A Travellerspoint blog


Hey Tourist!!!

Being a tourist in Egypt

It is sad that the largest industry in Egypt is tourism, yet, to be a tourist in Egypt is one of the most frustrating experiences. In all of our travels Egypt wins the prize for “The Worst Place to Visit.” Egypt is so backwards from our understanding of tourism that for example you don’t hail a taxi when you want one… every taxi that passes by will hail you! “Salem” is a form of saying hello in Egypt, the literal translation is peace. Sadly, this is the last thing that you will find in Egypt.

Here is a list of a couple of things that might make you chuckle, but when they occur more than 10 times per day, well, let’s just say they have a huge potential to bring out the worst in even the nicest of people.

1. “My friend, take my fast boat, you know the price? – Just 5 pounds.”
TRANSLATION: The ferry is safe, reliable and only 1 pound per person. You should instead pay me 5 times as much to take my poorly maintained boat to one of my island shops on the way.

2. “Looking is free, no hassle!”
TRANSLATION: Come into my shop so I can point out every item in the shop to you and make you feel really uncomfortable when leaving without paying anything.

3. “Hello my friend, where are you from?!”
TRANSLATION: For the next 5 minutes I will walk next to you in an attempt to sell you something that you probably aren’t interested in.

4. “Hey, Cassanova, two wives!!”
TRANSLATION: A man is walking next to two females, thus he must have two wives because it is unheard of to have any other kind of relations with a female.

5. “Hello, Money?!”
TRANSLATION: This is a young child who only knows two words, and practices them on every tourist.

6. “What are you looking for?”
TRANSLATION: I can help direct you away from your point of interest and into my shop for a small fee.

Traveling in Egypt on our own definitely put our patience to the biggest test yet and was quite exhausting. We would imagine that being on an organized tour would be a much different experience than exploring the streets alone, but then you’d miss out on all the free heckling!!

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:06 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Luxor, Egypt

Exploring in Egypt

sunny 85 °F

When visiting the ancient tombs on the West Bank of the Nile, we first to Hatshepsut's Temple and then hiked over the Theban hills into the Valley of the Kings. The hike was probably the best part of the whole day as from the top you could see on one side the Nile and its green fertile bank receding into stark yellow dessert, and on the other side a full few looking down into the Valley of the Kings.

All of the tombs we visited were very impressive. It is amazing the effort that the ancient Egyptians went to conceal their deceased and bury them with all their riches. One of the visitor’s centers had a great 3D perspective model of the hills and how the enclosed tombs snaked around. Most impressive was watching the sun set against the huge pavilion walls at Medinet Habu. The architecture of these massive walls encircled with huge columns were built to last multiple lifetimes.

We sampled some of the local delicacies including stuffed pigeon, but were more impressed with how green the fava bean falafels were!

Luxor has a fun network of mini bus routes that go all around the city. We hoped on the blue route out to Karnak Temple where there were so many different things to do and see including the tallest surviving ancient obelisk on Earth and three amazingly life like statues!

We also spent a day outside of the tourist sites riding bikes through the countryside where most children would run behind us with huge smiles. The highlight was having what seemed like an entire school of 30-40 kids swarming us from all sides. The low point was getting harassed by some older kids for backsheesh and having rocks thrown at us when we refused. For anyone who thinks they have it bad with traffic, take a look at this video of us crossing an intersection for a different perspective:

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 00:05 Archived in Egypt Comments (1)

Aswan and Abu Simbel, Egypt

Ancient Nubian Temples

sunny 85 °F

In Aswan, the Nubian museum was worth a visit to see in detail how large of an effort was undertaken by UNESCO to preserve around 28 historical sites along the Nile River, that would have been flooded with the building of the High Dam. The amount of effort that went into moving these temples was almost as spectacular as the temples themselves! The town is small and easily walkable and while exploring it seemed like the town found us. Small children came out of the woodwork to follow us around, and construction workers invited us up to the rafters to bang in some nails.

After we learned how much effort was put into saving these temples, we truly appreciated visiting the Temple of Isis. We had to hire a small boat to get to the small island and it was like being whisked back into time.

While in Aswan we celebrated our second Thanksgiving away from home. In a valiant attempt to find a rotisserie chicken for the feast, Kevin pulled out his best Pictionary skills.

We have been following the Muslim religion in both Morocco and Egypt by not consuming alcohol, but for Thanksgiving we decided to splurge and have a few local brews from the secret beer store. The views from our rooftop in Aswan were stunning and the Nile looked beautiful.

To get to Abu Simbel, we joined the tourist police convoy that left at 4am in the morning! It was well worth the trip to see in person how large the statues of Ramses II are. There were so many ancient scripts and wall drawings that we 100% recommend a book like the New Millennium Collection because it has really good illustrations and maps to guide you through your trip: http://books.google.com/books?id=JbkM_q-bpV4C

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 11:19 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

Cairo, Egypt

What happened to Egypt?

sunny 85 °F

Being in Cairo is a little like being dropped in the middle of Time Square, only with the removal of all sidewalks and pedestrian rights laws, with the addition of everyone staring and shouting random phrases at you. It was a challenge to discern anyone honest from the touts, even the so called ‘tourist police’ were questionable. We are amazed with what the Egyptians have accomplished over the many centuries of civilizations here, we were sad to see how they now heavily rely on tourism without a clue how to treat tourists or any basic knowledge of hospitality and customer service.

Our friend Bernadette met us here to travel through Egypt and it’s a good thing since we might have lost our minds otherwise! Robin was also happy to have her to ride with in the “ladies only” metro cars since the first attempt riding in the ‘free for all’ train car didn’t go so well.

From our ‘penthouse’ balcony we had views of the Egyptian Museum, the charred firebombed remains of government offices for former president Marbarat, and protesters marching through the streets on the way to Tahir Square. The tension from the recent revolution was still in the air and growing bigger every day. Luckily, the protests we saw did not seem to affect us except to be a little daunting when we realized were sitting in a café watching the news of a fire at Tahir that was just a block away. The Egyptian museum was like visiting a museum of what museums were like 100 years ago :) it was dusty, cluttered, and the items that were actually notated were marked with faded post-it notes! There were no protective barriers to prevent people from touching, sitting, standing, or climbing on the ancient artifacts, and they make you cloak check your camera to a random guy outside with a folding picnic table. We brought Bern’s travel guide book and were glad to have a self guided tour with us but we would now recommend books.google.com because they have some amazing selections of portable pdf books you can carry on your phone.

We took a full day to tour around the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Step Pyramid at Saqqara, and the Bent and Red Pyramids of Darshur. We also stopped in the ancient capital of Egypt (Memphis) to say hello to a very large statue of Ramses II in a museum that housed more stalls selling tourist souvenirs then it housed ancient artifacts. For any perspective travelers, we would recommend against Memphis and stay longer at the great pyramids! (one note: you can go inside the Red Pyramid for free and it’s a way better experience than going into the overpriced, empty great pyramid)

Although all the other museums we looked for were closed down, we found a small safe haven from the heat and noise of the Cairo streets. It’s a cultural center called El Sawy Culturewheel that is on Zamalek island just under the 15th of May bridge. Even if you don’t make it for a show, there is artwork you can enjoy in air-conditioning and information on progressive campaigns like saving the Nile, harassment and noise pollution.

Posted by Robin-and-Kevin 11:18 Archived in Egypt Comments (0)

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