What to Know Before Visiting Egypt
Egypt is one of the hottest vacation destinations in Africa for two reasons. For one, it has numerous tourist attractions – the Pyramids of Giza, the Sphinx, and the Temples of Luxor anyone? And while all of these can be found in the capital city of Cairo (the most famous city in Egypt), it’s not the only place worth visiting. In fact, virtually every city has something to offer, whether it’s a cruise down the Nile, a visit to a Nubian village, or taking in the Unfinished Obelisk.
Secondly, Egypt is one of only a handful of countries that combines features of both Africa and the Middle East. As a result, you really need to understand the Egyptian culture and beliefs, which can make it more difficult to go it alone. Having the right guide will make a huge difference in your experience, and allow you to make the most of your travels..
From Europe or America, you can get to Egypt either by air or by sea (however the former is much speedier and much more comfortable). If cost is a constraint, there are several African airlines with inexpensive flights; you can compare the rates of several airlines to get the best deal.
Now that you know how you’re getting there and what to see, keep these things in mind when journeying to Egypt;
Egyptians love tips
I mean, who doesn’t? The difference is, Egyptians will go out of their way to earn tips. The taxi drivers, waiters, even locals are ready to assist you with your luggage – for a tip. It’s called “baksheesh” in Egypt, and you’ll likely want to keep some cash on hand so you’re prepared.
However, if you don’t have cash (or you’re simply not interested), you don’t have to accept the offered service; a simple “no, thank you” will do. You can also say it in their language – “la shukran”.
Also, cash in Egypt is often greasy, smelly, and dirty because of the number of hands it has passed through, and you can’t go without handling some of it. Your best bet is to have your hand sanitizer handy.
You need to sharpen your bargaining skills
Egyptians sometimes markup their prices because they expect that buyers will negotiate their prices. In fact, it’s rare for two travelers to purchase the same product, from the same seller, at the same price. The difference? Their negotiating ability.
In fact, if you buy anything without negotiating the price, you probably overpaid.
Vendors are never annoyed with travelers bargaining down their goods and services; negotiating is expected.
No public display of affection
Egyptian culture frowns upon public displays of affection, so if you decide to travel with your sweetheart, there should be no cuddling, kissing, or even holding hands in public. Despite this, Egyptian men can sometimes be naughty; they might make loud comments when they pass someone who catches their eye. They don’t mean to harm or embarrass you, but if you feel uncomfortable, you can just say “no” in a loud voice. This will attract unwanted attention to the men, so they’ll quickly go away. However, it’s better to simply ignore them.
Cover your body and head
Egypt is an Islamic country and, as such, the citizens are governed by the tenets and rules of Islam. As a woman, you will need to wear clothes that cover your body, including your shoulders and knees. No cleavage-baring dresses and no curve-accentuating dresses. It will also be necessary for you to cover your head, especially if you are going into a mosque. Sometimes it’s handy to carry a shawl or scarf so you’re always prepared for just such an occasion.
While all the tips listed above are important, the vital one is to be vigilant. Observe the attitudes, dress, and gestures of people around you, and let that guide your decisions. Going in a group is your best bet; not only does it lower the cost, the organizers will make certain you have all the necessary information about Egyptian beliefs and culture so that you can get the most out of trip, and have the cross-cultural experience you are seeking.
Already dreaming of beautiful bazaars and a cruise along the Nile? You’re in luck! Find out more about our Egyptian tour – departing later this year!
Have you been to Egypt? What was your favorite part?