SATH was invited to be a speaker at the 34th Annual Conference of Africa Travel Association to be held in Cairo on May 17 – 21, 2009. Under the banner “Connecting Destination Africa,” the event brought together tourism ministers and more than 250 travel industry professionals, including tourism boards, airlines, hoteliers, and ground operators, as well as representatives from the travel trade press and the corporate, non profit and academic sectors, to help shape Africa’s tourism agenda during the global economic downturn. Held at the Conrad Cairo Hotel, the congress was hosted by Hon. Mohamed Zoheir Garranah, Egypt’s Minister of Tourism.
The panel “Presentations on Destination Africa—Trends & Cross-Cutting Issues” in which SATH took part, was well attended and was praised a lot.
The Egyptian Ministry of Tourism hosted the delegates at the Salah el-Din Citadel for a festive Egyptian evening, which included dervish dancers, musical performances and Egyptian cuisine. Against the backdrop of Cairo, the Citadel event gave delegates a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enjoy Egypt at its finest. The Tourism Ministry and ETA also organized a full-day tour in Cairo. Highlights included a visit to the
Egyptian National Museum, the Giza Pyramids and the Khan El-Khalili market. The day ended with a cruise along the Nile and a dinner and performance on the Nile Maxim Floating restaurant.
At the invitation of the Egypt Tourist Authority, SATH conducted an audit in several hotels and attractions in Cairo, Giza and Alexandria.
SATH wishes to convey our gratitude for all the help provided for the audits by Sayed Khalifa and Mohamed Hegazy from the Egypt Tourist Authority, New York, and tour operators in Egypt, Karim Elemam, Egypt Has It All http://www.egypthasitall.com/ and Islam Fathi,
Sunny Land Tours,http://www.sunnylandtours.org.
We would like to emphasize the point that even though the facilities for travelers with disabilities are not the best in the world, the attitude and friendliness of the Egyptian people go a long way to make the trip for travelers with disabilities possible and very enjoyable.
The new Terminal at the Airport
The new terminal has all the accessibility features such as ramps, accessible restrooms, audible and visual signage. Curb cuts are provided for easy access to cars and buses.
Citadel of Salah El Din
If you go up on a vehicle and avoid climbing the steps, the place is accessible enough except for two 6 inch thresholds to get into the Mosque.
Ramps are provided to get into the Museum. In most of the rooms there is space for a wheelchair. There are two sets of steps more, apart from the main staircase, to get into one of the most interesting exhibits – the mummies room. The restrooms, in spite of having the universal symbol for accessibility on the door, are not accessible because they are too small for someone in a wheelchair to go in. There are thresholds that are more than 6 inches in height. Elevators are provided for those who cannot walk up the majestic steps. All the write-ups for the exhibits are too small to read from a fair distance. This causes tremendous crowding around the plaques.
The new Children’s museum is being organized in the basement of one of the buildings. There is a ramp that leads to it and the doors are wide to allow everyone in. The aisles are wide and lighting is being put in for maximum effect. Once it is finished it will serve as a good example of accessibility.
Cairo Tower has provided access for people with disabilities. There is a lift on the side that will take you up the numerous steps that leads up to the entrance.
The access to the top observation tower is through a series of steps. So anyone using a wheelchair can only get to the restaurant. As they have surrounded by glass windows, you can enjoy the city sites from there. You will be able to see the Pyramids if the day is clear. The restrooms lack space. For those with sensory disabilities, apart from the alarm systems, there are no facilities provided.
The Nile Cruise Nile Maxims
The entrance has several sets of steps to get in. If you can manage going down the steps, the entrance to the boat is level except for three steps to get to the dining area. The bathrooms are not accessible.
1191 Corniche El Nil, 11221 Cairo
They have 4 accessible rooms and they are on the 3rd floor. The bathrooms have grab bars and all of them have a roll in shower. If the grab bars were at least 36 inches long and horizontally fixed on the wall, they become more accessible for all. Lowed Peepholes are provided.
The meetings rooms are accessible and the restrooms have the space but lack the grab bars, which are essential.
Swimming pool area is accessible with a ramp on each side to get to the side of the pool.
The restaurants are accessible but the coffee shop in the lobby has some steps to get to the lounge area. However, there are a few tables that are on the same level so someone using a wheelchair can use them.
In this hotel apart from the alarm systems and Braille signs no other facilities are provided for those who are deaf or blind.
Corniche El Nile St Garden City, Cairo
They have 301 rooms and 6 accessible rooms. 1 is the deluxe Nile room and the other 5 are standard rooms. The bathrooms have bathtubs and L-shaped grab bars. The back grab bar is important and is lacking.
The lobby flooring is very suited for people with disabilities. The restaurant is on the ground level and accessible.
There are two steps to the entrance and another 6 steps to get to the lobby. That makes it difficult for a person in wheelchair to go in unless they are carried up the steps.
The Grand Hyatt
Corniche El Nile, P.O. Box 2288, Garden City, Roda Island, Cairo
The entrance has a curb cut, which is just wide enough for a wheelchair to come up. The entrance doors are extra wide and the flooring is good.
They have 716 rooms out of which 7 are accessible. Even though the check in counter is high there is the Asst. Manager’s desk near by which can be used for people with disabilities to check in. The public restroom is wide enough for accessibility but it lacks the back grab bars. The gift shops are on level and easily accessed.
The adapted room is big enough with lowered peephole and audible and visual alarms. The bathroom needs grab bars. There is no roll in shower.
The path to the floating restaurant, Grand Hyatt Cairo’s private yacht, Marquise, which cruises the Nile is accessible. The ramp to the boat is also level. The other restaurants are also accessible.
The Zoser Hotel
252 Pyramids Road, Giza
There are 410 rooms and 3 of them are adapted to serve people with disabilities. Even though there are many steps to the entrance, you can bring the car up to the door to avoid climbing the steps. The check in counter is too high. They do not provide any special facilities for the deaf and blind.
There are ramps provided to get to the three accessible rooms, which were under renovation when we visited them. They have provided the grab bars and the roll in shower in all three of them. However, the 41-inch door could come in the way of someone in a wheelchair trying to get to the shower. The bar is on the level of the lobby and can be accessed. The coffee shop has some steps to it. They will serve you in the lobby if you cannot climb the steps.
Hilton World Trade Center Residence
1191 Courniche El Nile Street, Cairo
There are no accessible rooms and the entrance to the hotel is also not accessible. I was told that this hotel is used for long stays so they do not really cater to tourists.
The Pyramids have a ramp that brings you close to it. Due to the surface of the ground there is no way you can get near enough to touch the Pyramids let alone climb. To be able to be in front of it and close to it is magnificent enough. It is very amusing that even people without disabilities use the ramp for ease of walking over the stones. That proves the theory of Universal Design that design and facilities should be usable by everyone irrespective of abilities, age and conditions. It is made of wood and is level.
The restrooms provided at the entrance to the Pyramids have a ramp to go in. But the doors are too narrow to allow a wheelchair to go in. There are no large enough stalls in the rest rooms. The area where you can take pictures with the Pyramids in the background is difficult for someone in a wheelchair to maneuver due to the sand and stones.
Since the cars and buses can drive up to the sphinx, travelers with disabilities can get close to the front of it using the path in front of it. In order to get very close, you need to go through a narrow entrance and up some steps. Just to stand in front of the enigmatic Sphinx is a treat in itself even if you cannot get up close and personal!
Le Meridien Pyramids
El Remaya Square, Pyramids, Giza
The entrance and the lobby are ramped and easily accessed.
They have 498 rooms out of which 3 are accessible. They are on the ground floor. Doors to the rooms and the bathroom are wide enough. They have provided lowered peephole, lowered clothes rack, and controls by the side of the bed. The bathrooms have roll in shower. Grab bars have to be provided for the toilets both the in bathroom as well as the public bathroom.
Gift shops have level entry. The bar has steps to go up to the counter. They will serve you at the tables both in the restaurant and the lobby if you cannot access the bar area.
Alex Desert Road P.O Box 44, Pyramids, Giza, EG 11511
Even though they have provided a curb cut at the entrance, they do not have any accessible rooms.
Sofitel Le Sphinx
1 Alexandria Desert Road, P.O box 16 Pyramids , 12556 GIZA,
They have 270 rooms and 10 suites out of which 3 are adapted for travelers with disabilities. Entrance and the lobby around the check in counter are level. The public bathroom door is only 24 inches wide. Since all the accessible rooms were occupied, we were not able to inspect them. The restaurant is accessible.
Accessible entrance from the road to the hotel
Lobby Of the hotel
Moevenpick Pyramids Resort Cairo hotel
6th Of October District P.O. Box 39 Elhay Elmotamayez Giza
They do not have any accessible rooms in spite of being considered a 5 star hotel. The associate at the front desk informed us that they do not accept people with disabilities in their hotel due to lack of facilities.
The Library – Bibliotheca Alexandrina
P.O. Box 138 – El Shatby, Alexandria 21526
It is one of the best examples of accessibility. The entrance and all other spaces have level entry or
elevators. There are Braille signs everywhere. There is a special library for those with visual impairment. It is called The The Taha Hussein (TH) Library. TH library is named after one of the prominent writers of Egypt named Taha Hussein, who was blind. Their main aim is to provide facilities for the special needs of the visually impaired, enabling them to access all the resources of the library as well as selected web resources. They are planning to expand their premises due to the overwhelming demand for the services provided.
They provide many types of hardware such as Braille displays, Braille keyboards, Magnifiers for low vision readers, as well as the latest technology in software to facilitate those with visual disabilities.
Their mission statement is “The Taha Hussein Library is a new concept, opening new horizons for the blind and visually impaired, enabling them to access all the resources the BA has to offer, as well as the resources available on the Internet. The TH Library will introduce the TH users to a new world, providing them with the opportunity to access a vast range of information, independently and quickly.”
Their web site is: http://www.bibalex.org/libraries/presentation/static/14710.aspx
Four Seasons Hotel Alexandria at San Stefano, Egypt
399 El Geish Road, Alexandria
The entrance is level. Curb cuts are provided where there is a step to get in.
There are 118 rooms and an additional 31 suites. There are 2 rooms that are accessible. We were unable to see any of them since all of them were occupied. The pool area is fully ramped.
The coffee shop has three steps. The gift shops are also accessible. The restaurants are all accessible. To access the restaurant where breakfast is served and provide an all-day buffet, called Kala, you need to go through the main entrance to the next building or through another restaurant called Fresca. Both are in the building adjacent to the main building where the lobby and rooms are located. Even though there is access through the main building, there are six steps to reach the restaurants from it. Fresca has tables with legs that arch out which might be in the way of a wheelchair. The other restaurants have very ornate tables and chairs and are accessible. The out door lounge – Bleu – is accessible if the threshold of about an inch can be managed. It is well worth the effort for the magnificent view.
The meeting space is accessible. The restroom has just one grab bar. However, there is enough room for maneuvering the wheelchair and the sink has the necessary space underneath for a wheelchair user to access the faucets comfortably.
Corniche Road, Alexandria
They have 289 rooms and they have adapted one room for travelers with disabilities. That room was occupied so could not be inspected. I was told that it has a roll in shower. The entrance to the restaurant is ramped so is the entrance to the hotel. The elevator door is only 31 inches wide.
Aifu Horizon Resort Hotel
Al Montazah Towers, Alexandria
There are several steps and level difference to get into this hotel. But they have provided ramps even though the inclination is not the recommended 1:12 ratio. The ramp from the street to the hotel has a better slope.
Out of 86 rooms, there are no adapted rooms for travelers with disabilities. The bathrooms in the suites are large enough to be adapted with roll in showers and the grab bars. The hotel is ramped to all other facilities. The entrances to restaurants have about a 2-inch level difference.
The pool area is accessible and everyone can enjoy the view.
Montazah Palace P.O.Box 258, Alexandria
Built in the year 1892 by King Abbas Helmi as a hunting lodge for his wife, this hotel has tried to maintain the luxury and romance of that era. There is a ramp which takes you into the hotel as well as gives you access to the open air café. It lacks the handrails.
There no accessible rooms. However two of them can be a possibility if you can manage the 2-inch lip into the shower and lack of grab bars.
You may need to transfer to the hotel wheelchair, which they claim will go into the lift that has a door, which is just 23 inches wide. The two restaurants are on the same level as the lobby and are accessible. The gift shops also have level entry.
Helnan Palestine Hotel
Montazah Garden Palace, Alexandria
There are 218 rooms. Even though it is a 5 star hotel, they do not have an accessible room. The hotel has provided a curb cut to get into the hotel. The lobby is accessible except for the check in counter, which is too high. The entrance is only through a revolving door.
The public restroom is very accessible with a 40-inch door.
The restaurant is in the lower level, which can be accessed only by stairs. They will serve any one, who cannot use the stairs to go down, in the ground level where the lobby is.
In closing, I would like to convey my kudos to Egypt Air who has not sacrificed the accessible restroom on their aircraft to add more seats like most other airlines.
There is an accessible toilet on board their Boeing 777 that flies from JFK to Cairo and back.