As a self-proclaimed traveler I sometimes feel a pressure to love every destination I visit. As a blogger I want to share positive and exciting experiences. But sometimes, things just aren’t all that great. Cairo wasn’t horrible. Sure I was sick of everyone demanding yet another tip from me and didn’t like the food, but it was less so horrible and more so bland, meh, whatever…
On my second day in Egypt, I knew I wanted to explore Cairo. It happened to be my 25th birthday and I preferred to enjoy a relaxed day without any real plans. We relocated to a hostel in downtown Cairo, explored the Egyptian museum and sampled a variety of the local cuisine at a restaurant that seemed very popular with the locals. By the end of the day, I found myself wondering if I had been wrong… was Cairo even worth a day?
Our morning began with a driver demanding 200 EGP in addition to the cab fare from Giza to Cairo before letting us out of the car. We learned after many similar experiences in Egypt that it is smart to know what an appropriate rate and tip is for your route – and yet it’s still a bit unnerving when someone brazenly tells you that you’re wrong and cheating them of their money. A few students we later met in Luxor warned us never to tip anybody in Egypt because they’ll just ask for more assuming you can afford it. And a guide told my dad not to get friendly with people in Egypt because friends won’t hesitate to ask you for your money. I don’t know how much I agree with the sentiment but it’s interesting to travel someplace that elicits that sort of advice, and it’s a bit disappointing to feel like you always have to be on guard.
The Museum was not what I expected. Beautiful and grand from the outside, it was dimly lit and disorganized inside. At the gate, guards took tourist’s cameras and stored them for a fee because you are not allowed to bring them inside. I was not comfortable leaving my camera with them and somehow got in without anyone stopping to look through my backpack where my camera was hidden away (hopefully by now you’ve forgiven the poor quality of my phone photos – they’re all I have to share). Inside, we wandered the halls for hours mostly trying to figure out what the unlabeled artifacts were. I know the Egyptian Museum suffered from looters around the time of the revolution, but I was surprised to see objects lying about, rooms filled with shipping crates and entirely unlabeled exhibits. Thankfully my father’s an Egyptian nerd buff, because otherwise we may have been at a total loss.
I’ve decided that the best way to put it is this. If you’ve always wanted to explore Egypt, don’t let anyone’s advice stop you. Go and see it for yourself. Form your own opinions and experiences – after all isn’t that the point of travel? And try to approach the experience with a sense of humor. On the other hand though, you won’t hear me shouting that Cairo has to be added to your bucket list anytime soon.
I will say, though, that it’s worth it to give a place a second chance. I hated Bangkok during my first visit but ended up stopping through five(!) times during my trip in Southeast Asia. After the second and third visit, my opinions of the city changed entirely. The students I met in Luxor gave me the perfect day itinerary for enjoying Cairo and I can’t wait to share it with you tomorrow because I think if I had the time to revisit the city with their advice I’d have a new perspective.
Have you ever traveled someplace you hated? Or have you hated a city then developed a love for it with time?
Planning your own trip to Egypt and looking for suggestions? Check out my itinerary for one week in Israel plus a second week to visit Jordan and Egypt.