I’ve heard many times, even from the most seasoned women travelers, that they have hesitations about traveling to Egypt. Worries about sanitation, the differences of how women are viewed and the most common concern, “what should I wear!”
I had the same apprehensions before my two week trip down the Nile, but I was not going to let it keep me from experiencing the historically and culturally enriching experience that traveling to Egypt is.
My expedition took me to popular tourist destinations, such as Cairo and Luxor, then unconventional places such as Al-Fayoum and Minya (known in ancient days as Amarna). This region was where Pharaoh Akhenaten set up his new empire and (arguably) pioneered the idea of monotheistic religion in the 14th century BC. Although the Pyramids and tombs were predictably highlights of my trip, I was most excited about visiting the Cairo Museum (because that’s my thang).
During all my waypoints I took notice on how women were traveling and what local women wore. I noticed that some women wore a full burka mostly in smaller villages and the majority of women wore the common head dress, the hijab. Although it is not necessary for tourists to completely cover themselves or even wear a headdress, I found that women who were more exposed got gawked at and sometimes harassed and followed. So, what do you do in that situation?
I learned from two strangers that looking for other women for support is a good tactic and a great way to make new friends.
My unexpected mission was to save random strangers from harassing men. This is how it went-
In Cairo I found myself in an impromptu moment to help some of my fellow women travelers. Two modestly dressed women were on their first day in Cairo just off the plane from Australia. I, on the other hand, was at the end of my two week escapade, adapted and experienced. I spotted them walking rapidly down the street, visibly annoyed and being followed by a scamming and harassing man.
Spotting me, an obvious tourist, they unbashfully approached me and asked me where was a good place to hang out. As the man saw them talking to other people he eventually went away and my new friends and I went out to dinner, got to know each other and were able to exchange itineraries and advice about our journeys.
I hope that my story does not persuade you not to go to Egypt because although annoyances and harassment can happen, most of the people I met were very polite and not problematic at all and the trip was fantastic. My goal is for you not to be discouraged but to be aware. So, here are a few things that are good to keep in mind when traveling in Egypt.
5 Tips for Women Traveling in Egypt:
1. Know Your Notes- Learn the currency. Although Egyptian pounds are marked in English on one side and Arabic on the other, it is still important to learn what the currency looks like and its value before heading into a store, flopping your wallet around and leaving without knowing if you got the right change.
2. Cover Up the Cleavage- Dress modestly even on the beaches. Knees, shoulders, chest and elbows should be covered to avoid gawking. As a tourist at a hotel resort, bathing suits are usually acceptable but going top-less is not.
3. Adopt a Herd Mentality- I don’t usually think it’s necessary to travel with tours or in a group, but in Egypt it could be helpful if you are trying to explore less traveled areas and are getting around by transportation other than planes. If you are just going to popular cities then I don’t feel that a tour is necessary.
4. Learn the Lingo- If you feel you are being harassed, just say scram in arabic. “IMSHI” means go away and may not be the nicest thing you could say but does the trick.
5. Lean on Your Fellow Women Travelers- If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation look for a fellow woman traveler to help bail you out. And vice versa- always look out for your fellow women travelers!
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