Cairo’s essence penetrates your skin the moment you enter its scorching realm. It’s a never-ending crescendo of horns, ceaseless movement, bodies dancing across dizzying traffic, perspiration, suffocating pollution, poverty, dense history and rich culture all coexisting: organized chaos made more tolerable with each moment spent in her presence. This is not a city for the easily intimidated or faint of heart. It is however a dusty jewel awaiting the brave traveler bold enough to explore the beauty hidden beneath decades, centuries, even millennia of its dirt.
Here are five things you should know to prepare you for your journey, one you must definitely should take:
Egypt is more or less safe to visit as long as you avoid certain regions and exercise common sense. People working on their bucket lists will find the Pyramids of Giza, Luxor, the Egyptian Museum and other destinations on the well worn tourist path extremely secure. Hotels, archaeological sites and even some museums and shops have metal detectors, armed guards and security check points. The government and the locals understand safety and tourism go hand-in-hand and since that industry contributes a hell of a lot to their economy, it is in their best interests to make sure you feel safe when you’re in their hood. Still, you’ll want to avoid wandering into non-touristy areas on your own, flashing valuables and doing other things that you know you shouldn’t.
For more on Egypt’s safety issue, I’ve written a longer article that you can read here.
2. It’s Dirty AF
Especially in and around Cairo. It’s devastating to see the lack of respect Egyptians, and particularly their government, have for their beautiful country. There is no regular trash collection so citizens dump their garbage onto the street, alleys, parks and even the Nile River. Having visited other ancient sites such as Angkor Wat and Chichen Itza, I was appalled by the state I found the Pyramids of Giza in. Trash surrounded the marvel, people were allowed to more or less climb all over the stones and there was camel and horse feces all over the place. This was perhaps one of the hardest things to adjust to on my visit and I can imagine Ramses II rolling over in his grave at the state of his kingdom.
3. It’s Beautiful
That being said, few places straddle the line between heaven and hell quite like Cairo. Despite being scorching hot, smoggy, and filthy, once you get further out of the city, you realize this is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Even the trashed Pyramids of Giza maintain a mind-blowing grandeur in spite of their struggle upkeep. There are spots where stretches of sand empty into stretches of sand. And sunset/sunrise at the Pyramids is perhaps the most jaw dropping views I have witnessed in 20 years to travel.
Not only are the sights beautiful, but the people are as well. Egyptians are spirited, warm and extremely social. And they love practicing their English so don’t be surprised if you find yourself conversing with more locals than you anticipated.
4. It’s Very Cheap To Visit
If there ever were a time to visit Egypt, at least financially, it’s now. The Egyptian economy has been in full struggle mode since 2011 when President Mubarak was ousted. In 2016, the economy took another hit when the central bank devalued it’s currency. Two years later, $1 is worth roughly £18. For some perspective, an Uber ride across town might set you back anywhere from £15 to £33, so less than $2. A bottle of water from a market? £5. You’ll even find some four and five star accommodations like the Four Seasons for under $200 a night.
5. Respect The Mosques
Egypt is a relatively liberal country. Women drive, burkas and hijabs are optional, people drink alcohol and there’s more than enough nightclubs to occupy an evening, but this doesn’t mean visitors should disrespect religious customs and tradition. When visiting a mosque, always take off your shoes before entering, step inside the structure with your right foot first, do not photograph people praying, talk on your cell phone, use your on-camera flash or other obnoxious things. If you’re a female traveler, make sure to cover your shoulders and head, and no shorts for the gentlemen.
That’s it for this list, but make sure to check out our list of five things to do in Cairo. You can also watch the video below.