If I had to pick one word to describe my experience visiting Egypt, I would choose “intense.” You do not come to Egypt to unwind, kick back or relax. Egypt’s current crisis and rich past, and it’s people — from the ones in the tombs to the on ones the streets — aggressively compete for your attention, leaving you amazed and at times a bit overwhelmed.
Visiting Egypt is like finally getting the opportunity to date your long-term crush: you are in awe at the beauty, royalty, bigness, significance of him. In the beginning, when you are together you can’t even engage properly with him because you are in awe, essentially speechless. You tentatively run your fingers up and down him—over his perfectly chiseled body, over scars, over his entire landscape – learning his history and understanding yours. Because the more you learn about him, the more you conclude that he is you. You are both damaged and are both looking for something from and in each other. It’s lovely. It’s painful. It’s intense.
My Ten Biggest Take-Away’s From Egypt:
- There is a spiritual aura.
I can’t explain it logically because it’s not a logical thing, but intermixed in the dry heat of Egypt is a spiritual mist that envelopes you. You feel it immediately and everywhere. The Nile is magical, mystical and serene.
- It’s Beautiful.
The beauty of the Egyptian countryside, its ancient structures and its people are undeniable. I understand why this country has been sought after and aggressively defended for centuries.
Every African-American should visit Egypt (and other countries in Africa) if at all possible. You will discover that all that has been taught to us about our home is untrue. We come from a beautiful continent, filled with brilliant, industrious people. Is there poverty— yes, as there is all over the United States. But, as a person who has traveled quite extensively, I’ve realized that only propaganda has made us run to Paris before we run to Luxor because I have found the greatest beauty in the world is in our continent.
- Every day is a hustle and everybody is hustling.
Every person I saw in Egypt from the poorest to the most well-to-do was hustling. People are hustling to survive or to thrive—but either way, they are hustling all of the time. You will see very few homeless people or people begging for help; but you will be bombarded by people everywhere hoping to sell you something. Shouts of “Sister, $1.00 for a map”; “Cousin, where are you from? I have nice scarves;” and “Let me take your picture” are constant and aggressive. I never felt scared or threatened, but I did become weary of the constant badgering. Even when you are riding on a bus, the tour guide will insist on taking you to a store to shop (because he certainly gets a cut of whatever is bought). At no point do you feel as if someone is not trying to sell you something. On a good note, you can always haggle on the price, which many find fun.
- The food is great.
The Mediterranean style food is excellent. Great ingredients, spices and preparation. I didn’t have a single bad meal.
- The pyramids are right in the middle of Cairo.
The biggest surprise of the trip for me is that the great pyramids and the Sphinx are in the middle of Cairo – the largest city in Egypt. There are fast food restaurants, small businesses and apartment buildings surrounding this sacred area. I expected that I would be driving to the middle of the desert until I saw the pyramids over the horizon. Not the case at all. They still left me in awe.
- Overall the people are warm, but as a woman, you aren’t treated the same as men
Egyptian people are physically beautiful: shades of tan skin and these beautiful, almost clear eyes. They are also so incredibly warm. Even the ones who hassle you in the streets possess an underlying kindness. If you are a woman, you must be prepared that you will not have the same liberties as you have in America. For example, one evening room service brought the wrong pasta dish to my friend (not what she ordered). When she raised it with the waiter, instead of correcting the error, he said, very nicely, “this is pasta is good. You will like it. Eat this pasta.” Similarly, at a perfumery, the salesman became outwardly irate with me because I changed my mind about an order. He also tried to insist that me and my friend use one credit card instead of two. You will only see men working most jobs out of the home- even jobs that are traditionally held by women in the United States (flight attendants, restaurant servers, housekeepers at the hotels, etc.). I actually loved some elements of the male-dominated culture – like dressing conservatively – but it was an adjustment to not speak up for myself a few times when I wanted to.
- This is not a solo or even a duo trip.
As much as I have traveled I would not travel to Egypt alone or even with one other person. This trip is best done with a group. I travelled with Up In the Air Life (upintheairlife.com)
- Go knowledgeable about Egypt’s history.
Your trip will be even better if you have an in-depth knowledge of the history and magnificence that you will see. Seeing ancient ruins and tombs is one thing; realizing that time, people and context surrounding them takes the experience to a different level. Even better, hire an Egyptologist or knowledgeable guide who can explain the significance of everything that you are seeing.
- Dress appropriately.
I firmly believe that when you are in someone else’s country, you should respect their culture. Women’s knees and shoulders should be covered (unless you are in a hotel). I also chose to cover my head most times.
- Egyptians do see us as their people
As a Black person, there is a definite feeling of coming home when you are in Egypt. The residents seem genuinely happy to see you and greet you as if you are a relative. Moreover, everything about Egyptians reminded me of my Sistas and Brothas at home. One of my greatest memories is seeing the way the men dance. It reminded me so much of the break-dancing battles from the 80s.
A Few Tips
- Don’t go to Egypt without spending some days cruising down the Nile. Just don’t-
- Ride a Felucca
- Visit the Nubian Village (you will most definitely feel at home)
- If you don’t engage the hagglers (don’t start conversation or make eye contact) you will fare much better.
- When someone says that there is no cost to something—it’s not true. There is always a cost.
- Security is tight in Egypt. Most tours have a security guard touring with the group; your tour bus will oftentimes have a police escort; and it is not uncommon to see armed police officers everywhere.
Visiting Egypt is not a relaxing vacation. It isn’t your summer fling or a fun one-night stand. It is dating your soul-mate. You will fall in love; you will be challenged and moved; you will grow; and you will never ever forget him.
*for more pictures on Randi B.’s various travels follow her at Randi__B (Randi *underscore *underscore B)
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more