They Don’t Hate US:
Five Good Reasons Why Now is a Great Time to Visit Egypt
Demonstrations. Violence. Military presence. These are the images we see coming out of Egypt these days. Given this situation, why on earth would you want to travel to Egypt right now? Well as someone who has recently moved to Egypt and done some travel throughout the country, these images are nowhere near what I’ve experienced on a daily basis. In fact, here are 5 reasons why now is a great time to visit Egypt.
Egypt is safe
Despite what you see on the news, Egypt is still a very safe country. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not dismissing the seriousness of the recent events over here.However, it’s important to note that the clashes (mostly between pro-Morsi supporters and the government) have largely been localized to select areas within Cairo, Alexandria and the Sinai Peninsula. Otherwise life inmost of the country goes on much as it did before Egypt became a front page story in the rest of the world.
You must remember that the issues in Egypt right now are domestic ones. There is no reason to believe that you as a tourist stand to be a target of violence simply because you are a tourist. In the few months we’ve lived here we’ve travelled to Luxor, Hurghada, Giza, Bahariya and several sites within Cairo. Other colleagues have visited El Gouna, Sharm El Shiek, Dahab, Alexandria and Aswan. I can honestly say that none of us have felt unsafe at any time.
To minimize the risk of being caught up in something you’d rather not be, it’s important to use common sense. Avoid demonstrations, particularly those after morning prayeron Fridays (this is when they tend to be at their largest). And of course, as with any country you visit, be respectful of local practices and traditions.
In Egypt, this often means covering up for females (t-shirt and capri pants are usually fine, although if visiting a mosque women will also be expected to cover their hair with a scarf).
The tourist sites are virtually empty
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to wander through the ruins of an ancient Egyptian temple all by yourself? Under normal circumstances sites like the Pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, Luxor and many others would be packed with tourists, but a recent report from the Minister of Tourism stated that arrivals from Europe are down 95% since August alone. This is on top of the significant drop in tourism observed since the revolution to overthrow former leader, Hosni Mubarak, in January 2011.
I can personally attest to the lack of tourists venturing to Egypt. My wife and I spent 4 days in Luxor last month and most of the restaurants, temples and shops we visited had little to no other tourist in them. We spent 30 minutes exploringthe amazing Hatshepsut’s Temple on the West Bank of the Nile with only our guide. No need to worry about other tourists getting in the way of your photos! Even the more famous sites like the Valley of the Kings or Karnak Temple only had a few other groups at them.
Tourism isn’t just down in Luxor either. Resort towns along the Red Sea (Hurghada, El Gouna, Sharm El Sheik and Dahab) have also experienced a significant decline in tourism in recent months. It’s quite possible to have a whole section of beach all to yourself, which was unheard of only a short time ago.
Take advantage now. It’s only a matter of time before people start flocking back in droves.
You will get some of the best service you’ve ever had
Because tourism in Egypt has taken such a hit in recent months, those in the industry are doing everything they can to ensure you have a positive experience. They’re hoping that not only will you return, but you’ll also spread the word about the great time you had in their country to your friends and family.
My wife and I are quintessential budget travelers, so we’re not expecting 5-star service most places we go, yet that’s what we feel like we’ve received everywhere we’ve been in Egypt. It’s hard not to feel pretty important when your every need is being catered to.
One example from a recent trip of ours where the hotel manager insisted on preparing us a packed breakfast (free of charge) the night before an early morning bus ride because we’d miss their regular breakfast hours. Never before have we experienced anything like that.
Egypt is an incredible value
On the whole Egypt is an extremely economical destination, particularly if you’re willing to skip the high-end Red Sea resorts and overpriced tours. Perhaps what has surprised me the most is how inexpensive the entrance feesare at popular tourist sites.
Did you know that it only costs 80 LE (about 11.50 USD) to visit the Pyramids of Giza? It’s not just the sites that are cheap though. Transportation, meals and hotels are all providing incredible value. We’ve found double rooms with an ensuite bathroom in some hotels in Luxor for as little as 10 USD per night.
Given the recent decline in tourism, you also have a situation where there is strong competition for your business. If you’re comfortable doing so, don’t be afraid to haggle a little for even better deals. In fact, in most cases, this is expected.That said, keep in mind not to lose perspective when bartering.
People in Egypt are really struggling right now, and while nobody likes to feel like they’re being overcharged for something, if the difference is only a few LE, it’s probably not worth it to take a hard line position on a certain price.
The Egyptian people
Some of our favorite moments while travelling throughout Egypt have been our interactions with the amazingly warm and friendly people. Coming from Canada where people are increasingly disconnected from their neighbors, it’s been extremely refreshing to be welcomed in with open arms by the locals here. It’s true that it can be a bit of a grind dealing with all the vendors at popular sites, but once you get past the aggressive tactics, you start to get a real feel for who these people are.
I won’t soon forget a recent camel ride we took through a small village on the west bank of the Nile. The joy we saw on the children’s faces when they said “hello” to us and received a reply was priceless. Even just being offered tea and conversation with a vendor after making a purchase is an extremely rewarding experience.
So while Egypt may not be the most popular destination to visit these days, if it’s been on your list for a while, now is actually a great time to go. You won’t regret it. Happy travels!
Marcus O’Neill is a Registered Dietitian from Canada currently living in Egypt. He writes blogs about food, health and travel in his spare time. He can be reached by email, or you can follow him via Twitter @marcusoneillrd, and/or visit his website www.dietitianabroad.com
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