Egypt Expectations v Realities

The shocking difference between expectations and realities of vising Egypt

9to5 Travels at Cairo Mena House

9to5 Travels just concluded our Majestic Journey to Egypt and first group tour of 2019. After lots of “research” on others’ experiences, the expectation was that the sights of an impoverished country would make us feel uncomfortable and unsafe and that the people would be harsh. I expected to feel as though the people lacked resources (food, clothes, and everyday living necessities, including toilet paper to name a few). What the reality in fact was, none of it was the case at all. The food was plentiful and yummy from sit down local restaurants to familiar fast food. There were blocks for miles of clothing, food, tech and home furnishings type of stores everywhere. People and children were dressed in current styles similar to back home (outside of those dressed in traditional or religious garb). And, there was even toilet paper at every facility. Can you freakin believe it?

Group Trip

Another big concern was that the people would be harsh and that the peddlers would be aggressive in their solicitations ultimately making us feel nervous and uncomfortable. Turns out the people were friendly and welcoming, peddlers included. They were assertive but with a few "La, Shukraans and No Thank Yous ", it was easy to not feel any forceful hands and not be bothered by any of the solicitor approaches. Most of the time they were accepting of a simple ‘no’, but would engage with light conversation and kind words often with a sense of humor. The overall vibe of the people everywhere (staff at hotels and facilities, to common folk on the streets) was warm and welcoming. Many of the locals spoke English or any language others’ spoke so communicating and connecting was consistently pleasant and added to the comfort of being there and experience.

About the food: I imagined there would be no variety in cuisine and there would only be Middle Eastern style food. I thought I would be sick of the same food and flavors and thought I would be turned off by too much of it. Boy was I wrong. I ate the most delicious Egyptian style food of course, but I also enjoyed amazing pastas, salads, juices and deserts. We even ate McDonalds and KFC once. I mean it was a very long trip so the combination of foods helped me enjoy the same comforts of home.

While the trip was just about perfect, my biggest peeve was the upcharges on some tour offerings from our own tour guides who we had “established” a level of trust and sales on products to purchase at some places. Lucky for me, I did not over indulge on purchasing anything, even at the awesome street bazaar.  A combination of all my research and being from New York, hustle is in my DNA so I wasn’t having it anyway. Despite it being bothersome, it did not ruin the trip because I was prepared and everything else was incredible.

Group travel leader at the Nubian Village in Egypt

Lantern Shop at the Khan el Khalili Bazaar in Cairo

The reason for this trip was to create an incredible introduction to future group trips and host an epic adventure for my clients who are otherwise avid travelers. To do that, I set out for a diverse and eventful itinerary.  It was to include historical sites, luxury accommodations and traditional relaxation seaside despite the common interest to visit Egypt for only its history. We started and ended in Cairo, and stayed at the world renowned Marriott Mena House. The Marriott had meticulous lush grounds and stunning pyramid views. We visited the pyramids of Giza the next day. After that, we took a flight and a beautiful 3-day, full board, Nile River cruise from Aswan to Luxor. The cruise we stayed on had been newly refurbished and the food was delicious. We visited several temples there which included a lovely horse and carriage ride, site visits to several temples and a visit to the colorful Nubian Village.

After the river cruise portion, it was a flight to Sharm el Sheikh for a 3-day stay at an all-inclusive resort to see and enjoy the Red Sea. I arranged for my guests to have ocean front rooms and each room’s view was lined with palm trees, sand and beach huts. It was a lovely way to enjoy some chill time. We had spa treatments, lots of drinks and yummy food, resort activities and conversations with the locals and guests. Everyone knew we were American and everyone we encountered educated us how they never see Americans there. So seeing us was exciting for them (staff and guests included).  I was most surprised to see the water along the Nile River and the beaches was crystal clear and clean. And I was even more surprised to learn that we are so rare and welcomed all at the same time.

All Inclusive Resort in Sharm el-Sheikh

After 3 relaxing days at the resort, we headed back to Cairo and enjoyed the day after which consisted of a full day: a visit to the Egyptian Museum, then Old Cairo for the Coptic Christian village and church followed by a fun shopping spree at the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. The museum was interesting and educational with lots to see, the church and Coptic Christian religion felt holy and shopping at the bazaar was FUN. Being from New York, haggling was right up my alley. I felt like I won most deals and definitely wasn’t uncomfortable with any amount I paid for anything and it was exciting to feel the spirit of the locals at each booth. I paid $8 for two fashion rings, about $7 each for 3 t-shirts and $3 for pharaoh pens. The salesmen all had energetic personalities and a great sense of humor. The trip was unforgettable and exceeded all expectations. Each day was dope.

Making friends at the Giza Pyramids

There were expectations and then there were the realities. The difference was a pleasant surprise and truly a trip of a lifetime.