There is a reason why my page “About“ has a picture of Egypt. Egypt is my very first solo journey and my the most favorite country.
From the Greatest Ancient Civilization to Arab Spring. From Pharaohs and Goddesses to Semi-Presidential system of government. It is breathtaking, inspiring and unforgettable. Every time I go back, I discover more places and I leave with the best memories. I hope my experience will encourage you to travel to this amazing country.
I understand everyone’s concern of safety in countries like Egypt, mostly it is based on media and stereotypes. There are certain areas where better not to travel if you are a foreigner, like North Sinai. Other than that, whenever you go in Egypt, either down the South to the Red Sea or up to the North coast, you will be exposed to extremely welcoming hospitality and a desire to help you.
First, never forget that each country has its own culture and we must respect it, as you would want to be respected if someone else enters your zone. If you don’t disturb anyone’s comfort zone, you should be fine anywhere you go.
Countries like Egypt, sadly, have broken economy and tourism, and it brought many people to poverty and therefore some people’s actions can be considered irrational. And remembering cultural difference, what considers abnormal in your world could consider normal in theirs. You just have to remember two rules that I have learnt after many years of traveling to this beautiful country.
The truth about Egypt is and a rule number one – you have to be tough, but polite. They will sniff you are a foreigner even if you are dressed accordingly with their culture. They will try to go through your bags in the airport, asking you why you have so many cloths, BTW don’t’ take too much cloths with you, I was literally stopped a few times at the airport, asking many stupid questions like why I carry so much and why I need some winter clothes (I was on a way back from Russia 😀 ).
Be tough on a streets when you see someone begging too much or trying to sell you something, be tough in any situation when you feel that you are right, because most likely you are. If you feel overcharged, overpaid, underserved etc.
Because here comes rule number two – anywhere and everywhere in Egypt you must negotiate ! As a foreigner you are not getting any discounts anywhere you go, you simply getting overcharged. Period. Already. In any case. You must remember that price they give you is already 100% more of the price that they give to a locals. It could be souvenirs, groceries (in a big grocery stores price is fixed but if you are in a desert and buy something at a local boutique – be aware ), taking pictures of you. They even tried to overcharge me once for a bus ticket from Cairo to Hurghada, only because they recognized a foreigner and decided that I have to pay more, but then I remembered rule number one and the bus driver lost his case ! :p
You will pay more anywhere you go, like museums or attractions. For example entrance to Pyramids is about $20 and for locals are only $2.Yes, sort of a big difference, and don’t think that you can fool them, they check everyone’s IDs.
So I definitely advice you to negotiate and give them your own price, especially when you are in a tourist zone, on any packages or tours they sell you they are willing to drop the price, trust me.
Another example for you: on a way to the Valley of the Kings we stopped at some local shop and some kid tried to sell me a small Egyptian cat made out of granite for $100. I found out later its worth of a $1 for a retail price. Be aware !
But no matter what I already said it is certainly a way to warm up Egyptian hearts. They feel kindness. They see kindness. At least majority does. So many times I simply left couple extra bucks at the front desk, or any places where I go or eat, and I received enormous appreciation and happy faces. Those Egyptians that you will interact every day are hasslers and a hard workers. Nice word or a smile brightens everyone’s day. Life is not easy in Egypt, but what amazes me the most about its people-they never loose sense of humor. They joke everywhere and about everything, they joke about their friends, about themselves, about random stuff etc. Once I’ve asked Egyptian ” why everywhere I go people laugh and make jokes”, “because life is so hard in Egypt, we must find joy in laughing”- was the answer.
Some of the biggest Egyptian passions are soccer and a speed. And god forbid to disturb it.
Men like to get together and absolutely everywhere you go, you can see coffee shops and men smoking sheesha ( hookah) and watching the game. If it is a big game, it is absolutely impossible to interrupt them. Don’t even try. Soccer is sacred in Egypt.
As for speed, this thing, and probably only one thing in this country, terrifies me the most.They speed everywhere and anywhere. Their traffic is absolute disaster, but they care less. 160km/h is average (99.5m/h) and 200km/h+ is desirable. They speed on a buses, trams, even donkeys, horses, camels, and planes. Have you ever been on a plane and felt the speed? I mean planes in general are fast but have you ever felt the speed? Well I have. Once flying domestic Egyptian airlines, from Cairo to Hurghada, plane was so fast, on a top of everything some wire was coming from the ceiling, all I was doing is praying to land safely. 😀 We did land. But the speed was so high I could feel the bumps and winds, we’ve touched the ground jumping, and I looked around and saw million happy faces, clapping. Apparently these crazy people loved it 😀
I always say ” When God was working on personalities-he created Egyptians” 🙂 Completely stubborn and uncontrollable with the kindest hearts, Egypt and its pharaohs has very special vibe.