Final thoughts on Egypt

Trip Start Jun 19, 2008
Trip End Sep 04, 2008

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Where I stayed
Wake Up! Cairo Hostel

Flag of Egypt  ,
Friday, July 4, 2008

I just could not decide whether to spend today in Dahab or Cairo.  My two roomies left in the morning to Nairobi and Tel Aviv, so I had the whole room to myself.  I felt like the last kid left in the college dorms in the finals week.  I got a mango thickshake, read a British fashion magaizine someone had left, and snorkelled by the lighthouse.  Without functional a/c and internet in the room, I got really fed up, especially with the incompetent staff.  I was supposed to meet up with some people I met on the way here!   Whatever, whatever, I just took the 12:30pm bus to Cairo.  About half of the seats were taken- all Egyptian men.  The bus got filled up at Sharm el-Sheikh.  I thought it was kind of bizarre that the bus was full, and I was the only one sitting by myself.  Maybe the ticket officers purposely didn't assign anyone to the seat next to me, or maybe the person assigned to the seat chose not to sit there.  Thanks to the considerate person, I got to sit comfortably without having a creepy guy spilling over to my seat.  The bus was brand new too, with plastic covers not fully removed.  They showed several movies in Arabic, and the guys seemed to be loving it.  They were all clapping and laughing. 

After 9 hours, the bus dropped me off at an unknown bus station instead of the one right by the hostel I am staying at.  I panicked.  I HATE it when this happens.  I hate, hate, HATE having to take a taxi from an obscure location by myself.  I avoid taxis like plagues, especially in Cairo.  Good things happen to good people- I got rescued by a Polish-Egyptian couple who happened to speak English and stay at a hotel close to my hostel.  We carpooled, they got dropped off first (unfortunately), and I ended up getting in a fight with the taxi driver.  He demanded 15EGP and I gave him 2.  I could have just walked from the couple's hotel!  I refuse to financially support a dishonest taxi driver.  Even if it is 5EGP, I don't care.  He does not deserve the money!  I have given in way too many times just because I don't want to deal with their crap, and it is THEIR time to give in and go away.  I got rescued once again by a guy who works at the Mitsubishi dealership right next to the hostel. 

Cairo is no longer the wonderful, magical place as I saw it 2 weeks ago.  It really is dirty, noisy, creepy, and crowded like everyone else says it is.  I cannot wait to get out of here.  Cairo, not Egypt.   I had such a great time in Egypt.  I will really miss it.  I am just going to jot down a few things that contributed to my having a successful trip in Egypt without suffering from dysentary, getting kidnapped or big-timed scammed.  A lot of credit goes to Egypt and the Egyptian people of course, but a few things here and there make a big difference.

Safety for women
Women should definitely take women-only train carts.  Stick with young Egyptian women; they are more likely to speak English and willing to help you.  If you have to travel at night, make reservations.  Choose a hostel/hotel with a good staff rating; having a trustworthy Egyptian guide goes a long, long way.  Look confident: it is not a good idea to pull out your LP or Rough Guide in front of Egyptians.  Your life is easier when you have a man with you, but it is completely fine without one too.  I never once felt threatened or unsafe.  There are way too many people in the city for you to be kidnapped or robbed at gunpoint.  The most difficult, stressful thing for me was dealing with taxis.  Taking trains and buses was fine, but taking a taxi to the stations and other touristy areas was such a pain in the ass.  You need to know which places to go with a guide and tour group, which places to go by yourself, and those you can skip.  And I highly recommend joining a tour group or getting a tour package if your destinations involve a lot of taxi rides.  You just don't want to deal with that stuff.

Ah, Egyptian men.  They are certainly obnoxious most of the time.  They stare, say non-sense stuff, try to scam you, and everything else you have heard.  If anybody attempts to touch you or does touch you intentionally, immediately deflect them with a water bottle or your backpack and shout, "Shame on you!"  When a taxi driver, shop owner, guide, or your human shield offers you a cigarrette or a hand, do not take it- it's a test to see how loose you are!  If someone makes you feel uncomfortable and awkward by staring at you, point at the sky and when they stupidly look up, walk away.  Or say something ridiculous like, "Egypt is the mother of the world!"  Or tell them you are walking (instead of taking a taxi).  Shop owners will interview you, ask you where you are from and what your name is.  Be curt and polite.  I pretend like I don't speak good English and say my name is Tutankamen.  When someone asks me if I have a husband, I "Yes, FIVE!" or "He is working."  You have no reason to be a source of amusement, but it does not hurt to make a joke every now and then.  I have seen some really good-looking Egyptian men, and it seems like Egyptian men take care of women. 

I have so much more to say, but I am way too fatigued from wasting the whole day.  If I were to do it all over again, I wouldn't change many things.  I really think this was a very successful backpacking experience, considering that I have never really done it before and I am not familiar with this place at all.  2 weeks have flown by, and tomorrow I will be in Istanbul!
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