Egypt post revolution looks to be a vastly different place.
As a visitor, I don’t claim to understand the complexities and as with every political situation, there are many sides and opinions as to what the outcome might have been. But the sun still rises over The Nile each morning and sets in the West, and despite life becoming financially harder for Egyptians, they remain welcoming and hospitable.
My travel experience in Egypt spans intermittently over 20 years. The first time I was 22 years old and I arrived into the country with a naive view of the world, thinking everyone was trying to rip me off, over charge me and without the manners that a visitor should have. I was inexperienced and new to travel and had many lessons to learn.
The second time I returned to work as an adventure tour leader and stayed for one year. I had grown up and met many incredible people who remain friends to this day. I was able to easily make friendships with local people and it was my first real glimpse into Egyptian life. As I was with tourists the whole time, in retrospect some of the relationships I made were about how many travellers I would bring to their business but despite this, I met lovely people and I mean truly lovely people.
This time I am experiencing Egypt post revolution. I am joining my good friend Laura Morrison on her Morri 2 Africa expedition. She is driving a 1958 Morris Minor from Aberdeen in Scotland to Cape Town in South Africa, raising money for Cancer Research.
Immediately I noticed the decrease in tourism and how much this is effecting the locals. I feel the media has a lot to answer for the unfounded portrait it paints of Islamic countries. Prices have increased for Egyptians, yet still extremely affordable for foreigners. Petrol, services, groceries and general costs are high and with the drop in tourism, life has become naturally harder in daily Egyptian life.
As I mentioned, I don’t claim to know Egypt but there appears to be a lot of fear surrounding travel here. This has caused a knock on effect for businesses in general. Even the exchange rates are terrible (great for visitors) so if you’re reading this post and waiting until things get better before visiting, there is no better time than now. After all, travel has to be a two way street and we must lend support to our bucket list destinations, plus sustainable tourism isn’t just about plastic bags and bottles.
Since arriving back into Egypt, I have experienced incredible kindness and I realised it was the same hospitality I’ve always received, even if immaturity or my circumstance didn’t allow me to appreciate it.
Our drive from Cairo to Luxor followed The Nile and we stopped the car in a tiny town called Al Minshah, mainly to take a break from driving and drink a fresh mango juice. The locals invited us into their cafe for tea. They sent a friend to bring us mango juice and about 50 locals gathered around to ask us questions and meet the strange westerners who arrived in a blue Morris Minor. What did they want from us? Nothing. They were being friendly. So much so, that they bought us tea, gave us two mango juices each and waved us off with 1.5 litres of the same juice and a heroes farewell. It was real and it touched a part of my older self, that truly humbled me. Now that might sound totally wanky, but it’s honest.
A taxi driver in Luxor invited us into his family home for tea and to meet his family. What did he want from us? Nothing. Just the chance to be kind and give his kids and wife the opportunity to practice their English. Would I do this to a traveller in London? Not a chance, but it made me extremely aware of this and felt very humbling.
We have received this type of welcoming everywhere, people paying for tea and juices for us and refusing to take money. Even with tourism as low as after the Gulf War.
In Cairo, the Pyramids Loft Hotel gave us a massive discount as we were raising money for Cancer Research. His hotel wasn’t full by any standards, yet he wouldn’t let us pay the full amount, refusing many times. When you come to Cairo, this is the best place to stay. Not only is the hospitality incredible (and affordable), but the rooftop garden has comfortable seats where you can enjoy a cold beer and watch the pyramids up close at sunset.
The Bob Marley House Hostel Sherrif Hotel also gave us a discount and rolled out the red carpet. Did they need to give us a discount? No. Did they hesitate in doing so when they heard the drive was for Cancer Research, also no. The hotel was almost empty yet their kindness wasn’t. The place has much more character than any place I’ve stayed in Luxor (and I’ve been here about 25 times), and a lovely area to chat to people when the sun sets.
For anyone reading this, come visit Egypt. The country offers so much and has something for everyone. There are no safety problems and if you have any concerns prior to booking, call Thomas at Pyramids Loft Hotel in Cairo to have a good chat with him. He is the Egyptian fixer and his recommendations have been on-point since arriving.
But don’t just take my word for it!