Egypt May Or May Not Be A Safe Country. Here’s Why You Should Visit It Anyway.
I arrived in Egypt in 2012, in the midst of their political storm that ultimately led to the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi. Even though I was 16 and rather ignorant at the time, I knew for a fact that Egypt wasn’t touted as the safest holiday destination for tourists.
Despite the potential threats, I looked forward to the trip as I knew I’d be stepping into unknown territory – and frankly, that was quite exhilarating. Plus, with such extensive insurance coverages in place these days, I found myself running out of excuses to not visit a country like Egypt (Did you know that Income’s Travel Insurance offers full terrorism cover?).
Visiting Egypt challenged a lot of the presumptions I had about the country. Now, let me change your presumptions about Egypt. Instead of unstable and unsafe, why not: colourful and vibrant?
Upon arrival at Cairo’s International Airport, a local guide was already waiting to usher us into the van that would accompany us throughout the trip.
Driving from the airport to our hotel was an experience in and of itself.
A mix of English and Arabic graffiti could be seen sprayed across many of their walls – some with heavy political messaging, and some not so much:
With the sound of the adhan (Islamic call-to-worship) in the distance, children hollering playfully from their homes, and locals shouting at us to buy their goods, I could instantly see that Egypt was a country brimming with life.
I was hooked, and wanted to experience all it had to offer. It was during this van ride where an alluring monument standing in the distance caught my attention. The Pyramids were beckoning us to explore its terrain.
The Pyramids of Giza were the very first stop in our tour, and it set the perfect tone for the rest of our trip.
Standing tall in all of its grandeur, it was almost as if they were oblivious of their own enigma amidst all the other houses around it. Some reports claim it may have taken 10 years to finish building the Pyramids, while others believe it may have taken up to 85.
While they house the tombs of deceased pharoahs, some claim that they hold cosmological significance and were designed in relation to our constellations. There have been deductions stating its existence since 2500 B.C., but even that is a well-educated speculation at best. For all of its mysteries, what’s most puzzling is how even after thousands of years, we still remain oblivious to its secrets.
Only through seeing them in person can you get a sense of just how impossible building them must’ve been for the workers back then. One could only imagine the arduous labour the slaves underwent.
The Pyramids were rife with commercialism however – with hoards of locals persistently pushing us to buy their goods. But the positives, such as the activities surrounding the Pyramids (read on!), made up for that and added to the uniqueness of the entire Egyptian experience.
Case in point: it’s not everyday you get to ride a camel with a backdrop like that
If the Pyramids sparked the initial fire of curiosity, then the subsequent sites we visited fanned the flame. With each attraction we visited, I fell in love with the country even more.
Whether from observing the carefully-crafted hieroglyphics on the temple walls, or simply soaking up the unique ambience each site had to offer, there was much to be learnt not just about Egyptian history, but more importantly, our place in history and how we are but a speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.
While the experience was humbling and the tourist sites were a spectacle in their own right, the best experiences did not lie in the attractions, but the people.
The tourist sites may have given us lessons on Egypt’s history, but the people gave us lessons on their present – as each of them carried a distinct story waiting to be discovered.
The Nile River Cruise was the perfect platform to learn about these stories. Witnessing the kids playing in the river with their makeshift boats or adults washing their clothes with a couple of farm animals by their side made me wonder: What exactly is it like growing up by the longest river in the world?
This was just one of the many questions that popped into my head as we drifted across the iconic river, with traditional Egyptian music playing in the background and the sunset to keep us company.
Sunset gazing by the Nile River
As the cruise stopped at various villages along our journey, I got the chance to rub shoulders with the locals and answer some of these questions myself. We shopped around each city’s marketplace, and witnessed daily Egyptian lives up close and personal.
The village folk
A crafty souvenir for your home perhaps?
Maybe some spices to experiment with your cooking?
The local guide came in handy, as he opened up avenues of interaction that would otherwise be impossible if not for his connections. Whether from sharing a cup of tea with the locals in their homes, or interacting with various shop owners, we tasted the authenticity of what Egyptian life truly entails.
Forget bike-sharing, try camel-sharing instead
The Bedouins (Arab Desert Nomads)
Visiting the bedouins in the desert (part of our travel itinerary as well) took this authenticity even further. Being desert-dwellers, the bedouins simple way of life is definitely something to behold. By just observing how they go about their daily tasks and trying them out for ourselves, I could get a sense of their rough yet empowering spirit that make up the backbone of their culture.
They live in tall and wide tents – some more complex and sturdy than others, with enough space for air to flow through for ventilation
After embarrassingly attempting to draw water from their wells and awkwardly preparing their bread from scratch, it was immediately apparent how they remain fit even in their later years given the amount of effort required of them everyday. It was physically taxing, but like I mentioned earlier, it was definitely empowering.
Constantly staying active no matter their age
Being the hospitable hosts they were, we were served a traditional bedouin meal consisting of bread, rice, dips and meat to cap off the entire experience. Sitting together and chatting over a sumptuous meal was the perfect testament to their community and family-orientedness, and the perfect end to a remarkable trip.
It may be debatable whether or not Egypt is safe. The depth of experience you gain from visiting it however, definitely isn’t.
Summary: Must see, must do’s.
- The Pyramids of Giza
- The Ancient Temples (Luxor Temple, Temple of Edfu etc)
- Valley of The Kings
- Camel Riding
- Nile River Tours
- The Bedouin Experience
Key Tip: Consider getting a tour package for your trip.
- It saves you the hassle of:
- battling through the language barrier.
- navigating through a relatively disorganized landscape.
- It provides you a better holiday experience as the local guides:
- already know the best sites to show you.
- can help you deal with persistent local salesmen or avoid getting scammed.
- If you’re cautious about travelling with your family:
- Income’s Travel Insurance provides coverage on travel delay, loss of baggage and even claims due to terrorism so that you can enjoy your well-deserved break. If you are travelling with your children, opt for family cover to enjoy coverage for unlimited number of children, as long as they are below the age of 21 – and that’s just one of the many benefits they offer. Don’t leave without your Travel Insurance, so that you can enjoy your travel and experience Egypt in her utmost beauty.