3.01.2017

amman to cairo to home: in which things out work very nicely

EgyptAir, we love you! I'm writing this from an airport hotel, where I did not expect to be.

After Ridiculous Breakfast #3, we did a little negotiating (see below), then packed up for the airport. On a tip from the concierge, we stopped at the beautiful Zalatimo Brothers for Sweets on the way. I was quite pleased: this saved time and solved a problem. And then, as we walked into the airport, we saw... Zalatimo Brothers for Sweets! They have a small outpost near the international departures.

The flight from Amman to Cairo was fast and uneventful. The EgyptAir rep in Amman told us we would have to go through passport control and customs, get our luggage, then check into our next flight, and so on. Turns out this was untrue.

We were waiting in the passport control line in Cairo, when a man approached us, claiming to be from EgyptAir, saying they have a free hotel room and dinner for us, and do we want to see the pyramids, too?

It took quite a bit of convincing that he was legit, but once I gave in, things started to happen.

Apparently any time an EgyptAir passenger has a layover of more than six hours, the airline arranges a complimentary hotel room and meal. Say whaaat? 

First we went to the EygptAir counter, where our New Best Friend cut through both apathy and red tape, and secured our hotel and meal voucher.

Then he took us to the visa window. Our original visa was good for 30 days, but expired when we left Egypt a few days earlier. The visa window was a comedy, or maybe a farce. The guy who refused to take anything but Egyptian pounds a few weeks ago now refused to take that same currency. Next window, not working, says the person working there. Next window, how about Jordan dinars?

We paid some LEs, some JDs, currency flying around at two different windows, and boom, we had new entry visas. There is absolutely no way we could have done this on our own.

Next, the passport control lines are all gone and the agents have disappeared. But NBF finds someone to stamp our passports.

Next, he whisks us down to the baggage carousel, piles all our things onto a cart, and hurries us towards an airport shuttle bus.

Several times along the way, he has asked if we want to see the pyramids one more time. Half-hour to get there, one hour there, and a half-hour back, with the transportation costing 50 LEs. Given the distance between airport and Giza, it was a sweet deal -- but it felt too rushed and too busy. We declined.

So now, instead of sitting in the airport for nearly 10 hours, we are relaxing in a well air-conditioned hotel room, and can eat, shower, and change clothes before our flight.

* * * *

Our stay in the Amman Marriott was nearly perfect.

The room was lovely, the food was great, and the staff was amazing. As I've mentioned, the breakfast was very expensive, but it also was incredible -- a huge variety of freshly prepared foods of all types, different each day, with seemingly no possible breakfast desire left unsatisfied.*

I say "nearly" perfect, because there was one problem. The temperature of our room was quite high, and the air conditioning didn't work. The first night, Allan made multiple late-night calls to the desk, and more than one person visited the room, with more than one excuse given. Eventually the air did turn on, and the room did cool down a bit.

The second day, the air conditioning continued to work.

On the third day, we returned from Madaba to a hot room. More phone calls, more apologies and excuses... but no AC. We spent some time eating and drinking in the lounge, and returned to an uncomfortably hot room. The heat woke me up in the middle of the night. More phone calls, but to no avail.

This shouldn't happen to you in any hotel, but in a five-star hotel that is reputed to be one of the best in the country... no. Just no. I hope everyone reading this already knows this: when you are inconvenienced, you should be compensated.

At breakfast, we discussed what we thought would be a fair rebate, and sat down with the concierge to discuss. (His nameplate said "Customer Relations / Concierge.) The outcome: all three breakfasts comped. Many thanks to the Amman Marriott and their awesome staff.


* For those who like food details: an assortment of breads, rolls, pastries, and donuts; Arabic dips such as hummus, eggplant dip, etc.; salads such as lentil, quinoa, chopped vegetables; smoked fish; meats, cheeses; all condiments for all of the above, such as onions, capers, lemon, etc.; beef sausage, beef bacon, potatoes (prepared differently each day); mini eggs benedict; waffles, pancakes, and omelettes made to order; soups; fresh squeezed juices; oatmeal, yogurt, and dry cereals and all toppings that might conceivably be put in those; fresh fruit; falafel, kibbeh, bean stew, and other Arabic dishes. And even with this long list, I'm sure there are choices I have forgotten. Everything is very high quality and freshly prepared.

3 comments:

allan said...

Dept. of Yes, We Are Back In Egypt:

The porter (bellman?) of the hotel we are at (Le Passage) arrives at our door with our luggage and brings the various suitcases and smaller items in. I want to tip him, but all we have is a 100-pound bill. I explain that I need to change this bill and so I go down to the lobby with him. He goes off with his luggage cart in one direction, I go in search of change. I see an area marked "Cashier". Seems like a good spot to start. When I ask the man behind the counter if I can get smaller bills, he looks quite put out (naturally). Then he opens a desk drawer and pulls out a wallet (his own wallet?). He takes two 50-pound bills and hands them to me. I put one of them back on the counter and say, "Sorry, now I need change for this one." He mimes quite clearly that there is nothing else he can do and suggests I try the concierge.

I go to the concierge desk, but no one is there. A nearby doorman asks if he can help. "I am waiting for the the concierge." "What do you need?" "I need some smaller bills for this 50." He nods, then a few seconds later, his face brightens. It turns out that the porter is now coming our way (he probably saw me and was coming for his tip). I tell him what has happened. He takes one of my 50s and walks over to the cashier counter and immediately returns with two 20s and a 10 - from the same fuckin guy who told me no more than 90 seconds ago that all he had were 50s. The porter hands the bills to me, I tip him and go back to the room.

allan said...

Re the hot room in Amman: Why would what has been called one of the finest hotels in the entire country of Jordan (if not the best) not provide air-conditioning for its guests year-round? From what we saw, the hotel serves a lot of businessmen and tour groups. Many of these guests undoubtedly come from places in the world where the temperatures in Jordan at this time of year would be considered summer weather. (We certainly do. We spent the last two very sunny days outside in shirt sleeves.) Those guests likely would want to sleep in a room that was cooler than 27 degrees C (81 degrees F).

Also, as they were giving us numerous excuses (which made little sense) about why they could not cool the room, the hallways were nice and cool, as was the lounge and front desk areas. There is no way on earth Marriott would have their lounge area at 27 degrees. So why force your guests - who are paying top dollar for luxury and comfort - to endure such heat in their rooms day and night?

allan said...

End of the Return:
The plane landed at Pearson around 7 AM. We were in our apartment at 8 AM.