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Trip Report Our 24 days adventure in Egypt

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We spent 24 days this past July in Egypt. My husband has a few friends and two aunts in Cairo so we made time to visit them. Here are my impressions of Egypt starting with the negatives:

1. No matter how much you read about the constant asking for bakhsheesh (tips), you just can't prepare for it. I pray that their new government makes some kind of law(s) to change this system (maybe come up with a minimum wage requirement, get their tourist guards/shops more organized, etc). I know this system existed in Turkey many decades ago and they've gotten rid of it. It's very exhausting and becomes bothersome (not to mention draining) for the tourist. We took it in stride like everyone recommends (considering it as small charity) but towards the end it was really annoying. The tourist police guarding the sites, the door man, the luggage people (sometimes 3 people would chase us to grab our bags), the driver, everyone on your cruise, the bathroom attendant, etc, etc...all expect to get their tip. Way too much and something I will not remember fondly about Egypt.

2. Our cruise's tour guide called them "crocodiles" and it was fitting. Shopkeepers chase you down, begging you to buy this and that piece of junk. I really found the souvenirs in Egypt to be of the poorest quality i've seen. It was annoying how they'd chase you down and stick to you to buy something. In Sharm, you'd get chased by tour guides. It's like "leave me alone!". You quickly learned to walk fast, maintain zero eye contact and shake your head constantly. There's no pleasure in just taking a walk.

3. For those who don't speak Arabic, you probably didn't get this but we do and did get it...the people constantly would tell us, with a smile "Alhamdu lilah alsalama". That was their way of saying "where's my tip?". It actually means "Thank God for your peace"...something you say to someone whose arrived from a long journey. You welcome them back. We strongly disliked hearing it in Egypt. We also would constantly get asked where we were from. We'd say Jordan and they'd reply "Jordanians are the most courageous people" (something they say to everyone no matter where they're from). We gradually learned that they only wanted to know so they could decide how much to rip (I mean, charge) you off. Apparantly, Jordanians were up the ladder but below Gulf Arabs (and my kids kept their American English mouths closed b/c then we would have gone broke). My point is...yes, the Egyptian people are simple and I'm sure nice and friendly (like most people in the world) but you really don't get a sincere chance to experience that b/c you're constantly paying them or getting ripped off (or feeling like you are).

4. Cairo is crowded with major traffic and pollution problems. Wow, I thought we had congestion in the States, nope. It would take about an hour just to drive 5 miles b/c of the congestion. The pollution was draining and the heat, oh the heat. Iskandariya (Alexandria) was the same in terms of the traffic and it was dirty. The driving is an indie car race with human planted in between. I had my eyes closed for most of it.

5. If I had to do our trip over, I would have skipped Alexandria. Not worth it. The library building is a modern invention. The city is dirty, stinky, chaotic, the sea is dirty in a number of places...not worth it. Skip it.

6. We stayed at the Four Seasons in Cairo and had a few hundred dollars stolen from our room's locked safe. Don't keep any money in your hotel room's locked safes. We were later told by many Egyptians that it's known that hotel staff members can and do break into the safes. Keep your money on yourself and don't keep too much either.

7. There are numerous scams in Egypt so we got scammed at Giza. If you're Arab, avoid those guys with the horse carriages. Note: you CAN walk on your feet into the pyramids. I believe our taxi driver was somehow involved in this scam too as he encouraged us to go (and didn't bother telling us the entrance was just a few steps away from where he had parked). These guys took us for a LONG trip through the neighborhood (smelly, disgusting), told us they'd get us Egyptian prices to enter the pyramids, then when we went to enter the "guards" told us we had to pay them extra b/c we weren't suppose to do that, then when we went through someone approached my hubby asking to see our tickets again... at this point, I grabbed my husband and left that guy. We trusted those horse carriage people and they ripped us off big time. They charged us for taking our pictures, for having someone else take our pics on a camel, for entering a small pyramid on the side, etc, etc. It was one big scam that we blindly fell for. Leaves a sour memory of Giza. Maybe that's why we enjoyed Saqqara way more?

8. It's not true (according to my guide book) that Egyptians won't ask for more bakhsheesh. They asked for more nearly half the time. Again, I'm not sure if it's b/c we're Arab or what. We thought it to be very rude and embarrassing.

9. Like everyone says, you have to be very careful about where you eat. Nonetheless, you will get some travelers diarehea so prepare yourself with medicine. It's also hot in Luxor, Aswan, Sharm during July but not unbearable. If that is the only time you can go, then go.

Next up, the positives :-)

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