MESSAGE – Egypt *Video*

I like Egypt. In fact, this was my second time here in just 3 years. During my first visit, I took the more traditional tourist route and visited all the famous sites the country has to offer: Giza’s pyramids and the Sphinx, Aswan and Abu Simbel, Luxor and the Valley of Kings, and St. Katherine’s monastery and the Burning Bush on Mount Sinai.

You can read all about these previous adventures in these articles:

So this second trip to Egypt was all about fun and sun! I spent the first week experiencing “Urban Cairo” – salsa dancing, jazz clubs, hidden roof-top bars. All good fun with good friends! The second week, I spent in the Sinai’s Sharm el Sheikh diving the Red Sea.

Here’re my tips on how to have fun in the city and by the sea!

MEET (Cool Meet Ups) – Al-Azhar Park. Without a doubt, the place to be is Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the nerve-center of the country’s political overthrow. But while I walked by and snapped a few pictures, in general, foreigners aren’t welcome to participate in this home-grown revolution.

Another cool place to hang out is the private park Al-Azhar Park. This foundation supported green space provides a chance to walk besides fountains and carefully manicured gardens, as well as offering incredible views of the city’s skyline at sunset. I stopped by for a light meal and coffee during both of my Cairo visits.

Can’t see the video? Click on this link: Erin in Cairo

EAT (Tasty Eats) – Egyptian Home Cooking. I’m told the only dish Egypt can truly call its own is kushari – a sleep-inducing meal of rice, lentils, noodles, and friend onions. I also ate my fill of fuul: a paste-like consistency of fava beans cooked with oil and lemon (and sometimes garlic). Fuul is especially popular to eat for breakfast. I like!

SEE (Must-see Sights) – Cairo Night Life. To me, Cairo is one of the world’s best cities – exciting and full of the unexpected! The place we hung out the most during my week exploring Cario’s nightlife is the neighborhood of Zamalek, home to Cairo’s artists and avant-garde.

Many of the places we visited are up numerous flights of stairs, behind crumbling building facades. You come out of the elevator and voila! A roof-top view of Cairo across the Nile, or a star-strewn jazz club featuring young afro-sporting musicians playing upbeat revolutionary songs, or a host of Cairenes salsa dancing the night away. One thing’s for sure in Cairo — there is never a dull moment!

SHOP (Gotta Have) –Bedouin Tent Textiles. I love the Bedouin-inspired hand-sewn designs featured on wall-hangings, blankets and pillows. But I have to constantly remind myself to stop buying pillow shams for a house that doesn’t exist!

So for a souvenir I selected a striped burnt orange and deep purple shawl of southern Egyptian design. It has quickly become one of my favorite additions to my world nomad wardrobe. (I’m wearing it in the video above!)

ACTIVITY (Gotta Do) – Diving the Red Sea. As great as Cairo is, I felt the need to escape – so off I went to the Sinai desert to do some diving. I stayed at Sharks Bay Umbi Village, one of the few Bedouin-owned resorts in the ultra-touristy seaside town of Sharm el Sheikh.

It was the perfect escape – diving all day and hanging out in the sand-strewn Bedouin tents at night drinking beer with new friends and smoking seesha (a water pipe filled with fruit-flavored tobacco). I like to think of it as an authentic Egyptian experience!

Read more about my time in Sharm: Red Sea Diving: Sharks!

GIVE (Greatest Need) – Protection for Women. Cairo is thought to be one of the worst cities in the world for women—specifically because of the prevalence of sexual harassment. In fact, a 2008 study by the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights found 83% of Egyptian women said they had been sexually harassed.

Read my post Women & Harassment in Egypt for more information about this crisis and what some feminists are doing about it.

ENJOY (Extra Fun) – Felucca Sail. Nothing beats a romantic sunset sail on a traditional felucca along the Nile. One of the best bargains around, you can hire a boat and captain for as little as $30 (with tip).

I went with some friends and shared a bottle of wine, toasting to the perfect weather and historic changes occurring in the country. To me, the view from the water encapsulates Egypt today: a modern metropolis steeped in ancient tradition and national pride.

Ever been to Egypt? If not, it’s a fantastic holiday destination: unmatched archeology, a unique African-Arab culture, and splendid shopping. And hey, just think, the ongoing political instability makes the whole adventure super affordable right now!

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 24th, 2011 and is filed under Arab Region, Messages by Country.

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