I describe us as a conduit providing local people with access to the internet market. I am Jane Akshar, British and have the business and computer knowledge. My Egyptian husband, Mahmoud Jahlan, his family and friends have been providing tourism services for years.
We started providing self catering accommodation but now can do everything, including full tours of Egypt. Every penny you pay stays in the local economy as we operate and live in Egypt.
As an honorary local and recognised Egyptologist, I am able to advise people about the hidden side of Luxor, that the majority of tourists never know about or go to. Quiet tombs, unknown temples and local events like weddings or Moulids.
Every one of the people we use is a Luxor local, from cleaners to drivers, from captains to donkey men. All our bedroom furniture and large percentage of lounge/dinning furniture is made by local carpenter. We also use other local workmen in the building of our flats. Often these are independent and have no guaranteed work so our guests are vital to their lives. By giving them regular work we have been able to introduce better working practices, responsibility and reliability.
We pass on clothes, school materials, food, that guests give to us, to the community. We support a local nursery with teaching materials and every year we provide the local poor with a meat meal.
We also put guests in touch with local crafts, putting buyer and seller together with no middle man. Some of our guests have given money to enable people we have introduced to them, to buy better equipment for their work.
We introduce our guests to real Egyptian people so both can learn from each other and understand each other. Christian and Muslim, Egyptian and Western, rich and poor all come to have a better knowledge and appreciation for each other. Many of the guests find the whole Muslim/Arab culture demystified. They are also surprised how many Christians there are in Egypt. We get them to try Egyptian beauty treatments like threading (even for men). We are able to introduce our guests to real Egyptian people who have lived in the area for years. The highlight of their visit for many visitors is sharing a cup of tea with our bowab. Even though he speaks no English, communication is there.
We encourage guests to use fans rather than air conditioning. We recycle mineral water bottles and our electricity is all from Aswan dam. We use low energy bulbs and have timed light switches in the communal areas. In our restaurant 85% of the food is locally grown organic and seasonal products. All our communication and advertising is done via the internet to save paper. We support the local animal charities like ACE and Brook encouraging guests to visit and see the conditions and make contributions. My daughter was a volunteer at ACE. We publicise good practice selecting the calceches (horse and carriages).
Many of the local people we employ could not get work in 5* hotels as they do not speak English. We treat them like family and help with large expenses like marriage and pay them when sick. We can give recommendations for taxi drivers, mini bus drivers, sailing captains, motor boat captains, donkey men, camel men who are all from Luxor. In each flat we have an information book with details of local restaurants, boat captains, tours, massage and local information and cultural differences. Also I use an Egyptian in Cairo for business down there. In fact in my entire business, contacts and suppliers I am the only foreigner.