Why I Hate Being Asked If I Felt Safe in Egypt
This summer, my friend Jessica and I planned a huge adventure. She was already abroad on a long trip and I would meet her to travel in three amazing countries there were sure to be unforgettable: Jordan, Egypt, and Greece. I booked my tickets. I arranged our hostels. I studied my Lonely Planet books religiously.
The trip was just as epic as we had hoped. Never will I forget the night we spent out in the desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan after a long day of camel trekking. Sitting in the ruins of Lawrence of Arabia’s house and staring off into the orange sand, I had to convince myself that I wasn’t on Mars. Trekking eight hours through the ruins of Petra, “The Rose City” was one of the best and most exhausting days of my life. I could go on and on.
Egypt was equally unforgettable. What kid doesn’t dream of seeing the Pyramids of Giza, of strolling through temples older than our minds can fathom, of running your fingers over ancient hieroglyphics that had been carved into the smooth stone? We did all of this, and with a gusto that only two wanderlust maniacs can manage. We meandered through ancient crypts of Pharaohs, saw Tutankhamun’s gold inlaid sarcophagus, and marveled at the riches and opulent jewelry that had remained intact all of these thousands of years, laid before us like a feast for the eyes.
By this point, you probably have a question—or several, burning within you. Let me guess…you want to shake me and ask me if I’m crazy. At the very least, you want to ask: “But did you feel safe?”
What kid doesn’t dream of seeing the Pyramids of Giza, of strolling through temples older than our minds can fathom, of running your fingers over ancient hieroglyphics that had been carved into the smooth stone?
This question, “did you feel safe”, is what I was greeted with upon returning home. Instead of “How were the pyramids?” or “How big was the Sphinx?” I was consistently and incessantly asked if I was afraid. And it began to bother me. With so many other questions to ask about two amazing countries and adventures, I was dismayed—and a bit exasperated, that this was the question friends, family, and society as a whole felt compelled to ask me. And I couldn’t help but ask myself…. has our fear of the unknown eclipsed our sense of curiosity and wonder about our own world?
Before I write more, let me answer your burning question. Did I always feel safe while in Jordan and Egypt? The answer is, no. I didn’t. Would I go back and experience it all over again? Absolutely. Now, before you dismiss me as a careless and wild traveler, let me say a few words. It is my belief that nearly any country can be safely explored if you are smart, vigilant and you do your research (there are definitely exceptions—you won’t find me in Syria right now). The majority of people we encountered and interacted with while abroad were nice and very willing to help us.
I have become tired of the first and often only question upon my return being “But weren’t you afraid?” This is a pervading theme in American society that is beginning to not only irritate, but also frighten me.
We had enlightening conversations with Egyptians about their thoughts on the revolution. I met a Syrian refugee in Jordan who was an engineer in his own country, now working as a reluctant restaurant owner in the Wadi Rum desert. However, we certainly made sure that we were properly covered, stayed in areas that were well populated and safe, and never ventured anywhere at night alone. There is such a thing as “tempting fate”, and many travelers who find themselves in bad situations do just that. We made it our prerogative to avoid any situation that would fall under that category. Being prepared and knowing the culture you’re stepping into is not only an interesting learning experience, it’s necessary if you want to be a smart and safe traveler.
As a female traveler who has explored much of Southeast Asia and now parts of the Middle East and Africa I have become tired of the first and often only question upon my return being “But weren’t you afraid?” This is a pervading theme in American society that is beginning to not only irritate, but also frighten me. Are we so dependent on the media, and so stuck in our bubble, that the only experience we have with outside cultures and countries are the tragedy stories we read about and watch on the news? I want to challenge our society—every single one of you–to ask when the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone was.
There is a beautiful and intriguing world out there—and YES, you can go and explore it. Drop the fear, do your research, and step out of your bubble. I promise, it will be the most rewarding and exhilarating experience of your life.
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