Everything was fine. Despite the ridiculous American news, the rest of the city was unaffected. The coverage in the States desperately tried to make it seem as if the sky was falling. “There are rioters everywhere!” Uh, false. If Cairo was the Pacific Ocean, there were rioters in Kauai. I.e. about two blocks of an absolutely enormous city. Sure, I wouldn’t go to that one block, or probably the surrounding radius, but to say all of Cairo–much less all of Egypt–was in chaos was ridiculous.
Times were tough for an economy that relies heavily on tourists, which was easy to see when we were the only–yes only–group at the pyramids one morning. One other bus showed up a few minutes later, and a few more trickled in as we were leaving. The place was empty. I commend tour companies, like Abercrombie and Kent (who we used), who continued (and still continue) to run tours. I really, strongly, feel that safety was not an issue when we were there. Yes, we did have an armed guard with us in the bus, and yes, there were gunmen on nearly every boat we saw on the Nile (including our own). But if there was ever a trip that convinced me not to believe American news coverage, this was it. Perhaps our experience would have been different as independent travelers?
Locals were nothing but courteous, kind, and helpful. And we were actually harassed FAR less in Cairo than we were in other parts of the country. While people in Khan el-Khalili (one of the biggest souks) surely tried to sell us things, it was not the in-your-face type approach found at Luxor, Karnak, Abu Simbel, and other places. In those places, they would latch on and continue yelling through the bus windows, to the point where you were both uncomfortable and exhausted. In Cairo, they’d just ask if you were interested in something if you picked it up. Fair enough. They also would ask you where you were from and thank you for visiting Egypt.
Unfortunately, trash collectors were also on strike when we were there…I’m sure the city isn’t sparkling clean when they aren’t on strike, but it was the dirtiest city that we’ve been in, ever. And when I think of bad traffic yesterday in Washington DC…nothing compares to Cairo. That traffic is truly horrible.
But, Cairo is truly a beautiful city, with much intrigue and incredible history. It’s called the city of a thousand minarets for a reason! If you like religious studies or archaeology, it’s obviously a wonderful destination. Here are my favorite sights from Cairo for this week’s Flashback Photos.
Have you been to Cairo or Egypt more recently? What was your experience?
Mosque/Madrasa of Sultan Hassan