Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Another Perspective: The Typical Cairo Travel Review


CNN International posted an article by one of their travel tip staffers living in Cairo. Although I agreed with most of his statements about the "crowded, chaotic, polluted and noisy" city, there were other parts that made me raise and eyebrow.   As I read the article, I chuckled  to myself at the points of unfortunate, superficial reflections of a Western, white male completely unaware of his surroundings. Admittedly, I'm still bitter about my experience this past weekend. Here are some highlights:

And despite all the stresses of life here, Egyptians manage to remain by-and-large polite and friendly, with a raucous sense of humour renowned throughout the Arab world.- I guess I'd think people were polite and funny as well, if they never tried to touch my unmentionables in public or didn't hurl racial slurs at me as I shopped. Must be nice...

In Cairo, tourists stick out; there's no getting around it. Spend a few years here, and you will develop the "I've seen it all" look that Egyptians are so good at, and no one will give you a second glance.- EVERYONE notices tourists! Tourists are like prey with their fanny backs and Lonely Planet guides. There are slick men who specifically hang around near tourist attractions and Tahrir Square  to lure tourist into scams and tourists traps. Some of my favorite scams:telling you the Egyptian Museum is closed and insisting that you follow them to a nearby "bazaar", the friendly guy who offers to take a picture of you with your camera then refuses to give it back until you pay him, and the "tour guides" at the Egyptian museum who offer to take you on a tour of the museum for a ridiculous amount of money, eventhough they don't know one Egyptian dynasty from the other.

There are hundreds of tourist shops where you will be invited in "just to look" and for a cup of tea, but in general Egyptians try the soft approach to trap the tourists. So my advice is go ahead, allow yourself to be trapped.- ...I'm uncertain as to why anyone would, in good conscious, advise you to "allow yourself to be trapped" anywhere. Some store owners at tourist shops can be quite pushy and aggressive. If you aren't interested in buying something, it's best to not stop at all and continue on your way.

What seemed to him as standard advice clearly wouldn't apply to everyone. Cairo is an experience of your own that depends on multiple factors, some you can control and some you can not.


mina said...

the person who wrote that article sounds like a moron.

Frenchie said...

ROTFL Mina, you're hilarious!

the international said...

Your posts are really really interesting....It's a lot to think about especially on your experiences on race.

I used to live in Dubai, and there are racial issues there (which place isn't free of them?) but the experiences you talked about seem so....crass and vulgar. It isn't what you'd expect.

Then again I lived in the 'expat bubble' in Dubai...not that there was really a chance of living among the locals to be honest. They were only 10% of the population and kept to themselves. Although I did have some that were close friends who were genuinely nice people.

Lots to think about!

Frenchie said...

Hi international! cairo also allows you to have that expat bubble. I only dabbled in it here and there and discussed it on past posts like this one :http://blackincairo.blogspot.com/2010/03/things-ive-learned-in-egypt-part-2.html but after some of these negative experiences, I plan to move into one asap. No more of roughing it with the locals

the international said...


I really really enjoyed living in Dubai. My parents still live there so I go back every 3 months or so. I wonder if I would have enjoyed it so much if I wasn't in the expat bubble, but if I lived amongst locals? Would I have the same experience as you? For some reason, I feel like I wouldn't.. the things you mentioned like being shouted after and hassled aren't really things Dubai locals are associated with. Which makes me wonder what it is that is different about Egyptians that makes them do that.

Then again I'm a guy so maybe that wouldn't happen anyway. Sounds like a complicated mix of sexism and racism.

Frenchie said...

I've had friends who lived i Dubai and all had largely positive experiences. From what I've been told and read, harassment is a significant issue in North Africa, Egypt being worst offender, and it's becoming an issue in the Levantine but not to this extent.

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