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Reviewed 21 May 2018

I booked a 10 days tour with Mara Tours. I loved the sites, Mohammed, the guide in Luxor was excellent (I am myself a tour guide in my own Country), but the organization of the trip was disastrous. Every single day the program was changed without any notice. Before we left, the info we received (I was traveling with a friend) was sketchy and the payment process not particularly smooth or clear. Ahmed, the assistant manager, did his very best to adjust to the continuous changes made at the last minute by the company. We were not happy. We were not happy to be forced to leave tips rigorously in USD, and in the amount established by the company itself, instead of leaving it to us to decide wether or not to give them. The extra activities were overpriced according to Western standards. I really was not going to pay 30 USD for the Light and Sound show in Luxor, when in Egyptian Pounds I would have paid one third of the price, if not less........
I am not going to use this company anymore. If you want to travel in Egypt with a reliable and well organized tour company, I suggest you do it via a local tour company.

Stayed: February 2018, travelled with friends
1  Thank RomanHolidays67
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Marie V, Owner at Mara House, responded to this reviewResponded 1 June 2018

It is sad to see that this guest's memory of her trip to Egypt with us has become a bad memory when it comes to some of her experiences. Perhaps if she had written it earlier after getting home it might not have been so. She travelled early Feb 2018 and writes the review in May. I am happy she has good memories of my guides and staff. The review surprised me in one way because neither she nor her friend gave us any idea they were unhappy with anything during the trip. In fact we had tearful goodbye hugs outside the hotel on departure with promises of returning. It does not surprise me in another way because invitations were issued to my staff and guides to become involved in a new project using my programme in the future.

Everyone's perspective is different so I will only deal with some facts that require correction here.

Change in Program - There were no changes to the program for the first 7 days. On day 8 we had planned for one of the group to go to Saqqara but then the whole group wanted to go and so, instead of going from the airport to the hotel, we went to Saqqara. This was a group request and we obliged. On day 9 we had some last minute info about traffic so we made some changes to the order in which we visited the four sites. I have to admit it threw lunch out the window and we had to do with some snacks we bought in Coptic Cairo, but we did cover everything on the schedule and the guests understood we didn't want to leave anything out. We learned today to always have snacks and fruit on hand from now on everywhere we go! On day 10 we arrived at Abdeen Palace after lunch and it was closed. So we swopped around and rescheduled it for the next day and brought forward the Islamic Museum visit from the next day. In Egypt as a tour organiser you have to be flexible and flow with events outside your control, which I think my whole organisation manages wonderfully and consequently my guests never miss anything, we never cancel an adventure but sometimes we have to adapt - mostly this is only in Cairo.

Info was sketchy - Everyone gets both a brief itinerary and a long detailed one when they first enquire about the trips - otherwise how would one know what the package is? Prior to arrival I send everyone an 8 page A4 information doc. covering absolutely everything one might possibly need to know. This includes detailed instructions for everything from how to get through visa inspection etc at the airport to where to get currency etc. Included are also links to my website to five other articles I wrote on what to bring, vaccines, tipping etc etc. Our first night the group meets at 9pm for a brief meeting to answer any questions and give out a full itinerary with any changes and tell the group more about the next day, what to expect etc.

Payment process - the lady herself had no problem with the deposit or the payment transfer - but my emails to her friend did not seem to be getting through and her friend had a lot of trouble making the payments. I take credit/debit card and also us an online transfer service for people living outside the US. The process works perfectly for 99.99% of my guests.

Tipping, rigorously, forcefully in US dollars - Tipping is part of the culture in Egypt - not only for tourists but for Egyptians. I provide my guests with a full explanation of this and a tipping sheet guideline so they know what and who to tip. This sheet is also available on my website. The sheet I give my tour groups has lower recommended tipping as they are a group. EG on the website the recommended tip for a guide is 150 le ($9) per day but as part of a group 100 le ($5.5). NOBODY HAS to tip anyone - but it is expected. We do not force it! There is one tip we do ask people to do for the sake of future guests, and that is for the boat crew. We use the same boat all the time - we get excellent service from them and to ensure that all future guests experience the same level of personal attention I do ask my guests to collect this tip into one envelope and give it to the Boat Receptionist. The requested boat tip is 100 le ($5) per night = $20. It makes no difference if it is in egyptian or dollars.

Sound and Light Show - for the lady to go herself she just pays a taxi and a ticket. As a group we have strict security guidlines to follow. We also have a personal security guard everywhere we go as the Egyptian government are very strict on what procedures they wish us to follow when escorting groups around Egypt. Not all tour groups follow these but we follow them to the letter. To take a group to the Sound and Light show we pay for a coaster bus, security guard and tickets. We set our prices fairly and if half a group decides not to go we do not turn around to the other half and demand extra money to cover our costs.

At my initial group meeting on the first day I ask people to let me know and my staff know, as the days pass if there is anything they are unsure about, any problems they are having, if they feel unwell at anytime even slightly or there is anything at all we can do to make sure they have the best time ever. If my guests don't take me at my word on this - what to do? We had no idea this lady was unhappy with anything as she was happy and smiling all the time and I am sorry that I have to answer her review like this.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 14 May 2018

We spent 4 days at Mara House and enjoyed their 3 days of tours. All communication in advance was prompt and clear. Everything promised was delivered as stated. The small apartment was well decorated and had all amenities. Including free bottled drinking water! They make the little things count at Mara House and will fulfill any special request. It was so easy to go out to dinner each night with the use of the horse and carriage and fun too! Ahmed the hotel manager did a great job in making us feel welcome. The 3 days of tours were certainly busy but we had enough time to visit each place in a relaxing manner. Mohamed our guide knew all the history and details of each site and was happy to answer all questions. Thanks for making our visit to Luxor a smashing success!!!!

Stayed: April 2018
Thank pestopete1
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 15 April 2018

My son (18) and I stayed there last week and had a wonderful time. With the tourism downturn we were the only guests and Ahmed basically treated us like family. The hotel is kind of classical Egyptian with beautiful public rooms where you have breakfast or the feast on the last night. The room was a one bedroom suite with two single beds which suited us beautifully. Nicely provisioned fridge as well (appreciated the beers at around $1.60 each).
The availability of a horse and carriage to get you around town is great - the streets are torn up locally due to gas main installations and the carriage is way more comfortable than any car or the Mara House van. Also very cheap - but please give the guy a good tip! The Nile sailing is great fun as well.
The tour guide, Mohamed, was excellent as well - lots of knowledge and an interesting guy to talk to. The tours are great - though the one to Abidos is a lot of time in the van - take a book or some music or both for that day. Mohamed also does a god job helping to fight off the folks trying to sell you stuff and is good for advising on who to tip (which is pretty important). All is all the whole package is superb value for money and will give you a great experience - but the little additions like Ahmed getting you to good reliable restaurants locally (the Indian place is really good) and Mohamed knowing where to go for lunch on the Valley of the Kings day is also special.
Finally - Ahmed - thanks again for getting us to your coffee house for the Liverpool Man City game. That was a truly special night (for us Liverpool fans anyway - which seems to define the whole of Egypt these days!).

  • Stayed: April 2018, travelled with family
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
3  Thank Jonathan B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 April 2018

Visiting cities vastly different from one's own, especially when traveling solo, can lead to a sense of imbalance, so it’s important to stay somewhere comfortable and safe. Upon my arrival in Egypt, Mara House was that place for me. Hungry, stressed, and exhausted when I arrived, I realized quickly I was in excellent hands with Ahmed, the manager, who helped me get oriented and called a taxi to take me to a nearby restaurant. Later, after a hot shower, I settled into my cushy, comfortable bed and enjoyed a great night’s sleep. The following morning, after a delicious breakfast, I felt completely renewed, energized, and ready to enjoy the splendor of Luxor’s temples. 

I've looked at some of the negative reviews and noticed they fall into two categories: Those who misunderstood something/ didn't read information sent to them, and those who expect the street and facilities to be like home. Yes, the neighborhood looks very different from my own: Well-off Egyptians spend money on extravagances inside their homes and keep the outside very modest-looking. But the area is safe and provides the chance to see how Egyptians live. For me that made it more special. If you aren't looking for that kind of authenticity, a chain hotel might better suit your needs, but you'll be missing out on the unique charm, outstanding customer service, and excellent food at Mara House. 

The facilities and service exceeded my expectations in a number of ways. I normally travel far more modestly, but prices in Egypt are currently so reasonable I was able to afford more. The house is beautiful, spacious, and impeccably clean, and my suite felt luxurious. I was treated like a VIP. Ahmed was incredibly kind and responsive to any question or request. And one evening, after a long day of sightseeing, I enjoyed one of Amr’s sumptuous dinner feasts; Cleopatra herself never ate so well! 

Other touches I appreciated: The bottled water (a must for visitors) and snacks in the kitchen area of my suite cost the actual prices one would pay in an Egyptian shop instead of the usual 3-4 times as much. Also, Mara’s binder of practical information (in your room) is very helpful. She really does think of all the details so you don’t have to.

If you are considering traveling to Egypt, DO IT! It is a safe and friendly country, and you will be amazed by all the temples. It was the most fascinating trip I've ever taken. And while in Luxor, do yourself a favor and stay at Mara House.

Room Tip: The call to prayer is part of the Egyptian experience, but it may wake you at an ungodly hour! Bring earplugs.
  • Stayed: March 2018, travelled solo
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Service
2  Thank seejay54
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 9 April 2018 via mobile

We’re just back from 9 full days in Egypt, totally planned by Mara of Luxor’s Mara House. Wonderful experience for both me (67) and my granddaughter. Mara’s guides were all excellent, knowledgeable and helpful. Other reviewers have praised Fatma and Mohamed in Cairo, as well as Mohammed in Luxor. I totally agree. I would also like to add freelance guide Hassan Mostafa, who accompanied us on our 3-day Nile cruise. Added to his skills as a guide was a playfulness and connection to kids that made it all more fun for my granddaughter. Hassan also showed us Karnak and Luxor Temples.

I had been nervous about visiting Egypt, and especially taking a child into what might be a potentially dangerous country. Mara had been very reassuring, and I’m so glad that I listened to her. I always felt we were in good hands, and quite as safe as possible in today’s world.

Our schedule was packed so little time to improvise. It would have been nice to have more time for shopping and just walking around. We were limited by having the parameters of Spring Break. We did squeeze a short visit to the beautiful Luxor Museum, which I highly recommend. Also, after our visit to the Valley of the Kings, I asked if we could see some local artisans at work. Mohammed took us to an alabaster workshop, which was quite interesting.

Mara House itself is like a little museum, with high quality art works an integral part of its charm. Manager Ahmed was an impeccable host. A very comfortable place to stay. We loved our spacious suite.

I don’t know if I’ll make it back to Egypt one day. I would like to. The people are open and friendly, and the magnificence of its attractions can’t be exaggerated.

Stayed: March 2018, travelled with family
3  Thank Robin D
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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