Before Going to Egypt

For an incredibly foreign country, I can’t imagine any tourist or traveler arriving to Egypt without having done any prior research.  Upon my homework, I repeatedly came across the same information:

1. Since the revolution of 2011, tourism in Egypt has been decimated. Once the top tourist destination in the world, Egypt’s hotels, restaurants, and tourist districts now struggle under pathetic despair. Egypt’s notorious temples and iconic sites that once saw mass tourism and rapid deterioration can now be enjoyed without anyone else in sight. As an independent traveler, it’s easy to think, “This serenity is wonderful!” but second thoughts immediately become heartfelt pity to the local citizens who feel this impact. Looking around in a solemn Egypt of December 2016, I often said aloud, “This is high season Egypt.” Fortunately, 2016 saw an increase in tourism from 2015, and 2017 looks more promising as previously suspended airline routes from EU countries to Egypt are expected to resume.

2. More than once I’ve seen people dub Cairo as one of the most exhilarating cities in the world, but to be honest, I didn’t think it was any crazier than Marrakech in Morocco, or Nairobi in Kenya, or Dhaka in Bangladesh, or Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Of course, that is not to undermine the boisterous life of the city; we still enjoyed dodging cars and buses between juice cart vendors and hardware supply carts, held our breaths every time a bus spurted black fumes in our faces, stumbled into human traffic jams on trash-lined sidewalks, exhausted ourselves with the “art” of rip offs bargaining, and grimaced at the sound of broken speakers on full blast during the calls to prayer.

It is still difficult to encourage people to come to Egypt due to the list of tourist-targeted attacks and uncertainty with current politics and economy.  More recently, the Egyptian pound (LE) was devalued in November 2016. Sure, this meant that we practically got double the LE to the dollar and costs decreased by about 40%, but it could have led to increased instability and perhaps another uprising. The bomb on December 11, 2016 at a Coptic church in Cairo that killed 25 occurred on our arrival day to Egypt, and only 1 km from us too! We can’t blame people from currently avoiding Egypt.

Indulging in typically biased, mainstream media isn’t an activity I actively participate in, which means filling my limited free time searching for reasons not to go to Egypt was never a part of my itinerary. Out of curiosity Chris and I compared the statistics of deaths by gun violence (mass shootings) in the U.S. to deaths by terrorism in Egypt and saw that we were still statistically safer in Egypt! Naturally, our friends and family closed their ears to those facts and preferred us not to go to Egypt at all, but to each their own.

Despite all the disruptions, we have spent 3 weeks in Egypt during what typically would have been their high season.  We have no regrets. Not only were the world famous sites mostly vacant of obnoxious tourists, we felt that we were able to contribute to their slipping economy. What was once the world’s most advanced civilization with great pharaohs is now a heartbreaking state that begs for tourism to return.

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