Before I post anything on my trip to Cairo, there are some things that need to be known.
When I announced I was going to Cairo, I got a lot of reactions out of a lot of people.
Mom was worried. Some of my friends tried to talk me out of it. The day before I left, my boss made me sit with him and go over every inch of my itinerary. He wanted phone numbers and addresses of where I would be staying and what I had on the agenda each day.
The unknown spawned a bit of fear into me. I left detailed instructions on what to do if I came up missing. I knew I had WiFi at my hotel and if I went 24 hours without posting something, call the Embassy.
My concerns were unwarranted. It doesn’t hurt to have a Plan B, but all the worry was not necessary.
This is an honest assessment of Cairo by a single middle-aged blonde female that did it alone. I will not sugar coat anything in this post or the ones that follow. That being said, I cannot express how much I loved this trip and what an adventure it was and a game changer for me. I did not come back the same person. I learned a lot and my horizons expanded. I didn’t even begin to touch the surface of this mysterious town.
You have to go with an open mind.
Cairo is not the USA. It’s eons older, it is poorer, and it has a different outlook on life. I do not mean that in a bad way.
There is armed militia everywhere, but honestly, there is in parts of Europe too. They are not there to shoot you so you can feel safe.
I can honestly say I never felt unsafe there.
There is no trash pick-up in parts of the city. Trash goes in the medians, a lot of times being set on fire. I arrived at my hotel about 3:00 am and sat on my balcony. The stench of burning rubber filled the air. I had no idea what was going on. Nobody else was panicking and I was tired and so I went to bed.
There is a massive stray animal problem. Not only cats and dogs but horses and camels and donkeys too. They were all eating out of the trash on the streets. Most people are indifferent to them. They are not mean to them, but they don’t go out of their way to help them either. They just kind of let survival of the fittest take its course, Being an animal lover, this shattered my heart every day I was there.
That’s pretty much the worst of it. Now let me tell you about the things I will never forget and the most important lessons of all.
I have never been around so many people that, by our standards, had nothing. It was as if they didn’t even know they had nothing and they were happy and grateful. They wanted to share with you. A cup of tea from a lady living in just a tent by the river, or the homeless man that offered me a toothless grin and a “God be with you,” every day I saw him without asking for anything. A joke, advice, a tour around the tea shop – not to sell me anything – to show me some of the relics his family had collected over the last almost 300 years in the same business, in the same location. They were all so very giving.
This is a big one.
Religion plays a big part in Cairo. Muslim, Christian, Judaism – and pretty much anything else you can think of all call this place home.
I had never visited a mosque before. It was a Holy Day. The first one I went in, my driver told me he could not go into the entrance with me as it was for women only. Take off my shoes, put them in my bag. I didn’t have to cover my head, but I wanted to honor their custom. My hair started falling out and a young woman came up to me and started fixing my scarf. About 20 other women did too. There was some tucking in, some rewrapping, lots of smiles, some giggles and even a few that spoke English said: “We are so honored you are here,” and, “You are welcome here.”
I did not see or sense malice, animosity or even a cross look or stare. I found smiles and kindness and a will to share what was normal to them and a curiosity toward me.
It makes me sad to think that anyone would hate them for being this way or believing differently than what the majority of us do here. They seriously were not hurting anyone and I was not offended by their different beliefs. They were not offended by mine nor threatened by where I came from. They didn’t hate me and nobody attempted to kill me.
We are programmed to believe that the Islamic radicals are the representation of the entire population of the Middle East. That is not at all what I experienced.
The people here are lovely. Do not fear them. Embrace the differences. If you don’t want to acknowledge those differences while staying true to your beliefs, then maybe Egypt is not the right vacation destination for you.
If you want to go to Egypt, think of it as an adventure and by all means, GO. It is going to be different, and you are not going to understand some of it.
I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.