These are fair questions since 2011 and the Arab Spring which spurred a series of violent uprisings, subsequent airplane crashes, and religiously-charged events over the last 6 years. The tourism industry is recovering very slowly due to travel warnings (The US Department of State currently has issued an Egypt Travel warning), and fear of the unknown has cut tourism numbers from 14.7 million to 5.4 million in 2016, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.
So, why Egypt now? Why not. Egypt is oozing with history, freshly-cooked ta’ameya (Egyptian falafel), and thousands of ancient temples and artifacts that piece together a civilization that continued to prosper and innovate for over 30 centuries–dating back to 3100 B.C. This decline in tourism actually bodes well for foreigners going there now as we found cheaper prices, empty temples to explore on our own, and felt as safe as exploring in other cities in the US or Europe.
As you exit Egypt Air in Cairo, you enter a new Egypt; a chaotic tune of 22 million souls spilling from Cairo’s dusty streets. It’s hard to describe, but for some reason, the crumbling facades seem to resemble a scene from George Orwell’s 1984 mixed with the density of Mumbai and the neon billboards of Vegas. Cairo traffic never ceases and it feels like real-life Frogger dodging cars, motorbikes, and exhaust pipes just to cross the street at your own risk. Despite all the chaos, Egyptian people are smiling out of crammed buses and waving eagerly. Around every corner, you find Egyptians smoking from water pipes and inhaling the sweet smoke of flavored Hookah in the bustling alleyways. We indulged in our own taste of Hookah and spent hours people watching and listening to the oud in El Fishawi a popular Khan Kahlili cafe nestled between the labyrinth of colorful vendors and candle-lit shops. Cairo is the launchpad where new-day Egyptians and ancient relics coalesce. Find time to gaze at King Tut’s golden tomb in the Egyptian Museum, do handstands in the dusty distance of the Giza pyramids, or catch a ride on a camel, car, or flight to explore the rest of the country.
Egypt was one of those pinch-me trips that still has not really settled into my bones just yet. My eyes were stuffed with wonder, my belly stuffed with falafel, and my brain with stories of ancient Pharaohs and architectural feats. The Egyptian people are proud and do a magnificent job of showcasing their historical richness. Our travels through Cairo, Luxor, and Hurghada barely grazed the Egyptian surface, but definitely peaked my obsession for returning very soon. I wouldn’t pick a different group of hooligans to spend the nights playing Sheep’s head and the days exploring temples fueled by Egypt Air cookies.