Why Egypt Now?
Just a couple of years ago, Egypt was often the subject of negative press. It pops up from time to time on the news currently. So, why would I want to travel together with my husband and father to Cairo, the center of frequent uprisings?
When I mentioned we were traveling to Egypt, many friends expressed their concern, and rightly so. The Middle East continues to be a "hot spot". It is a politically, economically, religiously, strategically and culturally sensitive area.
It did take some bravery on my part to get on the 10 hour flight from the mainland to Paris and another five hours to Cairo. At least I had my bodyguards with me!
My Reason for Visiting Egypt
What gave me the courage and motivation to go to Egypt was the fact that my son and his family live there. There are many expats living in Egypt from 179 countries. They live in the bustling metropolises of Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and other cities.
It had been a while since I had seen my beautiful grandchildren, and I was excited to be reunited with them. My 86-year-old father traveled with us to Scotland in 2007, and when he heard we were going to Egypt, he was very enthusiastic joining us.
Our son had an expeditor meet us at the airport. He took our passports and escorted us to a special line so we could get through quicker. It was great!
As we waited, I noticed the many ladies with head coverings. I had brought along two, but since I am not Muslim, I did not wear them. On the plane ride from Paris to Egypt, there were a few very pretty ladies that did not dress as Muslims. They wore lots of makeup, had their hair done up and donned extravagant jewelry. I wondered if they were perhaps celebrities, belly dancers or harlots. They were with men and were very outspoken, unlike the modest quiet ladies in the burqas.
Once we had met our family and enjoyed catching up on things, we did many of the touristy things like visiting the Pyramids, visiting the Egypt Museum, sailing on the Nile and many more.
I felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to see this country where Pharoahs once ruled. There are so many breathtaking marvels of architecture, stone carvings and heiroglyphics that were created centuries ago.
There are a few things I did not expect to learn about while in Egypt:
- Tourism has dropped off considerably since the revolution. We had one guide who told us that it has been a sustained drop, and many of the locals are suffering greatly. We stayed in two beautiful hotels while we were there, which had very few occupants. Obviously very desperate people follow you around begging for you to purchase their souvenirs or give them a handout. Some times it was very uncomfortable. Egypt has employed tourist police, that are ever present, to protect visitors and to keep the peace.
- The traffic in and around Cairo is INSANE! I was sincerely afraid for my life every time I got in a vehicle, and we usually had an experienced Egyptian driver. My father loves cars and driving, has taught the AARP driving course for years, but he said he was ill prepared for driving in Egypt. He determined that the drivers even knew how thick the paint was on their cars, since they drive so close to each other. He also compared the traffic in Egypt to fish swimming upstream to spawn! I saw some cars adjust their rear view mirrors inward so they wouldn't hit the next car with it. There is only confusion on the roads, and we unfortunately witnessed a few accidents during our short time there.
- The Islam religion is observed by the majority of the Egyptian people. It is illegal to share your thoughts about religions other than Islam. We visited the Mohamed Ali Mosque in Cairo. It was located at a citadel and is very impressive. We had a very good tour guide who taught us the five pillars of Islam and the obligatory parts of prayer that is said five times a day. I started to share a little bit about my religious beliefs, but my son quickly warned me that I better not say any more.
- It is legal to have four wives. Mohammed really intended all followers to have only one wife, although he allows them four. He says, "Of other women who seem good in your eyes, marry but two or three or four; and if ye still fear that ye shall not act equitably, then one only; or the slaves whom ye have acquired; this will make justice on your part easier." But if you are inclined to have more than one wife, you will pay dearly for it. We had a guide who was in love with a woman whose family required him to give them $30,000 for the privilege. His heart was broken since he could not afford her. Most marriages are arranged, and divorce is common.
- To use the Water Closet (bathroom) in Egypt, you have to pay. Most often than not, you will find a lady in a burqa as you enter the WC. I am not sure who assigned her, but she is there to hand out toilet paper, soap (rarely) and at times a paper towel. Most of the WCs were not very sanitary, which was unsettling.
- McDonald's, Pizza Hut and other eating establishments deliver. Egyptians ladies pride themselves on never leaving their homes. It means they are well taken care of and have servants who fetch the necessities. Some women brag that they have never left their homes since they were married for twenty or thirty years. That kind of blew my mind since I love shopping! Whole different mindset.
- I found out, not quite soon enough, that pointing your camera at an interesting subject was worth a pound or two. Do not take pictures of locals unless you are willing to give them money. I did find some lovely children that I wanted to have a picture of, and I was willing to reward them for it. Some pictures I took and then paid or ran.
- There are guards at the entrance of most buildings, including apartment complexes in Egypt. With all that has gone on in recent years, I can understand the extra caution taken.
I do not intend to offend any one with these observations, because that is merely what they were as a visitor to a foreign country. If my statements do offend, I truly apologize.
Mohamed Ali Mosque
Belly Dancer at Hotel in Luxor Egypt
I learned so much during our time in Egypt. I feel sad that their country continues to experience unrest and inequalities.
I am most grateful for the time we spent with our family and their love in showing us around and keeping us safe. Priceless!
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