Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Protests in Egypt’

« Newer Posts

Egypt protests: Updates and photos from a Friendly Planet traveler

This post has been updated here.

As of today, there’s no sign that the protests in Egypt are going to let up. In fact, protesters are calling for a “march of millions” on Tuesday. While we are still not sure how evacuations will proceed, we are hopeful that every Friendly Planet traveler will be out of Egypt today.

One long-time Friendly Planet traveler, Dr. Steven Derfler, just returned from Egypt on Jan. 22. Every January, Dr. Derfler takes a group from the University of Wisconsin on a tour of Egypt, which Friendly Planet Travel has operated for years.

Since Dr. Derfler goes to Egypt so often, he’s made many friends there, including people at the Cairo Museum and members of the Supreme Council of Antiquities. Since the protests erupted, he’s been getting updates from his friends.

He sent an e-mail with a few pictures to students and friends that have traveled with him to Egypt in the past. His message contains some updates about the situation in Egypt, including photos. He’s graciously letting us publish his e-mail and photos, but asked that we remove any names of people in Egypt.

I copied and pasted his e-mail and pictures below to give you a first-hand account of what’s going on in Egypt. Thanks Dr. Derfler for letting us share this with our readers. I’ll continue to post updates on the situation in Egypt as soon as I receive more news.


Hello all,

You have all journeyed with me to Egypt over the last couple of years, and I want to give you an update about the situation in Egypt as far as our mutual friends and contacts go. Before internet and cell phone disruption by the government (apparently), the last that I heard on Weds was that [named removed], [name removed] and my boat were all fine and well and staying out of the fray. At that time the situation had not escalated to what we see currently. I have tried to call, email, etc but have not had any luck nor any response. That in itself means nothing given the nature of the communication blackout. I am confident that they are fine and keeping their heads down.

It is a different story regarding the Cairo Museum. Some of you may be aware that the headquarters of Mubarak’s National Democratic Party is next door to the Cairo Museum, fronting Tahrir Square. The HQ was torched and stormed by the crowd. However, the museum remained untouched. This was in part due to the heroism of everyday Egyptians who made a “human chain” around the museum grounds to prevent looting, vandalism and damage. However, all this changed a bit on Friday/Saturday. I did get an email from a colleague and friend within the Supreme Council of Antiquities with some photos (ATTACHED). Apparently, with allegedly the aid of some NDP members, the museum perimeter was breached and some vandals got in to the museum to wreak havoc before being subdued and the museum secured. THEY WERE NOT, I REPEAT, NOT, A PART OF THE NATURE OF THIS REVOLT AGAINST MUBARAK’s GOVT. They were vandals, street thugs and opportunists taking advantage of a possible Baghdad-like situation. There have been rumors to the extent that 2 mummies in the Royal Mummy Room were “beheaded”, but that could not be confirmed by my friend. The museum is secure now, and protected by the military.

In addition, many of the major archaeological sites have been closed and secured by the military as well, including the Giza Complex.

As far as the south goes, there has not been anywhere near the level of civil protest and disruption of life in either Luxor or Aswan. All is well on the Tulip and with the Wings people in those 2 cities. (Last communication, I told my boat to anchor out in the Nile!!!)

So, the extremely fluid situation remains……. fluid. If you have any questions, feel free to “e”.
( maybe they were so sad to see us leave my boat they protested! )

SD

Update on the Friendly Planet travelers in Egypt

This post has been updated here.

We’re continuing to work aggressively to get every Friendly Planet Traveler out of Egypt as soon as possible. As I told you before, everyone is safe and we contacted our travelers’ emergency contacts to let them know this.

Earlier today I sent the letter below to all of the emergency contacts to tell them our plans to get their family and friends back to the U.S. Read on to get the most recent update on the protests in Egypt.

Stay tuned to the blog. I’ll continue to post updates about our travelers and what’s happening in Egypt on the blog, Facebook, and Twitter.


Update about the Friendly Planet group presently in Egypt.

We sent our first update to you on Friday, before we knew the extent to which the situation in Egypt had begun to deteriorate. In fact, when we sent you our first update, we had just been informed by our Egypt reps that our group would not be touring in Cairo due to the demonstrations, but that they were able to drive out to the Pyramids area, and they were, in fact, able to do some sightseeing there. However, what we didn’t know at that time is that the group was subsequently unable to get back to their Cairo hotel due to the situation in the streets. Instead, we took them to a hotel near the Pyramids, which is close to the Cairo airport. Our representatives decided to fly our group to Luxor, about an hour away from Cairo, where it was felt that the situation would be calmer and our group would be safer than in Cairo.

We have been working through the weekend to arrange transportation out of Egypt for your family and friends who are on our Pyramids and Nile Cruise tour. At present, the group remains on the Nile cruise ship and is en route to Aswan, from which they will be flown back to Cairo Airport. We have secured hotel accommodations at an airport hotel, where the group will be protected by security until we are able to get them out on flights back to the USA. Our guide and operational staff in Egypt is accompanying the group at all times. These bilingual professionals are able to assist our passengers in any way they require.

At present, EgyptAir, the carrier for our tour, is working at approximately 25% capacity, due to curfew restrictions, demand and failure of some crew to appear for work. However, the US authorities are arranging for additional aircraft to repatriate American citizens, and our passengers will be at the airport, ready to board the first available flight. Until such time as they are able to leave Egypt, please be assured that we are doing absolutely everything possible to care for them, give them comfort and protect them from harm. They are in comfortable accommodations on the ship and will be at a good hotel once they arrive at Cairo airport. In this way we will keep them from having to struggle, with the hundreds of other travelers, who are now at the airport fighting for flights home.

As we know more, we will let you know as well. Once we have the return flight information, we will update you immediately. In the meantime, if you need information or have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us by email or via our emergency phone service. To call us, dial 800-555-5765 and press #6 for the emergency line. Someone will return your call promptly. You may also try to call your family and friends on their cell phones. Service is very spotty, but some travelers are having luck. Your phone calls will be expensive due to roaming charges, etc., but if you get through, you’ll hear for yourselves that everyone is safe, if anxious to leave Egypt. And who can blame them for that!

Sincerely,

Peggy M. Goldman
President

Egypt protests escalate; Travelers being evacuated

This post has been updated here.

As you know, the political protests in Egypt have not slowed down and the U.S. Department of State has issued a travel alert. All Friendly Planet Travel travelers in Egypt are safe and we have representatives with them at all times. But we are working 24/7 to get them out of Egypt as soon as possible. The demand for flights out of Egypt is high, but the U.S. government is sending planes to Egypt to help get our citizens out of the country more quickly.

In fact, Friendly Planet Travel passengers are all onboard two cruise ships on the Nile River. The ships are not docking at the moment, so travelers are far from any protests. The cruises will dock once we are able to safely get them to the airport and on flights out of the country.

This is a great strategy on the part of our representatives in Egypt, who decided early on to get our travelers to the safety of Luxor and Aswan, where no demonstrations were taking place. Below is a letter I sent to all of our travelers explaining this strategy and what we’re doing to get them home.

Cell phone service has returned to Egypt, although lines are busy. So please be patient if you’re trying to reach family and friends in Egypt. Rest assured, we are working aggressively to make arrangements to get everyone out of Egypt. The safety and security of our travelers is our most important priority, and we will not stop working until each one is home. We expect this to happen in the next day or two.

But again, patience is the goal. We are not the only company with travelers in Egypt who need to get out. Everyone is trying as hard as we are, so please give us the opportunity to work the best way possible.

I will continue to update everyone on the blog, Facebook, and Twitter as we get more information.


Dear Friendly Planet Travelers,

I want to personally let you know that we are doing everything possible to evacuate you from Egypt in the safest and most expedient way possible. We have been working on getting you home from the moment it became clear that it was no longer safe to remain in Egypt. We have been trying to reach you by phone since Friday, but because of the very difficult situation and the lack of cell phone and internet access, the land lines have been choked with traffic. Except for a few lucky instances, we have not been able to speak with you directly. However, please be assured that we’ve been very busy. I would like to update you.

1. You were taken to Luxor anticipating that it would be much safer for you and for no other reason. We wanted to be sure our travelers would be out of harm’s way. Luxor was an extremely good option.

2. We are in contact with your family and friends – these are the emergency contacts you gave us – to keep them updated regarding our efforts, your location and any other details we have managed to obtain. Even if you haven’t spoken to anyone at home during this crisis, we have been in touch. They know you are safe.

3. Please do not assume that since we haven’t spoken by phone, you are being held on the ship because we want you to enjoy a cruise or because you’ve already paid for this portion of your trip. Nothing could be further from the truth. You are on the ship in order to be safe while we make arrangements to fly you home. No other reason.

4. At present, we are trying to arrange for you to fly home on Monday. You were scheduled to fly via EgyptAir, but because of a manpower issue and the huge demand on the available seats, EgyptAir is not able to cope immediately. The US government is planning to begin flights out of Egypt to the USA on Monday, and we are in contact with the Embassy to be sure you are included in these flights. You will depart from Egypt on the first flights that become available to us. If EgyptAir comes through first, you’ll depart via EgyptAir. If the US planes come through first, you’ll fly out that way. The important thing is to be assured that we will get you out.

This message was made possible by sending it to our Egypt reps, Wings Tours & Nile Cruises, by fax. We are hopeful that since there are some land lines available through the various Wings offices, it will be received and then delivered to you directly aboard your Nile cruise ship. We will try to send additional messages if possible. In the meantime, please be sure that we will not stop working for a moment until you are all safely home.

Sincerely,

Peggy

Peggy M. Goldman
President

U.S. Department of State issues travel alert for Egypt; Friendly Planet Travel suspends Egypt tours

This post has been update here.

I just told you in an earlier post that we hoped the protests in Egypt would subside, but they have continued to escalate. Just moments ago, the U.S. Department of State issued travel alert for Egypt, warning U.S. travelers of the ongoing political and social unrest in Egypt.

As a result, Friendly Planet Travel is temporarily suspending our tours to Egypt until the situation is resolved. Travelers who are scheduled for departures before Feb. 28 (when the alert is scheduled to expire) will be notified by Friendly Planet about rescheduling, selecting another destination, or cancelling arrangements altogether. We will work with every traveler to get refunds.

Below is a message we sent to everyone who booked a tour to Egypt with us. Read on to see how we are handling this situation to ensure the safety of every traveler. I’ll continue to update you here on the blog as the situation unfolds. And if you have more questions or concerns write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.


Dear Friendly Planet Egypt Travelers,

With the recent political protests and public unrest throughout Egypt, we fully understand that you may have concerns regarding your upcoming tour. We are currently evaluating the best possible option to ensure a safe and enjoyable vacation for you, whether that means running the tour with an amended itinerary, providing an alternative tour to a different region during the same date range, or cancelling the tour and working with you to reschedule/possibly refund.

Traveler’s safety is always our primary concern at Friendly Planet and we will never operate a tour that we feel is unsafe. We know that a lot can change within 24 hours and we are watching the unfolding events closely while in regular contact with our trusted Land Suppliers in Egypt and we plan to make a final decision regarding your upcoming trip early next week. Once we have pursued all options and reached a decision, we will follow up with you accordingly .

If you are reading this e-mail and have already decided that you will not be traveling to Egypt regardless, we certainly respect your decision to cancel but we apologize that we cannot guarantee a full refund at this point, however we will work with all parties involved to insure the lowest possible penalties for such cancellation.

We are hopeful that the situation in Egypt resolves itself in the coming days. If so, and if it is possible to travel to Egypt safely and with confidence, you can continue with your travel plans without interruption. If safe travel is not possible, you will have all the options to cancel and you can count on us to do whatever is necessary to recover as much as possible, if not all, of your tour payments. We are your advocates, and we work for you. Please rest assured that we have your well being at heart.

We will be following the new stories all weekend, as we are sure many of you will do, and will have a better overall picture of the implications by Wednesday of next week.

As soon as further information becomes available and a final decision is made, we will e-mail you with the news.

Best Regards,

Peggy M. Goldman
President
pmgoldman@friendlyplanet.com

Is it safe to travel to Egypt?

This post has been updated here

Political situations like the one unfolding in Egypt remind me that if you want to explore and experience the world, you need to be prepared for the unexpected. Note that I didn’t say expect the unexpected. In almost every case, the risk is minimal when traveling. However, be prepared for any eventuality because it can happen anywhere. We just saw it unfold in our own country in Arizona.

Tens of thousands of protesters are filling the streets of Cairo demonstrating that they want current President Hosni Mubarak to step down from power. When Friendly Planet Travel got wind of this, we immediately contacted our two tour groups that are in Egypt right now.

One group is in Aswan, where no protests are taking place. That tour will continue as scheduled. The second group arrived in Cairo yesterday. They are currently in the Ramses Hilton hotel, which is on the east bank of the Nile River, where they have a clear view of the unfolding protests.

Every Friendly Planet Traveler in Egypt is safe. We have contacted every traveler’s emergency contact to make them aware of this. In fact, our group in Cairo was able to tour the Pyramids and Sphinx this morning as scheduled. Egypt’s tourist police safely escorted our travelers to and from the hotel before the protests heated up.

Right now the situation for our travelers is under control, with some enjoying the sites along the Nile River on a week long cruise and others about to fly to Luxor to begin a cruise on the Nile on Saturday morning. We hope that in the next hours and few days, the situation will improve and the demonstrations will stop. Friendly Planet Travel has experience when these things happen. They’re rare, but they do happen, and when they do, we know what needs to be done to take care of our travelers.

We’re monitoring the situation closely and have a Friendly Planet Travel representative with our travelers at all times. Every two hours we receive an update on the situation from our representatives in Cairo. All hands are on deck at Friendly Planet to make sure our travelers stay safe and continue to see the beauty of Egypt.

I will continue to keep you updated on the political situation in Egypt on the blog. And if you have any questions or concerns you can write to me or call our offices at 1-800-555-5765.

« Newer Posts

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

Tours & Packages Our specialty for 30 years! Find one now:
choose a region Europe Mediterranean Asia Middle East Africa Central America Caribbean South America South Pacific