RTW Trip Cairo, Egypt Day 47 and 48: Egypt is safe for tourists, folks!
Some friends and family had some concerns of us heading to Egypt, (including me), but to be honest, I was so glad I ignored everyone’s opinions. A friend has a British cousin currently living in Cairo, and she had some really great reasons to come to Egypt.
IS IT SAFE TO RETURN TO EGYPT?
-There are still very few tourists coming to Egypt, so it is a great time to see all the monuments.
-You will feel very welcome here.
-All the monuments are excellent.
-Egypt can be friendly on your wallet.
She also pointed out some realistic views about Egypt:
-Since there are very few tourists now, there may be extra hassle at tourist sites because they are desperate to make a buck.
-There has been an increase in muggings since the revolution because the police have not been out on the streets as much. On the plus side, she did still feel safer in Egypt than in places like London or New York.
-You need to be very careful about taking photographs of authorities. They are rather suspicious of foreigners and journalists.
After her email, and reading a bunch of articles and forums, we finally decided to just go. I mean, can you imagine going to the ever famous Pyramids with no crowds??? I really didn’t want to worry my parents, so I have to admit that I did not tell them about Egypt until after we left the country.
It was a very long travel day before arriving in the evening. We had met an Aussie guy on the plane, who was traveling for a year and a half!
GETTING A TOURIST VISA
When you arrive at Cairo Airport, do keep in mind that you need to buy a $25 tourist visa. You first go to the small bank currency exchange booths to purchase your visa, and then get in line for customs. Don’t worry, they are right next to each other within the same area. I would highly suggest having $50USD in cash ready, as that is their preferred method of payment.
My first impressions of Egypt were of super busy streets (can we say New York times 100?), loud honking cars, bombed out looking buildings, and nice locals. I got all that from the first few hours in the country, and it definitely held true throughout our trip!
We stayed at Wake Up! Hostel in a private ensuite room, located about an 8 minute walk to the Egyptian Museum. It was basic, cheap, clean enough, in a good location with friendly staff, and even had the same cool view of the Nile as other 5 star hotels! It comes with breakfast of toast, eggs, and tea, has 2 floors of rooms, (we were on the higher floor which I heard was quieter), and a questionable elevator that worked on and off throughout our stay. Like a lot of reviewers have said, it looks like a bombed out building from the outside, but do not fear!
GOING TO A HOSPITAL IN CAIRO
The next day, I was still feeling under the weather , and decided to have my insurance book me another doctor’s appointment with an English speaking doctor.
We ended up taking a taxi to As Salam International Hospital, which was a bit challenging, as we had to take the metro, an then take a taxi to the hospital. At first, we hopped into a auto rickshaw, and when we realized our auto rickshaw driver had absolutely no idea where we were going, or cared to ask for help, we hopped out. To my surprise, as I stepped out, he pinched my butt. What!?! After some help from some local non-English speaking mechanics close by, we finally hopped in a cab in the right direction.
Going to the hospital in general is never a great experience, and going to a hospital in a foreign country can be even more uncomfortable. I did not expect much, and found the staff to be extremely kind, except for the doctor I actually saw. Is it normal to be scared to ask the doctor questions? It wasn’t because I was afraid of what she would say, but it was because I was afraid that she would bite my head off! Needless to say, I got the visit over with, got my medicine from a neighboring pharmacy and was on my way. When we left the hospital, we got a little lost, and a guy in his twenties with excellent English guided us back to a train station, and even rode us all the way to our stop. He was so kind, and I think he just really wanted to use his English. He even gave us his number in case we needed anything while we were in Cairo!
EATING, READING, AND WATCHING LIVE MUSIC IN EGYPT
Before arriving to Egypt, I looked up what types of food everyone should eat while traveling there. One of the first things that came up, was kushari. Consisting of pasta, lentils, fried onions, and some tomato sauce, this was filling, cheap, and delicious….especially at the ever famous Abou Tarek. This place is famous all over Cairo, and happened to be a couple minutes from our hostel. It is within the auto car neighborhood, bustling with workers dishing out the stuff in the front window for takeout. Men and women are dining here specifically for this carb infused meal. We enjoyed it so much, we ended up eating here almost every day in Cairo!
In the afternoon, we walked around the neighborhood and saw the Egyptian Museum from the outside, remnants of the revolution at Tahrir Square, cement walls covered in graffiti, food vendors, extreme traffic, and a lot of smiles and hellos. We managed to find the American University of Cairo Press Bookstore, where we picked up our trusty Middle East Lonely Planet book. We never travel without one! The price was about the same as the US, which seems like a lot in Egyptian pounds, but is oh so useful.
We were meeting up with the Aussie guy and his Egyptian friend for a traditional Egyptian music concert in the evening, so we grabbed some delicious Egyptian pizza for dinner. Feteer has a flaky, almost phyllo like crust, with delicious Egyptian flavors. All for about $1!?! To top it off, we found a liquor store right by our hostel.
The concert was held at the intimate Egyptian Center for Culture and Art, and featured Mawawil Gamlat Shiha, an adorable woman with a voice and swagger. I couldn’t understand anything she was saying, but the audience (both foreign expats and local Egyptians) absolutely adored her, including me. The concert venue had a pretty cool interior, and it was nice to go to a concert that was filled with residents rather than tourists. After the concert, we went to a local “bar” to have some “drinks” with our new friends. (“Bar” meaning a place to drink, and “drink” meaning juice, since alcohol can be hard to find!)
Costs for Day 47:
Tix for train to Casablanca Airport 80 dirham
Schwarma sets and coke at airport 122 dirham
Tourist Visa for Egypt $50 USD
Taxi from the Cairo Airport to Wake Up! Hostel 60 Egyptian Pounds (LE)
Wake up! Cairo Hostel $22
Water 7 Egyptian Pounds
Total cost: 202 dirham + $75 USD + 67 LE = $106.49 / 2 = $53.25 per person
Costs for Day 48:
Wake Up! Cairo Hostel $22
Metro 3 LE
Taxi to As Salam Hospital 10LE
As Salam Hospital fee 300LE
Drug fee 24LE
Kushari Abou Tarek 27 LE
Beer 50 LE
Bananas 2.5 LE
Middle East Lonely Planet book 220 LE
Water 4 LE
Egyptian Pizza 7 LE
Water 4 LE
Concert 60 LE
Mango juice and tea 15 LE
Total cost: $22USD + 726.5 LE = $123.61 /2 = $61.81 per person
What I learned: Always good to have back-up USD in cash. USD can often be used in other countries, and can often be the preferred method of payment for tourist visas.
Actual dates of travel: Oct. 20, 2014 and Oct. 21, 2014