Travel Misconceptions: Egypt Edition

This week, we’re looking at Egypt. It’s one of out favorite tour destinations here at Brave Women Travel, and we have three different travel tours for women that go there. But as famous as the country is, there are a whole lot of things that many people still get wrong about it.

I personally blame movies for this, having held a couple of these misconceptions myself in the past. Ahem. We see the portrayals of windswept deserts dotted with camels, “exotic”dancers, ancient artifacts to trip over on every street corner, and it just kind of sinks in without us thinking about it. But when you do start to think about it (no time like the present) you can really help yourself. We always like to help travelers gain an understanding and appreciation of the places they visit. In order for that to happen, however, we sometimes need to lose the wrong ideas first.

Let’s get to learning!

Egypt’s All A Desert

Yes, a large part of Egypt is desert. But that’s not the part that most people live in. They live next to the Nile River and close to the Mediterranean Sea. This means that the areas that have been the most built up are in the most lush and fertile parts of the country. The Nile River Delta in particular is known for its greenery.

A lot of the little ideas that come attached with “desert living” also need to get thrown out along with the first misconception. Camels as transport? No. I mean, there are camels, but that would be assuming that people in America use horses as their primary form of transport. Constant dry heat? No. There’s heat, but it’s not all the time and it’s not dry in every season. Bellydancing? Sometimes, but again, think about what we might compare this to. Do you know how to – I don’t know, waltz? Line dance?

Nothing But Pyramids

Of course, the pyramids are on many a traveler’s wish list, and for good reason. They are not only instantly recognizable, but they have become one of those sights that almost stands for travel in and of itself. They are also one of the most amazing feats of historical engineering that it is possible to witness. And, of course, there is the sphinx, just as iconic in its own right. But that’s not all there is.

Thinking of Egypt as being only the pyramids is like thinking of France as being only the Eiffel Tower. (Which some people do,I guess.) But there’s so much more to be appreciated than that. You should definitely get that snapshot in front of the pyramids, but there’s going to be a long list of things to do after that’s done.

Even the pyramids themselves are probably not the way you’re picturing them. They are not sitting in the middle of a wide patch of wasteland, with sand and sky as far as the eye can see. They’re in Giza, which is a city near to Cairo. People live there, just like they live around other monuments all over the world. There are fast food restaurants right over the road, for crying out loud. (Though I would recommend a more traditional meal, while you’re there.)

It’s Underdeveloped/Undeveloped

A lot of African countries struggle with similar misconceptions. Many people seem to fall into one of two mistakes. One, thinking that it’s going to be like stepping back in time. The other, that the cities will be impoverished and crumbling. Egypt, however, is a well-developed and modern nation. They have their issues like any other country, but that’s the point – just like any other country.

There will be traditional aspects of Egyptian culture and lifestyle that it is important for a respectful traveler to pay attention to. Fore example, just like on many trips for women, you should probably carry some kind of scarf that can be used as a head covering in case you want to visit a religious area. However, this is similar to many modern cities in countries all over the world.

Anything to Do With Curses

Come on, guys.

If you have ever started to go down this particular rabbit hole, no judgment, but I’m going to recommend that you watch a few less movies. Maybe head outside. Or hey, go on vacation. To Egypt, for example.

Anything to Do With Aliens

Guys. Seriously. Come on.

Not that I think many people who are open to traveling the world are going to hold these kinds of opinions, to be fair. But it is extremely annoying that people still think this. And just imagine how frustrating it is for the people of Egypt to hear about these kinds of opinions. No-one ever thinks that castles in Europe were built with the help out outer space visitors *cough cough*

Cleopatra’s Beauty and Wiles

You hear a lot about how Cleopatra was a beautiful, charming seductress that enchanted two different Roman leaders with her wiles and etc etc. And she did win both of them over – but it wasn’t because she was beautiful. It seems that she was pretty plain, actually. She was, however, extremely intelligent, well-spoken, and really great company. She also knew that Egypt needed powerful allies to survive and flourish. It seems that a lot of Romans took issue with her relationships and so painted her as some kind of harlot instead of the savvy politician and ruler that she was.

Even now, as many of us tend to organize out holidays around the safest places for women to travel, we know that there is a lot of nonsense that women still deal with. It’s nice to acknowledge an historical figure that has been treated unfairly because of her gender. At the same time, we can help ourselves by taking advantage of group travel, sharing experiences and safety with other women.

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Kate Downes

Kate is a freelance writer and travel blogger. Some people say it's a tough gig, but she has previously taught high school, worked retail, and been a bartender in London, and would take five thousand words on a deadline any day. You can find more of her work at readlongshorts.com and signedkateelizabeth.com.

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