| Above: Me on a camel in front of the Great Pyramids |
Before starting this absolutely amazing journey with Joseph S. Bruno Abroad in Italy, people were constantly offering me travel tips and advice on where to go and what to see. A lot of times this was very useful information, but I also find it to be a bit biased. At the beginning of the semester, with the world at my fingertips, I was eager to get out and start exploring! One particular destination and world attraction I have always wanted to see were the Great Pyramids in Cairo, Egypt. This destination also happens to be the one place almost everyone, including my parents, informed me NOT to visit. So what did I do? I booked a flight to Cairo, Egypt! Was I nervous and scared? Absolutely. Were my parents mad at me? Extremely. Did I still go? Obviously. I knew Cairo was not going to be like any other trip previously taken. For other countries, I mostly look for the best places to eat and the coolest places to see. With Egypt, though, I knew I was going to have to put a lot more time, energy and research into this trip so that I could ensure my safety and the safety of my travel companions. Thus bringing me to my 5 travel tips when traveling to Cairo, Egypt:
Travel Tip #1. RESEARCH.
- This is first priority before traveling to any new destination overseas. First and foremost, I check and see if the country is safe and why it might be unsafe by visiting Government-approved websites containing more information on the state of the country I plan on visiting. Next, as a minority it is imperative that I make sure the country is safe for ME to travel too. Just because a country is safe for the majority does not mean it’s safe for the minority. As a member of the LGBTQ community I made extra sure to pay close attention to what life is like for gay people in Egypt and how to keep safe.
- You want to make sure you look into your hotels really good! I read lots of reviews and look up its locations! We stayed at The Safir Hotel in Cairo, which online looked like a super safe and touristy hotel. However, while it was indeed a quality hotel, we were a little unaware that the hotel was located in a fairly residential area. The hotel clientele mostly consisted of Arabic people. Nothing was wrong with this, however it did make things a tad awkward at times.
- Lastly, I looked at costs. Egyptian people are very kind and happy people, but they love to take advantage of a good situation. The American dollar goes very far in Egypt, making it inexpensive to have an absolutely amazing experience. However, Egyptians are very aware of the exchange rate and love to charge a lot more when they find out someone is American! I was sure to look into food, travel, and souvenir prices before arriving to ensure I was not over paying.
Travel Tip #2: Plan a rough itinerary ahead of time.
Cairo is a huge city and there are tons of things to do and see! Planning a rough itinerary before my trip was important because Cario is so big that I needed to preserve time to discover and explore things my online research had not accounted for. Also it is good to plan ahead because, although Cairo is a relatively safe city, it is not a city where I could just walk out of my hotel and go exploring! I had to be smart. Hotel travel desks are very useful resources. A lot of times they will have trip packages with English-speaking guides and a driver available for the whole day.! An English-speaking guide is important! Cairo is filled with amazing ancient history and a lot of fun facts, and having an educated English-speaking guide on hand really enhanced my experience.
Travel Tip # 3. Prepare to be stared at!
In American culture we consider it extremely rude and inappropriate for someone to stare at someone else. That is not the case in Egyptian Culture. Women will be looked at regardless of how much you their cover your bodies. Egyptians are very curious people and they don’t see American tourists very often, especially young American tourists. The staring is for the most part just out of curiosity and completely harmless, so I kept in mind I was visiting another country and a different culture and just ignored it. It’s a little weird at first but I got used to it!
Travel Tip #4: Egyptians Drive insane!!
I have been to five countries now and hands down Egyptians are the absolute most insane drivers I have ever witnessed. They say a person needs 3 things to drive the street of Egypt: A good car, good eyes, and good luck! In Egypt there are no traffic lights, lanes, or laws. Well, there are some traffic laws, but from what I gathered they are all very optional! I just buckled up and braced myself because that is another culture shock in and of itself.
Travel Tip #5: Absorb the culture!
Egypt has so much culture to offer! One of the things I was most nervous about was visiting a lot of the local mosques. I wasn’t nervous due to the fact that they were Muslim. I was more nervous about the possibility of offending their religion or interrupting their worship! However, In my research I found that Egyptians have some of the oldest and most beautiful mosques in the world. Learning the customs and visiting these places was an amazing experience. I also bought myself a Galabeya! This is the traditional Egyptian/muslim robe/attire. They are extremely comfortable even in the Egyptian heat. I was laughed at, but also receive many compliments and respect from other Egyptians for my effort in adapting to their culture, and would recommend to my male friends to do the same! Also smoke the sheesha, a form of tobacco often referred to as hookah in America. There are many places in egypt that sell shisha including the hotel we were staying at.
To wrap up this blog, Egypt is an absolutely fantastic place to travel to! It is filled with so much culture and life.! The people are so kind and willing to help whenever possible. The food is absolutely amazing and the sights are out of this world! Seriously, the pyramids were built by aliens. It is such a magical place where ancient history and traditions meet a more modern way of life! Egypt is safe. Egypt is beautiful. Visit Egypt.