January 2018 Travel Feature

Egypt

My first journey to one of the world's oldest civilizations was not one I will easily forget. Yes, it can be crowded and it's definitely dirty (sand + pollution from one of the world's largest cities isn't a recipe for cleanliness), but it quickly stole my heart.

CAIRO

The 15th largest city in the world. It is also the largest metropolitan area in Africa, and the Middle East. It's a lot to take in. And doing so from the back seat of a cab (that had to be jumpstarted before leaving the airport) can be overwhelming at best and at worst make you want to scream "STOP!" and get back on the next airplane home. The chaotic nature of Arabic culture is so vastly different from our way of life in North America. You literally play Frogger to cross the street, cars drive almost on top of each other while going the wrong direction, and the language itself is can sound harsh and angry if you don't know what is being said.  And yet, it quickly became one of my favorite places I've visited.

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Every where we went, from walking down the street to get our daily morning falafel, to the temples of Luxor, to the pyramids, people were calling out "Welcome! Welcome!" with broad smiles on their tanned faces. 

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Egyptians are a very warm, tolerant people. They all want to be your friend, and if you become seen as family, any type of hospitality they have, they will give you (Which is awesome because that means they feed you and all of the food is delicious).

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I tried my best to capture the feeling of being surrounded by a constantly moving jumble of people, but this picture hardly does the city's hustle and bustle justice. Despite the minimal personal space, the people are still very friendly and more than willing to help give you directions and recommendations. 

Learning the tiniest bit of Arabic can help as well. Every Egyptian that I spoke to in Arabic (the extent of my Arabic is counting, bartering, and various phrases such as "how are you" and "thank you") was very excited that an American made the effort to speak to them in something besides English. 

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KARNAK AND THE VALLEY OF THE KINGS

The usual suspects hang around these breath taking historical sights. Tourists as far as the eye can see, but Karnak is so inexplicably massive you barely notice them. By the way, breath taking is an adjective I'm probably going to retire unless I'm talking about the Ancient Egyptians. Pictures and stories will never really let you know how it feels to stand in a massive courtyard of 180+ pillars, such as the one these gentleman pictured are using as a bench. To imagine what the temple must have looked like 4,000 years ago when the carvings were painted, and the musicians and dancers filled its halls makes you feel very, very small. And don't even get me started on the pyramids.

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Close to the Valley of the Kings, there is a small shop where stoneworkers that descended from the original craftsmen of the Valley of the Kings carve bowls, statues, and many other things from alabaster, obsidian, and even lapis lazuli. Photography isn't allowed in the Valley itself, but I don't mind putting the camera down and just enjoying being present in the place I am in.

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Overall, anybody that would ask me if I would recommend visiting Egypt, I would say to not think twice about it and just go. Don't listen to everything the media tells you. Be open minded, as there is a definite culture shock if you haven't traveled to a middle-eastern country, but the energy is unmatched in any other place I've been so far. The sheer history of this amazing country is enough reason to go, and once you arrive the people make you want to stay for much longer.