Kudos for Caravan-Serai Tours

In September ’05, my wife and I began a trip that was supposed to last six and a half weeks and cover Jordan, Egypt and Libya. The arrangements were made by Rita Zawaideh, president of Caravan-Serai Tours (3806 Whitman Ave. N., Seattle, WA 98103; phone 800/451-8097 or visit www.caravan-serai.com).

To save time and expense, Rita arranged for us to obtain our visas upon arrival in each country, procured a special Letter of Invitation for Libya and arranged for a representative to be waiting in Tripoli to assist us in processing our visas.

The trip began smoothly, with an excellent tour of the highlights of Jordan, including a chance for me to scuba dive the Gulf of Aqaba. Caravan-Serai’s in-country representative, Basel Sawalha, carefully monitored our daily progress, and when the high-speed ferry we were to take to transfer to Sharm el Sheikh was suddenly canceled, he immediately stepped in and scheduled air flights for us to Sharm at no additional cost! Our itinerary never skipped a beat.

Once again, things went smoothly as I dove the Red Sea, a lifetime wish. We then had a Cairo tour, a Nile cruise and a Lake Nasser cruise. We finished in Alexandria, both of us feeling that we had truly seen the highlights of Egypt.

On the night before we were to return to Cairo to catch our flight to Libya, I received a call from Rita informing me that Libya had suddenly stopped issuing visas to arriving American tourists and was sending back those who had already arrived without visas. This was potentially a big disaster, for our flights home originated in Tripoli. Rita called all of her contacts to try to salvage our visit, but after exhausting all possibilities we finally agreed that we should return to Cairo to await a new routing home.

We arrived late in Cairo on Thursday evening (Sept. 29), and on Friday, it being the Moslem holiday, everything was closed. Nominally, the airline offices were closed on Saturday as well, but Rita managed to get someone to come in on their day off in order to reticket us so we could return home. This was accomplished, and we left on Sunday bound for London — the first leg of our trip back home.

In this regard, Caravan-Serai’s representative, Yasser Elsayed, was most helpful, both in the ticketing issues and in entertaining us, at no cost, during our unanticipated additional stay in Cairo.

Not only did Caravan-Serai go all out to solve these last-minute problems, they did so at their expense, and the rerouted tickets were issued at no additional cost to us. They responded rapidly and efficiently to both of the unanticipated events which occurred during our journey, and I give them very high marks for the results.

I would certainly recommend Caravan-Serai to anyone planning a trip to the Middle East or Egypt, and we plan to travel with them again in the future.

Novato, CA

At press time, visas once again were being issued for Americans planning to visit Libya. Travelers need to apply for visas in advance after meeting all requirements (getting permission to visit, stating itinerary, land operator, etc.). There is a Libyan Consulate at 170 Laurier Avenue West, Ste. 1400, Ottawa, Ontario, K1P 5V5 Canada; phone 613/216-0136, fax 0141 or visit www.libya-canada.org/contact-eng.html.

Americans may have been denied visas upon arrival in Libya in retaliation either for Libya’s being included in an unsavory list or because the U.S. denied entry to a Libyan diplomat.