What Travel Bloggers are getting wrong
I think it’s high time we embark on a myth-busting journey through the world of travel, where tourists, travel bloggers, and the media at large have collectively woven a tapestry of modern-day myths that deserve a reality check!
In this exposé, I’m poised to debunk a series of modern myths that seem to be perpetuated tirelessly by a slew of bloggers, who, more often than not, appear to be echoing one another. Just as they confidently make sweeping statements, I’ll counter them with equally categorical contradictions. But remember, in the world of myths, there’s always room for exceptions.
NOTE: Before I begin, I am aware that you will find some of the following myths on Egyptian travel agent sites – while most are just playing to the existing gallery of tourist opinion to get your business, a few overly religious individuals are projecting the situations they would like it to be (from the past) as to what is.
Myth No.1 – Blonde Foreigners with Blue Eyes: It’s Time to Get Real
Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room—this notion that foreign girls with blonde hair and blue eyes have some mystical power over Egyptians. Seriously, it’s time to get over yourselves!
What’s the deal here? Egyptians, whether young or old, male or female, are not living in a cultural vacuum. They have TVs, mobile phones, and access to the wider world. You’re not a unique extraterrestrial arrival; they’ve encountered thousands like you over the years. Hate to burst your bubble, but your looks are far from unique to them.
So why, oh why, do some people persist in propagating this myth? If you’re a blonde with blue eyes and genuinely believe that Egyptians can’t control themselves around you, it might be time to schedule an appointment with a psychiatrist because you’ve got a BIG problem.
Have any of you watched the 2009 Hollywood movie “He’s Just Not That Into You,” starring Jennifer Aniston and Ben Affleck? No? Well, I highly recommend it—it’s a great lesson in self-delusion.
Now, let’s get to the real deal. Egyptians are naturally inclined to give compliments. However, most of us Western folks, especially women, beautiful or not, aren’t accustomed to hearing compliments 50 times a day about our appearance.
Here’s a reality check: When you’re approached by an Egyptian, whether they’re a vendor, taxi driver, calesh driver, or felucca captain, their primary objective is typically not to admire your hair or eyes; it’s to sell you something. It’s all about business, not your hair or eye color.
Unfortunately, if you exude low self-confidence, they can pick up on it from miles away, and that’s why they may approach you. On the other hand, if you project confidence and know you’re beautiful, they’ll gladly oblige with the expected compliments.
As a side note, these days, people of all ages in Egypt are more likely to be staring and admiring tattoos on both males and females than obsessing over hair or eye color. So, let’s put this myth to rest, shall we?”
Myth No. 2 – The ‘Avoid Eye Contact’ Fallacy
Let’s tackle another piece of well-intended but misguided advice: the idea that avoiding eye contact will reduce the street hassle from vendors and others. Well, let me set the record straight—it won’t. In fact, it might just make things worse because they’ll interpret your avoidance as an indication that you’re already bargaining, and they’ll be more persistent in their pursuit.
Honestly, I’m not sure why anyone peddles this advice. Instead of avoiding eye contact, consider a different approach—one grounded in empathy. Here’s a radical thought: remember that everyone you encounter is just trying to make a living, trying to get by, and, yes, trying to sell a product or a service to you. I’ll admit it—I use the term ‘hassle’ too, just like they do.
Now, here’s where I might deviate from conventional wisdom: try turning around, looking the person in the eye, offering a warm smile, and saying something like, “I’m really not buying anything” or “I won’t be taking a calesh or felucca ride today, so have a nice day.” Surprisingly, it often works for me. Occasionally, if a vendor is shouting at me from a distance, I’ll keep walking but raise my hand in a ‘stop’ gesture with my palm facing them. More often than not, I hear a friendly response: “Have a nice day, Lady!”
Ultimately, we’re all human beings. As visitors in their country, consider treating these individuals with kindness and firmness. Now, I realize that about 50% of those reading this may not catch the ‘firmness’ part and instead opt for sheer friendliness, inadvertently sending the wrong signal once again. I get it—finding that balance can be quite the challenge! 😄
Myth No. 3 – The Misconception About Egyptian Women
Let’s address a pervasive myth that’s been circulating for far too long: the idea that Egyptian women are universally repressed, downtrodden, uneducated, and unable to work. The truth is far more complex and empowering.
Egyptian girls attend school just like their male counterparts. They have equal access to higher education and can pursue careers of their choosing—many do, and they excel. Any deviation from this trajectory is often due to family circumstances or financial constraints. However, as in any society, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
As for the notion of Egyptian women being downtrodden, I’d like to share a personal perspective—I’d often prefer to engage in a disagreement with an Egyptian man than with an Egyptian woman. Egyptian women are strong, resilient, and fiercely independent. They have a voice, they have opinions, and they’re not afraid to express them – loudly!
It’s time to dispel this outdated myth and acknowledge the remarkable accomplishments and strength of Egyptian women. They’re not passive victims; they’re active agents of change and progress.
Myth No. 4 – The Headscarf Conundrum
Let’s debunk another perplexing myth that has found its way into the travel narrative: the belief that women should cover their heads when visiting Egypt. It’s definitely time to set the record straight on this—Egypt is a religiously liberal and tolerant country. Approximately 10% of its population is Christian, and Christian women do not wear scarves or veils. Moreover, not all Muslim women in Egypt cover their heads either.
Don’t fall prey to a guide who insists on the necessity of covering your head, arms, and more. Let me share two illustrative stories: Some years ago, a woman and her three daughters arrived at Mara House in the middle of May, dripping with sweat, wearing long-sleeved cardigans and headscarves. The outside temperature was a sweltering 42°C (108°F). Their guide in Cairo had advised them to dress this way, and he was certainly an exception to the norm—either an extremely conservative Muslim or, well, possibly a sadist!
More recently my house manager opened the door to a young female foreigner completely covered from head to toe in black, including her head. She had been advised by an employee in her Cairo hotel to do so…. what to say?
The truth is, the only place where women are required to wear a scarf or cover their heads in Egypt is when visiting a mosque. So, feel free to enjoy Egypt’s religious and cultural diversity without feeling pressured to conform to any clothing norms that don’t align with the country’s overall liberal and tolerant atmosphere.
Myth No. 5 – The ‘Blending In’ Fallacy
Let’s dispel yet another common myth: the idea that you should try to ‘blend in’ when visiting Egypt. Whether you’re male or female, it’s essential to understand that you won’t magically disappear into the crowd, even if you fully embrace Egyptian attire from head to toe. In fact, attempting to do so might just make you stand out in an awkward and conspicuous way.
Now, don’t get me wrong—I wholeheartedly recommend embracing the local culture and trying on traditional Egyptian clothing. It can be a fun and enriching part of your travel experience. However, do it for the enjoyment and appreciation of the culture, not under the illusion that you’ll seamlessly ‘blend in’ with the locals. You won’t.
Instead of blending in, consider being an ambassador for your own country. Celebrate your uniqueness, engage respectfully with the local culture, and share your experiences as a traveler from afar. Embrace the opportunity to connect with people on a human level, and you’ll find that authenticity goes much further than any attempt to ‘blend in’ ever will
Myth No. 6 – The Tap Water Conundrum
Let’s clear up a common myth that often concerns travelers: the idea that you must use tap water to brush your teeth in Egypt. The truth is, you don’t have to! I drank the tap water in Egypt for years when I first moved here and never, ever came down with anything because of it.
The tap water in Egypt is generally safe and not contaminated. However, like in any country, the chemical composition used to treat the water may differ from what you’re accustomed to at home. As a result, using tap water to brush your teeth might occasionally lead to a mild upset stomach, but it’s not going to result in a full-blown, debilitating stomach bug.
In reality, you’re highly unlikely to experience any stomach issues from rinsing your toothbrush with tap water unless, of course, you happen to be in the habit of gulping down a gallon of tap water during your brushing routine. So, rest assured, your dental hygiene can remain intact without any unnecessary worries about the tap water
Myth No. 7 – The Fruit, Veg, and Buffet Delusion
Let’s address another pair of related myths that often perplex travelers: the notion that you should avoid eating fruits and vegetables in Egypt and steer clear of hotel and cruise buffet spreads.
First off, the fear of consuming fruits and vegetables in Egypt is unfounded. There’s no need to shy away from the fresh and delicious produce the country has to offer. In fact, you’d be missing out on a vibrant culinary experience if you did.
Now, onto the buffet issue—buffets in the better hotels and cruise boats in Egypt are nothing short of amazing. The chefs are highly skilled and fully equipped to provide an exceptional culinary experience with top-notch flavors and the highest food hygiene standards. So, go ahead and indulge in these culinary feasts without any unnecessary worries.
It’s worth noting that some of the same bloggers who propagate these myths often contradict themselves by also encouraging you to savor the wonders of “street food.” So, let’s cut through the confusion and embrace the diverse and delectable culinary offerings that Egypt has to offer, including those sumptuous buffet spreads.
This post harks back to the salad bar on a Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan in 2015, where I embarked on a valiant mission to avoid overindulging in the delectable food but failed miserably. It’s worth mentioning that throughout my numerous Nile cruise experiences, I’ve never been disappointed or fallen ill from the food, and that’s because I always opted for the better boats for myself, my family and my guest at Mara House
Fast forward to my last Nile Cruise in November 2019, when I had the pleasure of leading our last group tour through Egypt prior to the covid catastrophy, complete with a delightful 7-night cruise. Guess what our primary topic of conversation was during every meal? You guessed it—the food! In fact, we often found ourselves rendered speechless as we savored the outstanding flavors, top-notch quality, and generous portions served at the buffet.
So, if you happen to stumble upon a blog warning you to ‘stay away from hotel or cruise buffets,’ it’s quite likely that the writers had the misfortune of encountering a subpar boat or hotel. In Egypt, the culinary experiences aboard the better cruise boats and hotels are nothing short of a feast for the senses.
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 😄
Myth No. 8 – The Uber vs. Regular Taxi Debate
Let’s dive into a hot topic—the belief that Uber or its equivalents are universally safer and better than regular taxis. But before we jump to conclusions, let’s consider a few important factors.
Firstly, is every Uber or its equivalent in your home country unequivocally safe and superior to regular taxis? It’s worth pondering because the answer isn’t always straightforward.
While Uber may offer a potentially less hassled experience, it’s essential to acknowledge that many regular taxi drivers in Egypt are seasoned experts navigating the bustling streets in their well-worn cars. They possess an intimate knowledge of the city that’s hard to match.
Moreover, the reliability of navigation apps like Google Maps isn’t foolproof in Cairo’s labyrinthine one-way streets, which can sometimes confound even experienced drivers.
Speaking from personal experience, I once found myself hopelessly lost with an Uber driver in Maadi for over an hour. In desperation, I flagged down a pizza delivery guy on a motorbike and paid him 100 LE to lead my Uber driver to our destination. We had been going in circles due to certain streets being closed by security – not on google maps.
While these experiences aren’t the norm, they do underscore the importance of flexibility and resourcefulness when relying on ride-sharing services. Remember, even with Uber, occasional hiccups can occur, as illustrated by this unfortunate incident when Uber dropped a lady in the 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 No. 9 – The Medication and First Aid Fallacy
Let’s debunk another common myth that might be causing unnecessary packing stress: the idea that you need to bring every possible medication and first aid item with you ‘just in case.’ The reality is quite different.
Egypt boasts a well-developed healthcare system with pharmacies scattered throughout practically every street in every town and city. These pharmacies offer a wide range of medications, and you can often purchase them without a prescription if needed.
Similarly, when it comes to sanitary goods for women, Egypt is well-equipped with a variety of options available, except for tampons. So, there’s no need to pack your suitcase to the brim with medical supplies.
Traveling light and saving space in your luggage is often a more practical approach. Rest assured that you’ll have easy access to the necessary medical and personal hygiene items during your visit to Egypt.
Myth No.10 – Solo Female Travel in Egypt
Let’s tackle a lingering myth that often discourages solo female travelers: the belief that Egypt is not safe for women traveling alone. The truth is quite different.
In reality, Egypt can be a safe and enjoyable destination for solo female travelers, provided they make all their arrangements in advance with reputable providers. The likelihood of being mugged, assaulted, or kidnapped is extremely low when traveling sensibly and taking basic precautions.
However, there is a unique ‘danger’ that solo female travelers should be aware of in Egypt—falling in love with a charming, handsome guide or someone else they meet during their journey. This might sound humorous, but it can lead to complications or heartache if not approached with caution. I’m serious. I once knew a foreigner who married a calesh driver two weeks after meeting him. He wouldn’t take “no” for an answer as he followed her along the street offering a ride in the calesh so she gave in and took the ride – he obviously didn’t take “no” for an answer to his marriage proposal either! So be careful out there!
To all the solo female travelers: Egypt is a place where you can explore, discover, and enjoy your adventure. Just remember to exercise your own judgment, make informed decisions, and, most importantly, have a wonderful and memorable experience while staying safe.
Myth No. 11 – Public Displays of Affection in Egypt
Let’s put an end to another myth that sometimes lingers in the minds of travelers: the belief that public displays of affection, including holding hands, can get you into trouble in Egypt. The truth is quite the opposite.
In Egypt, public displays of affection are not going to land you in trouble. In fact, you’ll often witness Egyptian men and women hugging each other, linking arms, and engaging in displays of affection with friends of the same or even opposite sex. Public hugging and the double-kiss greeting are common throughout the country.
Moreover, when it comes to engaged and married Egyptian couples, holding hands in public is not only acceptable but also widely practiced without attracting undue attention or judgment.
So, if you’re traveling with a loved one, don’t hesitate to hold hands and share affection in public. Egyptians are generally respectful and understanding of such displays of love and affection. And finally – foreigners don’t have to be married to share a hotel room in Egypt. But it is forbidden for Egyptian nationals to share bedrooms with non-nationals without a marriage cert.
I am writing here about “showing affection” not fondling and snogging the face off someone in public! That would be highly impolite.
Myth No. 12 – Egypt is a cheap destination
Let’s address the common misconception that Egypt is a cheap destination where you can backpack through it for next to nothing. I hate to break it to you, but that’s not entirely accurate anymore.
While Egypt has long been known for its affordability, it’s important to note that the cost landscape has evolved over time. If you come here expecting an incredibly low-budget journey, you will surely find yourself facing a rather miserable experience. Prices in Egypt – in fact the prices of tours I am offering myself now, has almost doubled since 2019.
There is a saying “you get what you pay for” – however, when it comes to Egypt, please don’t be under the illusion that if you pay the highest price you get the best quality and service. I can guarantee you there are operators out there offering 9 night group tours and (note these are group tours not private tours) 12 night tours for $10,000 and upwards, while I can offer the exact same tours with better quality for a third of the price.
In fact, the costs of travel in Egypt can vary widely depending on your preferences, style, and the experiences you seek. But be aware that all subsidies on electricity, gas, food and basic items have been removed by the government over the last 5 years so, there is very little that is worth anything, without a good price tag now.
Myth No. 13 – Tipping is only for tourists.
Here’s another myth we need to dispel: the notion that tipping is exclusively reserved for tourists. To unravel the nuances of tipping in Egypt and why it matters to both travelers and locals alike, I encourage you to delve into my comprehensive post titled ‘Tipping in Egypt.‘ In it, I aim to shed light on the intricacies of this customary practice that plays a significant role in the Egyptian culture and economy
Myth No. 14 – The Language Myth: Learning Egyptian Phrases
Let’s unravel a common myth that often prompts travelers to attempt learning Egyptian phrases with the belief that it will reduce hassle and improve communication. In reality, it’s important to understand that Egyptian vendors are quite adept at conversing in English to a certain degree, as well as in the basics of numerous other languages spoken worldwide.
So, while learning a bit of Arabic can be a valuable and enriching experience, please don’t undertake it solely under the assumption that vendors don’t speak English or your native language. The odds are that they’ll understand you just fine when you say ‘No, thank you’ in your own language. Learning a few phrases is a wonderful way to show appreciation for the local culture, but it’s not necessarily a hassle-reduction strategy, and it’s more likely to end up with you making a fool of yourself when dealing with vendors.
Myth No. 15 – Police might shoot you!
It’s time to put an end to a relatively new myth that’s been circulating— the notion that you could easily be shot or manhandled by a policeman or security personnel in Egypt. Let’s set the record straight: the chances of such an incident occurring in Egypt are incredibly low.
In fact, you’re more likely to witness pigs flying than to find yourself in such a situation in Egypt. (oh and yes, there are pigs in Egypt). This myth is unfounded and bears no resemblance to the reality of the country. Incidents involving police or security personnel are far more likely to happen elsewhere, making Egypt a safe and welcoming destination for travelers.
While I can’t recall the exact context in which this misconception emerged or the specific source, I hope this clears up any concerns and assures you of the safety and security you can expect during your visit to Egypt.
However, do be aware that it is not allowed to take photos of police, army or security personnel, police or army establishments or vehicles including tanks etc.
In closing, it’s essential to debunk these persistent myths about Egypt to ensure that your travel experience is grounded in the realities of this beautiful country. Egypt is a land of remarkable history, diverse culture, and warm hospitality. By dispelling these myths and embracing the truths we’ve uncovered, you can embark on your Egyptian adventure with confidence, an open heart, and a deeper understanding of what this extraordinary country has to offer. So, pack your bags, leave these misconceptions behind, and get ready to enjoy the wonders of Egypt, where myth meets reality, and the journey unfolds with endless possibilities.