Wheelchair Accessible Journey Through Egypt 2010
 By Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan   2010

Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan share their successful wheelchair journey to Egypt. While there, they visited Cairo, the pyramids of Giza, Memphis, Sakkara, the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel,  the  Khan El Khalili Bazaar as well as the Luxor and Karnak and, Hatsaput temple and the Valley of the Kings. 

Kim & Shaun Sullivan visit Egypt's Sphinx.

Kim & Shaun O'Sullivan visited Egypt's Sphinx.

Twelve months after my husband, Shaun, became paraplegic (T12 incomplete) we decided to go on a holiday to Egypt.  Our travel agent, Dianne Morrison from Flight Centre, Booval, Queensland, sent out several e-mails to different tour groups. Our request seemed quite easy - we wanted a tour with a wheelchair, not a wheelchair tour.  Also my husband's sister and brother-in-law had travelled with us previously and wanted to repeat the experience. Only one company, Bench International, came back with an answer and we set about organising a private tour for the 4 of us.

Dianne suggested we only fly the better known airlines and suggested Singapore Airlines. This proved to be great advice and on the 5th May 2009 we set out for Brisbane International Airport. We were well looked after the whole way.  In Singapore, we were met from the plane and taken to a transfer lounge for people who require assistance. They then came and got us when our next plane was ready to leave for Dubai.  In Dubai, Shaun was able to stay on the plane while they cleaned it, therefore alleviating the need to go to the transfer lounge.  We arrived in Cairo with only positive things to say about Singapore Airlines. Shaun's biggest concern was arriving without the wheelchair, however, he was able to keep the chair right up to the plane doors, and then it was waiting for us at the other end all in one piece.

In Cairo we were met by the tour company, who were well organised, and the transfer to the motel went quite smoothly.  We stayed at the Semirami Cairo Hotel, where one of our few problems for the entire trip happened. We were taken to our rooms, only to find it was not equipped in any way for wheelchairs (deep bath and no rails for the toilet). We had been assured before we left that it was all wheelchair accessible accommodation. As Dianne said, she had done everything possible to cover this. I went back down to the front counter...only to be told we had to book the wheelchair accommodation, and that it had been taken by someone else. After pointing out that we had booked 6 months prior to this, it was discovered that indeed the wheelchair accommodation was in our name and we were transferred into a well- equipped room. The only thing missing was a shower chair, and after much gesturing and interesting conversation with people who could not speak English well, a plastic table arrived and it was usable for the purpose Shaun required. 

Shaun O'Sullivan visited the
Pyramids of Giza in his wheelchair.

There do not seem to be any wheelchair accessible vehicles in Egypt and we had a Toyota van, which Shaun managed to climb into, with a bit of effort. On the first day we set off for Giza with a guide, a driver and an assistant for Shaun. There was a path right up to the pyramid.  Indeed most of the country's tourist attractions had some kind of paths or ramps.  If not, for a small fee, there were many helping hands to lift the wheelchair over most obstacles. We stayed for three nights in Cairo. Not only did we go to Giza, we also went to Memphis, Sakkara, the Egyptian Museum, the Citadel and  the  Khan El Khalili Bazaar. We also had several shopping stops to look at papyrus making and essential oils and carpet making. Obviously Egypt is an old country, and most of the places we went to required watching out for uneven surfaces. There were a couple of close calls (and one fall later in Luxor),  but there was little that was missed out on.

We then flew from Cairo to Luxor with Egyptian Airways. At the airports, we had to be transported to the plane and, while interesting, it was certainly achievable.  At Luxor, we stayed at the Steigenberger Nile Palace. The room was beautifully equipped. There was only one problem: The room was on the mezzanine floor and there was no lift access. To go to the room meant going up a very steep granite ramp.  At the bottom of this ramp, was a very expensive jewellery shop.  Unfortunately for my very independent husband, we had to ask the doorman to help him going both up and down.  While this caused some mirth for all, it meant that he required help whenever he left the room.  However the view over the Nile went someway to make up for this small inconvenience.  From here we went to visit both Luxor and Karnak temples, Hatsaput temple and the Valley of the Kings.  All of these sights were relatively accessible, and except for the fall at the Luxor Temple (only the pride was hurt) all went relatively smoothly.

From there we joined the cruise ship, the Ammarco 2, for four nights of cruising. The ship was fully wheelchair accessible and the rooms were very well equipped.  Getting on and off was interesting, and each time several sailors would materialise.  Although it looked like a swim in the Nile was inevitable, things went very smoothly. One of the sailors came with us on all our tours from the ship, and he was certainly well practiced at getting a wheelchair around. At each stop, a tour guide from Bench met us and took us to the various points of interest. This included Edfu and Kom Ombo temples on the cruise to Aswan.  In Aswan we went to the High Dam, Elephantine Island and the botanical gardens.

  Egypt's uneven pavements often make for a challenging wheelchair ride.
Shaun at the base of the pyramid.   Egypt's uneven pavements often make for a challenging wheelchair ride.

From Aswan we flew back to Cairo.  A guard at the Airport wanted Shaun to walk through the metal detectors at the entrance, and got agitated that he wouldn't, however, our guide caught up with us and things were smoothed over.  We had one more night back in Cairo, and the wheelchair room was ready when we arrived. 

The trip was everything we dared hope for and more. Bench International provided 3 guides in all, and all went out of their way to help and provide us with the best experience possible.  Except for the couple of minor hiccups that I mentioned, the tour went very well. There were very few places that Shaun couldn't get to.  I think because a lot of elderly people go to Egypt, there are a lot of ramps. Also people, for a small fee, are willing and able to help, even if not needed.  The accommodation was comparable to anything we had tried up to that point in Australia. While the plane trip was long, we arrived back in Australia not too much the worse for wear.

Share Kim & Shaun's journey from Vancouver to Banff aboard the Rocky Moutaineer.

Check out Kim & Shaun's recent Osaka, Japan journey.

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