After the 2011 revolution the world stopped coming to Egypt. Internal unrest, a coup, burning police stations, and lots of pro-Democracy protesters dead or in prison does not make for good marketing. Even six years later everyone thinks it’s dangerous. Everyone except for the Chinese, anyway. I don’t think anything scares them.
We spent three weeks in the country and we never felt unsafe. Some of the effort the Egyptians put into ensuring that safety can be intimidating. There are armed guards at all of the attractions and metal detectors and bomb sniffing dogs at the hotels. But for every guy with a semi-automatic rifle there’s a doorman greeting you with a welcome drink (fruit juice) or a school teacher turned tour guide who claims he has the very best prices. And once you’re through security even the guards will smile and welcome you to Egypt.
The biggest issue we faced was sexual harassment. I was surprised by it. Typically when I’m with Ryan (or any man) the cat calls stop. Not here. Even Ryan got a body scan and a loud kiss blown at him as we walked around in Cairo. The worst of it was in the Alexandria train station, though, where two men exposed themselves to me within five minutes of each other while Ryan was sitting right next to me. Neither incident involved a man on the same train as us, so there was no real danger. Still, gross. And watch out, the pervs seem to like that train station.
As Americans, we were nervous at first about saying where we were from. Everyone asks. And everyone, to a person, was excited to meet us. Our taxi drivers all asked whether we were for or against Trump, almost every school kid wanted a picture with us, and any adult who talked to us for more than five seconds eventually wanted to take us to their cousin’s perfume shop.
The revolution had nothing to do with tourists, and the Egyptians seem genuinely baffled that anyone would think they would harm a visitor. Yet, the sentiments that ignited the revolution are still simmering under the surface here. Our first taxi driver pointed to all the military buildings that line the road from the airport to downtown Cairo and said, “Money, money, money, money. All military. They have all the money.” The people working the tourists shops in Luxor told us that they don’t like it under Sisi because there are no tourists. They especially miss the American military presence. Apparently, the “ones with the stars on their shoulders” were big spenders.
All of this is to say that if you’ve always wanted to see the majesty of Egypt, now is as good a time as any to go. We had no cell reception anywhere in Tahrir Square, and this New York Times article would mysteriously not load, but the most dangerous thing we did was cross the street. Book that trip. It’s fine.
When, when, when? Time and money; money and time. Stay tuned…
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You’ll make it, Heather.