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  • Elizabeth Cochran

What Egypt is really like

My trip to Egypt was an adventure and filled with thrills, sites, and a busting culture. As a solo traveler going to Egypt was more of a challenge, but as a beginner in Arabic and a determined woman Egypt was an amazing trip. When I think of Egypt I think of crazy traffic, falafel, bustling cities, and huge souks.

Going to Egypt is a dream for most, which is why I had to go. I had gone on a trip to Egypt for a two week trip. The plan was to enjoy the museums, experience Egyptian food, see the Luxor ancient tombs, and the Giza pyramids. Egypt is a place where it caters to budget travelers and luxurious travelers. To my surprise Egypt was filled with bustling cities in Cairo and crowds of people and life.

Landing in Egypt was an adventure as it felt chaotic and loud. The traffic is the first thing you notice, as it runs with a flow or an "organized chaos". It brings the charm to the city, that you couldn't imagine until you are there. I quite enjoy the feeling of differences and just the thrill of the experience of a new culture. The rush, bustling cities, souks (markets), traffic, hookahs on the street, and the large street vendors filled with people yelling to get their chance at a tasty falafel. This is what I noticed when I was in the cab from the Cairo airport to my accommodation downtown. I was so thrilled looking out the window, so excited for what was to come.

That night I settled in and was exhausted. My accommodation was a hostel in a skyscraper, but a rather old skyscraper. The view from the accommodation was amazing as you could see the whole city from atop. The hostel was an open terrace with many different rooms, private, shared by genders, and bigger rooms as well.

The hostel had amazing and friendly staff, they had recommended the best foods. They were authentic Egyptian places including the famous koshary place called Abou Tarek, an extremely popular falafel, hummus place, and a few Egyptian places and cafes. They even had signs and pamphlets for us to help with Arabic phrases.

Here I am enjoying the authentic koshary place Abou Tarek and posing like the koshary king in style.

Abou Tarek famous koshary and the koshary king

Luckily, I had been living in Morocco for the past half year and my Arabic wasn't terrible, however they speak different dialects which made it a bit challenging, but I wasn't completely lost. That night I had some delicious falafel, hummus, and lentil soup on the rooftop overlooking the city. I went to bed and was looking forward to the great adventure of Egypt.

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In the morning bright and early it was time to adventure! I was with my close friend from Morocco, she also was an American and we both could speak some Arabic, put us together and we could manage enough. We walked around the city, did some sightseeing, and kept acclimated to a slower pace of indulging in tea time and siesta time. The thing I love most about traveling is being able to explore and the new experiences, good or bad.

To say that Egypt was an ease, and a dream come true would be a lie. Traveling always looks glamourous due to social media, but really there are always challenges. It doesn't stop me from enjoying a place at all though. In Egypt, they will try and get you to buy and buy and buy, they won't leave you alone sometimes, and it got annoying. Don't let them convince you to buy something you don't want and stay alert about your belongings. Keeping your guard up truthfully is important in this country. With that being said though, Egypt is a land of bargaining so use that to your advantage. Know that most everything in the souks they will tell you something too expensive, bargain and join in on their fun. Bargaining is apart of their culture and is the fun part about shopping really.

Often we would get bothered while walking around to buy something anything, but saying no sternly in Arabic would get them to go away. Then they would be more friendly to us and ask us how we could speak some Arabic. We sometimes thought we were getting ripped off though and it turns out we were wrong, sometimes. When we had gone to the Al- Azhar park, which is a famous park with marvelous views, delicious cafes, and lots of events going on there.

Our meal in Al- Azhar park in Cairo

The Al-Azhar park

We were asked upon entering to pay to enter and we thought it was them just trying to rip us off since we were tourists, but it turns out you did need to pay. It was a misunderstanding, but granted Egypt did try to rip us off a lot. We had researched beforehand common scams in Egypt and even had a friend who had come to Egypt before to help us out with some tips.

We got to see a lot, but truthfully I would have preferred to have stay a bit longer. Some of the things I did and recommend would be to see of course the pyramids, but also see other things too. We tried to do a mix of the top things to do like the tombs, pyramids, and famous Egyptian museum, but also go to really authentic Egyptian places, go to the local markets and see also a mix of the tourist sites, and the local life. We went to the huge Cairo mall one day and it was cool to experience that and we went to a movie, we actual saw the Avengers. That was a whole adventure going to the mall.

Going to the mall we had gotten a taxi cab and told him our destination and also showed on the map where to go. he understood the general area, but once we got closer and closer we realized this dude wither forgot where he was taking us or he never knew to begin with. We were watching on our maps, which you definitely need to do when getting in a taxi in Egypt. He was going the right direction, but what was funny was he started to yell and talk to other taxi drivers and ask where he needs to go. We spoke enough Arabic to understand that's what he was doing and it was hilarious. I mean this wasn't a shock at all, Moroccan do this too, they like to chat to other taxis drivers while doing their trip.

This guy though was for sure lost and he needed our help on how to get there, but we didn't know how to instruct him. A guy on the road we showed him on the map, while we were driving by the way, and he then translated it to our taxi driver. Talk about chaos. The taxi driver kept saying no problem, and was smiling, having a good time. He then looked at us with no fear, just high energy, and smiles as he started to go full speed on a highway, but backwards. He missed the turn awhile back, so he was like no problem, and went backwards and he went fast. This was so hilarious to us and we looked at each other like oh shoot, we are not in America, and laughed. Egyptians drive really crazy and we experienced this day after day here, but this for sure was a memorable one that stuck out. We arrived to the Cairo mall and he tried to overcharge us, but we paid it anyway. He got us there safely I guess, and it was a pretty long drive with the traffic, but we ended up paying him a bit more.

Egypt was a place where while it was a wild adventure, I would go again. It is developing rapidly and I am sure in a few years Cairo will have changed dramatically. The pyramids, tombs, museums were magnificent to explore. It had my childhood curiosities of pyramids and all of that come to life. Overall, Egypt was amazing; it inspired my curiosity, and definitely gave me an unforgettable adventure.

To read more on the top things to do and see in Egypt, I have my travel guide for you here.

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