All of my wishes were answered in Egypt as soon as I stepped into the humid air at 3am. I arrived at my hotel to discover that it had a balcony view of the Great Pyramids of Giza. I was finally in Egypt.
The country had been a place of great mystery to me for several years. It was a place I was never sure I ever get to, and I certainly didn’t think I’d make it here by the age of twenty. I had always been fascinated by the history, cultural practices and simply the everyday life of Egyptians. Going to Egypt, my expectations were intensified by the excitement I had built up in my head. And with a full heart, I can say that Egypt exceeded my expectations.
Egypt is a place full of history, sounding almost like a fairytale. Egypt was a place I’d learned about in school, but didn’t seem like a real place until I dipped my toes into the Nile River and came face-to-mummy with King Tutankhamun.
Before visiting Egypt, people I spoke to told me not to go. They told me it was unsafe, and that the country was corrupt. These were people who had never been to Egypt themselves, so I didn’t listen to them. Sure, the government in Egypt is corrupt and unstable, but as a tourist I didn’t feel unsafe nor unwelcome. In Egypt I got to know the locals and experienced the country for myself, without the distractions of media or racism, and I grew to love the country. I discovered that the news we hear about Egypt is distorted. Travel agents in Australia were telling my mother not to go, which was a reaction based mainly on people who hadn’t even been there.
Before visiting Egypt, people I spoke to told me not to go. They told me it was unsafe, and that the country was corrupt. These were people who had never been to Egypt themselves, so I didn’t listen to them.
In Egypt, the locals welcomed tourists with open arms. A lot of locals rely on income from tourists, so they consider any tourist to be a blessing. My mother and I had the privilege of riding along the Nile River on a traditional Egyptian Faluka boat. Many large cruise ships were docked along the river. Our guide told us that before the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, cruise ships were leaving daily, whereas now they leave more like once a week. After 2011, Egypt saw a decline in tourists, damaging their economy. Another local told us that if you owned a car at that time you were very lucky, because you could sell it for a lot of money.
I had been unsure about what to wear in Egypt before I arrived. People had told me to cover shoulders and knees. I followed advice to keep my sunglasses on while in the streets, as making eye contact could be considered flirting. However, when it came to how women dress, I was taken aback. I had been under the impression that lots of Middle Eastern countries have a strict dress code. This may be so, but Egypt is different. I walked around in skirts and off-the-shoulder tops. Of course, if visiting a mosque you need to cover your legs, neck and arms, but if walking around in Luxor and Cairo, shorts and a t-shirt are more than OK.
Travel in Egypt exceeded my expectations and altered my perceptions in so many ways, and I’m glad I got the chance to visit such a fascinating country.