I have to agree with Majorly here. The efforts of our Egyptian hosts were
all undone by their mercenary countrymen who view anyone with a fair skin as
a walking wallet that needs to be emptied. The Egyptian tourist board needs
to get their shit together and clean up Cairo airport. I should not have to
fight off vagabonds with no identification who want to take my luggage off
me, nor deal with opportunist taxi drivers who tell me that €10 is a good
price to get from one terminal to another. I already knew there was a free
shuttle, but no bugger would tell me where it was because there was no
profit in that.
While at terminal two I met up with a number of German Wikimedians, the fact
that they did not even know that the shuttle bus was picking people up at
terminal one speaks volumes about the effectiveness of communication
regarding this. We fought off taxi drivers who offered to take us to
Alexandria for 800 Egyptian pounds and eventually got the shuttle bus to the
other airport – terminal one – where we assumed we could relax and wait on
the bus to take us to Alexandria. We were not the first Wikimaniacs to get
There were already about seven or eight conference attendees at terminal
one. Some had been there since a little after 8am, and we got there around
3pm. A bus had been supposed to turn up at 2pm, but had not. Fortunately
some of those already at the old airport had phone numbers for local
Wikimedians, someone turned up to help us out, and at around 4:30pm a bus
turned up to take people to Alexandria. The bus had seven seats, there were
around 16 of us. GerardM faced down the bus driver and browbeat him into
taking those who had been at the airport the longest, regardless of the
precious list of names of people he was supposed to take. The rest of us
were left with our Egyptian Wikimedian to figure out how to get from Cairo
to Alexandria. That involved a – thankfully airconditioned - coach trip.
There were two prolonged stops in Cairo while additional passengers were
picked up, so what we were told would be a four hour trip took five and a
half. However, I suspect everyone was just relieved to actually be in
Alexandria; the issue of getting from the bus station to our accommodation –
in my case the dorms - was a minor detail. When its midnight and you’ve been
up since 4:30am you tend to be relieved you have somewhere to sleep,
although the emails I had been sent about that turned out to be utter
The conference itself was great, and a significant counter to the trials I
had actually gone through to get there. We had WiFi in the dorms, but to be
perfectly honest that was a bit of a joke – as was access in the library
itself. In the library you could pretty much get a WiFi signal anywhere, the
problem was that the pool of available IP addresses was not big enough. If
you did not get logged on early enough in the morning you could move around
all you liked, get a great signal, but simply not get online because there
were no more addresses to give out. I had a number of reports passed to me
indicating that only about half of the attendees could get online. It
probably did not help that many attendees were using one address for their
laptop and another for their iPhone. In the dorms we had one mickey-mouse
Linksys box for about 40 people in an old building with thick walls. The
signal didn’t reach the end of the corridor where we were… And Cisco were
one of the conference sponsors.
The return to Cairo airport was less dramatic, and traumatic. However, as
Majorly pointed out, both the limo (i.e cheapest Toyota you can buy with
airco) driver and porter were obnoxiously persistent about tips.
[mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Al Tally
Sent: 28 July 2008 16:18
To: Wikimania general list (open subscription)
Subject: [Wikimania-l] Comments
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.