A few weeks ago I started my travel tales from Egypt by sharing one of the highlights of the trip — visiting a local countryside wedding and pissing out the bride.Well actually the whole trip was a huge success. We visit many places and had a lot of fun, traveled thousand of kilometres and even had time to take some time off and relax. Our first plan was to visit all of Cairo’s tourism destinations in just one day and then quickly leave the city. Egypt is a huge country and with a short trip as ours you need to put in a lot of effort to see everything in just 10 days. My first trip to Egypt promised to become the best planned trip of my life… until it all blew up in my face.
I had heard quite a lot of stories about Cairo. I already knew that I would not like the city. Crowded loud cities are simply not my cup of tea. Yet I was curious to see the Pyramids; being pretty much the only reason why I wanted to visit Cairo in the first place.
Me and Nora arrived to the city very early in the morning, at around 6 AM. I quickly booked a hotel room, while sitting at the bus station, looking over the sunrise while sipping some hot arabic tea. As it was supposed to be our only night in Cairo, I decided to fulfil my dream and find a hotel overlooking the pyramids. Why? Because….Well, it seemed kind of idyllic? I imagined drinking my morning coffee on our private terrace, while overlooking the magnificent pyramids sparkling under the sun. I mean, you know how crazy I am about breakfast travel moments. All of it would’ve probably been possible if only put in the effort to pay more than 10€ per night for two. In reality the only view we got was our window opening directly to the bathroom. I didn’t even dare to touch the bed without being fully clothed, sock included. The roof terrace really existed though, and the pyramids were also there.
However my impression of Cairo turned out a lot better than I expected. Yes, the city was extremely crowded and noisy, full of dust and endless car horns. Yet it was filled with life, culture and joy. Cairo was so much more than just high apartment buildings; although there was more than plenty of those in the city as well. However for me the palm-covered coasts of the Nile, Parisian streets and countless little stores-cafes-restaurants become a lot more iconic. Though truth be told, I didn’t spend all my time in the most beautiful destinations of the city, but also spent a few days in the slums, seeing a completely different side of this city of 10 million people.
Clearly, my privilege was also in the fact that I didn’t have to travel alone as a Northern girl. My local friends made sure that me and Nora were always safe and never bothered by other highly enthusiastic people. They were always just a phone call away, ready to cuss off anyone trying to play a trick on us. It was highly appreciated, as my Arabic vocabulary continuously consists of phrases like „The United Nations“ and „violent death“, which sadly is not a very useful combination. We did have some occasional issues, but nothing major; just simple clashes that happen everywhere in the Middle East. Since I’m quite well traveled in this region, then I guess that some of the experiences have already made me more adaptive in this beautiful culture. But all in all, Cairo truly was marvellous. It woke me up from a long deep sleep and made me feel alive again. The trips that make you feel alive are the best ones, right?!
Yet all these good emotions meant the we practically didn’t get out of Cairo at all. Well of course, we visited the Sinai peninsula and Alexandria by the Mediterranean and also some smaller villages near Cairo. Yet the South of Egypt remained completely undiscovered by us. Cairo just had too much to discover! Furthermore, as one of my local friends was working for the government, he got us in to places where normal tourists could never go. One of the most surreal experiences was visiting a counter-terrorism observatory that used proactive measures to fight against the propaganda of radical islam; inviting people to practice moderation in religion. The security measures of the observatory were so strict that all the other guests had gone through an extensive background check before that lasted for weeks, before they got their security clearance. Yet we received our security clearance in just 12 hours, being personally vouched for by my friend. It was an unforgettable experience.
So no, my time in Cairo didn’t exactly go according to plans. Simply because the city was too interesting and too vibrant! And believe me, I’m incredibly picky when it comes to cities — I just really liked it. If there is anything I regret, it’s not flying directly to Cairo. I would’ve been happy to spend more time in this magnificent city and to try really blend in with the locals. Well, as much as I possibly could have in this entirely male-dominated Middle Eastern Capital.