that have happened to you in El Gouna? If, like me, you are concerned about making a fool of yourself, or you have to redraft things fifty times to try to make them even moderately interesting, or you are a real journalist in the making, then I am sure, Hubert would still welcome your contributions (the latter with particularly open arms, I am sure). I know I, and others, are indebted to him for his hard work and efforts in trying to make it easy for all Gounies (or potential Gounies) to keep in touch and find out the latest news. Even if you don’t want to write a full article then why not become a regular contributor to the forums, but don’t forget the smilies!!
A Happy New Year to Everyone.