The idea I had of Egypt before my visit was a cocktail of college history classes, with a pinch of Aladdin, all mixed with the video clip “Remember the Times” by Michael Jackson. You could say that my knowledge was close to zero.
Add to that the western media’s view of the Middle East conveyed by dramatic news, and my choice could have easily turned to another destination. One must believe that the call of the ancient pharaohs fed my desire to discover it. My city of choice was the capital, Cairo.
My first contact with the locals was on the plane with some Egyptians who advised me on things to do in Cairo. In fact, apart from going from the hotel to downtown, I did not do any research, I wanted to explore once there.
Like many Arab countries, the welcome coming out of the airport is very warm. One of the passengers, whom I had befriended during the flight offered to share a taxi since we were going in the same direction. And if the transportation system turns out to be rock’n’roll, one can easily order an Uber with the same comfort as those of the West.
One thing is certain, Cairo is not the ideal city if you are in search of tranquility. The traffic jams and the general cacophony do not make it one of the most peaceful places.
The red light seems to be respected only with the presence of a policeman, which did not make me necessarily serene. But I was happy to have exchanged my 7 degrees Parisian temperature for the 25 of Cairo.
The first days were devoted to the main touristic activities of the city. Egypt, which civilization dates from the 10th millennium BC., is one of the oldest and most sophisticated cultures in the world and is home to the Pyramid of Cheops which is simply grand and fabulous. This gigantic human undertaking created with rudimentary means testifies to the ingenuity displayed by the Egyptian people of yesteryear. I strongly advise to be accompanied by a guide who, thanks to his knowledge, will transport you to the time of the pharaohs. Continue your visit to the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, which possesses an astonishing historical richness and go through the neighborhood of “Copte” which will give you the impression of traveling back in time. The negative points remain the solicitors hanging there as well as the lack of maintenance of some sites.
The Egyptian cuisine on the other hand has no cons. It is a journey in itself. I tried some dishes such as the Bamiah, the Coussa or the Kochari and many others. Each one as delicious as the other, have offered to my taste buds a pleasure yet unknown.
Given that I was traveling with my daughter, some activities for children were essential to my stay. Fortunately for me, Cairo is full of it. I was recommended to visit the KidZania, a great concept that allows children to work in trades while having fun. DreamPark, an amusement park in the category of the “Foire du Trône” also exists, but my daughter preferred the camel rides and the small crossing of the Nile by boat to the rides of the park. Kidzoo is another option. This mini zoo creates an interactivity between the children and the animals.
I was intrigued by the relationship between some Egyptians and black tourists. They had to make sure that I was not a migrant before showing me their kindness. “You are a good black man,” said one of the taxi drivers … Thus, my chauffeur, Djafar, confesses his anxiety about the instability and geopolitical situation that slow down the development of the touristic economy, major sector in Egypt.
It was by discussing with locals like him that I could confirm my feelings and learn more about the country, before and after the Arab Spring that is still leaving some marks.
My Egyptian experience has been rich in human encounters and discoveries of new landscapes. Egypt can move from a festive atmosphere in the souks to a quiet cruise on the Nile.
But I came out of it mostly with a new perspective of the Egyptian people and their culture.