Facing the Challenges in Egypt – The First Week – Flashback Series

The coast of Alexandria Egypt

I traveled Egypt for five months from November 11th 2007 to April 2008. This is a flashback series on the depths of my travels.

The First Week Challenges of Egypt!

Planing my tentative travel route was based on my historical interest. I was determined to see the pyramids; thus I started my travels in Egypt. The first week was long and rough. Not only the noise and smog in Cairo were a challenge, also the mosquitoes were devastating, it seemed as if they could smell my sweet blood from miles alway. By the time, I got to the Oasis of Swia my arms and legs were devastated with mosquito bites.

Most westerners that travel to Egypt will loosen up (the shits) from contracting bacteria foreign to the stomach. I loosened up within the first week a didn’t learn until I was in Swia that eating yogurt and bananas the next day after loosening up solve the problem quickly.

budget hotel in Alexandria Egypt

The Budget Hotel

On top of that I was scammed easily more than once in Cario. I learned that most store and shops will charge three times the amount of the value; hence – the art of bargaining is essential to “playing the game.” The art of bargaining requires a strong personality without the emotion of fear hindering the process. Yet, as an unseasoned ignorant traveler, and your everyday honest guy, I paid too much for a cell phone, and a taxi and tour of the pyramids, and buying some other things, but it was a good introduction to the point I learned how to get their on my own.

Please note that the hotel was solid in Cairo.

After 5 days in Cairo, I took the train to Alexandra. I got a nice room at a budget hotel on the water which had a small balcony. Emotionally I was devastated, I wondered how am I going to last up to six months in this country.

I wrote this when heading to Alexandra

Hello everyone, I am heading to Alexandria today and looking forward to getting away from sucking on exhaust flumes and smog. I don’t know how these people deal with it day in and day out. The exhaust is the worst of it all. In the morning it settles in the streets, during the day the cars just stir it around. It is all a person breaths while walking in the street.

There is no system to the traffic, people just drive within the lanes, in between the lanes. If there is a stop light they just blow right through it sometimes unless a traffic cop is singling the intersection. They honk to let each other know where they are in the road.

That day in Alex I went a pharmacy and got some cream and medication for the mosquito bites and from loosening up. All over Egypt in the pharmacies has at least one person that speaks English.

The Roman Baths in Alexandria

I experienced a major emotional experience when I got to my room in Alexandra, the next morning I met a black America guy from New York City that lived in Dubai and he was going on a tour to Rosetta. The post I wrote about this episode I titled The Tourist Syndrome in Egypt

I wrote this on the post The Tourist Syndrome in Egypt.

The french lady flipped out toward the tourist guide in the middle of the street, and the Belgium couple decided to lose us, I hope they made it back OK, just because of the transportation hassle. I found the whole thing funny. I am happy I am a Mu-sa’ferr, meaning traveler in Arab.

The New York guy was getting his kicks from seeing a cow in the field, although it was nice to hang with another American for awhile. Now I know why I am traveling alone. The last couple of days I have been tested in a few ways, today was an eye opener.

Dealing with the Egyptians in the proper manner is what matters, I am learning quickly. The tour guide thank me and said I was a good guy, I did not bitch and moan over the cost. With a great lunch (fresh seafood) and the tour was only $40.00. The best meal I have had since I’ve arrived, top dollar is what I mean. I just don’t want to get suckered, which has happened twice, but it is OK, it’s bound to happen.

After experiencing this crazy tour and bad tourists I was determined to continue on an independent path and only do an arranged trip when there was no other way such as going to the White desert.

After experiencing a slight emotional defeat in the first week, I was overly encouraged after observing spoiled tourists.

Citadel in Cairo Egypt

In the following post titled Pictures Around Alex I wrote this.

The Catacombs in Alex were amazing. The way they found it? a donkey fell through road, and there it was. This major under ground tomb, originally it was just for a royal family, although the was a famine and they stored about 6000 bodies in this tomb. It was above ground 2000 years ago, but now you have to walk 96 steps down into the catacomb.

So guess where are the tourists are? on tours. I have been wondering, how is it that this country can get 2.5 million tourist a year and I don’t see anyone on the streets or in the local areas. Now I know, they take tours and stay on tours. They say at the big hotels and eat at all the spendy restaurants and spend big money, sometimes euros and dollars on boring tours. Most look very ragged and tired, which is OK, but the part that is missed is the culture, the people, the dynamics of the country.

One reason they stay on tours is because of the way the culture is out here, because of people being poor, haggling foreigners is just the way it is, it is one negative aspect that is important to understand the depths of why they haggle tourists. I am learning how to bargain very quickly. I got my hair cut last night. I walked into the store and said the greetings and asked how much, the store owner, who works 10 hours a day six days a week, said no problem. I said again, how much? he said – no problem. I said, yes I know no problem, so how much, and he said no problem. OK, I knew he did not want to give me a price until we were done, which he trims your eye browns, ear hairs, and nose hairs along with the cut. We got done and I forgot I have a fifty pound note in my money clip, oops, big mistake. When they see the big bills they kind of would rather have you give them one. I knew I was getting suckered, which was OK. After, he gave me tea and we sat and chatted for a good hour. I showed him all my pictures in my Camera and he shared that he has three daughters. He was a nice guy and I did get a great hair cut. Although, now I know the going rate. I will offer 5 pounds more than the local rate.

In a taxi if they say “no problem” I tell him to let me out, then they will agree to a price. Today I rode with a normal taxi diver, the problem was that he had no idea where he was going. Big time language barrier, although since we went the wrong way I compensated him for it and he was thankful, it seems like the more of a crazy driver, the better, the one who honks five times every block and comes two inches from running people over.

The first week in Egypt was a major test and I thought I was defeated, yet after observing the tourist syndrome despite my mistakes I was reenergized, mostly emotionally to face the challenges and to continue on. The next day I headed to Swia where I would recover 100%.

To be Continued…