I mentioned in a previous post that I was feeling slightly nervous about having to travel to Egypt alone for work. C & I had gone on a cruise down the Nile back in 2010 and loved the scenery and the history, but not the constant harassment. And obviously now things have changed with the current political context and all the unrest going on in various parts of the world...let's just say I wasn't feeling super reassured about driving out into the desert with some men I had just met. But I also very strongly feel that continuing to travel and learn about other cultures is what will bring us all together in the end, so off I went.
I had three full days of work planned, and had left a fourth day free "just in case". Things usually don't go as planned in developing nations. Meetings get pushed back or rescheduled, the car breaks down, etc, so you always have to leave a bit of wiggle room in your itinerary.
|Sunset on the Nile|
I had booked a room at a small hotel just across from the Pyramids for my last night, figuring if nothing else, I could at least see them from afar before I left. I lucked out and got a room with this view:
|Don't look down. ;)|
Luckily however, when our future customer realized I'd be staying an extra, he offered to help organize someone to show me around. In the end, he ended up having his wife take a day off of work to give me a private tour, along with his sister, their driver and a body guard so we'd be tranquil while looking around.
I know, right??
So they picked me up at my hotel and we drove down the block to the entrance. The first thing that surprised me was how empty the whole site was. Granted, it was the middle of the week, but there were literally more vendors than tourists. The only other tourists I saw the whole time there was a small group of Chinese.
And because there were no tourists, everything was being sold at rock-bottom prices. I didn't really have a strong desire to ride another camel, but it was over 100°F and the guy was offering 5€ for one hour, so why not?
As it turned out, the two women accompanying me had never been inside the Pyramids, so when they asked if I wanted to go in - Um Yes! - they sent the driver off to buy tickets and in we went.
It was pretty incredible, and totally fulfilled one of my childhood dreams. We crawled through crazy tunnels:
I definitely felt safe there - compared to most of the other countries I travel to, most people barely blinked an eye at me, even though I'm sure I stuck out like a sore thumb given the lack of tourists. If you're wondering, most women wore a head scarf, but I felt no pressure to wear one, even in the countryside*.
Prices were low - my hotel right across from the Pyramids cost $50 a night including breakfast, and both food and other tourist attractions also offered rock bottom prices (especially if you negotiate). The water was clean and the restaurant hygiene was top-quality, at least in the restaurants we ate at.
All in all, I think now is a good time to visit Eypt, though if it's your first time, I would still probably recommend going with an organized tour, or at least hiring a guide. Things are not very well sign-marked and you'll probably enjoy your time more if you've got someone to show you the ropes. It's also not always super clear online, but you can buy a visa on arrival at the major airports - it costs $25 and they prefer if you pay in USD (cash). I also heard that a few of the tourist ports have waived the visa fee if you are just staying within their resort areas - Sharm El Sheik, etc.
*In case anyone was curious, as far as clothes went, most women were wearing long-sleeve tops and full-length pants or skirts. I didn't think I could handle full-on winter clothes since I'm not used to the heat, so I packed long skirts, cropped pants and three-quarter length cotton tops and felt just fine. I think as long as you're not wearing tank-tops or booty shorts (outside of the beach resort areas anyways), it would be fine. And also, pack comfortable walking shoes that you don't mind getting dirty - pretty much everything is gravel or sand, and beige colored shoes would fare much better than black or white ones.