Expat Travels: Egypt

Saturday, October 27, 2018

I'm coming off of one week in the historic land and it was just about everything I imagined it'd be: overwhelming on all fronts

Below are some tips to maximize your stay and ensure that it's as pleasant as possible.

DO hire a guide 

This isn't the place to just wing it. You WILL need a guide, whether you're solo or not. Trust me on this. It can get quite aggressive and downright intrusive due the economic situation at present. I had a woman grab me and tell me that I had to buy Kleenex from her because she had 3 kids. My guide saved me, but a little too late. On that note, DO hire a guide or an agency to take care of your plans. I didn't, and I completely screwed my itinerary up, but made it work in the end.

Could not have achieved these wonderful shots without my guides!

DON'T tell anyone you're agnostic [or atheist]

I knew better, yet still, when one guide asked if I was Christian I blurted out "no" without even thinking. What was an otherwise pleasant day turned into harsh judgement and proselytizing for the ride home. Thank God (pun intended) for headphones and a mean mug. But be clear, this is NOT the place to flaunt your progressive ideas. Again, I knew better. I just had sun brain I suppose. Even though most of the country is Muslim, a belief in something is better than nothing there, even better if an Abrahamic religion. If you're from the USA, it's implied that you're Christian; even if you're not, just go with it.

DO see the sites with an open mind


I do not feel the kinship with Egypt that many Black Americans do, nor do I believe the Ancient Kemetians to be my ancestors. I do believe it's possible to revere a magnificent culture without claiming it as my own. Sorry, hoteps.

That said, I still had questions about who and what the Ancient Kemetians looked like. My Nubian guide in Luxor offered stern but kind and patient correction anytime I attempted to reduce the Kemetians to powerful Black people. It's far more complex than that, and after a visit to the Egypt Antiquities museum [video below], I felt even more perplexed. People around the world are TRIBAL. Remember this before you visit.

You'll see lots of brown people depicted inside the ancient temples and tombs
You'll also see this [4th dynasty royalty]
There was definitely a caste system in Kemet

Do prioritize the sites you absolutely must see before your visit

I missed out on seeing Abu Simbel due to me miscalculating its distance from Luxor and Aswan. Maybe another time. I was intent on seeing The Great Pyramids and Sphinx at Giza, Luxor Temple and Karnak, respectively. Everything else was a nice complement but I knew I had a week to kill. I had no interest in the Ptolemaic sites but it's hard to omit them. Oh well, lesson learned. I enjoyed what I did see, although it's easy to get bored with the information; it's repetitive.

The FABULOUS Luxor Temple

Karnak in Luxor, my favorite of them all!

DON'T try to see everything in one trip, especially a short one

To the previous point: While I felt "templed out" after day 3 of my 7 day stay, there was still A LOT that I missed. The biggest miss was Abu Simbel, and I also missed The Valley of the Queens. So if I ever return I have two major sites to start with.

Colossi of Memnon 

Valley of the Kings

Expensive and underwhelming tomb! Skip it!

DON'T underestimate the weather

My goodness. I eye hawked the weather report for a good two months before my departure and still got it wrong. It was in the low to mid 80s prior to my arrival (and after, hmph) but while I was there, it was high 90s and 100s. That Egyptian sun is no joke. I had sunscreen but I also needed a hat or an umbrella. It was unseasonably hot, be prepared for bipolar weather!

Melting at Edfu!
Went and bargained for a sunhat shortly after this.

DO dress appropriately

Some young rebecca had her whole ass out at the Great Sphinx. She was visibly embarrassed and kept pulling her skin tight shorts down, but her ignorant, equally ill-dressed friends egged her on. These are temples that you're visiting. They were once the holiest sites in the land. Though the environment has changed, respect and basic decency remains. It's appropriate to cover your shoulders and knees in this region no matter where you are.

Even had to wear special shoes to see the temple boat

DO eat authentic Egyptian food

My faves were the falafel, the Koshary and the stew. I also had sugar cane juice but I realize that aint for everybody.

nice spread for lunch

Koshary tastes better than it looks!

DON'T ride the camels at the pyramids

Seriously. They look near death. I don't know how anyone with a soul does it, tbh. The sites aren't that big, just walk to and fro. You're surrounded by awesomeness, leave the animals alone.

Camel ride unnecessary

DON'T disrespect the relics

You WILL be chastised, or meet a worse fate. My guides constantly had to tell fully grown adults not to climb the 4,000 year old structures like children. It was utterly shameful. Don't let Instagram get you cussed out.

Unfortunately we witnessed a man break his arm and crack his skull on the Great Pyramid. I went inside and found it too hot to bear, so I promptly exited. Others persisted, and were dripping with sweat on exit. This man fainted on the steps several feet above ground level. Listen to your body, the sites will be there for another time.

Don't climb me bro!

DO bargain, or simply say no

Honestly, a lot of the souvenirs for sale can be found at your nearest dollar store. It's the same shit. Don't go out there and pay $50 for dollar store art. I did get suckered for a Papyrus print, but I bargained! 😆

This cockeyed, blasphemous foolishness was for sale
 I have for sure seen the other items in my local, hood flea market

DO ask questions if something doesn't make sense

I had three different guides with three differing viewpoints on Kemet. One incident that stood out was when one of my guides took offense to me referring to the builders as "slaves", preferring instead that I call them workers. Nah, bruh. You don't acquire all that wealth and luxury without some form of slavery. Ramses II is one of the most popular Pharaohs in the world, and known for making Nefertari, a Nubian slave, the sole Queen of Kemet. Of course he had no answer when I challenged him on this. This was the same guide that said some MAGA hat wearing tourists convinced him that Trump was doing great things for the USA.

DO respect the current inhabitants of the land

Granted, Kemet and Egypt are night and day, it's still important to know about the present day residents. Since I live in an Arabic nation, I already knew a few common greetings, and everyone I encountered grinned from ear to ear when I used them.

Wasalam o Alakum! : standard greeting when entering any space or when encountering locals

Yalla! : let's go!

Inshallah! : Lord willing or God willing. When my Aswan guide told me that I'm too pretty not to be married [facts] and said it would happen soon, I responded with "Inshallah". He and the driver yelled with glee 😂 because I knew the term and how to use it.

Shukran! : thank you

Modern day Egypt
Congested and conservative

DON'T make eye contact with random men

This is something I adhere to in Doha. Unfortunately, eye contact isn't a sign of respect here as it is back home, but rather perceived as a show of aggression or a sexual invitation. Ladies, wear sunglasses everywhere to be on the safe side. It sucks, but it's what it is.

View from my hotel, on the Nile River
Stunna shades at all times

DON'T skip Memphis and Saqqara

Because Pharaoh Hatshepsut was a bad mamajamma, and some of Ramses II's best busts are there. It's also a greener, quieter part of Egypt.

Egypt was overwhelming. There are tons and tons of ancient artifacts to peruse. There are dozens upon dozens of temples to see. There's a complex dynamic among the people. There are millions of cars on the road [seriously, take a dust mask!]. The bad economy has made for an aggressive landscape. It was too much to take in. It's one of the few times I felt I needed a vacation from my vacation. Whew!

Egypt is in a tumultuous, unpredictable region and I wanted to maximize my time there, just in case. Against my better judgment, I went solo, but I never felt unsafe and my guides kept me away from ultra aggressive hagglers. 
Definitely a trip to be remembered!

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