We pull the car into the small carpark outside a dismal grey painted brick converted house – Thelma Grey’s Travel Agency. Doesn’t look much but has been recommended as the best agent in the region.
A small heavily made up woman with an expansive smile welcomes us into her sparse office.
Louise? Jeff, I’m Thelma pleased to meet you, come in.
We settle down in front of her desk which is covered in tour brochures, calenders and large PC, and chat inconsequentially.
So, Egypt then, how exciting, and is it just for the two of you?
No, I say, we have two boys, 12 and 10. But I have to say is it safe to go to Egypt now, the news is showing a lot of unrest after the last revolution.
Jeff looks at me worriedly, we had been discussing whether we should postpone.
Ah yes she acknowledges, but remember the media will beat things up to get a good story, but yes there is an interim government right now, and when you are planning to go there will be an election for a new president and ruling party.
She brushes back her glossy shoulder length black hair, leans over confidingly.
I spoke with our tour operator there, it is an Australian company, independent, good for slightly more adventurous family holidays, and he assures me it is safe to travel.
Yes there have been demonstrations, but where you are going is away from the trouble spots, and if anything should flare up of course you would be diverted.
Jeff looks far from reassured and questions the state of politics there and attitudes to westerners.
After much discussion she hands us some glossy colour brochures and talks us through ‘The Grand Tour of Egypt.’ Having been an Agathie Christie aficionado, ala Death on the Nile, I have a romanticised idea of the place, not shared by Jeff who fortunately is far more pragmatic.
But we resolve to pay the deposit reassured that if any significant unrest occurs we can cancel and receive our money back.
Clutching the receipt for the large down-payment we pick up my eldest son Mark from his tennis lesson and then Sebastian from the athletics track conveniently located next door in one large sports precinct.
What do you think? I ask tentatively.
Well put it this way, we cant travel later as this is the best time for both of us to take leave, and it’s school holidays. We’ll just have to monitor the news.
Hmm early June it will be the hottest time of the summer there, will need to get some serious hats.
All I can focus on is protection from the sun, wide brimmed hats and litres of factor 50 sunscreen.
Hey Mum! Mark excitedly runs to me clutching his tennis racket and bag.
I won the competition you know when you keep in the longest playing against everyone.
His blonde hair shines in the morning sun as he chucks his bag in the back of the wagon and drive to collect Sebastian.
We have some news for you guys.
Yeah? He automatically reaches for his ipad.
Sebastian and Jeff walk together out of the athletics stadium, Sebastian is stick thin and wiry quite the opposite of Jeff’s stocky figure.
Hey Mum! His bright blue eyes and goofy toothy smile make me want to grab him and hug him, how gorgeous they are at this innocent age.
How’d you go honey? We just had to pay the travel agent for…guess what?
What?! he leans over the seat as if to hear sooner.
Our trip to Egypt!
He’s so excited and even Mark raises his eyes from his ipad.
Yeah? We’re really going…but what about the trouble there? Mark queries
We discussed it, think it will be fine, we’ll keep a watch on the news, of course we are only travelling if it is completely safe with you guys, so don’t worry, but it’s looking ok.
The overthrow of the Mubarak regime occurred by a mass popular uprest in 2011, I hadn’t really followed much of Egyptian politics, being more interested in the temples and the history. From what I could gather there were presidential elections and a government election occurring the day after we would arrive in June 2012 and street demonstrations and protests were a familiar occurrence. Egypt apparently had regular revolutions, and this last one was driven by the youth movement starting in January 2011.
Cool, can’t wait to see the pyramids and ride a camel.
Yeah, in the desert, Sebastian chips in, grinning.
We excitedly chat about the trip and spend the next few weeks packing, repacking, preparing, studying maps, researching everything we can. But nothing could prepare us for what would unfold from this trip.