Felt welcome in Egypt

By Liz Fischer
This item appears on page 16 of the January 2022 issue.

My husband, Bill, and I took a 13-day tour of Egypt with Collette (Pawtucket, RI; 800/340-5158, www.gocollette.com) in March 2017 that cost around $5,000 for both of us. We used airline miles for the plane tickets. 

We had both been to Cairo several times working as airline employees and had toured the city, but neither of us had been up the Nile. This trip was a “bucket item,” our chance to really see Egypt.

We went again to Old Cairo, the Egyptian museum and the pyramids. At the pyramids, we watched as two teenage girls rode a camel. (I believe teenage girls throughout the world squeal the same way!)

Sights up the Nile included the Karnak Temple Complex, the Valley of the Kings near Luxor (we went inside King Tut’s tomb and even saw his mummy!), Aswan and several temples. At one temple we saw the “cobra man,” as our guide, Tarek, called him. We could have held the snakes for pictures, but we both declined. 

We even flew to Abu Simbel to see Ramses II’s temples.

Everywhere we went, people were friendly and happy to see us. We got many smiles, from both adults and children, but Egypt has many problems too. 

There is great disparity in Egypt between the wealthy and the poor. But even the most meager homes had TV antennas, and cell phones were everywhere. One time we saw four people on a motorbike; a man was driving with a small boy in front, another man sat behind the driver, and a young woman sat in back — a local form of mass transit.

After the Arab Spring of 2011, with many antigovernment protests, tourism virtually dried up in Egypt. By 2017 it was very slowly recovering. Tarek explained that, since 2011, young people had only vague memories, if any, of Westerners, hence all the smiling faces and friendly waves we received while passing people. Just as we were interested in Egypt, the people we encountered were interested in us.

Because domestic terrorism in Egypt was a concern when we were there, every monument, temple, pyramid and museum we toured had armed security guards, and there was an armed guard on our bus every day. Each hotel we stayed at was gated. Before a bus or car was allowed onto the hotel property, guards checked beneath the vehicle (for bombs, I assume).

Even so, I hope to return to Cairo after the new Grand Egyptian Museum opens, and I’d do this entire tour again. It was fabulous.

At one temple up the Nile, young boys surrounded my husband, Bill, and insisted on taking a picture with him. A similar thing happened to me back in Cairo at the Citadel of Saladin. Three young women surrounded me, wanting a picture. And they kept looking at my hair.

Since virtually all of the women we saw wore at least a hijab (head covering), if not a burka (long, loose garment), they weren’t used to seeing a woman with her hair showing. Of course, I had Bill take a picture of me with them, too.

So, as fabulous as all the treasures of ancient Egypt were, I shall always remember the treasures of modern Egypt: smiling faces, friendly waves, teenage girls squealing and three young women wanting their picture taken with me. Those are the things that made our trip to Egypt especially memorable.

Tarpon Springs, FL