I have been fortunate enough to travel the World since I was quite young, across Canada initially and then around the World with my Dad when he was speaking. As Dad was busy in Conferences, much of my exploring was on my own. This very much instilled a sense of adventure in me and a love of culture and tastes from around the World. It also made independent and unafraid of new experiences.
Unafraid, but not uninformed or reckless. This rang especially true for me this December when I was asked to go to Cairo, Egypt to speak at the IOETI 4th Annual e-Tourism & e-Marketing Conference. I was excited! I’d never been to Egypt, yet had been fascinated by it as a youngster, pouring over books of pyramids with my head spinning with tales of Arabian nights. But (yes, the big BUT) this was also the morning after the news was filled with images of violence in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and our family had already experienced too much loss and tragedy in 2011, so before making any decisions, I did some very thorough homework. I found travel bloggers that had recently been in Cairo, specifically ones like me – single and traveling solo – and emailed them. Thank you Lily Leung & Anne-Sophie Redisch for your insights. And I found friends of friends that were in Cairo and spoke to them. All reports were favourable. Cairo was save. The only violence had been in and around Tahrir Square. So I told my brother & sister to behave more like my Mom and be excited for me, and told the Conference I would love to come.
So what did I find when I got there? Exactly what I’d been told, a country that felt safe and welcoming.
I arrived in a night before my fellow speakers, so ended up at dinner on my own the first night, and a wonderful dinner that was, as the restaurant staff welcomed me warmly, introduced me to the Egyptian food and beer and taught me a few Egyptian words (which I apologize for butchering). I’d been nervous, as a single, scarfless gal to sit back and enjoy a beer on my own, but as I sat on the terrace overlooking the pool that first night, one showed up before me, courtesy of an Egyptian gentleman.
Now granted, I was staying at a 5-star hotel, the CityStars Intercontinental, being looked after by Memphis Tours Egypt, and a guest of Egyptian Tourism, but me being me, I ended up out on the town with locals two-nights (it would have been three, if I hadn’t had to bail on the last night) and I felt safe and welcomed wherever I went. I even spent an hour one night wandering the streets on my own looking for a friend, and although the scenery was quite different from an evening stroll in Canada, I felt totally safe.
the word is safe. not save…
Thanks Liss! And that is why an editor is a grand thing. Especially, when writing in the wee hours of the morning.
Same for me! We have travelled to Egypt (included Cairo) in April last year. We felt safe and mostly welcomed!
Yeah, very friendly and inviting people.
WARM FELLINGS BIEN DITES
Gotta love it! I’ve got Tom Hanks commenting.
Dan and I still get strange looks when we tell people in the States that we were recently in Cairo. The public perception based on mainstream media is that the entire city is in flames, riot police and vigilante justice. But it’s then fun to tell people stories about all the friendly Egyptians we met and the invitations for tea and hookah pipes and endless “Welcome to Egypt!” from people of all ages. Sometimes they just can’t believe it. Thanks for doing your bit in spreading word about Egypt!
Yeah, I know. The mainstream media has not done Egypt any favours. Emme just interviewed me for a post on as much that she is working on for her site.
Just sad that we had to turn down the tea invite with those lovely ladies in Alexandria.
Loved your post on this, by the way.
Erica, I had a wonderful time in Egypt, as hopefully was conveyed in the various articles and blog posts I’ve written about it and that you refer to here. Couldn’t have felt more welcomed by the Egyptian people and I look forward to going back some time soon. From young kids to older adults, walking through the streets and markets and various tourist sites, the overwhelming theme was, as Audrey stated, “Welcome to Egypt!”
Yes, I enjoyed those posts Ralph & meeting you (along with Audrey and everyone else).
Glad you decided to go. And that you had a great time. And got proposals 🙂
Thanks Sophie! Your email really helped me in that decision. I really appreciate you taking the time to respond.
Ah, everyone has a different experience in Egypt. I’m so glad yours was positive.
Yes, very positive. Thanks Christopher!
Definitely encouraging to hear 🙂
how LOVELY. our daughter can’t WAIT to go…
Oh, she is bound to enjoy herself. Where is she going?
Wonderful, Egypt has been in my dreams for a while, I hope I’ll manage to go this year 🙂
I hope so too Angela!
Egypt Excursions Online
It was very good of you and i was there in intercontinental City Stars with you also i saw you in Conference and hear more about your experiences, Thanks for supporting Egypt, Also thanks to Lily Lung for blogger trip in Egypt With us.
It has been my pleasure Fouad!
Congratulations on lasting an hour solo on the streets of Cairo without being sexually harassed.
Now, I too have had great times with locals, been out for drinks and the like. I’ve also encountered numerous experiences of sexual harassment, both when solo and when with my 11yo son, and I think to present an escorted tour as a typical experience of solo female travel in Egypt is fundamentally dishonest.
Theodora – I was writing of my first experience in Cairo, when it was all very new to me – that first night. Since then I have had many others.
Some have been solo, some have been with locals, some with friends from home, and some as a part of an escorted tour. I do not claim that all of my travels are by myself, and in fact, if you were to read, you would discover that many are not, but rather with friends. Do your research before attacking someone.
I am sorry you have felt sexual harassed in your travels. I am pleased to say I have not. I have had men flirt and express interest in me, but they have all been polite and gentlemanly.
I have to say, from my adventures in Egypt, I have become quite fond of the country and it’s people.
As I understand it these “adventures in Egypt” were on an escorted tour with a specific brief to communicate that Egypt is “safe and welcoming” and to write positively about Egypt. Correct me if I’m wrong.
Further, this piece positions you as “single and travelling solo”. Without going into the finer points of whether an escorted tour counts as “travelling solo”, it reads very much as an endeavour to present Cairo as no less safe than, say, Canada, for the solo female traveller, which is likely to produce a rude shock in many of your readers should they visit without a tourism board accompanying them.
How much time did you spend in Egypt solo? As in, out on the streets, in local restaurants, at sites, on public transport or in taxis, without a guide? Since you define yourself as travelling solo, I guess that must have been more than the hour you mention here?
I like Egypt, also, and have found many of its people kind and generous, but there are a hell of a lot of bad apples. That your experience managed to include not one negative encounter — no touts, no verbal abuse, no groping — is unique among solo female travellers I’ve met or spoken to online.
Your research, further, appears to have omitted that there’s an election coming up, a trial due to restart that will provide a political flashpoint, and a range of big protests currently planned for Tahrir. As regards gender and women in Egypt, perhaps you could try this piece, by the Egyptian broadcaster Mona Eltahawy: http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us
Theodora ~ I am afraid you are quite misinformed in your comments and need to read more carefully.
First of All ~ this post was from my trip to Cairo in December to speak at a conference. I was invited by IOETI. I knew no one in going and met many people when I was there. Some of the trip I was on my own, some of it I was with locals and some of it I was on an escorted trip.
Secondly ~ the #WeVisitEgypt Digital Storytelling Demo that you alluded to was Audrey, Dan’s and my idea that we presented to Egyptian Tourism, as we had become quite passionate about Egypt and the people on our first trip. Egyptian Tourism did not pay us and there only expectation for us, was for us to write honestly about our experiences. This is something the three of us already do.
As I previously stated the above is from my first experience in Egypt, some of this trip was on my own, some with locals, some with friends and some in an escorted group. And yes, this is exactly how I felt and there is nothing misleading in my sharing of this experience. I wrote this from the heart, because I wanted to, not because anybody asked me to. I am however lucky that wherever I go, I tend to connect with people with ease and create a network of friends quickly. Egypt has been no different. There are many people I call whenever I fly into Cairo now.
My research omitted nothing. In December, the initial elections were underway. If you’d read more carefully you would have been aware of this, and I’d also note that happenings in Tahrir Square do not reflect the way the rest of Egypt or even Cairo look. I know this as I have been in the City during the demonstrations and out on my own on those nights.
Finally, it is a shame that you did not feel comfortable with all Egyptian men. I myself had many men express interest in me, I suspect in part due to my personality and the warmth and respect with which I treated them. They were always respectful and gentlemanly, even after I said ‘no’. There are men and women all around the world that can harass, but this is not something I have felt in Egypt. The Egyptian men have been generous, warm and protective of me.
We all have our own experiences and perceptions when we travel. Often they can be different from one person to the next. I don’t criticize you for your opinions in your space, and I would expect you to return the same courtesy. This is my space and these are my opinions. You have your space for your opinions.
Thank you so much for the documentation of your travels! I just randomly stumbled upon your page. My husband is from Upper Egypt (8 hours south of Cairo) and currently we are living here in the United States. He is dying to go back to visit his family and for them to meet me (and or course vice versa), but I have been hesitant due to the media’s portrayal of the “chaotic and dangerous Egypt.” Your blog was so refreshing and has played a huge role in convincing me to not be afraid and experience visiting Egypt. Thank you!
This post made me teary eyed Kim. I do hope you have now made that journey with your husband and met his family. Egypt is most definitely a country I wish to return to.
I am from Egypt, and I really think you should come with your husband and visit Egypt. It is really safe now. Things are calm. There is a president, government, etc. Winter is a wonderful time have visiting Egypt. Please feel free to ask me if you have any questions.
I have always wanted to visit Egypt specifically to see the much hyped pyramids. Unfortunately I have not been lucky enough. That you liked the place is enough motivation for me.
I think the trick with the pyramids is to have a guide, so you get a bit of the history, and avoid the vendors.
Am glad you demystified the myth that Cairo is unsafe for people out there. I have always wanted to travel to Egypt to heve a first hand experience with the pyramids but I lack the means. Am hoping to visit the country in the near future.
Oh do, Anthony! I can’t wait to return again for another visit!
I always travel to Egypt and i always feel safe there and welcome, and yeah it may full of political issues but people there really unique and warm.