Interesting Facts About Egypt
Since my childhood days, I had always dreamed of visiting Egypt. Egyptian Pyramids and Egyptian Mummy had a mysterious allure that has always fascinated me. But in spite of traveling extensively, I never managed to visit Egypt. However, it was always on top of my bucket list. As soon as I got an opportunity to visit Egypt, my excitement was evident to everyone around me.
Due to security issues, I booked myself on a group tour for the first time in my life. It was an enlightening trip and I thoroughly enjoyed the experiences. Egypt is a third-world country and you can feel the contrast to the Western world as soon as you land there. During my seven days trip to Egypt, I came across a few very interesting facts that caught me by surprise.
- Egypt is the place where you MUST take a guide. Their history and religion are complex, intriguing, and extensive. The Egyptians are proud of their culture and traditions, and it is engrossing to see it from their perspective. The guides are generally well-informed and well-versed and hence worth the extra cost. I would also strongly suggest that you should brush up on your Egyptian history before you head to Egypt. The ancient country has unique and thought-provoking traditions and prior knowledge would help you in following the guide’s complicated historical tales.
- Do people often wonder whether it is safe to visit Egypt? To be honest, I never felt unsafe in Egypt. Due to the political upheaval and turbulence from 2012-2015, Egypt received a major setback in its tourist inflow. Even now, most visitors come in groups. All tourist places are heavily guarded and have strict security checks. Every tourist coach is accompanied by an armed guard, especially in the Aswan area due to its proximity to the troubled Sudan border. Egyptian government takes matters of security seriously and the result is you feel very safe in Egypt. Pickpockets and mugging are also not a nuisance, unlike some highly popular European cities. However, it is better if you visit Egypt in groups and follow the advice given by your local guide. Don’t try to be adventurous and take unnecessary risks. If you want to visit Egypt, this is the right time.
- In Egypt, you are expected to tip for anything and everything. Nothing is free in Egypt and always comes with a price – from asking the way, using the loo, getting the picture clicked, to holding the camera. The Egyptians are very poorly paid and they are always looking for some extra income. If an Egyptian offers to help, it means they are looking to earn some bucks. The local boy offered to click my picture and refused to give me back the phone unless I tipped him. The tip referred to as “Baksheesh” is really a nuisance here. You can feel the poverty and desperation when you see their happy faces on receiving 2 or 5 Egyptian pounds which is equal to 10-20 rupees. Collect loads of small changes of 2, 5, and 10 EP, as you have to tip everywhere. Even after living in India, amongst so much poverty, it is extremely frustrating and disheartening to see Egypt’s economic plight.
- Egyptians might be in economic despair, but they are still jovial and animated. Expect to be called ‘Indian’, ‘Shah Rukh Khan’, ‘Amitabh Bachchan’, ‘Kareena’ wherever you go. It’s best to ignore them. The kids are really impudent and want to take selfies with you. But everything is pretty harmless and in good humor. Thankfully groping or touching is not common. On a side note, Egyptians love Bollywood movies & songs, and even Indian TV shows and are eager to discuss them at every opportunity.
- Bargaining is a way of life there. Except in fixed-price shops, you have to bargain hard for everything. You can start with one-fourth of the quoted price and keep on haggling till you reach a price that satisfies both parties. Bargaining is in our blood, and so it’s relatively easy for Indians. But to be honest, however much you bargain, tourists always end up paying more. If you are not interested in buying just keep walking, without stopping to look at the goods on display. If you show the slightest interest, you might have a tough time warding them off. There are lots of souvenirs to be found, but they are generally of average quality and hence quite reasonable. Be aware of fake products and cheap copies.
- In Egypt, you have to pay to use cameras. Most places charge you for taking cameras inside monuments and museums. You can click with the help of mobiles, but if you want to use cameras, be ready to shell out a fee. The charges will depend on the historical significance of the exhibit. However, the cameras can be used to take pictures of monuments from outside. Flash photography is forbidden.
- In spite of all the poverty and backwardness, the public toilets are quite clean in Egypt. All the public toilets have an attendant who keeps cleaning the washrooms in the hope of getting tips from the users. An arrangement that manages to keep the toilets adequately clean and hygienic. Lots of countries, including India, should learn from them how to keep the toilets usable in public places. It’s advisable to carry your own toilet paper.
- For most of us, Egypt is synonymous with Pyramids and Mummy but there are only three Pyramids in Giza, Egypt. Most of the Mummies that we see in the Museums have been excavated from the 62 tombs in The Valley of Kings (Luxor), about 500 km away from the Pyramids. In fact, people believe that Mummies were never found in Pyramids. There is a theory that Pyramids were not meant to be tombs but to balance electromagnetic energy. The debate is never-ending, and it only adds to the mystery and charm of the last of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
- You might have not heard of Abu Simbel, Temple of Philae, Karnak Temple, and Valley of the Kings, but they are as magnificent and perplexing as the Pyramids. They give a more vivid glimpse of the mysterious bygone area and are worth visiting on their own. Egypt is predominantly desert and 90% of its area is desert. Nile Valley and Nile Delta are just 5% of the entire expanse of Egypt but their cultivation support 99% of the total population. ‘6th of October’ and ’10th of Ramadan’ are names of cities in Egypt. Weird, isn’t it?
- If you thought Egyptians only mummified their Kings, nobles, or religious dignitaries, you are in for a surprise. Cats, birds, baboons, dogs, crocodiles, and rams were also mummified in ancient Egypt as they were considered sacred. You can just imagine how evolved and flourishing was the Egyptian civilization at that time as Mummifying is an expensive and complex procedure lasting 70 days after death.
- Child labor is rampant in Egypt and you can see them engaged in all sorts of work. There are 1.8 million children working and more than half of them are involved in hazardous work. You can see them everywhere you go. The animals used for the tourists, like camels and horses, seem to be starved and exhausted. But when the economy is in bad shape, and people cannot fill their basic needs, these things are bound to happen.
- If you live in India, you are used to traffic and reckless driving. But Cairo takes road chaos to another level. In some areas, there are no traffic lights, no speed limit, and no crosswalks. The traffic is haphazard and the rules are not followed. It’s risky to drive and even more dangerous to walk. Crossing the road can be tricky. A half an hour ride can take two hours and you will go insane hearing the cars honk. When driving at night, many don’t use headlights. Thankfully Uber is very cheap and you can use it if needed.
Egypt is a different world altogether and it was really fascinating visiting it. Find out details about the best places to travel, the best time to visit Egypt, and suggested itinerary in Egypt Travel Guide. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel experience and could not help appreciating the fact that Egyptians are surviving in such adverse conditions and still remain so positive and exuberant