Egypt: Recap In Full
We have decided we are going to return to Egypt; it’s not a matter of ‘if’, but a matter of ‘when’. Shortly after we left, the protests kicked into full force again (we’ve seen supporting protests and demonstrations here in Jordan), and President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by the army, leaving the country once again in a state of flux. I would be very curious to hear from any travellers in Luxor and Aswan; while we travelled, we noticed distinctly that the revolution seemed to have never occurred in Upper Egypt (Luxor and south). Our hotel in Luxor still had images of Mubarak on the walls, and we were told by a local that no one really cares about the politics in Luxor – their only concern is that tourists feel everything is safe, and start to come back.
Our 3 weeks in Egypt included Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, Aswan and Dahab, with a handful of smaller day-trip sites in between. We ended up not visiting a few places(St Catherine’s Monastery: 3 hour climb up the mountain. My knee wouldn’t allow it), and I have traveller’s remorse over Abu Simbel (I don’t feel it’s worth the trip). Our week in Dahab was snorkelling every day, and worth every moment. There are some hidden shopping gems in Dahab, particularly one shop: a bit after the footbridge, heading towards Eel Gardens, there’s a man selling paintings. We ended up splurging on 3, paying a total of around CAD$30. He sells his work, and that of two friends – if you’re after a unique souvenir, his shop is the best place for one! Sadly, we have forgotten his name, and he has neither website nor business card.
Alexandria, though pretty, was also somewhat disappointing; there’s very little of the coastal-city romance left. We found it worth a day trip, but not much else. Luxor we easily could have spent a week in as a base, exploring more of the sites in the Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, and onward; Aswan we could have managed in 2 full days or 3 slightly less-full, flying out to Cairo in the evening. Cairo by itself was wonderful, and you can easily spend a week or more enjoying the city. It’s inspired a fascination with architecture in both Adam and I, due to the astonishing variety in the mosques, churches and other structures over the centuries. It’s particularly fun to watch the evolution of the lotus and papyrus designs from Old Kingdom through to modern form: they still appear as elements in building designs.
The most frustrating part of our travels was one thing that always is annoying: the questionable “privilege” of being Caucasian, and the foreign expectation that goes with it. White skin equals wealth – and people becoming obdurate when you haggle, or say ‘Oh, but 50 pounds is nothing for a rich (wo)man like you!’. There is an expectation of wealth, and more than once we tried to explain that we don’t live in the West, don’t make Western money. Very few people seemed willing (or able) to wrap their minds around this, and it caused some frustration at various points in Egypt.
Despite those irritating situations, the best part of our travel was a mixture of the sites and the people. Giza was pretty, but would not have been half as much fun without the guide for the camel/horse ride a friend treated us to; our boat trip in Aswan around Elephantine Island was fun, but the felucca captain and his assistant were hilarious. The Egyptian people are warm and helpful, and even when you’re in the midst of haggling or a tense situation, they were never aggressive or made us fear for our safety: instead, they were offering drinks, cigarettes(!), seats, tips and tricks, and ways to make our stay better.