I was so excited to go to Egypt in 2012. I love crunchy new age shit and considered the Alchemist to be my bible at the time. I was giddy just thinking about seeing the Pyramids in real life. Unfortunately, Cairo was a severe letdown, perhaps the most anticlimactic city of all my travels. Here's why:
Look, I am the filthiest person I know. I have not cleaned underneath my couch in 8 years. I can go weeks without a shower if I have to, no problem. Dishes? IDGAF. So when I tell you a place is dirty, I mean it. Granted, I was in Cairo during some serious unrest, a time when there were a lot of protests and people in the streets. That said, I stepped in shit twice and I wasn’t even drunk. Also, the pollution is hectic. It's not as bad as Beijing, but it definitely affects visibility. And just to drive home the point: I got anal worms in Cairo. Have you ever had to tape sandpaper around your finger and spelunk up your bum to relieve itching? It sucks. This could have been avoided if someone had washed his/her hands after they poo'd and before they prepared my meal, sans gloves.
Every motherfucker under the Egyptian sun was hitting me up. I wanted to go to the pyramids. I gave my guide a tip. I gave about 10% of the total cost of the tour. He asked me for more. Fair enough, he was a good guide. I gave him 10% more. He said it still wasn't enough. I said I had no more cash on me because USD 25 is definitely enough for your one hour of service.
Then he took me to an Egyptian art gallery. I did not want to buy anything because, and let me make myself very clear here, I fucking hate trinkets. I do not buy anything in other countries to bring back to America unless it's alcohol because #turnt. Although I am interested in the history of the papyrus paper used in ancient Egyptian art, I do not wish to have a replica.
Anyway, I ended up getting roped into buying a glow in the dark King Tut painting which I gifted to my boyfriend at the time because romantic.
I met a lot of assholes. Not everyone was an asshole, let me make that clear, but I had more run ins with dicks than I would have liked. I think I do a pretty good job of respecting the customs of whatever country I visit. In Cairo, I embraced a more modest wardrobe, no problem. But still, I was spat on, pushed, and took quite a bit of verbal harassment while walking down the street. At times, I felt that my safety was in danger. Why was I spat on? My best assumption is that he had a problem with me walking alone, or with me being a white foreigner. I'm honestly not sure. I spoke to some Egyptian friends who did say that men will normally comment more when you're walking alone, but that in no way warrants spitting or pushing.
I also had a serious problem at the hostel I stayed at, Brothers Hostel. One of the employees greatly endangered my safety and invaded my privacy. Thankfully, there was another American, a male, who protected me (thanks, Jaime). I really hate having to rely on a man for protection from another man just because that other man does not want to listen to a woman, but in this case it was necessary.
From this experience I learned to never trust a fucking hostel on Trip Advisor with a 96% approval rating.
The good stuff
I think the worst experiences make the best stories. I also don't like to let a few unpleasant moments get me down. So here is what I did enjoy about Cairo:
Although there was one bad seed at my hostel, there were also lovely people.
Another male hostel employee was a protester and escorted me to Tahrir Square, introducing me to his friends and explaining how these protests work. He took me to one of the three main cafes that border Tahrir Square, where protesters charge their electronics. I learned how powerful social media could be. The second something went down in one part of town, protesters would post on Facebook and Twitter, alerting the rest of the country. This is one of the reasons the protests and unrest was so widespread and traveled so fast. I actually went to Cairo when I did because I wanted to go to the Arab Music Festival, the largest music festival in the Middle East. It was cancelled the week I was visiting because of the protests, taking place across the bridge about half an hour away. If there was a concert on, and protests became violent, within minutes the concert hall would become unruly and dangerous.
It was an exciting time to be in Cairo.
A little bit scary? Yes, definitely. But I loved watching people come together, so passionately demanding democracy. I got chills while watching protesters march down the street toward Tahrir square. I walked into the protests on my second day (on purpose) and was tear gassed. And some very nice person forced a water soaked handkerchief to my face and pushed me to safety along an alley. Even in shit circumstances, there are good people.
The pyramids were amazing.
Yes, the area is polluted and uncared for. But walking in the hot sand, admiring one of man's greatest ancient works, really is worth it.
I just don't need to do it again.