Hi, my name is Celine Slots and in September 2018 my adventure started: a tourism internship at a sustainable, authentic and locally runned travel agency in Egypt. As a third-year student International Tourism Management at BUAS, I was very excited to leave my small hometown in the Netherlands for my 5-month placement at Kingfisher Tours. In addition to learning a lot, I’m having an amazing, unforgettable time here.
Why did I choose Egypt, how did I find this opportunity and what is my experience so far? In this blog I would love to share my experience with you.
Why did I choose Egypt for my internship?
As a big fan of Egypt, I didn’t have to spend much time thinking about where to do my internship.
I first came to Egypt when I was 13 years old and the years after that, I travelled to Egypt many times. The combination of breathtaking sunsets and the oh-so-kind and hospitable Egyptian people, is what made me fell in love with this beautiful Middle-Eastern country. This internship was the perfect opportunity for me to go to Egypt for a longer period of time. Right now, I’m living the Egyptian life as a resident, instead of as a tourist. This is a dream coming true.
Looking for internships in Egypt; How did I find this amazing opportunity?
At the beginning of 2018, my quest for a placement in Egypt started. It wasn’t easy to find a vacancy in Egypt that met the schools’ requirements, so I asked my friend Google for advice. One of the first companies that popped up was Kingfisher Tours, a Dutch Travel agency based in Luxor. Kingfisher Tours organises tailor-made tours through Egypt for groups and individuals.
I wanted to do my internship at a company that matched my values
At the website of Kingfisher Tours, I read they value honesty, contributing to the Egyptian society (by hiring Egyptians and paying fair wages) and they also mentioned they educate their team and stimulate growth. These values in combination with the interesting core business of Kingfisher Tours immediately appealed to me. I was happily surprised how quickly I found this company that I was so enthusiastic about. I wasn’t necessarily nervous but I have never lived abroad before. The fact that one of the owners, Miriam Kok is Dutch herself gave me a comforting feeling. I felt an instant connection to Miriam, who grew up within the same culture as I did.
How did I get in touch with Kingfisher Tours?
As a student, I wasn’t allowed to get in touch with Kingfisher Tours directly, so I contacted the Placement Office at school and told them about this opportunity. ‘We are already in contact with Kingfisher Tours, and the placement vacancy will be online very soon’, they told me, and I jumped for joy! ‘Wow, is this really happening?’, I thought.
Sooner than I thought, I was having a Skype Session with Miriam
After applying by sending a motivation letter and curriculum vitae to Kingfisher Tours, Miriam already responded the next day and invited me for a Skype meeting. Yay! During this Skype meeting with Miriam we talked about the company and how it started, who I am as a person and what kind of placement I was looking for. What I enjoyed the most was the immediate connection; we laughed a lot and it absolutely didn’t feel like an interview at all.
After this Skype meeting, if it is even possible, I was even more enthusiastic about this opportunity. Because there where more candidates, I was keeping my fingers crossed…
When I received the message from Miriam that they chose me as their new intern at their office at Luxor, I immediately started packing and couldn’t wait for it to be September.
Kingfisher Tours: the company and their values
Kingfisher Tours is run by the Dutch Miriam Kok - who in the past 19 years developed a passion for this country while living there - and her Egyptian husband Bakr. They love to introduce their (mainly Dutch and Belgian) guests to the real and authentic Egypt in a fair and sustainable way. They do this by working with local communities, by booking small scale accommodations runned by Egyptians for their guests, by making sure animals like camels are taken well care of and by supporting local charities, among many other things.
Sustainable tourism: I am proud to be a part of this team
As I said before, Miriam and Bakr believe in responsible, sustainable tourism and they make sure that their revenues end up in the hands of the local people. They mainly work with local employees, who are paid fair salaries and who are encouraged to learn and grow professionally.
Sustainability is a word that not many Egyptian residents are familiar with yet. Nevertheless, Kingfisher Tours pays a lot of attention to the triple bottom line (People, Planet, Profit), which makes them very innovative in this country. Keeping the wishes of the People within the company and Egyptian society in mind, plus having a positive impact on the Planet and the health of their business, makes Kingfisher Tours to a leading example within the tourism industry in Egypt.
The fact that Miriam and Bakr would like to be a leading example within the Egyptian tourism market and love to stimulate others to become better and take better care of their country is something I really admire. It makes me proud to be a part of their team and work for this amazing company.
My tasks and working hours
The working hours in Egypt are different compared to those in the Netherlands. Our work week in Egypt starts on Sunday and lasts until Thursday. Around 9.00 AM we start with a fresh cup of coffee or typical Egyptian black tea. After this social moment in the morning, I start working.
My main tasks consist of making hotel reservations, updating the planning, informing our coordinators in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor about last-minute changes or important information, responding to emails and last but not least, creating new travel proposals. Every week I get additional tasks like updating email and travel proposal templates or having Skype meetings with new potential guests to figure out their wishes. This creates a sufficient variety.
My working days end around 6:00 PM. On Thursday night my weekend starts, which lasts until Saturday night. Now I’m used to it, but in the beginning I often got confused about the days.
The stress free life in Egypt; be happy with the little things
Egyptians tend to have a very relaxed and stress-free life mentality, which is why I enjoy life in Egypt a lot. I feel a lot less pressure in Egypt. You just do the best you can, and that is very much appreciated. In the Netherlands, my experience is different.
What I also love about the Egyptians, is that they in general are less materialistic than we tend to be in Western Europe. They are very grateful and happy about all the little things in life. Besides that, everyone in Egypt is so kind and helpful. For example, if I would fall down on the street, I’m sure that within a few seconds at least 5 people would be around me to help about and to ask me if I’m ok. The community spirit is definitely still noticeable here, which makes it a very pleasant place to live.
Living in Luxor is something special
Luxor can be considered as a small provincial city. The majority of the people that are living there are Egyptian residents and you will only find a few expats. In my opinion, it is still a very traditional Egyptian city. For many Western people, it probably takes some time to get used to the life here. There are no party bars or clubs to go out. Instead, there are many cosy tea gardens or cafes where you can go to drink some tea or enjoy a fresh juice.
Living in an Islamic country as a western woman, is Egypt a safe country for a (Western) woman?
In Egypt, Islam is the dominant religion with around an estimated 90% of the population. This unfortunately still leads to prejudices within the Western world. People who have never visited Egypt before, often describe it as a scary and unsafe destination. Such a pity…
As I experience it over and over again, Egyptians are one of the friendliest and most helpful people I know. The fact that there is still a huge sense of community (being together and looking after each other) is one of the reasons I feel so at home in this country. Many times I walk home by myself in the evenings after work, also walking through a kind of remote street, but it is clear to say that I NEVER feel unsafe.
I feel way more relaxed to walk alone on the streets late at night, than I would in the Netherlands. This is also because Egyptians are really active at night, so I was never alone when walking home.
It might sound strange to some, but these people on the streets at night actually make me feel more relaxed than if there was a situation with no one around, which is often the case in the Netherlands. Of course there are situations in which I get a bit annoyed, since men and especially younger kids tend to talk to me a lot. However, the ‘’worst’’ things they say is ‘’Hello, how are you?’’ or ‘’What’s your name’’?. It makes me smile while writing this, because those are actually the most innocent words I’ve ever heard ;-). However, these situations teach me to appreciate my earphones a lot more haha.
Learning about the Islam is so interesting
Furthermore, learning and talking about the Islamic religion contributes to my positive experience so much. It makes me understand the Egyptian culture way better. Being open-minded and really trying to understand it, makes me feel even more at home in Egypt.
Thank you Egypt, thank you Kingfisher Tours!
My placement experience at Kingfisher Tours taught me so so much, professionally as well as on a personal level. I’ve gained some serious working experience and now I know how it is to work in a company with an international and multicultural team.
What this experience definitely made me realise is in what kind of company I would prefer to work and which atmosphere I like. This is, in my opinion, very valuable knowledge. Without Miriam’s broad knowledge and her great coaching skills, this entire experience wouldn’t have been as educational and special as it was now. She definitely played a major role in my professional and personal growth over the past five months. So a big thanks to her (as well as to the wonderful Egyptian people).
All in all, I really enjoy my placement as well as living in Egypt and I met so many wonderful people who I’m really going to miss when I go home. My time here is passing by so quickly and I already cannot wait to come back again…
My highlights during this experience (why would I recommend an internship at Kingfisher Tours?)
- Great supervision by Miriam and useful feedback moments, both professionally as well as personal.
- A perfect opportunity to really get to know the country, the Egyptian culture and its amazing people. Oh, and don’t forget the yummy Egyptian food 🙂
- Working in a close team with people who all share the same love for the country and the company.
- A guaranteed learning experience.