The mere mention of Egypt brings to mind the vision of the Pyramids, Sphinx, desert sands, camels, artifacts, Egyptian museums, the Nile River, Cleopatra, King Tut, and Moses just to name a few things that stand out in one’s head. But as of late this once great nation and its people have suffered tremendous tragedies that have shaken their very foundation and threaten to destroy their economy and send their citizens into starvation.
After two revolutions, multiple airplane crashes, the death of several Mexican tourists, and the cancellation of numerous direct flights to Cairo from Russia, these crisis have compounded Egypt’s already struggling economy. With such devastating blows threatening their middle class existence and the overt complaints of its government in power one may wonder how will Egypt survive?
I don’t claim to be a political expert of any sort, nor an expert of foreign affairs. Darn it, I didn’t even know there was a revolution going on when I made my first visit to Egypt. We drove right through the march and was quickly educated on the devastating impact such actions had on Egypt’s economy.
How could I not know? Well like some Americans, I don’t necessarily pay attention to foreign news unless it’s entertainment, planning my next vacation or some world tragedy like a bombing, earthquake of sorts. Sad but true.
So when I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Egypt with the generous invitation, of course I was shocked and honored. I quickly took advantage of this wonderful opportunity to kill two birds with one stone and asked if I could produce my photo shoot for World Bride Magazine and shoot our first international cover. This would require that I bring along a team. It was a hard decision and it was something I toiled over for weeks. My team proved to be as adventurous as I and jumped on the opportunity to journey to a dream of a lifetime to a place we read about in books and studied in school.
With no expectation and great expectations, the trip and production proved to be the trip of our lives. The opportunity to see some of the aforementioned monumental figures and to work with Egypt’s brightest was a double honor.
The designers proved to be exquisite, talented, and gracious, wanting to extend their pieces to be featured in our upcoming issue. It was one of our best issues to date, as far as a warm reader reception. The readers and fans loved it and applauded our features. The locals were proud.
Egypt Beyond the Pyramids
So when the invitation came again to join the trip and experience Egypt once more. I was again shocked but doubly honored to join them. While my editor-at-large chose to do the typical tourist things with the group, I chose to go on my own to explore the grounds and cities by myself.
I wanted the authentic journey of mingling with the locals. I walked the streets and visited Tahrir Square and stood where the march, protest took place, I sat in its traffic. I enjoyed local vendor goods and visited a typical Egyptian home and conversed with a real estate agent about the possibility of living in Egypt. Yes, I said it; the possibility of being a black American woman wanting to go to Egypt never crossed my mind until this visit. It felt right. I wanted to get the experience of another culture: a culture that was so close to mine yet different from what I know in American life. I was open.
While I stayed at 5-star hotels and had fine dining every night for five days straight, I still knew that the local cuisine and the atmosphere was definitely something I was willing to explore.
Our visit comprised of the following cities:
Cairo, of course—with visits to the Egyptian museum and the Pyramids, the shopping centers, markets, and even observing the city driving and the traffic; driving in Egypt should be a sport. If you think New York traffic is bad wait until you go to Cairo; it can’t compare.
Luxor, a visit to the temple and the light show is magnificent. I was able to once again listen to the show with a different set of understanding and appreciation.
While members of my team visited the Giza Banks, I chose to explore the luxurious options in the hotel by enjoying the tour, visiting the spa, and enjoying the company and cooking with executive chef Mohamed! AMAZING. I then took a swim in the magnificent pool which proved to be my comfort from the scorching sun.
It was there that I met an amazing couple who had been coming to Luxor for 17 years. I asked them if they were not afraid and they said, with pure confidence, no. They were friendly with the manager of the hotel and trusted him; they would inquire before confirming their trip and once they got the green light they made their way every year. “We are treated like kings and queens. The Egyptians are hospitable people from the wealthiest to the poorest. They will share with you what they have in order to make you feel at home.”
Some of us more brave souls went snorkeling and jumped overboard. The crew of the Sani Dream put on a flying water show and the belly dancer were magnificent.
We met an amazing couple who were on their honeymoon and celebrated it with strangers and had a blast. They happened to be a Muslim couple from The United States that received this trip as a honeymoon gift. Wow. I couldn’t have planned it any better.
That night the party continued in the desert hills with Bedouin Dinner – the food, bread making, belly dancers, the fire man- flame thrower and his stick was like watching Michael Jackson’s video “Remember the Time” come to life. Outstanding. This makes for a great bachelorette or a bachelor party while still being respectful and naughty at the same time; if I can only explain that to you I would…. You would have to had been there to understand. (Wink.)
Our return to Cairo for the remainder of the trip was equally as full as the past three days. It was magnificent. We partied once again like the Oscars after-party and we were winners.
Now, while this trip was full, five days is not enough to see these three places to completely absorb all of Egypt or should I say some of what Egypt has to offer. You need nine days, three days per city, counting half the time of traveling domestically once you get to Cairo. The domestic flights to each city are reasonable. So it’s worth every dime.
Because the Egyptian currency is not very high your dollars make you a king! So don’t be afraid to spend it.
The food is fresh, the services superb. And the chefs come and greet you during the meals! So fabulous.
Warning! Egyptians are eager to please you and to be of service. You and your enjoyment is their priority.
If you are intending on going on a diet do it after the trip.
The market place is a hustling ground so put your negotiating hat on. But please be reasonable, this is how they make a living and support their families. Don’t be the cheat/cheap skate to save a dollar.
Must-see and Do
Visit the museums.
Explore the market places of each town you visit.
Eat at a local restaurant, don’t confine yourself to just hotel dining.
Ride and have lunch on a Felucca on the Nile.
Party with the locals.
Don’t dress too provocatively, men will be men. Be respectful of local customs.
Don’t be unnecessarily flashy. Beware of your surrounding like you would any streets.
Don’t make assumptions, ask questions.
Think before you open your mouth; choose your words, as there is a difference in language so certain words will mean different things.
Yes, they speak English, and some Egyptians speak three to five different languages.
Places to Stay
Cairo Marriott Hotel The Palace
Ritz Carlton hotels
Luxor Hilton Spa, magnificent views and services
Sofitel Winter Palace Luxor with exquisite grounds and cuisine
Sharm El Sheikh Four Seasons Resort.
Above all have a blast!! You are in the land of kings and queens.