My Cairo Bucket List

Day 1 in Cairo, Egypt (10/13/21):

First Impressions:
-Cairo is in my top ten for worst traffic. I spent 90 minutes stuck in traffic on what should have been a 40 minute drive on a late Wednesday afternoon. My Uber took a wrong exit so he literally reversed back up the exit to reenter the highway.
-Like Turkey, there are hustlers everywhere and the easiest giveaway is that they speak exceptional English. Sometimes, I give them the time of day because they do know what they’re talking about and can introduce you to something knew. But, from tours to souvenirs, if you take their first, second, or sometimes even third offer you most likely paid too much. I don’t mind paying a few bucks more for something, but no one likes getting taking advantage of.
-All that being said, I have a feeling I’m going to like Egypt but only time will tell.

Day 2 in Cairo, Egypt (10/14/21):

-Cairo is not a place to party. You can drink, but don’t expect a load of options or pub crawls.
-Crossing the street here is reminiscent of my two years in Vietnam. There, you slowly walk across the street so bikes can predict your movement and move around you. Here, it’s the same way, but with cars, so it’s important to measure if you can clear the space of the car in time. If you’re not sure or scared just literally use a crossing local as a shield. Definitely complete taboo to walk in front of moving cars but this is Cairo.
-The Cairo Tower is pretty small, only seven floors high. Apartment buildings in NYC would tower over it.
-The Nile River, at least here, is pretty clean, blue, and isn’t filled with crocodiles like I imagined for some reason. People just get on lit up boats and cruise up and down the Nile playing horrible electronic. They don’t dance or drink – just sit there. It’s silly. I miss the techno/house scene in Ukraine so much right now.
-Cairo has some of the cheapest yet nicest hostels. If I had to quarantine in one I wouldn’t even be mad.
-Good WiFi isn’t common but you can buy a 16GB, one month SIM card at the airport for less than $10USD.
-Cairo is dusty as crap. I wear my facemask in the street just so I don’t directly inhale the dust. Also, reminiscent of Vietnam.

Day 3 in Cairo, Egypt (10/15/21):

-I got thrown out of the opera today. Went through two layers of security then the third one pointed to a rule that said formal wear is required – a tie specifically. I pointed to the rule right under it that literally said, “semi-formal is allowed on occasion” and the people walking in with jeans on to point out the hypocrisy. In the end, we met in the middle. He didn’t let me in but let me go to another show that was in the outside theatre and had a more lax dress code. Ironically, I ended up meeting two super nice local girls as a result so I’m not even mad.
-There are no coins here. If your bill is a weird number it just gets rounded up.
-No one uses headphones here. In the gym, restaraunts, and metro people just play their videos and music without any courtesy to the people around them.
-People here are super friendly towards me. I’m not sure why.
-Want to make an Egyptian smile? Just tell them they have good English.
-This is definitely a male dominated country. The metro even has a carriage just for women and not for positive reasons.
-The Egyptian Museum isn’t bad but it’s so touristy that it takes away from it. The exhibits aren’t anything that you can’t see elsewhere either as so many museums have Egyptian exhibitions. What stood out to me was their mummified exhibition. I’ve never seen a mummified crocodile.

Day 4 in Cairo, Egypt (10/16/21):

-I went to the Coptic Museum and surrounding religious sights today. I took an Uber scooter which is just like Vietnam’s Grabbike and this man drove even worse. No helmets and he drove in and out of traffic, turning around twice against the flow of traffic because he missed his turns, and whenever we had a clear lane he floored it. Probably won’t be doing it again. We narrowly missed a huge pothole because he was going too fast and couldn’t quick stop appropriately. I would’ve gotten ejected and then it would’ve been the end of my trip to say the least.
-First thing that happens to me when I get to the Coptic Museum is a random local tells me not to trust anyone and that there is only a fee to enter the museum. He then tells me he just had a baby last night and wants to celebrate by offering me a glass of tea in his shop a few feet away. I oblige but am extremely weary because he never offered to show me photos of his kid which is the first thing you always do normally. He ask me to teach him an informal English greeting for Americans so I do and he repays me by letting me smell his perfumes. He asks which one I like the best and I tell him. He bottles it and says it’s a present – only $38USD. A day tour to the Giza Pyramids is the same price. I tell him no thanks so he says just give me whatever you think is good. I tell him I’m meeting someone and need to go and so he says you keep it and when you come back I will show you my shop and you can pay whatever you like but only if you promise to return. I never came back. I go to my hostel and show the receptionist this amber cologne and ask him how much it’s worth. He says max $3USD. Like I said before, the best giveaway for hustlers is if they are overly nice and speak excellent English. They are not your friends. Always think about it on paper. How long and well do you know the person? A few minutes and not at all – you owe him jack and shit then.
-I’m feeling the food out here. Kushari and Alexandrian liver are my picks. Egyptians know how to make it that perfect level of spicy where it’s hot but your sinuses aren’t running and your tongue isn’t on fire.

Day 5 & 6 in Giza, Egypt: 10/17/21-10/18/21):

-I’ve literally been asked over a dozen times if I’m Egyptian. Everytime, I reply, with a straight face, “No, I’m just sexy.”
-I went to Giza, Memphis, and Saqqara today on a private tour and, even though I enjoyed it, it was one of my most disappointing travel experiences and here’s why:
-There are numerous hidden fees you think are included but aren’t. Entry into each individual site, many will give you a discount if you have a student ID like me, but then you have to pay more for going by car, and more if you want to go inside the actual tombs. This can add up to $60USD to your trip. My actual private tour was $35 so it could’ve nearly tripled my costs now.
-Don’t accept anyone’s offer to take a photo of you, they are only doing it for a tip which we call ‘”tea money”. One even wanted a tip just for giving me directions.
-When negotiating, make sure you’re clear on what currency you’re discussing. I made a deal with a guy in USD, when I went to pay his cashier, he gave me the price in Euros and I caught him before he could tap my card. Would’ve been 15% more.
-I was approached 7 times by vendors in Giza alone and they never took no for an answer. When they finally realized they weren’t making a sale, their smiles turned to scowls and they always exclaimed something in Arabic. Probably cussing me out, but these hands are bilingual.
-Like Turkey, the Egyptian way is to hustle as much as they can out of you and they always make it personal. The best example of this is a horse/camel ride around Giza. I’ve heard prices from $20-$280USD, not including tip, depending on the duration, but I’m still not sure what a good deal is even now. My advice is to never go with their first or second offer. And if they get upset negotiating, good, it’s better to be an asshole than a sucker.
-Overall, the constant and aggressive hustling and pressure to spend more really kills the experience. You never get a breather to just drink in the moment. Would I recommend it? Yes, but with very low expectations.

Day 7 in Cairo, Egypt (10/19/21):

-Egypt is a free for all. 8/10 don’t wear a mask, people don’t rack their weights at the gym, people don’t respect queues, traffic is organized chaos, trash is everywhere, j-walking is the only way to cross the streets, and racism towards tourists is blatant everywhere.
-The majority of Egyptians I’ve encountered are unapologetically all about money and I hate that mentality.
-I stumbled into the Museum of Islamic Art and began emptying my pockets for the metal detector. The white-uniformed police there approached me with their hands on their guns. Stunned, I just looked at them and one told me I couldn’t come in without a mask on even though they weren’t wearing them. I just walked out based off of my gut feeling alone.
-I went to Khan el-Khali and before I could even get off my motorcycle a hustler was already asking me where I was from. Biggest red flag. Then he tells me he’s just being a nice guy. Red flag number two. If you’re really a nice guy, there’s no reason to tell anyone, it should be apparent. He’s just trying to get you to lower your guard and rope you into a conversation that will turn into a sale pitch. Unsurprisingly, he was pushy, aggressive, and fake friendly as I kept walking – the stereotypical Egyptian scammer. When he realized I wasn’t going into his shop he exclaimed, “fuck you,” to me. Part of me felt disrespected, part of me laughed that he went from “I’m a nice guy” to saying fuck you to me within 30 seconds. Hustlers take rejection VERY personal here.
-Strays are everywhere, treated poorly, and I hate it.
-A random group of kids asked me to flex for them and of course I did. After, one of them gave me a bouquet of small flowers he had picked.
-Another guy asked me for a picture at the bazaar. I jokingly asked for one million dollars in return. After we took a picture I pretended to check my pockets. I made him and his friends laugh both times.
-I can’t speak for Egypt as a whole, but as far as Cairo goes. Avoid it like the plague. The Giza Pyramids are not worth it. It’s at the very bottom of my list and I’m approaching 40 countries traveled.

Day 8-10 in Cairo, Egypt, the Baharya Oasis, and the White Desert (10/20/21-10/22/21):

-Locals consider Cairo, New Cairo, and Giza just one big city instead of 3 separate ones.
-Don’t walk under the cover of buildings here. The outside AC units are always dripping water.
-People often walk in the roads because the sidewalks are normally full of debris, blocked off by parked cars, or overgrown with shrubbery.
-It’s not safe for women, in general, to walk around or even Uber alone at night in Cairo.
-The water here is very hard and full of iron. To me, it smells like sulfur when boiled. Your boiled eggs will taste accordingly.
-The oasises here are overrated. The water smells and there is nothing natural about the oasises themselves because they are manmade.
-That being said, the deserts here are out of this world. Camping out in the White Desert, learning to sandboard, watching the sunset, the moon rise, and the sunrise the next day is something I’ll always remember.
-Like many 2nd and 3rd world countries, people in Egypt are never on time. It took me years to not take this personal as in the US we are expected to be 15 minutes early for everything.
-Locals always say, “as you like” in response to questions.
-Tipping is expected and a lot of locals are VERY pushy about this. Far worse than America.
-Every snack here from Cheetos to Pringles has a chili flavor and I love it.
-Milk and even dairy-based protein shakes taste sour to me.
-Egyptian salesmen are the worst and least trustful people I’ve ever encountered in nearly forty countries. They try to scam even their own people regularly. They are the biggest stain on Egypt as a whole.
-I would return to Egypt to give other cities a shot, but I will never go back to Cairo. I would only recommend tourists to go there for a day to see the Giza Pyramids, but with low expectations and reservations and tours made online, beforehand, and with trusted companies.

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