This may not prove to be a popular post but I believe I have to write it. I feel this week like I am just “waking up”. As a person trying to practice positive thinking, I don’t watch TV, weekly soap operas, depressing or violent films, never read the papers and try to stay off social media as much as possible. Some may say I am in denial.
This business of attempting to stay focused on the positive means that much of what goes on around me goes completely over my head and that is what it feels like about the things I am going to write about here. It’s not just what goes on around me here in Luxor that “goes over my head”, so does much of what I stumble across on the internet and comments from guests or tourists I meet.
However, I feel that it is time that some modern day myths that are perpetuated by tourists, travel bloggers and the media at large fixate on, get busted!
Travel Bloggers (some) are starting to annoy me.
I know there are wonderful bloggers who write amazing and interesting articles. However, it would seem that there is an explosion of “would be” writers who have no interest whatsoever in either educating or entertaining the hapless person who stumbles across their meager scribbling. It’s these lazy, money-focused, time-wasting bloggers I speak about here. It is easy to spot them if you are awake to what you are browsing.
These time-wasting blogs are all the same –
- A paragraph or two about themselvesm but not giving much away really.
- 6 – 10 lines (on a laptop) of meaningless dribble about a monument or something.
- Then a big, beautiful photo – they may or may not be in it themselves.
- Then the pattern repeats down the page.
- The 6 – 10 lines will contain at least one link to a product they are recommending you buy or another page on their own site. This is wonderful SEO as you can get lost wandering around their pages, which are usually peppered with snippets of the same info copied and pasted in different locations of their site. So google thinks their site is full of good stuff because it notices you going from link to link.
- Most are managed by the same ad management company or two. Maybe this is why they all look the same.
- They recommend just about every product you could pack in your suitcase -including the suitcase you should buy.
- They don’t stop at advertising stuff for your Egyptian holiday on their Egyptian blog – you will find links and lovely photos to products you should buy for every other holiday you will ever take in your entire lifetime.
- They all offer the same basic, boring info on the monuments.
- None of these writers give you much info on their personal experience of the monuments other than their “awesomeness”, which has me asking if they actually really even visited the sites.
- In contrast to the above they will write LOTS of reasons why you should visit the hotel they are staying in (which they are not paying for because they have negotiated a free stay in exchange for the recommendation on their great blog and social media platforms where they have zillions of followers.
- They all talk about the same 4 – 5 Egyptian foods you just have to try – as if there were no other Egyptian dishes to eat! So, again – limited experience of the country because they are not the top 5 dishes here – they are just the most common Egyptian Take-Away fast food.
- They all perpetuate the same modern day myths about Egypt – the initial reason for my writing this but I guess I got carried away in the writing, as usual.
I could tolerate the advertising. I am an Amazon Affiliate myself and recommend books etc that I have read and used.
What I am getting less tolerant of is that these blogs waste my time. As I said, their SEO is good and their little intro pieces in google search draw me in. So I read their dribble and then am disgusted thatI have wasted some minutes of my precious life on yet another piece of fluff.
Now and again we meet another type of blogger – the ones who stay at Mara House and take all my packages in Cairo, Luxor and Aswan. They write more interesting blogs about how you can do Egypt on your own, (like they did…) but a photo of two of Mara House and an acknowledgement that their guides were mine would be a nice touch.
MODERN MYTHS ABOUT EGYPT
I am going to refute several modern myths perpetuated by some bloggers – they are just copying them from one another mostly. So just as they make blanket statements – I am going to make blanket statements contradicting them – however, please bear in mind, there are exceptions to every rule.
Myth Number 1 – Foreigner girls with blond hair and blue eyes make Egyptians lose their senses. GET OVER YOURSELVES!
What the hell is wrong with you? Every Egyptian, young and old, male and female you will meet here has a TV. In fact most even have a mobile phone! You have not arrived from outer space. They have seen thousands like you over the years. Hate to burst your bubble but your looks are not unique to them.
Why on earth do people continue to perpetuate this myth? Quite seriously, if you are a female with blond hair and blue eyes and think they Egyptians can’t control themselves over you – go see a psychiatrist. You got a BIG problem.
Anyone watched the 2009 Hollywood movie “He’s Just Not That Into You” with Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck? You haven’t seen it? I recommend it – a great lesson in self-delusion.
The reality is that Egyptians are a race of people to whom compliments come naturally and most of us Western people, especially women, beautiful or not, are not used to being told 50 times a day that something about us is nice or appealing.
Add to that – everyone wants to make you feel good – even if you look like the back of a bus! Be realistic – if they person is make and is a vendor, taxi driver, calesh or felucca man – HE JUST WANTS TO SELL YOU SOMETHING. See, it has nothing to do with the colour of your hair or your eyes. Unfortunately, if you have little or no self-confidence they can sense it a mile away and that is why they make straight for you. Option number 3, you give off the vibe you know you are beautiful and they will oblige with the expected compliments.
On a side note – these days people of all ages in Egypt are more likely to be staring and admiring tattoos whether on males or females, more than hair or eyes.
Myth Number 2 – Avoiding eye contact will lessen the street hassle from vendors etc. Well, it won’t. In fact it will just make it worse because they assume you are already bargaining with this attitude and will stop walking when they find the magic sentence.
I don’t know why anyone gives this advice. Try a little understanding instead. How about this…everyone is just trying to make a living. Everyone is just trying to get by. Everyone is trying to sell to you – yes, I call it “hassle” too and so do they.
At the risk of being the one going against all other advice – turn around, look the guy in the eye, smile nicely and say “I really am not buying anything” or “I really am not going to get into your calesh or your felucca, so have a nice day”. It usually works for me. Sometimes, if the vendor is shouting at me from a distance I do keep walking but I put my hand up, palm towards him in a “stop” gesture. I usually hear back “Have a nice day Lady!”
At the end of the day, we are all human. We are visitors here. Try treating these guys nicely but firmly. Now, it’s more likely 50% of people reading this are not going to take in that I am also saying “FIRMLY” and will instead be friendly, giving out the wrong signal again… Yes, I know it’s difficult lol!
Myth Number 3 Egyptian women are repressed, downtrodden, not educated, can’t work, etc. Egyptian girls go to school just like the boys. They can go to college and become anything they want and they do. If they don’t it is because of family reasons or lack of money. But as everywhere else, where there is a will there is a way. As for being downtrodden – I would personally prefer to have a disagreement with an Egyptian man than an Egyptian woman!
Myth Number 4 Women should cover their heads Where are writers getting this? Egypt is a religiously liberal and tolerant country. 10% of the population is Christian. Their women don’t wear scarves or veils, why would you? And not all muslim women cover their heads either.
Don’t fall victim to a guide who tells you that there is any benefit in, or that you must cover your head, arms etc. Some years ago a woman and her 3 daughters arrive to Mara House in the middle of May. They were exhausted and sweating, wearing long sleeved cardigans and headscarves. The temp outside was 42C/108F. Their guide in Cairo had advised them to cover up! He was an exception to normal guides – either conservative muslim or a sadist! The only place women are required to wear a scarf or cover their heads is when visiting a mosque.
Myth Number 5 You should try to blend in – Listen, male or female you are not going to “blend in” even if you go completely native and dress from head to toe as Egyptians do. So stop trying, you will just look ridiculous. That is not to say you should not buy the Egyptian clothes. In fact I recommend the opposite, it’s fun to dress up when you go abroad – just don’t do it under the belief you are blending in, because you are not. Don’t blend in – be an ambassador abroad for your own country.
Myth Number 6 You have to use tap water to brush your teeth You do not! There is nothing wrong with the tap water in Egypt as in it is not contaminated. However, as in any country the composition of chemicals used to ensure it is safe is not going to be what you are used to at home. Therefore you could get an upset tummy but it is not going to be a sick Tummy Bug event. For sure you are not going to get upset tummy by washing your teeth with it – unless you are in the habit of drinking a gallon of tap water when you brush.
Myth Number 7 Don’t eat fruit and veg in Egypt this one seems to go hand in hand with the myth that you need to stay away from the buffet in hotels and cruise boats While the same bloggers are telling you to go ahead and enjoy the wonderful “street food”. So sorry, but these two are just a load of s****. The buffets in the better hotels and boats are AMAZING. Chefs are top class and more than able to provide the best flavours and highest quality of food hygiene.
This is a post I wrote, complete with photos, in 2015 about food on a Nile Cruise Luxor to Aswan – I was trying not to eat too much but failing miserably. I have never been disappointed or sick from the food on any boat I have been on – I do use the better ones. I am happy to say that two weeks ago (Nov 2019) I was taking a group on a tour around Egypt and we did 7 nights cruise. Our topic of conversation at every single meal was mostly limited to “the food!” or we ate in silence. Why? Because the food (BUFFET) was outstanding in flavour, quality and quantity. So if you come across a blog saying “stay away from hotel or cruise buffets” – the those writers were simply on a bad boat or bad hotel!
Have a look around the restaurant, check out the staff uniforms etc and if they look clean and hygienic there is every chance the kitchen is also. Use your own common sense. The fruit and veg in Egypt is delicious. Buy a packet of Antinal when you arrive in the country and eat what you like – except for street food lol!
Myth Number 8 Uber is safer/better than regular taxi – I’m not so sure about this. Is every UBER or it’s equivalent safe where you come from? Less hassle? Possibly. But mostly not as experienced as the regular taxis in their battered old cars. Google Maps is not always helpful to UBER drivers when it comes to one way streets in Cairo and finding their way to you.
Not so long ago I got totally lost with one in Maadi for well over an hour. In the end I stopped a Pizza deliver guy on a motorbike and paid him 100 LE to lead my driver to my destination. We had been going round in circles due to certain streets closed by security. See what happened this lady when Uber dropped her in wrong location…
I’ve never had a bad time from a Cairo taxi driver because I always agree the price before getting in. I would prefer (as a female) to take a regular taxi than an Uber if I am traveling alone.
Myth Number 9 You need to bring every possible kind of medication and first aid thingy with you just in case… you don’t. Every possible medication you might possibly want is available to you here and from the pharmacy without prescription if you develop a condition that requires it. And the same goes for all sanitary goods for women except tampons. AND there are pharmacies in practically every street in every town and city here.
Myth Number 10 Egypt is not safe for a woman solo traveler It’s safer than most provided the woman makes all arrangements in advance with reputable providers. A woman traveling sensibly alone in Egypt is highly unlikely to be mugged, assaulted or kidnapped. The biggest danger in Egypt for a solo woman traveler is that she falls in love with a charming, handsome guide or some other guy she runs into. I’m serious. So be careful out there!
Myth Number 11 public displays of affection are going to land you in trouble even holding hands no it’s not! When I came to Egypt first I thought most of the men must be gay because they were always hugging each other and even linking arms walking in the street – as were the girls. Public hugging and the double kissing as a greeting is common all over the place between same sexes as is hand holding. Nobody has a problem with engaged and married Egyptian couples holding hands in public. And they could care less that you are doing it.
Myth Number 12 Egypt is a cheap destination and you can merrily backpack through it for practically nothing Again – no, it’s not any more and if you come here thinking it is, you will have a miserable time. And here is a full post on that subject “What am I really going to pay for my Egyptian Holiday?”
Myth Number 13 Tipping is just for Tourists – You might like to read my very long post where I try to explain all about “Tipping in Egypt.”
Myth Number 14 Learning Egyptian phrases will lessen hassle and make it easier for Egyptians to understand you Uh no! Not only do all the vendors speak english to a certain degree but the basics of every other language on the planet also. So saying “La Shukran” is not going to be more effective than “no thank you” Not putting you off learning some arabic – but please don’t do it under the assumption that the vendors don’t speak english or whatever language you speak.
Myth Number 15 You could easily be shot by a policeman or security person if you step out of line This is not an old myth, this is a rather new idea doing the rounds, but I am including it here to put an end to it asap. Pigs are more likely to fly than you are to get shot or even manhandled by a police man in Egypt. This is something way more likely to happen you in the US than in Egypt. I forget the exact context of this idiotic idea or whose blog I actually came across it in.
Once again there are exceptions to everything above and I am quite sure many people are going to disagree at what I have written….c’est la vie!
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