Open Letter To Anyone Who Wants To Come To Egypt But Is Unsure As Hell
The road to buying a flight ticket is paved with good intentions, checking of bank statements, slightly hysterical Google searches, more put-together Google searches, canvassing of accommodation sites and apps, more checking of bank statements, drafts of vacation day requests to your boss, lots of hemming and hawing until finally – click. Flight booked.
The feeling that follows is usually 90% euphoria and 10% “oh shit, what’s the cancellation policy on this thing”.
Anxiety runs even higher when the destination is a place firmly out of your comfort zone – we’re not talking about Kansas anymore, Toto.
Egypt today is a country with a lot of question marks attached to it, especially Cairo, and especially for a first-timer. Some of the questions we frequently hear:
"Is it safe? Can I go as a solo traveler, especially a solo woman? Wasn’t there a revolution relatively recently? Is it crowded and chaotic? Will I have a good time?"
Spoiler: the answer to all of the above is yes.
Super quick and thus shallow look back at Egypt's tourism history: up until the January 25th revolution in 2011, Egypt had a steady annual tourist stream and things were fine and dandy for all parties. The country's tourism took a huge hit after 2011, due to the country's political instability for the first few years following. Now, seven years later, Egypt has its sh*t together again and all travel warnings have been lifted for several years now. We go into more detail here in our post "Is Egypt safe?"
Another question we hear a lot:
"What's this business about sexual harassment?"
So this we owe to you to be super truthful about. Yes, there is harassment on the streets of Cairo. What exactly do we mean by harassment?
Men on the street in certain areas might stare at female tourists, or catcall. Some might attempt to talk to you, either in Arabic or broken English. In 99% cases, it ends here and you can just ignore them (but please report them to any tourist police or venue management that might be in the area if you can).
This is easily avoidable by sticking to safe areas for women to walk around solo (check our neighborhood guide here) or sticking with groups. Do what you would do in any major city and avoid isolated areas at night (that's just common sense at this point).
Besides harassment, crime in Egypt is ridiculously low. Pickpocketing, mugging, robbing, violent acts et cetera are much more common in big American and European cities.
OK, so what else is keeping that finger of yours hovering doubtfully over the "book now" button?
We talked about legit concerns like political stability and harassment, but what about the more, uh, nuanced things? Questions like, "Will I be hot as balls all the time?", "Are there any Islamic rules because a douchey friend of mine just came back from Saudi Arabia and scared the bejesus out of me" and the dreaded "Will I get the runs?".
(Even though we used the above as examples, the Cliff Notes answers to the above are no, no, maybe depending on how often you wash your hands).
The long and short of it is that Egypt is not any different than Mexico or India or Colombia or any other developing country -- don't expect it to be LA or Paris and you'll be fine. Not that those cities are necessarily better than Cairo; they're just different.
Now let's pause for a moment and talk about why YES MOST DEFINITELY YOU SHOULD BUY THAT TICKET TO CAIRO, CHOP CHOP
We go into a lot of detail in "19 Reasons Egypt Should Be Your 2019 Travel Destination" but here's just a few to get your juices flowing:
1. Egypt is cheap. Like, really cheap. As in, cheapest country in the world to take a taxi in. Or if eating is more your jam: Egypt is the cheapest country on the 2018 Big Mac Index. You can extrapolate these two statistics and pretty much apply them to everything else in Egypt.
2. Not sure if you want a beach holiday? Or how about something with mind-boggling history? Maybe a river cruise? No wait, what about a desert safari. Or maybe a foodie tour? How about diving or kitesurfing? Oh, if only there was a place that had ALL OF THE ABOVE... ok, ok, you see where we're going with this.
3. It's February and you haven't seen the sun in what seems like eons. Let Egypt re-introduce you two. Cairo has a grand total of like 5 days rain a year. Upper Egypt (Luxor & Aswan) has even less. And don't get it twisted: it's only really hot in the summer, the rest of the year is sunny and breezy.
4. Not only is Cairo home to the VERY LAST Ancient Wonder of the World -- the Great Pyramids of Giza, obvs -- but the amount of historical points of interest and relics that are still standing (read: NOT behind glass in a museum) are frankly quite astonishing. Like, even if you're not a history buff in the slightest, you'll still get your pants wowed off.
5. Tell me you're not feeling this:
Trust us. You're going to be into Egypt. It's pretty damn hard not to be.
That being said, there are local tips and tricks that will make your trip as seamless as possible, and that’s where we come in.
Consider us your vaguely quirky very knowledgeable friend on the ground in Cairo
Have you ever noticed that some of the best – or at least most efficient-- trips you’ve taken are ones where someone you know either lives/lived there or has been before, hence doing the grunt work of figuring shi*t out for you?
What we’ll help you with in the next few days:
· Which restaurants are worth your hard-earned moolah and which you should just HARD PASS – looking at your highly questionable top Cairo restaurants, TripAdvisor
· The sights in Cairo that you MUST see, don’t @ us
· Neighborhood guides so that you can make your accommodation booking with the least amount of anxiety necessary
· Super-detailed list of what clothes women should plan to pack for Egypt, plus a whole unisex packing list of useful items to bring that you might not have considered
· Any safety procedures solo women should take so that they feel 100% comfortable at all times
· How to navigate our sprawling megalopolis like a baws
· In a nutshell: anything and everything we ourselves would want to know when hauling ass to a foreign and slightly intimidating country for the first time
Egypt as a whole, and Cairo in particular, has a learning curve. But once you get a hang of it, you will be beyond glad you bit the bullet and bought the ticket.
Sounding board: let us know if you’re considering coming to Egypt, or have already been – and whether you had any preconceptions or worries and how they turned out in the end! We’d love to hear your experiences.