With a kind smile on her face, the 30-year-old Nubian wife and mother Marwa Mohamed usually gets up early at 7 am every day, ready to prepare breakfast for the tourists she hosts in her house. After the sharp drop in tourism sector in 2011 and the subsequent economic instability, Mohamed along with many other families in Nubia are currently earning their living by opening their homes to tourists from across the world.
Mohamed “lives with her husband and two kids in their two-story house,” she tells Invest-Gate, adding that they usually rent the roof and the first story to local or foreign tourists.
But she notes that it is not enough to be hospitable towards tourists; a lot of promotion goes into the process to attract more guests and to guarantee bookings. She and her husband promote their small business as the “Nubian Dream,” renting nine rooms, with prices starting at EGP 700 for one person per night.
The Nubian Dream Guesthouse also has a cozy restaurant that offers local dishes. Both houseguests and those visiting Nubia for a day are welcome to a meal during their visit to Nubia or a refreshing Nubian drink such as Hibiscus.
Mohamed and her family are only an example of such a trend that has become popular in recent years. Many Nubians in the village of Gharb Soheil, 30 minutes from Aswan International Airport and 45 minutes from the train station, who were already working in tourism prior to 2011, have started offering such guesthouses to Egyptians and foreigners.
These small enterprises mirror the Nubian culture in the designs of their homes with colorfully painted houses and furniture. They also offer other tourist activities, in an aim to distinguish themselves from the rest, such as sand boarding, mud spa treatments, camel riding, and Nile Cruise activities.
In order to ensure world-class hospitality standards to tourists in these guesthouses, the tourism ministry granted a license to an already well-established boutique hotel in the area, AnaKato, “to supervise other guesthouses and provide them with guidelines on how to manage their businesses, Chymaa Ghaleb,” AnaKato front office manager tells Invest-Gate.
Ghaleb, whose hotel means “my house” in the Nubian language, states that an important aspect to Nubian hospitality, which AnaKato tries to maintain and instill in nearby guesthouses, is the friendly and generous aspect of the Nubian culture.
She recalls that it was “a challenge at the start of [their] business to convince visitors to try a place away from technology, electronics, and luxury.”
“We acquaint guests with the Nubian culture, how to enjoy walking on the sand, and feel the beauty of the nature,” Ghaleb elaborates.
She adds that guests enjoy wearing Nubian tradition clothes during their stay in the village and buying local souvenirs from Nubian bazaars.
Other private initiatives have been also attempting to promote the Nubian culture. Ahmed Shampoo, one of the leaders in reviving the Nubian culture to visitors and guests of the Gharb Soheil Village, tells Invest-Gate “What we want is to offer this type of tourism that reflects one of the many cultures of Egypt.”
Shampoo states that the idea of the Nubian guesthouses started in 2008. “We are trying to expand more and more in the services; now the village has 15 boats, sand boarding equipments, 255 camels, and numbers of bazaars in front of each home,” Shampoo adds.
He says that the idea of staying in a Nubian guesthouse started by word-of-mouth referrals and then spread through social media. “Friends started telling each other, till we became well-known on many online booking websites such as Booking.com and TripAdvisors.”
“In our village, the Nubians have a white heart, white teeth, and a white Galabiya,” Shampoo says while smiling. Some owners of the Nubian hospitality houses confirm that the Ministry of Tourism is currently assisting them by giving them all necessary licenses and are monitoring their quality, making sure they stick to tourists’ standards.