Egypt is a country that’s constantly changing. So it makes sense then, that my experiences here could be drastically different from one year to another.
After a flight delay on a 2016 flight, I arrived to Cairo really not knowing what to expect, and just in general feeling anxious.
Anyhow, it was 2016 and The United States was just about to have a devastating election. In Egypt, the memories from the Cairo Revolution in 2011 were still pretty fresh.
Needless to say, I had my defenses up from the moment we landed. That was so silly!
After a few days of walking through the streets without anything bad happening, I began to relax into the chaotic rhythm that exists here, and now after a few visits, I can tell you a few things I’ve learned about this awesome country. However, if you’re planning a trip to Egypt, you need to understand the Egyptian culture and beliefs. Here’s what I would tell any first-time visitor:
1. You don’t really have to be all the way covered up.
Dressing modestly here is the polite thing to do, just because it’s more respectful to cover yourself when you’re in mixed company in this predominantly Muslim country.
However, there’s no need to worry too much about showing a little bit of skin – if your ankles or your neck are showing, no one is going to throw rocks. If you can, aim to cover your shoulders. You don’t have to worry about covering your hair.
As Cairo has grown, I have found that less and less people are staring at me, and that’s made traveling here much easier.
2. It’s not a dry country (meaning booze)
Alcohol might not be available everywhere, and it might be marked up by 300% when you do find it in restaurants, but it is here. Several restaurants will offer you a glass of wine or a beer with your dinner.
Bars aren’t really a thing. Clubs are, but they’re harder to find.
3. It’s super diverse
From the Sinnai to the White Desert, this is a country of incredible extremes. Here you’ll find some of the most beautiful seas on the planet, next to dusty cities that look like they just need a bit of a cleaning (sorry, Cairo!).
Travel in any direction for 100km or more, and you’ll see differences in biodiversity, cities and attitudes.
Note: the smaller villages and towns tend to be more conservative. I always keep a scarf in the car with me for that reason, so you can become more modest if you feel you need to.
4. The restaurant scene is BANGIN.
Ya’ll, the food in Cairo can be SO GOOD. It can also be complete crap – you just gotta know where to go! One of my favorite places for dinner is a restaurant called Tabouleh in the Garden City.
I also love Fel Fela in downtown Cairo.
One result of the conflict in nearby Syria is that the Syrian food here has really increased – the schwarma here is out of this world!
When looking for places to eat, look at how busy they are. Is there a line or a wait? Then you’re probably in the right place.
Always ask for bottled water. 😉
5. You can ski here
The Mall of Arabia in Giza has a fun indoor ski slope. Bet you didn’t know that!
6. There are so many more pyramids than you think
Everyone knows about the Great Pyramids of Giza. But what about the Bent pyramid? The red pyramid?
Some of the oldest pyramids in Egypt are just outside of Cairo and you’ll see most of them with hardly any of the crowds.
The pyramids of Giza are actually the youngest pyramids in Egypt. So if you’re craving that iconic pyramid photo with no one else in it — well, actually, you can do that just about anywhere. They’re all massive!
Have you been to Egypt? What surprised you the most?