The cry of seagulls permeating the air. The crisp, salty smell of the ocean drifting lazily into my nostrils. A decadent, five-star hotel before me, eager to welcome me after a long, sleepless night. None of these things greeted me as I exited my EgyptAir plane and stepped onto the arid and sandy runway, ominous grey clouds lingering above me as I did so. In fact, as myself and the other tourists rode a rickety bus through the dusty and busy streets of Cairo to our hotel, I was beginning to realize the enormity of my surroundings. I was in AFRICA, Egypt no less.
I honestly had very little idea of what to expect from my trip. Having only ever traveled to more “tourist-friendly” locations such as Europe, I was slightly cautious as to how to proceed in a culture so radically different from the one I was used to. Part of me expected to see mud-brick huts lining unpaved streets that were that were populated by camels pulling wooden carts around; that part of me was actually right in certain areas, but for the most part I was pleasantly surprised by modern Egypt. The people there were all incredibly friendly (I had no idea Egyptians loved tourists so much) and I soon discovered why; in Egypt it’s customary to tip anyone for doing anything at any time. If you ask an Egyptian to be in one of your photos, you tip them. If an Egyptian gives you directions or redundant advice, you tip them. If an Egyptian smiles in your general direction, you may as well tip them too.
But we soon escaped all of this tipping and enjoyed a four-day cruise down the Nile, which needless to say was gorgeous. At any point one could look out from the deck of the cruise and see tropical foliage hugging the coastline on either side of the Nile, and beyond that, endless sand, with an occasional decrepit village standing out amidst the bleak desert backdrop. Once or twice the cruise halted and allowed us tourists to go shopping at a local bazaar. But “shopping” is such an inappropriate word; “Being yelled at hoarsely from all directions in fractured English by sweaty Arabs trying to sell you overpriced trinkets,” is a much more appropriate substitution. And yes, these sweaty Arabs did sell their trinkets at ridiculous prices, but the beauty of these prices was that they were negotiable. If one was willing to yell at a complete stranger over the price of an object, that person could get said object for a fraction of the original price. This is how I purchased my wristband, originally 150 Egyptian pounds, for only ten Egyptian pounds instead.
I could go on about the spectacular historical sights I witnessed during my stay, but they truly speak for themselves. The Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, Abu Simbel, Karnak, Philai Temple, and so forth, each one more spectacular and harder to spell than the one before it. And the fact that there was almost never a chain fence separating one from these spectacular monuments (as would almost certainly be the case in the U.S.A) made them seem all the more… monumental. Suffice to say, upon recovery of the initial culture shock, Egypt, with both its superlative and not so superlative aspects, turned out to be the most fascinating country this traveller has had the pleasure of visiting.
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