I’ve got good news and bad news about Egypt. Which do you want first? How ‘bout the bad.
Oksana and I have visited somewhere between 25 and 30 countries so far and it’s safe to say that Egypt is our least favorite so far. Why the hate? Because of the hassle.
Our guidebook warned us, a tourist in Tanzania warned us, friends on Twitter warned us, even the guy behind the counter at our hostel in Cairo warned us, but I still couldn’t believe it would be as bad as they said. It was. Actually, it was worse.
Listen to me. If you go to Egypt, you will be hassled, hounded, yelled at, and argued with. You will be followed, lied to, cheated, and taken advantage of. The people in Egypt will not leave you alone. They will do everything in their power to separate you from your money.
There is no escape from it. At the pyramids of Giza, camel riders will follow you around, pestering you with questions constructed from the seven words of English they’ve memorized: “You want ride? Camel ride? Hello? Camel ride. Twenty dollars. Hello? You want camel ride?”
At the temples, Bedouins will step in front of you to get your attention, point out a hieroglyph on the wall, lie about what it represents (“Look! Cleopatra!”), and then hold out their hand for money.
In the Valley of the Kings, “helpful” people standing at the entrance to the tombs will hand you a half-dead flashlight as you enter and then demand money for it when you try to leave, even though you never used it because the whole tomb was lit with florescent lights.
If you’re not a dark-skinned Arab wearing a robe or a turban, you’re a mark. Egyptians will swarm around you like a cloud of mosquitoes, buzzing in your ears, eventually angering the most patient tourist.
We tried everything we could think of to avoid them; nothing worked. Sometimes we lost our temper. I’m ashamed to admit that we even swore at a few. They swore right back. They know all the worst words, in every language, because they’ve heard them all before from travelers just like us.
We were told again and again that the best thing we could do was ignore them. Don’t make eye contact, show them your back. We tried. It was as simple as ignoring that cloud of mosquitoes and just as effective.