The second we stepped out of the airport in Cairo we were caught up in the madness that is modern day Egypt. No pharaohs, no pyramids, just chaos.
Long before I caught the travel bug, Egypt was a place I’d always wanted to visit. I was never a fan of history class but I found the ancient culture alluring. The mummies, the tombs, and the Nile River really captured my attention.
When I began traveling I was disappointed to find out Egypt was in political turmoil and deemed an unsafe travel destination. Discouraged, I figured I may never have the opportunity to go.
This year my friend and I were planning a trip to Eastern Europe for Semana Santa (holy week in Spain, where we live). I spent hours researching cities, flights, hotels – it was overwhelming. I decided to check out Egypt figuring it was a long shot. To my surprise, there were decently priced flights and on a whim we booked it.
Afterwards uncertainty set in. Is Egypt as dangerous as people make it out to be? I turned to Girls Love Travel, a Facebook Group in which girls from all over the world share travel tips and stories. I spoke with a few girls who reassured me it was not only safe but highly recommended.
Now that I’ve spent a week there, I suggest going to Egypt, too. It’s not your typical vacation spot, but it has its charm.
On the ride from the airport the first thing we noticed was the incessant honking. As we sat in two hours of traffic we wondered to ourselves what kind of road regulations there were. We witnessed cars cutting across four lanes of traffic, mothers with children running out onto the highway, and entire families on one motorcycle with no helmets.
In a city with a population of nearly 8 million, it’s normal for it to be hectic. What we didn’t expect was to stand out so much in such a densely populated city. We were approached numerous times a day by people wanting photos with us, some even stopping along the highway to talk to us. Even though we dressed modestly and tried not to stick out, tourism in Egypt has been on the decline in the past few years and being among the few tourists, it was impossible not to stand out.
Considering that Egypt is said to be dangerous, you might assume the attention would be negative. We actually found people to be very friendly. They were eager to talk to us and proud to show off their culture. We were approached on many occasions by people wanting to offer us help, some of whom ended up escorting us to our destination, giving us a mini tour along the way. Thanks to them we explored parts of the city unknown to tourists.
As with any foreign destination, there were also a lot of people trying to sell us tours, souvenirs, etc. Although at times pushy, they are hardworking people trying to provide for their families. We had the pleasure of seeing craftsmen, bakers, and construction workers in action.
As a street photographer, I enjoy interacting with people in their natural environment and getting an authentic experience of a foreign culture. However, in addition to the people, Egypt has a lot to offer. It is, of course, overflowing with thousands of years of incredible history and it has a unique culinary flare that any foodie would appreciate.
I am grateful that I didn’t let the negative reputation some have of Egypt affect my decision to go. I find it important to step out of your comfort zone from time to time – you might be surprised by what you learn.
Family of four pulled over on the highway to take a photo with us
A man making sculptures out of camel bone
View from a hot air balloon ride during sunrise, in Luxor
For five euro this man and his horse chauffeured us around all day, bringing us to some local spots and treating us to a typical sugar cane drink
Some spices and dyes in the Luxor market
Hitching a ride on my friend, Julianne’s, back in front of the Great Pyramids
View of one of the pyramids from the town
Fresh made pita bread
Camels mixing in with the traffic on the way from Cairo to Giza
The captain of the felucca boat we took on the nile river
One of the authentic Egyptian essential oil shops
A guard by the Egyptian Museum in Cairo
A little boy, in Luxor, waiting in the desert where our hot air balloon landed, begging for money