“You look Egyptian but sound like a tourist.”
– every local I met in Egypt.
While stressing over finals in my last semester of university, I bought a plane ticket to Cairo to embark on my first trip to Egypt. Some people stress eat or online shop on Amazon??
My dad was born right in Cairo and moved to the U.S. when he was a kid. So being half-Egyptian I wanted to explore my roots and to see where he grew up.
Also, I wanted to run around like Indiana Jones.
There were a couple of things that surprised me about Egypt- Like that the downtown area resembles Paris, that you instantaneously turn into a celebrity if you’re a foreigner, that driving a car in Cairo should be its own Olympic sport, that falafels are made of fava beans instead of chickpeas, and that dates come in a beautiful, multitude of colors.
Sorry not sorry that 2/5 of those things were about food.
But aside from the random and fun surprises, visiting Egypt taught me a couple of life lessons.
So here ya go- these are 3 lessons I learned from visiting Egypt.
1) The Economy in Egypt
At the airport on my flight out of Cairo, someone grabbed my bag before I could say anything, put in on a cart, and then asked for money as a return for the service.
I actually didn’t have any cash left and it was a bit of an awkward situation. So if people start to help you with something, and you don’t have cash on you-
BE aggressive BE BE aggressive and stop them.
People are in poverty. People need money. In other countries, people walk around on the street and ask for money. In Egypt, hey they help you first and THEN ask. The forwardness of it threw me off originally, but just know they wouldn’t be asking if they didn’t need it.
Some conversion rates
- 1 USD = 17.29 EGP
- EURO = 19.63 EGP
- 1 GBP = 22.94 EGP
- 1 AUD = 12.25 EGP
While getting off at stops on the Nile to go explore the temples, we were immediately surrounded by kids trying to sell us souvenirs. Walking away from kids asking for money to get back on a cruise is bound to bring on some guilt.
As if you didn’t know already- there are plennnty of organizations to help out people in need in countries like Egypt. One of my personal favorites is Plan International
You can even sponsor a lil’ kid 🙂
2) The need for worldwide feminism
- Disclaimer: Ladies, I am not going to sugar-coat any of this.
- 2nd Disclaimer: pleaseeee don’t form an opinion about the ENTIRE country from this info.
- Oh boy- 3rd Disclaimer: Following that, don’t go reading this thinking all Egyptian men contribute to gender inequality. Hellooo umm, exhibit A: Have you seen Bohemian Rhapsody? Rami Malek is a CLASS ACT.
This isn’t unique to Egypt. Catcalling happens in my tiny town in Minnesota, it happens in Australia, it happens in Spain, and it happens on Mars.
Usually, it wasn’t a profound language. Most of them just ask you how many camels you would like for a marriage. But as far as frequency goes, I did find it to be a weeee bit excessive. There is a bit of irony getting catcalled in 2019 after walking out of a temple built for a Queen in 1200 BCE.
Join me on my next project called: Treat All Women in Egypt Like Queen Nefertari.
But sometimes it ain’t innocent.
Groping and harassment
You know how when you’re having a girls’ night out at the bar, and random men walk past you and grab your waist (eww)? But they try to justify it by saying “excuse me” while doing it???
Well, that happens in Egypt. Just like instead of the bar… it’s at the Great Pyramids of Giza or The Valley of the Kings.
After riding camels and running through the desert, we went inside the second pyramid- The Pyramid of Khafre.
Crawling inside a PYRAMID built by my ancestors = SO COOL
Getting groped by a man while squeezing my way up the ladder in said pyramid = not cool.
Thanks for thinking that my a$$ is more fascinating than one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, but that doesn’t mean you can touch it??
In my 23 years, I’ve been assaulted one other time. I was groped on my third day in Egypt. The timing could have nothing to do with it, but it definitely did not help the previous notation I had that there is a harassment problem in Egypt.
Moral of the story- Harassment is world-wide. In some places, the degree of it might be higher than others. I was told that it could happen here, and well it did. Yea I’m not gonna say I wasn’t bothered by it but did it stop me from having a good time? No.
There’s a lot of work to be done all over the world. And S/O to Egypt for making progress and declaring 2017 “the Year of the Egyptian Woman.”
3) Don’t let your privilege scare you from going somewhere
There are a number of reasons to be nervous about visiting a country – missed flights, language barriers, safety, being unaware of cultural customs, nervous flyers, pickpockets, the list goes on.
But when it comes to the Middle East, IMMA BE BLUNT and say a majority of this fear stems from Islamophobia and just prejudice attitudes the entire world has towards Muslim people.
And why is this relevant??
My Egyptian family strongly advised me not to go to Egypt.
My family left Egypt because of Christian persecution. There were (and still are) a lot of religious and political issues between Coptic Christianity and Islam in Egypt that I’m not gonna completely dive into today. Because if I did, I’d go on a ROLL.
The harsh truth of it is- after moving to the United States, my fam never had much of a desire to go back.
Aaaand this is where the whole, “don’t visit Egypt” thing comes in
My family also took the whole American Freedom of Religion thing to heart and enrolled my sisters and me in ~private~ school.
AKA since I was learning about God 6/7 days of the week, I lived in a privileged bubble that taught me that Christianity was the best. Maybe no one really said those words, but it’s an attitude ya know?
So regardless of my ethnic background, a lot of people I knew grossly said that traveling to an Islamic country would be, to put it lightly, unadvisable. When I turned 18, I ditched my uniform skirt, went to university, and got some well-needed perspective on life.
Gimme a time machine, because I’d love to go back and slap my ignorant 15-year-old self in the face with said perspective.
After all- isn’t judgment, pride, and intolerance the exact opposite of what religion is supposed to teach us?
You guessed it
Everything I was ever warned about either was an exaggeration or it just did not exist. Once I got on the flight to Cairo and began talking to people, my worries flew away faster than the plane did.
No, not everything exactly went smoothly while visiting Egypt. But did I ever feel like I was in ~DANGER~ ??
I feel silly for ever thinking I would be. Travel warnings are political and people are afraid of what is unfamiliar.
We’ve said it before here on SUAG, don’t let friends, the government, the news, or whatever the heck it is scare you out of visiting a new place. If there are cons, the pros will outweigh them.
AND THEN YOU’LL HAVE A GREAT TIME
Going to Egypt was the best experience of my life because of all the ups and down.
But WHEN I go back next- I will know what to expect. And hopefully, my Arabic will be a little better too.
What lessons have you learned from traveling? If you’ve been to Egypt or other parts of Africa or the Middle East- what was your takeaway?