“Why travel to Egypt ?” you might be wondering. After all, I’m sure that you have heard about the political instability of the country ever since 2011’s Arab Spring.
And yes, chances are that you have already read about my bad experience at the Giza Pyramids back in 2012.
I mean, why would anyone in their right mind come back to a place where harassment and scams are the common currency?
Why travel to Egypt?
Why travel to Egypt? No, seriously, why?
“Why travel to Egypt?” you ask.
The right question is: Why not?
Why not walk the footsteps of the Pharaohs? Why not behold the greatest wonders that mankind has built?Why not sail in the River Nile to experience the joy of a much simpler life?
“I wish I was as smart as the Ancient Egyptians” I told my guide. “WE wish we were as smart as the Ancient Egyptians” he replied.
Five thousand years worth of history…that is the legacy of Egypt. By learning about the past, we learn about ourselves in the present in order to help us build a better future. After all…
It’s easy to forget that we were once one human race.
It’s easy to forget that once upon a time nobody fought or died over religion.
It’s easy to forget that our world is older than us and that it will still be there once we’re gone.
And Ancient Egypt is the living proof of that.
Walking along the shore of the Nile River I saw the Sun God Ra smiling down as the last rays of light were setting in the West.
This is the Egypt that I remember from my dreams, the Egypt I always wanted to visit in my childhood, the Egypt of Wonders and Hope for a better future.
Yes, I would be lying if I told you that Egypt 100% safe.
Yes, I would be lying if I told you that nobody will try to scam or harass you.
And yes, I would be lying if I told you that you won’t be loving every single moment of the adventure.
After all, isn’t that the joy of travel?
Understanding the reasons behind Egypt’s scams
Pretty groovy, uh? Now that you’re 100% convinced to take a trip to Egypt, it’s time to talk about the big elephant (or should I say camel?) in the room: the Egyptians and the way they treat foreigners.
You see, the average Egyptian is a good hearted person who is grateful that you took a leap of faith and decided to visit their country.
After all, it is important to understand that Tourism is Egypt’s second biggest source of income and that it has dropped enormously ever since 2011.
In 2014, only 9 million tourists visited Egypt (before the revolution, 14 million tourists visited each year) and the figure is only slowly improving.
Before writing him off, please try to have a little bit of empathy for the extremely pushy souvenir salesman who is pressuring you into buying trinkets you don’t want and understand that he is just a desperate person trying to make ends meets.
Yes, I agree that unsolicited attention is really annoying (read all about my first time at El Cairo here) and yes, I completely understand that poverty is not a justification for rude and intrusive behaviour…
But can you really blame them for trying to improve their financial situation?
You also have to understand that you had many choices in life in order to get where you are while the Egyptians that you will encounter during your travels probably never had any choice at all.
During my two weeks in Egypt I had a fair share of local interactions that helped me have a better understanding of the needs and wants of modern day Egyptians: education, jobs, health and safety.
Egyptians want their sons and daughters to have a better upbringing than the one they had.
After all, isn’t that the dream of every mother and father?
The Future of Tourism in Egypt. Is there hope left?
What will the future bring for Egypt? Only Ra knows but one thing is for certain: change needs to come from within and it’s foolish to look for it outside.
Egyptians working in the tourism industry are more tolerant and inclusive when it comes to racial/ethnic/religious diversity, gender equality and LGTB rights so you will always feel respected and safe when you’re with them.
If you’re sheltered by an organised tour, these are the only Egyptians you will end up encountering and trust me, you’ll love every minute of their presence.
They are really good people who want to show you the many wonders of their country.
However, please be aware that Egypt is a very conservative and unequal country (specially in its treatment of women with 99% of them reporting harassment) so you can expect a big culture shock if you’re coming from a place where human rights are prioritised over traditions and beliefs.
During the times where I separated from the group to explore Egypt on my own, I saw a big contrast and contradiction in the sense that Egyptians are unhappy by the way their country is perceived abroad and yet, do nothing to prevent harassers from operating freely in the streets.
In the end, it is up to the Egyptians themselves to end the scams and the harassments and I trust that their good side will prevail with time.
Political instability and acts of terrorism are a sign of unhappiness and Egyptians need to be aware that achieving their own happiness is within their power and that it’s up for them to change the way the world sees their country.
More importantly, it is up to them to change the way they see themselves. The future of Egypt is in their own hands now and it’s up to them to take the opportunity to bring back Egypt to its former glory.
I believe in Egypt.
The risks and myths of traveling to Egypt in 2015
“Raphael, I’m scared of traveling to Egypt. Is it safe?”
Yes, I get it. Fascist military regimes are bad and Islamic Extremists are damaging the daily lives of the inhabitants of the Middle-East but you as a traveler have absolutely nothing to worry about when it comes to your personal safety.
Terrorist attacks are a real concern for the Egyptian Government and you will find many military checkpoints during your travels that are meant to ensure your personal safety.
In some cases (such as in the desert road from Aswan to Abu Simbel) you will have to be escorted by a military convoy in order to proceed.
Why travel to Egypt? Travel to Egypt because Egypt needs it. And truth be told, you probably need it as well.
Don’t let the media hype discourage from taking the opportunity to explore one of the world’s most wonderful civilisations.
Trust me when I say that you won’t regret it!
Practical information about traveling to Egypt in 2015
Solo travel to Egypt is not as difficult as some websites and tour companies have lead you to believe and the bus system is efficient (except for the unreliable schedules of course) and cheap.
Expect to pay about 15 USD for long routes (such as El Cairo to Aswan, 16 Hours) and 5 USD for short routes (such as Dahab to Taba, 3 Hours).
My best suggestion is to start your journey in El Cairo (stay at least one night to visit the Giza Pyramids) and from there make your way south to Aswan.
In Aswan, you can visit the Philae Temple, enjoy a felucca (sailboat) traditional journey in the Nile and/or take a daytrip to the ruins of Abu Simbel in Lake Nasser. The Aswan Dam itself is pretty much skippable but that’s up to you.
After you’re done with Aswan, you can go directly to Luxor or make two small detours at the temples of Kom Ombo and Edfu, don’t forget to visit the Crocodile Museum at Kom Ombo to see some mummified crocs!
Once you’re in Luxor, you will need to dedicate at least two full days to explore the many temples and tombs including the legendary Valley of the Kings, the Temple of Hatshepsut and the Karnak Temple.
A visit to the Luxor Temple during the night is definitely a must!
Finally, there are many different routes you can take from Luxor itself. One option is to go to Sharm-El-Sheik or Dahab by overnight bus in order to swim in the Red Sea and continue your journey to Israel and Jordan by land.
Traveling from Egypt to Israel by land is very easy and cheap and you can actually book a shared dorm in a resort for only 5 USD in Dahab with buffet breakfast and resort facilities included!
Plus, you can actually dive for less than 20 USD a dive.
Yes, THAT cheap.
Alternatively, you can opt for booking an organised tour in order to sit back and let someone else do the planning for transportation and activities.
This 2015 I was invited by Busabout to travel with them from El Cairo to Luxor and the experience was fairly positive, specially the felucca ride with traditional Nubian meals.
Have you ever been to Egypt? How was your experience like? Would you like to visit it again? What are your reasons for why travel to Egypt? Share your thoughts and let me know what you think!
Until next time, my friends!