I subscribed to a lot of travel sites while preparing for my trip. And while it’s going to be a few years before I can go on another, I still find myself browsing the sites, getting particularly excited when I read posts about places I’ve been.
Today I came upon an article outlining the author’s recent 3 week trip to Egypt, and why they feel now is a good time to go. I think it’s well written and outlines some interesting points, but mostly I like it because it closely reflects my experience and feelings on the situation.
The Egyptian tourism industry’s misfortune is, however, the visitor’s opportunity: I never had to battle my way through crowds of tourists, not even at the most famous sites. I have a photograph that I took of the Pyramids where the place looks empty.
In 2009, I was living in San Francisco when the “Tutankhamun and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs” exhibit rolled into town. I walked down to the De Young with the intention of buying a ticket and having a look. Faced with a huge, noisy crowd waiting to enter the exhibit at its allotted time, and a $30 ticket price, I changed my mind and spent two hours in the park instead.
In Cairo, on the other hand, I walked to the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, paid less than $10, and wandered through the empty, dusty museum, soon finding myself alone in front of King Tut’s solid gold death mask (which cannot leave Egypt anymore, so wasn’t even part of the San Francisco exhibit).
Our small tour group also got to enjoy Kom Ombo Temple — usually packed with cruise ship passengers — alone, and our visit to Karnak Temple was peaceful and unrushed. Usually it is so crowded that visitors are assigned a time slot for entry.
At times, the reason these tourist sites were so empty played on my mind — much as it must have been on the minds of those people who expressed concerns over my safety prior to my trip. Walking over the bridge in Dahab that was hit by bombings in 2006, ballooning over Luxor Temple where 62 people were murdered in 1997, I was made keenly aware of the history of targeted attacks on visitors, but also of the efforts Egyptians go to to ensure the safety of tourists.
You can read the rest of Karen’s report on Matador Network. Reading it certainly brought me back to my time there and reminds me of how lucky I am to have gone when I did.