Friday, November 25, 2016

EXPLORING EGYPT



On my plane ride over I heard a cool story on a podcast about the women during the ancient Egyptian times. My takeaway from the story was that during this time women had power and were honored because they were the producers of life. This story gave me the feels and filled me with excitement to visit this country and explore its past.

EGYPT IN THREE WORDS:

If I had to describe Egypt in three words they would be:
Marvelous. Hustling. Precious.   

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

CAIRO- This city totally reminded me of Delhi minus free roaming animals. The city is busy, polluted, and endless amount of honking from cars winding and weaving through the streets as if the lines to separate lanes did not exist. My favorite cab ride, given by a driver who looked and reminded me of hip-hop artist, French Montana, in his pimped out taxi, blasting Beyonce’s 7/11, made Cairo fun. Thankfully being here felt familiar because my travels to India and China.

GIZA- Wow, definitely not what I had imagined. Driving through to get to the site I saw construction everywhere, plastic garbage lining the streets, and the foggy haze of pollution making the pyramids and sphinx barely visible.

LUXOR- Settled on both sides of the Nile River, relaxed, and totally different vibes from Cairo and Giza, Luxor, I’m a fan. I’m totally excited because there is so much here to see and explore!

WHAT SURPRISED ME ABOUT EGYPT?    

Here are a few things that surprised me about Egypt:

I know what many readers may be thinking, “Is it safe?”
The answer for me is, “Yes.”

If going through security checkpoints on the roads and metal detectors when entering sites and hotels scares you, then you might have a different response. Do these things make me feel safe as a tourist? Yes and no.

I spent seven days in three different areas of the country and felt safe. And with that said, to my surprise, I wasn't able to make it to Abu Simble due to protest activity. I was really bummed but guess I’ll have to visit it next time.

Egypt is home to one of the “ancient wonders of the world!” So coming to this country I was under the impression that all of the historical sites would be well kept. Between the touts, animals, and pollution my visit here left me feeling like, "Damn, if tourism is the main source of income for the Egyptians, the industry should take notes from Jordan." 

And the pollution for sure is probably what surprised me the most. Egypt was never really on my radar for having this issue. Spending time here in the haze of car exhausts and burning trash, had me again feeling really bad for the people who live here everyday. Yo, Elon Musk they could really use electric cars here bro!

I realize that I’m being a bit critical here, more so than my other travel posts. I know it’s not my place as a tourist to give my opinions and critiques but I’m writing with the intention and hope that this amazing place will last for many generations to come. Not just for tourists like me but in hopes for a clean, green, economy for the health and well-being for the people who live here.

The last thing I want to mention is… but first let me take a selfie! I would rather take one million selfies with the teens here than negotiate with touts. Some teens thought we were Bollywood stars and when we let them down by sharing we’re from San Francisco their reactions were even better. I was more than happy to talk and take photos with them it was a reminder of my celebrity days in China.  

WHAT DO VEGETARIANS EAT IN EGYPT?

Believe it or not the national dish of Egypt, Koshari, is vegetarian! And it’s a carb lovers delight! A rice dish filled with lentils, macaroni noodles, chickpeas, a tomato sauce, and topped off with crispy fried onions.  

You can find fresh veggies, hummous, baba ghanoush, delicious bread, foul, and a variety of different food to fit every tourist’s preferences.

There is also a wonderfully refreshing hibiscus drink called Karkade. It’s like cranberry juice but sweeter and less tang!

TIPS- In this section I've laid out tips if you're interested in traveling here...

DO:

Airports- There are many checkpoints within the airports. The first is with your printed paper-boarding pass. Before you rush off to your gate you’ll have to go to the airline counter because they have to print you an official boarding pass then you can proceed.

The pollution here is no joke. Bring what you need to cleanse yourself from the dirt, cigarette smoke, and car pollution.

CAIRO & GIZA- Knowing what I do after this visit I’d recommend landing in Cairo and hit the ground running. Go to the Egyptian Museum and Giza to see the pyramids in one day then make your way to Luxor.

LUXOR- I enjoyed being in Luxor the most. Visit temples, there are many but here are my favorites: Medinat Habu, Valley of the Kings, Karnak, Luxor Temple. See the night show at the Karnak, they offer and different times for different languages. We went during the German show and they gave us headphones to listen to it in English. Definitely go on a hot air balloon ride, we went with a company called Sinbad. In the hot air balloon you’ll get aerial shots of the temples and see the sunrise over the Nile River.
 
EAT:

CAIRO- We stayed near the museum; note there are very few restaurants in this neighborhood. If a local didn’t literally walk us to one of the restaurants I doubt we could have found it on our own. For dinner we walked to the Intercontinental Hotel for an amazing buffet of Egyptian and western favorites.

LUXOR- I really enjoyed Sofra. It feels authentic and has great Egyptian food.

STAY:

CAIRO- If you stay near the museum you’ll be in walking distance and pretty close to Giza.

LUXOR- We stayed on the East Bank more hotels are located here and the market. We heard from a Canadian couple staying on the West Bank that it was quiet and quaint. They enjoyed it and felt like it gave them a break from the hustle and bustle.

Egypt was on my bucket list for sure because I wanted to awe at the sites to learn from one of the earliest civilizations on our planet. I hope these temples, the treasures that I’ve explored, remain forever.