Egypt’s Dark Side

Egypt is definitely a very diverse country. As exceptional and impressive as the architectural and artistic works from the time of the pharaohs are, as annoying and exhausting it is to be there as a tourist. Which things annoyed us the most and what you should be prepared for, you will learn here.

An Egyptian souk at the entrance of a sight: the sheer horror for those who do not want to be talked into buying something
An Egyptian souk at the entrance of a sight: the sheer horror for those who do not want to be talked into buying something

Basic problems

The rip-off begins just minutes after landing at the airport: You’d simply like to  calmly get your visa on arrival, as a hectic and aggressive crowd of wildly shouting men with printed logos of tour operators starts pushing you away from the official bank counter to their own visa counter. Instead of the fixed fee of $ 25 for a 28-day visa, they ask you to pay $ 30 or more. Otherwise, they threaten, the hotel transfer will be canceled. Don’t be fooled by them, there is no legal basis for this.

Generally, lots of things are different here than in Europe. Many buildings and roads are broken, the air is stuffy and the noise level is high. This is complemented by continuous honking and a lot of garbage everywhere, after all, there are hardly any trash cans. Especially in rural areas, but also in cities such as Luxor, the cityscape is still characterized by donkey carts and horse-drawn carriages. Every few meters you are accosted by a street vendor who aggressively wants to sell his goods or services. Polite “no, thank you” is ignored, so that as a tourist, within a few seconds, you attract multiple loudly advertising salespeople, who follow you for several hundred meters and spend minutes bending your ear.

A stream that obviously serves for waste disposal
A stream that obviously serves for waste disposal

The fate of the tourists and those who live on them

Of course, this impression is exacerbated by the current situation, because since the revolution in 2011, only a fraction of the original number of foreign visitors comes to Egypt anymore. Thus, all those desperate people who live on the tourism business pounce on the few remaining ones. On the one hand, understandable in their predicament, so that you’d almost build up something like pity, if not all of these people were so extremely rude, dishonest and deceitful at the same time.

Egypt, lesson one: Don’t trust anyone, you alone are your only friend! As sad as it makes us having to write that, unfortunately as true it is. How many times have we tried to give opportunities, to get the right directions which don’t end in a souvenir shop, to get into a taxi and not be driven anywhere else, to get a recommendation without being cashed after, to ask for the price without having to pay a multiple of the locals’ price.

Various ticket prices for Egyptians and non-Egyptians
Various ticket prices for Egyptians and non-Egyptians

Safety situation

There’s one thing you have to be aware of when traveling to the land of the Pharaohs: Every tourist is perceived here as a walking wallet. It is hardly possible to have a conversation on a human level, much less if there is not some business in the game. Certainly you can’t expect that Egyptians could put themselves in the position of a tourist, actually the least come into this situation during their lifetime.

Despite everything, we seldom felt insecure. We don’t consider the rate of direct crime such as pickpocketing to be any higher than in European big cities. The streets are busy, especially late in the evening and at night, so it’s no problem to walk around even at late hours. However, we have to say that we are always traveling together as a couple. Alone as a woman I would probably often feel uncomfortable, regardless of the time of day. Even with a man by your side, expect receiving plenty of unwelcome compliments and ending up being on the selfies of many Egyptian men, in part without even being asked.

No respect for anything

An attempt to make money: As many as five signs indicate the presence of toilets, but just a few meters further...
An attempt to make money: As many as five signs indicate the presence of toilets, but just a few meters further…

Furthermore, we think that it’s a great shame that all the old buildings and cultural heritage are absolutely not appreciated by many Egyptians at all. The self-declared custodians smoke inside the temples, climb over barriers, touch walls with hieroglyphics, and tolerate the same actions by tourists, in some cases even asking them to do so, just to earn a few dollars.

...the competitor already advertises as well. By the way, the fact that you simply don't need to go to the bathroom right now, doen't interest the Egyptians in the least the way.
…the competitor already advertises as well. By the way, the fact that you simply don’t need to go to the bathroom right now, doen’t interest the Egyptians in the least the way.

Another difference to the rest of the world: Egyptians can’t (or don’t want to?) wait in line. We have never experienced that anywhere else. Whether at the ATM, train or metro ticket office, they permanently push themselves forward and who doesn’t jostle gets simply ignored. Basically, you shouldn’t be confident that anyone will grant you even a tiny bit of personal space.

Also, most Egyptians don’t understand that it makes sense to let others get off public transport first before they can push in. And going by taxi in Egypt is pure adventure.

Why do we recommend Egypt anyway?

Our video of Egypt

Nonetheless, we don’t regret visiting this country full of contradictions. That way we were able to see some of the oldest and most impressive buildings in human history with our own eyes. We also like the fact that there are cheap vegan food options and freshly squeezed juices everywhere.

In general, since the currency decline of 2016, Egypt has become significantly cheaper for foreigners than it already was before. Here, you can afford (almost) everything – as long as you get the “normal” and not the tourist price. For example, more than 200 kilometers of second-class train travel cost less than two dollars. We hardly know any countries that are comparably cheap (I mean, falafel sandwiches for 10 cents – where else do you get that?). Egypt is definitely a recommendation for vegans on a budget!

Further articles

Pyramids of GizaIf you need tips on what to look for when choosing your accommodation, read the article about our best and worst accommodation in Egypt. Here you get to all our articles concerning Egypt.

Every country surely has its advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, we must admit that we were rarely that disappointed, annoyed and sometimes really pissed off by a state and its inhabitants, as by the Egyptians. Have you ever experienced such a thing? What are your worst travel experiences? Let us know in the comments!

 

5 Replies to “Egypt’s Dark Side”

  1. wow that’s alot of bold statements from two travelling priviledges from fortress europe. Try blend-in little post-colonial theory next time in your veg shalalah

  2. Yes, totally agreed with you guys. This topic seems been omitted and nobody wants to talk about it. I just came back from a 5 weeks Solo trip to Egypt, and I had to deal with all these mess and rip-offs. As you mentioned even to use a WC you need to pay….I have pissed outside in sign of rebellion under the screams of these beasts. You are treated and shouted like an animal. Either from these street vendors to the police!! These people have lost any sense of education or politeness. It’s awful. The ancient wonders are abandoned and neglected as well their surroundings. Giza plateau is like a zoo and open-air toilet. Worse places Luxor, Giza, Aswan and some areas of Cairo. Also, if they want more tourism they must fix and arrange the behaviour of airport personnel. Its chaos and mistreatment.

  3. I unfortunately have to agree completely. I have traveled to over 100 countries and have yet to encounter a country where foreigners are viewed as a giant dollar sign rather than a human being. That said, we did visit a couple of non touristy cities like Sohag where we were actually treated very well. But I doubt that I would ever return to an Egyptian tourist city again.
    As for the individual who left a negative comment, try and understand our point of view. It is extremely frustrating to not be able to simply enjoy your country. We pay many multiples of the entrance prices (i can even understand given we are not tax payers) but to have the guards within the temples, beg for money is just wrong not to mention their total disregard for upkeep. And dont get me started on paying to use the most vile toilets on the planet.

  4. I completely agree with you on the behavior of vendors and beggars and such, but normal people that you will meet outside of those touristic places are really hospitable and will go out of their way to help you and we like to joke alot! i hope that you don”t view my comment as biased because i’m Egyptian , but as an Egyptian who lived here all my life i know the bad and the good in our culture and i agree fully on what you say . Being hospitable to visitors is called “wageb” or duty but lots of vendors here tend to forget their manners, and they are being stupid honestly because like that they are basically hurting themselves . My advise to anyone visiting is to try to talk to normal people in the places locals go, after all over 90% of Egyptians don’t work in the industry but in touristic sites you will unfortunately find the people who will try to rip you off . I hate that lot’s of people’s behavior usually gives a bad image about us but i hope if you try to come back try to sit at cafes in old Cairo and despite it being hectic, i think you will like the people. oh and a tip usually if you try to appear as a an experienced traveler and used a couple of Arabic words and such and act experienced it becomes easier! and when you pass by them say ‘laa shukran ‘ and keep walking , every tourist -and yes, not only foreigners or westerners- get that . and btw uber and careem and swvl and careem bus and uber bus function in Cairo and Alexandria if you want to save yourself from haggling . Remember, haggling is not viewed as in the west and is viewed as mere negotiating and haggling is in our culture so it is not about being a tourist, but tourists fall more to the overpriced stuff because they are not familiar with that concept . Also time is not as sacred for us and we are generally late all the time and we are not the most law abiding people (and the law is not well enforced ). Generally i think that Egypt is not a land where everyone can love at first because Egypt is not like other places where you need to stay a long time and be immersed in the culture to see the bad in it beyond the polished surface, it is actually the opposite XD

    1. Dear Rowan,
      thank you for your long comment. We totally agree with most of your points and it wasn’t the last time for us visiting Egypt for sure! We absolutely also see the beauty in this country but for some who aren’t as experienced in traveling it can easily become overwhelming and just too much. That’s why it’s important to know what you’re going for and what to expect beforehand. Especially for someone from Europe or the US where everthing is usually trustworthy, it can be confusing sometimes which information you should trust and which not.
      Have a nice day,
      Chantel

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