FIATA TOP SIX! Having just returned last month from the annual FIATA World Congress 2011, the Belly Ache gang have half-a-dozen reflections to share on their experiences in the fascinating land of the pharaohs. Not that we’re a bunch of whinging complainers here at Belly Ache Central, but here’s our top six ‘observations’ of the recent event. And really, we DID have a great time!
6. Egypt is a great place to part with your money.
We’ve been to a lot of places around the world, but we have to say there are few places on the planet that are as good at separating tourists from their money as Eqypt! The welcome as you walk into the famous Khan el-Khalili bazaar in Cairo sums up the situation rather aptly… “Welcome friend! How can I relieve you of your money!?!” shouts the first vendor!
5. The concept of ‘carbon footprint’ is not well understood in Egypt.
We’re all for cool comfort while listening to the sometimes lengthy and overly verbose proceedings but, having to step outside of the Congress ballroom to warm up and get the blood flowing back to our finger tips seems a bit ridiculous! We’re thinking the temperature was set absurdly low on purpose – an IATA conspiracy perhaps! – to help cool the heated rhetoric that ‘certain’ FIATA council members seem to have a well versed proclivity for.
Oh just don’t get us started on this topic! What is with the taxi drivers in Cairo?? Having illusions of F1 stardom is bad enough – the Belly Achers knuckles were white not just because of the subzero temperatures inside the Congress ballroom! – but the directionally impaired drivers, who don’t seem to speak a word of English, except when it comes to money, make every taxi ride an adventure! While we don’t want to sound like some linguistic imperialists, we just can’t figure out how a place like Eqypt, that has relied so strongly on international tourism for so many years, can possibly manage to have so many taxi drivers who clearly don’t understand a word of English. Unless of course this relates to item number 6 above, which in the case of our hotel (the Baron Heliopolis – yes we have a very big bone to pick with you!), it relates more to the gangsters that run the hotel taxi service. I mean really, how can an agreed price of 30 Egyptian pounds (US$5) morph itself into 30 US dollars over the course of an afternoon!!??!!
We have a simple formula to calculate the mean traffic density of Cairo (MTDC)… Take Bangkok, Manila and Jakarta during the worst rush hour period possible, multiply by the square root of the number of cars in Cairo (2 million) and divide by the number of traffic policemen in the city (13 we reckon). The resulting formula: MTCD=((B+M+J) * ( √2,000,000)) / 13 OK, we’re just being smart asses…bottom line…traffic is BAD! And making a BAD situation WORSE…taking hundreds of people from one side of Cairo to the other for a gala dinner at the pyramids, which may have seemed like a great idea, but in reality went all ‘pear-shaped’ as a result of a two hour bus ride through Cairo’s traffic and made even worse by number 1 below.
2. Tourism is apparently new to Cairo.
Ok taxis aside, it would appear that the country, well at least Cairo, is new to tourism! You would think that the oldest and the only remaining of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World would at least be worthy of an information sign or two. Just imagine…you’re standing there in front of the three awe-inspiring pyramids on the Giza plateau outside of Cairo and you’re thinking: “I wonder which pyramid this is?”. Well let’s see what the sign says…oh wait, there’s no sign! Ask someone and the reply…“That’s the big pyramid”. Oh! Thanks for that, we were confused for a moment!
1. Life without alcohol is not worth living!
Ok, sure we exaggerate only slightly…but really, I think at least 60 per cent of the 1,000 or so delegates attending the FIATA Congress would agree that it is a major challenge getting through networking cocktails and gala dinners without a drop of alcohol! Even alcohol-free beer would have been an improvement! We’re guessing next year won’t be quite the same issue…being hosted in Los Angeles we’re more worried about becoming alcoholics!