Sunday, 11 September 2016

My Beautiful Egypt - From a Wheelchair users perspective.

I am deeply grateful to Louisa Summerfield, who is a wheelchair user and gave her perspective on visiting Egypt, for the forthcoming revised edition of Hidden Luxor.

My Beautiful Egypt - From a Wheelchair users perspective.

I fell in love with Egypt many years ago, I had just left university on an around the world ticket, Egypt being the last destination of our trip. Since then I have lived in Cairo during the early 1990s and have visited 31 times.

As a wheelchair user I think I can start off by saying there is NO wheelchair facilities or access in Egypt, the roads in every destination have kerbs almost two feet high and whilst I like many others use the main road you still have to at some point get up the kerb fortunately there are lots of willing and friendly Egyptians to help you.

The key in Egypt is you have to rely on manpower in order to access things like taking a felucca on the rive Nile, I looked down on the steep bank and thought there is just NO WAY I could get down there, but to the felucca man there was “no problem, no problem” and within seconds I was thrust into the arms of a skinny but very strong man who literally carried me like the bride down very steep & treacherous stone steps but hey I made it I was in my felucca enjoying the amazing sunset of the Nile.

Where I was most disappointed was the Cairo museum as there were 3 steps everywhere leading into each section of the museum and unless they’ve changed things there are steps at the entrance too, for me they could have made some effort to put small ramps inside the museum. 3 steps meant it wasn’t going to be a steep gradient and some effort could have been made as it was irritating having a whole entourage of people following me around.

In Luxor the Temples were hard going, lots of sand and stone boulders to negotiate and in the sweltering heat with the frustration of getting stuck on a stone I did wonder was it all worth it? The answer is yes as once I was there and experiencing Egypt’s ancient world and history I soon forgot the frustration I felt just to get there.

As for hotels and apartments I don’t think you can say it’s all going to be wheelchair friendly, but if you do your research in context with your budget you can find three star hotels with ground floor access and good sized lifts. The Hiltons were always a good bet I often stayed at the Nile Hilton as everywhere within the hotel had been modified by ramps and even the shopping mall attached to it is accessible via a secret route beneath the hotel. It has to be said that don’t assume 5 star hotels are always the best option for accessibility, I made the mistake of staying at the Hyatt to discover the swimming pool my children wanted to be in everyday was up a whole flight of stairs, again I relied on the helpful hotel staff who almost broke their backs lugging me up there. With apartments most ‘bowabs’ point you into the direction where you can find ground floor access to the lift.

My review wouldn’t be the same without mentioning the famous Egyptian taxis, these clapped out cars from the 70s and 80s with no seat belts and sometimes no hand brakes are of course NOT going to be wheelchair friendly, but providing you have a folding wheelchair the taxi men are usually very helpful and have even lifted me into the car seat. Once in I usually closed my eyes whilst they manhandled my wheelchair and placed it on the roof, often without ant tie downs. You had to hope and pray the journey wasn’t going to be too bumpy.

One of the reasons I love Egypt is there are no laws & regulations on health & safety meaning people are always willing to help you without thinking of a potential law suit, I also have to make a note that I’m quite petite weighing only 45 kilos it might be a different story if you weigh much more!
Thank you so much Louisa, I am sure potential travellers will really benefit from your experience

No comments: