Egypt was the first country I was starting my Africa tour in. This was also probably the one I was the most excited about. I have never been to a Muslim country and wanted to see what it’s like. Also, seeing the pyramids has been on my bucket list for as long as I could remember. On top of that, I had a really good friend of mine that I met in Australia who was going to be visiting his family and they were kind enough to let me stay. I couldn’t pass up this opportunity.
The Town of Cairo
Cairo is the largest city in the Middle East and the Arab world. The culture shock from stepping off the plane instantly sunk in. You can feel the history mixed with the modern culture in the air. I was really excited to be here. The architecture was very surreal to me and I was in awe of the Muslim buildings. The first experience of the Ottoman empire kingdom was truly surreal.
Driving in Egypt is one of the scariest things I have ever done. There are no rules to driving and it’s complete chaos. Somehow in the chaos of Cairo, no one seems to get in car accidents. The whole time everyone is flashing lights, honking horns, and just taking up any part of the lane they can fit.
The streets are constantly bustling with pedestrians, fruit stands, kids playing, and stray cats. There are A LOT of stray cats here in Egypt. Bring white here was a novelty. Since I didn’t really stay in tourist areas, a lot of young Muslim ladies kept coming up and asking to take a selfie with me.
Smoking was a bit of culture shock here. You can literally smoke anywhere in Cairo. Even the malls! Everywhere you go, people are sitting inside usually smoking a Shisha. I don’t think I can really remember any place besides the Cairo Museum that you could not smoke in. Be prepared for a lot of second-hand smoke.
Secruity in Egypt is pretty insane. Any mass public building/area you go through a metal detector and get the pat down. Even some of them would try to shake me down a bit asking for money or just stealing a cigarette. It’s a bit intimidating seeing military men on every corner holding assault rifles. Anyone who has kept up with world news can tell you that Egypt is not really a safe place. A car bomb killed dozens two days before I landed.
Khan el-Khalili Bazaar may not really be a local spot but is the large market/bazaar in Cairo. Thankfully I had a local with me which put me at ease. Even though this area is super touristy, it can be very overwhelming for people who aren’t used to this sort of thing. Every ten steps someone was trying to pull me into their shop. It was fun spending the day here shopping around and trying a bunch of local street food.
Zooba was my first experience in Egyptian food. My friend and I walked here while he ordered everything so I could try it. The chefs here loved that I wanted to try things so they actually just kept bringing food whether we ordered it or not. It’s street food but indoors. The place is super tiny with only about 5 tables.
The Garden was a nice cocktail spot my friend took me to. Here I met a bunch of his friends I grew up with. From there, we went to a party in an abanded building on the outskirts of Cairo. Egyptians know how to party.
The Cairo Museum was something I needed to check out. The museum is famous for its collection of ancient Egyptian antiques. The museum covers every inch of Egypt history known to man and has antiques with some fascinating stories from ancient to modern Egypt. They also have a special exhibit on King Tutankhamun tomb which cost a little extra to see.
I was a bit turned off how unprotected everything was in the museum. Nothing looked like they were trying to preserve a lot of these antiques. They were easily accessible for almost anyone to touch. Everything was pretty much out in the open and just sitting on pillars.
This was the most surreal thing I have ever done. As a kid, you dream of the mighty pyramids and how much history with mystery is behind these ancient architectures. You can see them coming from Cairo and the closer I got, the more magic I could feel. When we got there, all I could do was stand there and stare without saying a word.I spent a couple hours slowly walking around Giza to awe that I had finally made it.
This was the first time I had been anywhere pretty touristy since I arrived in Egypt. here you can find people selling scultures and trying to sell you camel rides. I was rather impressed of how many people weren’t here to see them. I don’t kow if it was the season or if tourism is just really suffering that bad in Egypt. I practically had the pyramids to myself.
It is rather sad how the pyramids are treated. Local kids climb up and down them, trashing them completely. As you can see in one of my pictures, many people carve their names in them or break off pieces to take as souvenirs. To be honest, you can easily tell new Egyptians do not care about how much history is in their country.
After thoughts on Egypt
After my week here, I gained a lot of appreciation for the Muslim culture. Something that is so talked down about in the U.S. for mostly ignorance. I absolutely loved it and everyone I met. The food was hands down the best food I ever had in my entire life. I was fortunate enough to eat home cooked meals, street food, and nice restaurant grub. I would go back in a heartbeat, but if you don’t want to stay in a touristy area, I recommend having a local friend.