SEATTLE — While most travel companies are scrambling to cancel or postpone tours to the Middle East, a Seattle tour operator is organizing a late-March trip to what she calls the "New Egypt."Stops will include protest sites in Cairo and Alexandria, and meetings with people who were at Tahrir Square during the days leading up to the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak.
Rita Zawaideh, owner of Caravan-Serai Tours, a company specializing in Mideast travel, is organizing the 11-day trip, March 26-April 5.
The trip will include visits to the usual tourist sites and a Nile cruise as well as meetings with two Seattleites, both Middle East specialists currently living in Cairo.
Jordanian-born Zawaideh founded the Arab-American Community Coalition of Seattle after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and is often recognized for her relief and humanitarian work with Middle Easterners living in the United States.
Caravan-Serai leads small-group tours to countries in the Middle East, including Yemen, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
The company recently canceled a trip planned for later this month to Libya and Tunisia.
A U.S. State Department travel warning is still in place advising U.S. citizens to avoid all nonessential travel in Egypt. British officials lifted their advisory recently, saying it's now safe to travel to Cairo, Alexandria and other parts of Egypt.
Caravan-Serai's tour will be led by Maha Sarhan, an Egyptian who has lived in the U.S. since the 1990s, and leads the company's tour groups in Egypt, Jordan, Libya and Israel.
Meetings are planned with Amal Winter, an Egyptian-American psychologist from Seattle spending the academic year in Cairo as a visiting professor at the American University. The group will also meet with Jere Bacharach, professor emeritus in the University of Washington's history department, who is an expert on Middle Eastern affairs.
Cost of the land portion of the tour is $975 for two persons sharing and $1505 for single occupancy, plus airfare. More details at www.caravan-serai.com.