It's now been a week since I got back. I enjoyed the actual conference, and
meeting everyone in person. However, I have made up my mind that I never
want to go to Egypt again, nor the next Wikimania.
First off, the planning for this conference was pretty poor with regards to
information. What I mean is, I had to pester people on IRC to get any kind
of information regarding how to get to the shuttle, what to do on arrival
etc. The schedule the team was supposed to be following wasn't followed. The
scholarships were very late indeed, and when I finally received my "I'm
sorry, but..." email, I'd already booked.
The fact there was very little info *on the wiki* is atrocious. I had to
pester Mido on IRC several times a week, to try and squeeze any information
out. It got to about a week before I was due to leave, and still with no
answers to basic questions, I sent an email to this list, begging for
information. Eventually it was answered, but it was never put on the wiki. I
spoke to some people, who don't subscribe to this list, so didn't ever
receive this important information.
The whole shuttle thing was a disaster. We should not have needed to sign up
- just run a "shuttle" every 4 hours as stated. No where did you mention
where the shuttle would be on arrival (until I explicitly asked on the list,
even then it was wrong). The shuttle for me on return left at 7:30am when my
flight was at 5pm. Why was there not a later shuttle?
On arrival, I was with Charles Matthews, and we spent several hours waiting
at the airport, then we realised we were in the wrong hall. So, after
meeting with two other Wikimanians, we waited a further two hours for the
shuttle, which was very late. We arrived in Alexandria at 1am-ish. I was put
in a room that was a different one to the one I had been told I was in.
After a very nutritious breakfast, we went to the first day of the
conference bright and early. The schedule changed several times, there was a
lack of plugs in the halls, and some of the talks were frankly dull (this
applies to all three days).
There was not really anywhere suitable to go for lunch, so we sort of sat
around on the floor... not good. How did Alexandria get chosen in this
respect - the social areas were basically non existent.
On returning to the dorms, I found that I had to change rooms, again, still
not to the one that I was put into originally. The beds were rather hard, no
sheets were provided, and there was no toilet paper in the toilets (luckily
I had brought my own as I imagined something as basic as that would be left
The next two days went similarly I suppose. The end of conference party was
done badly again. Why did we have to get a sticker? No one even checked I
had one when I got onto the coach. The party was OK, and the food was
probably the best I had the entire time I was there.
I left the next day, with Brianmc (sharing a cab). We got to Cairo airport,
but the wrong terminal for me. I had to make my own way to Terminal 1, after
being tricked by someone into paying money I shouldn't have had to to get
there. I was then harrassed by a man who claimed to be an "honest policeman"
who charged me £300 EGP for the use of his cab. He wouldn't let me leave,
even after I spilt water in his car. I tried to walk away, and he grabbed my
arm demanding I paid him. I don't think I'd ever felt so awful in my life.
It was the most horrible experience of the conference. Why are people like
that allowed to roam about the airport, looking for weak, defenceless (and
rich) tourists like myself? It's ridiculous.
I am still struggling to see how Egypt was chosen to host Wikimania. Yes,
the people at the conference were nice and friendly, and the conference was
enjoyable enough, with a few minor issues, but the country itself is the
worst I have ever been to. You cannot cross the road without risking being
killed by the mad drivers (who beep at all hours of the day for no apparent
reason). They should save painting lanes on the roads, as no one bothers
following them. There was a family living in the street, the same street the
BA is situated on. Just goes to show what a mix of life there is.
I was so disturbed and put off by my experience of Egpyt, there is no way
I'd consider going to Buenos Aires. While I'm sure they are very different
places, I don't want to risk anything like the harrassment, the poor hygene,
the dangerous roads and the poor organisation again. It'll be way too
expensive for me as well, and I doubt I'd get a scholarship. I'd rather go
somewhere closer to the UK where I live, or where the culture is more
similar to here.
I'm sorry my words are harsh. This is not a dig at anyone, just my honest
concerns about how this whole thing turned out. I know for sure others feel
the same way I do about a lot of the things I said.