Egypt - Awe and Angst!!!

Trip Start Oct 13, 2004
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Trip End Jun 21, 2005


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Tuesday, April 19, 2005

April 6 - 19, 2005
It has been brought to my attention that there may have been a time stamping issue on the submissions for "Name that Song" in our Phuket post. So in a spirit of fairness, drinks go to both Nancy AND Cheryl. Cheers and thanks to all of you that played...it's nice to know people are actually reading this stuff :-)

She Said:

Let's be honest, up to this point this trip has really been pretty much idyllic so I guess we were due for a bit of a shocker...we were so unprepared! We should have known based on our welcome to Cairo when we were transiting thru to Tanzania. Here we were systematically removed of our tickets, luggage and passports with the suggested requirement of a little 'gift' to help expedite things thru.

We arrived from Tanzania all rosy-faced and ebullient, fresh from one of the most amazing experiences of our lives. The contrast was shocking to say the least! Cairo - $17M people packed into a noisy, dirty, ugly city...a far cry from night sounds of lions roaring and buffalo munching outside our tent. All nite long, even on the 10th floor I heard traffic noise...that is until 4:30 am when the Mosque next door blared the call to prayer on their loud speakers...talk about Conversion Tactics :) It really is the weirdest city - so much traffic vying for road supremacy with seemingly no road rules and then on the very same busy streets are donkeys pulling carts of vegetables and camels sauntering along. Surreal.

All I can say is we made the right decision in deciding to hire a driver and guide for this portion of our travels - I cannot imagine what a trip this would have been without them! From the minute we landed at the airport, we had a representative at our side whisking us thru "The Gauntlet". After our transit experience, I have no doubt in my mind that a significant amount of 'gift' money would have been required to get us thru the 4 different stations we had to pass thru just to get our luggage. Bribery is just a part of the game here and certainly not a game I understand at all. I have never seen so many men with machine guns in one place in my life, and I kept trying to comfort myself that they represented protection vs intimidation.

It became very clear from the onset that this was not a friendly country. I have never been in a country where you are despised simply because of the color of your skin. You knew it, you felt it, even as you walked down the street. It became very clear how serious the extremists are in their demented hatred when the first day we arrived in Cairo a suicide bomber blew himself up in a popular shopping bazaar in Cairo, killing 3 people and injuring 18 others. We had spent that whole day exploring Cairo and I had full intentions of shopping there too, but luckily we decided our schedule was already too full. A sobering start to this leg to say the least.

Anyway, enough horror stories (for now)...if there were no redeeming factors we would have left right then, but after much prayer and analysis the decision was made to continue our exploration of this country. It really is a fascinating place from a history perspective - where else do you see things over 5000 years old, still intact. Some of the things we explored were:
·The Egyptian Museum is an amazing place showcasing incredible displays of Mummies, Tombs and Palace artifacts - it was amazing to see the remains of King Tut's tomb. These people really believed they needed to send everything with them to the afterlife.
·Old Cairo was totally cool, especially seeing where three religions meet, Islamic Mosques, Coptic Churches and Jewish Synagogues. The El Movallaqa Church is believed to be a place where Jesus and his family stayed here while traveling thru Egypt - bizarre to actually sit in a place where Jesus once stood. The synagogue was presumably built on the place where Moses was found by the Pharaoh's daughter floating down the Nile, after all the male babies were sentenced to be killed - so rich in history, it's mind blowing. But hey, imagine the security in a location flanked by a Christian Church and a Jewish Synagogue, I've never experienced anything like it.
·Of course the Pyramids and the famous Sphinx, were a highlight.
·Overnight on board Sleeper Train to Aswan. This was a totally cool experience for the whole family - we all loved it. We even had adjoining sleepers so it was like a big pajama party. When I awoke and looked out the window we were now in village areas...I looked in the fields and everyone was in robes, riding donkeys...I felt like I had been transported back into Biblical times...it was incredible.
·Aswan in itself was ok, tho' the Temple of Philae was special. When they built the dam to harness the Nile it had to be dismantled and re-assembled on higher ground. What an undertaking! We took a pass on the 6 hour drive to Abu Simbel and opted instead for a quiet day with a felucca (sailboat) ride down the Nile and a boat trip to a Nubian Village to explore the local way of life. We went to a school, visited someone's home and spent some baby crocodiles. This combined with a bumpy Camel ride was a highlight for the children.
·Luxor is a really beautiful old town with some amazing temples and the Avenue of the Sphinxes. In it's time there was miles of road joining the temples lined on either side with huge sphinxes....unbelievable to see even the little bit that has been unearthed.
·After it was decided that pyramids were a bit of an obvious landmark for grave robbers the ancient Egyptians tried a new strategy of elaborate underground tombs. These were found at the Valley of the Kings and Queens which were really interesting to explore.

Well we were toured-out at this point and starting to get strung out from the open hostility so it was a welcome change as we set off on our second leg in Egypt - diving and beaches of the Red Sea. Of course to get there we had to join up with a military convoy to go across the Eastern Desert. I don't know about you, but it struck me as odd that we would be such a target that it was beneficial to herd us all together in one place. It really is a sad commentary that I comforted myself with the idea that if anything were to happen they would go for the big tour buses first rather than our little van with only 4. It's amazing how sick your thinking gets and obviously we got across safely. The majority of the time was completely uneventful tho' there were sections when you could see our driver obviously stressed out. Do these guys get Danger Pay?

Destination: Hurghada which was basically built over the past 10 years as a tourist destination for Europeans. It feels less hostile as it's only purpose is tourism, but here most everyone at our resort was either from Germany or Russia. When it was determined that we were English, a whole new wave of discrimination started. The general consensus seems to be that everyone from North America are war-mongers and anti-Muslim. The only thing any of them seem to know about Canada was Canada Dry, a drink apparently no longer imported since 9/11. I eventually started 'speaking' French (Bonjour, Merci, etc) just to avoid hassle which for any of you that know me is a TOTAL joke...I speak about as much French as George Bush. However, the locals didn't know that and as long as they thought we were from Europe we seemed to fare better. The kids thought I was completely insane and initially would blow my cover - "why are you saying that mom?" I had difficulty explaining.

We took it pretty easy and had some good times. Kayla and I participated in Environment Day, where we went snorkeling and cleaned garbage out of the ocean. They made a contest out of it and we ended up taking 3rd prize which won us a snorkeling trip out on a Glass Bottom boat. The children loved the Kid's Club and frankly, so did we (adult time - yay!). The hotel had entertainment every evening and one nite put on the production of "Cats". They got the children from Kids Club to participate so it was great fun to see our children in their theatrical debut in a German production of Kayla's favorite show. Imagine our surprise when she actually came on as Mr. Mistopholes, one of our favorite characters in the show. It was getting pretty late for the Ty-Guy and he ended up falling asleep on stage...too funny. He obviously didn't have stage fright and came home singing "Jello Cat" (his version of the signature "Jelico Cat" song).

We took in some diving one day which was beautiful, but I realized what pampered divers we have become. The German company that ran the dive company was extremely efficient but clearly expected you to do everything yourself...sadly I haven't rigged up my own dive gear in over 5 years and felt pretty helpless trying to remember all the stuff. We realized later that it's a safety precaution as the Egyptian assistants really aren't to be trusted, but I felt quite unprepared at the time.

Most of the time you just felt like you had to be on guard. People seemed to be trying to stiff you at every turn. We know that we were hugely cushioned by our guide - as long as we were with him people pretty much left us alone. However, the couple of times were ventured out on our own we were instantly "bothered". Mark goes to buy a newspaper - a seemingly innocuous task and the guy takes his money and then claims Mark didn't pay enough. Mark objects and suddenly four guys surround him. They win.

And then there's the tipping...an Egyptian colloquialism for bribery and harassment. They expect to be tipped for freaking EVERYTHING. Again, we were cushioned to some degree by our guide but it was still horrendous. We heard stories of people being severely hassled for not 'tipping' someone who had pointed out a rock to them at the temple. At one of the tombs where guides weren't allowed, we went in and one of the guards would stand in front of you, wave a piece of cardboard in your face and then not let you by until you tipped him for fanning you. I'm serious...I'm laughing at the absurdity as I write this, but let me tell you at the time I had reached my limit. It wouldn't be so bad except most things are done with some element of hostility....you really don't know to what level they will go to. An undercurrent of animosity at all times, you could almost feel it in the air...and this is a moderate Muslim country. I can NOT imagine what it must be like in the more fundamentalist Muslim countries like Iran or what is was like in Afghanistan under the Taliban.

Soooo, I loved the history lesson, the amazing archeological wonders found in the pyramids, tombs and temples from BC but hey, let's face it - there is a lot of hostility here. I would say the tourism industry survives here in spite of the culture. That said, we did meet some really good people and the government is clearly trying to do their part ... there are more Tourism and Artifact Police than you can imagine. Security everywhere. The convoys to escort the tourists. Egyptians are not even allowed into the hotels. They're doing there best, but frankly I don't see an end of these cultural wars any time soon.

Highlights
·Our guide and tour company...they really went out of their way to ensure our safety and comfort at every level. I can not say enough about how well they treated us.
·Sleeper Train Pajama Party
·The Art and History
·Environment Day with Kayla
·The Red Sea
·Kids Club at Le Pacha Resort


Lowlights
·The suicide bombing in Cairo
·The animosity towards westerners. A woman in her full Burka (Moslem dress covering head/body) actually spat on the street when we walked by.
·The tipping nightmares & feeling like people are out to get you
·The food - we complained in Germany but we had NO idea! We went from food purgatory to Food Hell!
·I'm not even going to start with my treatment of women section, tho' I got significant fodder while getting a massage from an Egyptian Muslim woman who married a German. Horrible stuff.


He Said:
Highlights:
1.The sheer magnitude of the history going back 5000 years...
2.The Pyramids of Giza
3.Visiting the hanging church & another church where the Holy family stayed in Old Cairo
4.The Valley of the Kings
5.The Temples of Karnak and Luxor
6.The Egyptian Museum in Cairo
7.The Citadel
8.Our guide who was awesome in steering us along and providing a ton of history
9.Our Tour company - this leg would have been a complete disaster without them
10.Kids Club at La Pacha in Hirghada
11.Kayla's stage debut as Mister Mistopholes in the German Production of Cats at La Pacha :)
12.Tyler participating in the Cats Production
13.Diving in the Red Sea

Lowlights:
1.The general disdain/contempt for English speaking Westerners.
2.The bombing in Old Cairo after our first full day in Cairo. This is just a little too close to the action for me.
3.Being in pretty much a constant state of anxiety, always on edge and never really feeling like I could relax.
4.Blowing my safety stop during my dive in the Red Sea. You'd think I had never dove before... it just punctuated how tightly wound I was while in Egypt.
5.The never ending supply of people who seem to have their hand out looking for a tip. It is absolutely insane and completely annoying. They have contempt for you on one hand but they sure want to get some of your money.
6.Culture Shock/Home Sick - I have never felt so stretched while traveling.

Well I am writing this with a couple days left in our Egyptian adventure but really we're done. We have 6 hour ride across the desert in a convoy/caravan with full military escort back to Cairo and then the next day we head to the airport to catch our plane back to Frankfurt. I can honestly say that I will never have been so happy to get on a plane in all my life as I will be on Tuesday.

Now before I just start ranting I am going to do my best to provide a balanced and as objective view of our time in Egypt as I can. That said, I can honestly say that if Tanzania was the high point of our trip, Egypt is the hands down winner of the low point of our trip. I'd even go so far as to say Egypt is the low point of my travel career, which is a pretty sad indictment.

Now before I go off and bash Egypt to badly, it is not without its highlights. Egypt is clearly a place steeped in history. 5000 years of it to be exact. And visiting the various icons of this amazing past like the Pyramids of Gyza, The Valley of the Kings, Old Cairo, the Temples of Luxor and Karnak all bring home just how amazing the accomplishments of the Ancient Egyptians really were. This was an advanced society, a learned society and a very talented society when it came to things like the arts. The fact that anything left is a testament to them, the fact that some of what is left is so well preserved defies belief. Their stonework and carvings are stunning. They actually carved the rock off to form their carvings giving the feeling that the images were coming out of the stone rather than carving the images into the stone. This contrast was clearly visible in the temple at Luxor where you had ancient carvings done by the Egyptians, side by side with some done later on by the Greeks. All in all this aspect of our Egyptian Odyssey was totally amazing.

This part of our Egyptian experience was made even better by our tour guide who will remain nameless. He was awesome and he was a Christian. That in itself was a total blessing, and being as I don't believe in these kinds of coincidences I'll just chalk that one up to one of those small miracles that people so easily dismiss in their day to day lives. The fact that at least one of our drivers, the one that drove us across the desert to Hirghada, was also a Christian put an exclamation mark on that little miracle. I'm not sure what the odds of getting a Christian guide in a country of 70 million that is > 90% Muslim are but I'm pretty sure they are not bet the farm odds.

And after the bombing in Old Cairo, which we had visited earlier that day, having a Christian guide in a Muslim country was very comforting indeed. The thing that struck me the most about our guide was the pride with which he told us he was a Christian. In fact many of the Christians in Egypt have a small cross tattooed on the inside of one of their wrists and they are clearly plugged into other Christians throughout Egypt as we came into contact with several other Christians via our guide along the way.

It was both amazing and shocking for me being from Canada that Christians would need to be so cautious. That said, that honor/pride in the face of what I'm sure is some fairly serious persecution is a testament to their faith. It made me wonder how my own faith would stand up if I faced this same level of pressure. I can only speculate what it must be like to be a Christian in a predominantly Muslim country as our guide was, probably for all the right reasons, not really willing to engage in a lot of forthright discussions about it.

Anyway, our first few days in Egypt were a flurry of activity the first full day spent heading out to the Egyptian Museum complete with the Treasures of King Tut's tomb which were very cool and some great lessons in history from our guide who took us through the various times of Ancient Egypt from Old Kingdom thru to New Kingdom. It was amazing to hear about all the different machinations these kingdoms went through over time and the accomplishments and religions that flourished and died over a 3000 year period. It struck me that most of the history that I have focused on is Western History sort of post Jesus. Anything prior to that I must confess I never really paid much attention to and even most of what came after that I never paid much mind to. This trip has changed that as I have learned a lot about history from the various places we have visited and mind myself intrigued by human history and the history of our planet more so than ever before. So, this part of the Egyptian leg was fascinating.

After the museum we visited the Citadel and the Mohammed Ali Mosque which is huge and then over to Old Cairo where there is some amazing Christian Heritage, the hanging church and another ancient Christian Church that is said to have been one of the places of refuge for the Holy Family when the fled to Egypt. To visit a place that Jesus himself may have actually stayed was very powerful, it kind of puts a whole new reality on the biblical stories. The places in the bible are real, Egypt, the Red Sea, Mount Sianai etc. it just concretized things for me, made it more real. It also has me looking forward to eager anticipation my visit to Greece and Turkey which also have rich Christian Histories related to the Apostles John and Paul. Apparently it was the apostle Mark that was instrumental in the conversion of Egypt to Christianity. I did not know that. :)

So much I don't know.

That first night as we were lounging in our Hotel we saw the news story about the Suicide Bombing in Old Cairo. That was indeed a bit of wake up call to say the least. I mean we have done our very best to stay away from areas that could be perceived as overly dangerous and quite frankly have been very blessed on this trip so far. So, the news that a bomb had gone off somewhere in the vicinity of an area we had visited earlier in the day was completely surreal for me. I just kind of laid on the bed in shock not really knowing what to say or do. Do we just get the heck out of Dodge or what?

Anyway we talked it through, prayed about and made the decision to stay, it was probably the right decision but by the time we arrived in Hirghada I was thinking we should have pulled the plug and what was I thinking extending our stay in Egypt an extra few days. I think by then the combination of the bombing, feeling like I always needed to be on guard, the incessant and never ending expectations of a tip for smallest of things and the general lack of warmth and at times down right contempt from the people had just worn me down. I was done, I wanted to go home and for the first time on the trip I experienced some very real home sickness. It was no fun and it took a couple of days to get myself out of the funk but as with most things it eventually passed. That said I could not wait to get out Egypt.

Now after we spent the next day checking out the Pyramids and The Sphinx etc. we caught the night train to Aswan which for me was totally awesome. We had not done the sleeper train thing yet and this turned out to be a blast for all of us. It is a twelve hour ride and I personally would do it again. As far as Aswan itself goes I could take it or leave it but the unfinished Obelisk is pretty cool and going for a boat cruise on the Nile was a highlight. We also did a carriage ride around Aswan and got to see some areas off the tourist trail if you will. These people don't have much so on one hand I found myself very judgmental of the general attitude of the people etc. but at the same time I realized I live in a completely different world than they do. Different in pretty much every way possible, so it is probably unfair to be so hard on the people. I do not have to walk in their shoes. That said, I don't believe the living conditions tell the whole story as we have visited other countries where the people are just as poor and I never felt the level of discomfort and at times fear that I felt in Egypt. There is more to the story but I don't feel I have any true grasp of what that is so I'm not even going to speculate.

Luxor was a highlight with the Temples of Karnak and Luxor and the Avenue of the Sphinx and the Hotel in Luxor was great. Luxor is also where we parted company with our amazing guide. I was sad to see him go as I knew he had been our shield and protector and I must confess to being a bit worried about not having him with us going forward. That said our driver in Luxor, also a Christian, was going to be the driver to take us in the Military Escorted Convoy across the desert to Hirghada. Now, if there was a slim chance that you had not felt uneasy so far, the knowledge that you and a whole bunch of other tour and mini-buses required a Military Escort, for your safety, to cross the desert surely would have put an end to that. :)

Happily the journey to Hurghada was a non-event with the highlight being the various mini-bus drivers who, I'm sure out of shear boredom, spent much of the trip passing each other and jockeying for position as if we were in some desert rally race. It was quite amusing and all in good fun, most of the time anyway.

Hurghada is destination place for Europeans looking for some place cheap to go that is warm with great diving. From what we gathered it is mostly Germans and eastern Europeans who now frequent Hirghada. 10-12 years ago there was nothing in Hirghada except desert and a few hotels and this amazing asset called the Red Sea. Today there are numerous hotels along the coast and seemingly everywhere you look construction going on.

We were booked in at La Pacha Resort which was a recommendation from a fellow we met in Bali while diving. It turned out to be an "All Inclusive" resort which seems to cater primarily to Germans and Russians. And was quite frankly a great refuge for me anyway. I didn't have to leave the hotel if I didn't want to and the kids were happy as they had a pool and a Kids Club which fortunately for us the coordinator spoke English as well as German. I must confess it was nice to have them go off to Kid's club for a few hours, it gave me some downtime and some time to work through my homesickness.

The highlight for me was one night the evenings activity was a performance of the Musical Cats, in German, by the Tour Staff who were lip-synching each of the songs. What made if fun was that the kids who had been in Kids Club, Kayla and Tyler included, were also participants in the production and had had their faces all made up for the show. As it turned out, Kayla got to take center stage during one song as "The Magical Mister Mistopholes" which was so great and Tyler the little shy boy that left Canada 6 months ago was up there as well having a blast. It was really cool and a lot of fun even if it was in German. We have both seen Cats several times and have the CD so we knew all the words and just sang along with them in English.

Now the reason we came to Hirghada in the first place was to Dive in the Red Sea. We have heard for years from numerous people that the Diving in the Red Sea is amazing. And one of the reasons we chose La Pacha is that there is a reputable dive company, Orca, located right at the Hotel. So, Shannon and I signed up for a day of diving and they were kind enough to let us bring the kids along for no charge. So with eager anticipation we boarded the dive boat for what I hoped would be an awesome day. In the end it turned to be my best day in Egypt but likely my worst dive experience since I got certified, all by my own hand I might add.

First of all I was probably a bit cocky after some great dives recently and the comfort that I had felt on those dives. What I was not prepared for was how pampered we have been diving recently. All the equipment prepped for you etc. all you have to do is put it on, make sure the air is working and get in the water. Not so with Orca, these guys (girls actually) run a serious diver operation for serious divers and serious divers take care of there own stuff. Including getting the BCD's and Regulators rigged up and onto the tanks etc. which we have done numerous times on past dives but not for a few years. Combine that with fact that I was already on edge and well you'd think I had never dove before. I/We fumbled around looking completely like fish out of water in comparison to all the other divers on the boat which only added to my feelings of humiliation.

Anyway we finally got rigged up and into the water and from there until it was time to surface things went pretty smoothly, I got my neutral buoyancy figured out and away we went. That said, I can't tell you much of what I saw as I never really relaxed, like I said you'd think I had never dove before and at the end I just completely blew my safety stop. It was brutal, I was ashamed and embarrassed which was only punctuated by the Dive Master who upon returning to the boat looked at me and said with his wonderful German accent "Vat the hell vas dat Mark" , I could have just crawled under a bunch of tanks and died, actually I just slunk to the front of the boat and had a little pity party for myself. I mean he was right, I have no idea what I was thinking, I just wanted to get out so I did. Anyway, we ended up having a good chat with him later and I apologized for my actions and he was totally cool about it. That said, I had lost my desire to dive anymore that day and just skipped the second dive and instead chose to just relax in the sun on the deck of the boat. It was a great choice as felt the tension drain from me as the sun warmed me. It was good self care in hindsight. The old me would have been driven to do the second dive just to prove myself worthy. Instead I admitted my mistake, made amends and moved on, not without some drama I admit but not nearly the amount of drama there would have once been! :)

The other thing that occurred while on the dive boat was funny in those funny because it is not happening to me kind of ways. While we were finishing lunch we spotted this diver from another boat who gotten separated from his buddy and was way off the dive plan and several hundred yards out into the sea from where the boats were. He was clearly not in a good way as the current was pushing him out and he was fighting to stay even let alone make his way back in. Yet nobody from his boat was paying any attention. My favorite German dive master then had some very colorful comments which I will not include but the gist of which was "I know those guys, they could give a shit if that guy died". It just was a further reinforcement of how different life is valued or not valued in this case compared with Western values. In this case the story has a happy ending another dive boat actually moved out and picked the guy up and took him to his boat. Sadly, this same boat, a week or so prior had the misfortune of finding a couple of divers who had not been so fortunate, all I could think of were his comments... "they could give a shit..."

That pretty much summed up the sentiment I/We felt when we were out and about in the masses and sadly it is probably true. It is also the reason I will never return to Egypt or for that a matter likely anywhere in the middle-east. I just don't need that kind of stuff in my life. It is too bad because in many ways Egypt has much to offer the tourist and traveller but what you have to put up with is just not worth it for me. Like I said though, the Germans and Russians seemed to have a much easier time of it and seemed to be really enjoying their time in Hurghada. Am I being to hard on Egypt? Maybe but as good old Joe Sports likes to say "Those are my thoughts not yours..."

Kid's Said:
Highlights:

Kayla - The pyramids, the amazing 5000 year old culture, Kid's Club, Environment Day, being in "Cats", riding a camel

Tyler: - "same as Kayla" (she hates it when he 'copies' her but such is life...we'll get him to answer first next time)

Lowlights:
Tyler: When Daddy was mad at me for not saying thank you & good bye to the teacher at Kid's Club

Kayla: Missing the Kid's Club Day at the Aqua Fun Park
Slideshow Report as Spam

Comments

wharfrat1579
wharfrat1579 on

Give Egypt another chance
Hello,
Sounds like you had a rough time of it in Egypt. I can understand that. I've been living here for three years, working as a tour leader for almost two, so I've seen it all. I guess what I want to say is that, yes, I'm sure lots of people were a bit rude to you, and no that doesnt make it right, but maybe you just didnt understand some of it. As for Hurgada, thats one of the worst towns in Egypt. Its full of young kids who go there to escape the pressures of their families, so they can drink and party, and they can get quite rude. About that woman in her full covering, when she spit on the ground, I know thats shocking. Look at it through their eyes. She is SUPER conservative. Her whole life is based around trying to 'fit in' and do what is right in her society. She has taken it to a type of extreme, but in Islamic culture, what she's doing is considered respectful, she's in the right she believes. Maybe she was just having a bad day, maybe she thought the clothes that you guys were wearing were not appropriate, and over here, its everyones job to keep people in line in society. If someone is doing something that is disrespctful, then the way to correct their behavior is to let them know under no uncertain terms, like by showing their disgust, spitting. This, or she could have just been some rude girl in the wrong, happens everywhere. Now as to the people asking for tips all the time, yeah, it gets annoying for sure. I'm not so sure that we as westerners (I'm from the states by the way) can really speak though. I'm not so sure our societies would be any better at all if we were subjected to the same life situations that these people live in. They are POOR, way poor. Most families make about 200-300 Egyptian pounds a month, sometimes less. Tips are seen as differnt in Egypt. They are something that is expected, and not only that, being tipped is a right to them, not a privlidge, something that they are entitled to......its not really based on service here, its just the way it is. And to be quite fair, anyone who works in the tourist industry is usually quite rude and corrupt. They have been influenzed by the west so much. To them, we are SUPER rich! We have so much more than they do. For many of these people, happiness is found by having a good job, which means lots of money. I'm not defending the ones who are rude about it, and just take advantage, but I think its just best to understand the situations so we dont go around telling people that the middle easterners in general are rude and hostile towards westerners. We shouldnt do this because it just breeds fear and mistrust which reinforces sterotypes, causes anger and hate....things we need to do our BEST at getting rid of. Maybe I can shed some light on that newspaper inciedent you had, when the guys took your money and the other 4 came up around you. It probably did happen that the guy tried to rip you off, but when you started to question this, the others around heard you and were curious about what was happening. In Egypt, if a fight breaks out, hundreds of people make it their buisness to stop it.......even if they dont know the people involved. Public displays of anger are bad, the egyptians are very self regulating and want to stop things from getting out of hand. The 4 guys that came up to you were most likely looking out for your best interests actually. When a forigner gets into an argument, almost 100% of the time, people side with the forigner, either because they know we dont understand the culture, or because they just want to help. Also there is a bit of fear involved here. Foriegners are given this almost 'carte blanche' by the police. Tourism is the life blood here, and if the forigners have some kind of argument, the police will usually punish the egyptian involved even if he was totally in the right and did nothing wrong. The police are told to keep the forigners happy at pretty much any cost, so this being, some egyptians resent westerners as they recieve much better treatment from the government than they do........a very understandable thing to be angry about. So you might want to reconsider how you feel about this country. The people you met are a small percentage of the population, they are the ones who work with foreigners on a daily basis.....not that common in a country with 70 million people in it. The average egyptian would never do anything to upset you, would share his last piece of bread with you (actually he would give it to you completly), I've never met a people who are so openly hospitible and go out of their way to make me feel safe and welcome. If you ever come back, send me an email and I can reccomend places for you to go, and ways to do it so that you will enjoy your trip MUCH MUCH more. My email is, WharfRat1579@yahoo.com
By the way, I'm a christian as well.

grannytravels2
grannytravels2 on

Can't decide what to do
I'm glad I found these posts about Egypt. I am planning to spend six weeks in the region (arriving Dec 1), using Jerusalem my base city. From there I plan to travel throughout Israel; but I had hoped to plan side trips to Egypt and Jordan. The hostess of my Bed and Breakfast in Jerusalem has recommended that I seriously reconsider going to Egypt at this time. I don't know whether it is because I am an American and Christian or whether she would think that for any of her guest. She says she is definitely not normally a 'Jeremiah,' so I am really hesitating. Obviously, you have found a niche where you feel welcomed and safe. But it sounds like the author for the Incredibles is an experienced traveler and perhaps not easily shaken. I notice you also note that 'anyone who works in the tourist industry is usually quite rude and corrupt.' As a senior citizen who travels solo, I had thought perhaps if I joined a tour for my Egyptian sojourn that would make more common sense. Now, I don't even know if that is such a good idea as you also note that you are a tour leader. Hmmm.... I guess you know the business. Well, I understand the Egyptian government's desire to keep the tourists (and their money)coming. But, unless the people in the high traffic tourist areas understand the importance of hospitality to all people who come to visit their country, then I wonder how many caucasian, westerners will want to. I'd like to see the Pyramids, etc. but why should I want to visit somewhere I am not welcome. The jealousy and anger among those Egyptians who work in the tourist industry may well indeed be limited to a few Egyptians. But they are the 'hosts' who represent their fellow countrymen. Perhaps the 'government' might want to consider training and certifying those in the tourism industry? Probably can't be done; but, I travel in Costa Rica frequently. A very poor country by our standards, but the government and the media continually remind the people of the importance of tourism to their country. So, there is a general public awareness of each individual's responsibility to be hospitable to all visitors to their country. Doesn't mean there are problems unique to individual travelers, but in the main I think most people leave the country with very positive reports of how kindly they were welcomed. On the other hand, the country I've visited so far where I encountered unbelievable hostility throughout was Italy. I was told that the Italians have the feeling that they have the historical sites and people will continue to travel there, regardless of their behavior. Interesting. Whatever, thanks for trying to provide a balanced view. I haven't yet decided what to do, but I think I may just drop all my USD's in Israel. The Pyramids have been there for thousands of years. I guess they'll still be there later when the situation in the region improves; if that is possible. I don't have much hope for it. The conflict between the western and Muslim cultures is too great.

nile_princess13
nile_princess13 on

unfriendly country?
I am an American living in Cairo, Egypt for almost 2 years, I came here on my own and I found a very warm reception. EVERYONE I met said welcome to egypt with a smile in english.

About the tips.. well the country is very poor so any kind of tip for help is greatly appreciated atleast theyre not spitting on my windshield and wiping it with newspaper and demanding money like in new york city. lol Also, the crime is very low.

I didnt wear a hijab atfirst and it was no problem, I came to believe I liked the idea of it. maybe is was the blonde hair that got their attention as the population is mostly dark haired people. they were probably looking out of curiousity. Also alot of the military is to protect the foreigners embassy like the USA embassy and many others. there are terrorists every where and I did not experience any animosity towards me at all for being an American and I do have light skin and cant speak arabic.

the food in cairo is awesome all fresh veggies and the most excellent fresh mango drink served all over. I think you did miss out when you went there. the beans which is the dish of egypt is awesome and extremely healthy like ALL the foods they eat. I go to khan el kalili alot and it is actually one of the best places and one of the biggest and oldest bazarres ever and I never had a problem.

with foreign money you should have had a blast for a decent price for sure. :-)

I like cairo alot more than hurghada because of all the tourists which are mostly germans and russians and dont have a modest veiw at all especially in an Islamic country that is no respect really. they can actually be quite rude.

you really needed a local to help you and show you around.

the donkeycarts are usually pulling loads of fresh veggies from the delta. tomatoes, cukes, peppers, potatoes like everything. and the melons and fruit is so delicious also the dates here are soooo good. they sell freezing cold date juice and hibsicus juice on the street. and yes the streets are dirty but the people are very clean. its the desert sands and it doesnt rain much so ofcourse its dirty. lol I think you didnt give egypt a fair reveiw and im sorry to hear it. I love egypt it is a very exotic country.

ps. the call to prayer is beautiful and where i am its pretty quiet from like 1-7 and on a fri 1am-like 12pm is quiet because its the weekend. :-)

nile_princess13
nile_princess13 on

Re: unfriendly country?
PS to one of the other replies.... usually if you go to Israel then you cant go to Egypt, you should do egypt first and never want to come back.

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