What I Learned On My Trip to Egypt
I recently took a trip to Egypt and Jordan. I signed on for Memphis Tours’ Best Tour of Egypt and Jordan with a travel buddy, a trip that promised two solid weeks of experiences in Egypt, including three days in Jordan. The experiences were all amazing and it was a grand adventure.
Now that I’m back, I’d like to share some of my thoughts about this incredible trip.
- Egypt is safe. There are security checkpoints on all major highways and at every historical site and tourist attraction in both Egypt and Jordan. All of the hotels we stayed in had security scanners at their entrances. In addition to the security presence, I never felt threatened or nervous at any time during our trip. If you’re worried about traveling to Egypt because of fear of terrorist attacks, don’t be. On my trip, I never felt any sense of looming danger anywhere we went. Anyway, they want us to come because their economy depends on tourism, which is way down over there.
- The pyramids are more awe-inspiring than I expected. “Ooh a bunch of old rocks in the desert.” Uh, no. We had a view of the Great Pyramid of Giza and the Pyramid of Khafre (the other big pyramid) from our hotel room and that view alone blew me away. Then we visited the pyramids up close and personal. It was unforgettable, even with all the touts (sellers) hawking their cheap tourist wares. Massive. Ancient. Larger than life. Camels. And we got to climb around inside, which was a fun little adventure.
- Egypt is not expensive. Yay dollar! The exchange rate is very favorable to the dollar (1 US dollar = 16.14 Egyptian pounds), so everything was pretty cheap. On our tour, breakfasts and lunches were included but we had to pay for all of our drinks and dinners, and they were cheap. The most expensive meal we had was an excellent dinner at the Italian restaurant in our hotel at Sharm el-Sheikh. Dinner for two including a bottle of wine, appetizers and dessert cost the equivalent of 60 US dollars. Also, you have to tip everyone in Egypt but the tip amounts were always small, maybe 5 EPs. Once in a while I would run out of small Egyptian bills, so I’d tip one American dollar. Big smile in return!
- Cairo is insane. It’s super crowded, the traffic is totally crazy and there’s trash on the streets. A typical traffic jam on a major thoroughfare was full of honking cars, vans and pickup trucks, motorcycles and horse- or donkey-drawn carts all competing for space on the roads without any regard for the painted lanes or order of any kind. Vehicles constantly weaved in and out of traffic and cut each other off, with pedestrians simply waiting for an opening to cross. Open carts carried everything from people to fruit and vegetables to empty gas canisters. And yes, there is trash everywhere on the streets of Cairo. It’s a little less obvious in the downtown business area but everywhere else, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of trash pickup going on. This is not a judgment, just an observation. In spite of the insanity, I enjoyed Cairo because the people were very friendly.
- There are stray cats everywhere. Literally everywhere. On city streets in Cairo and Luxor. At historical sites. Inside historical sites even! My travel buddy Dave was a cat magnet throughout the trip.
- Apparently they don’t believe in paper towels in Egypt. Instead, tissues are used inside most restrooms as paper towels and toilet paper (except our hotels), outside many rest rooms at tourist sites. They never gave you enough tissues either, and we’re not talking two-ply. There’s always a local man or boy outside the men’s room entrance (a woman had this job outside ladies rooms) excitedly handing you a handful of tissues. You tipped them on your way out of the bathroom.
- Egyptians liked my goatee. Many local men we encountered on our travels would look at me, smile, stroke their chins to indicate my beard, and call me “Rameses.” This became a funny joke throughout our trip. One of our tour guides explained that I look Egyptian.
- The insects are relentless. Forget ISIS, Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The insects are the real terrorists in Egypt and Jordan. If you go to Egypt, expect to be assaulted by flies, sand flies, fleas and the treacherous invisible mosquitoes of Sharm el-Sheikh. They’re awful. My friend Dave counted over 40 bites on his feet and legs at the end of our trip. If you go to Egypt, be sure to bring strong anti-bug cream (creams are easier to carry around with you than spray cans) and anti-itch cream. You WILL need it. We finally bought the proper remedies after we were in Sharm el-Sheikh for a day and the mosquitoes had already had their way with us.
- Aggressive local vendors. The local vendors are aggressive but easy to deal with and often very funny. They are at every tourist attraction, sometimes in great numbers. Some people complain about their presence, especially at the pyramids, but we were told to either ignore them completely or tell them “no” or “no thank you” in Arabic. La! La shukran! After a day or so, I learned to just ignore them and it didn’t bother me in the least. Part of our trip was a cruise on the Nile River, and one night a couple of very persistent local men tried to sell us stuff from their little boat, while our big cruise boat was still moving. Check out the video below.