Over the last few years, Egypt has become a somewhat controversial place to visit. This once-thriving tourism hub got a bit of a bad reputation thanks to political activity in the Middle East. But it’s making a huge comeback, and tourists are heading back to Egypt more and more every year.
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If you’ve heard some bad or scary things about traveling this beautiful land, you could have been hearing some of these common myths.
1. Women in Egypt are not respected or safe
For many reasons, it’s become a myth that Egyptian women may not drive, don’t often work outside the home, and must dress and act modestly all the time. It’s true that some women of some faiths may live in this way by choice, but Egypt itself has no such cultural laws or rules about this. Egyptian women do drive, do work outside the home, and go out to bars or clubs just like they might in any other modern country.
When traveling to Egypt, it’s often recommended that women cover their shoulders and knees because this is a common cultural practice – especially when you’ll be visiting mosques and temples – but you won’t be arrested for showing some skin.
2. People go swimming in the Nile
In remote villages or small towns, some people may wade or swim in the Nile. But in Cairo and other bustling cities, swimming in this river is actually pretty dangerous. There are Nile cruises, private sailboats, and freight shipments causing a lot of traffic on the water.
3. Egyptian food is very heavy on the meat
It’s true that Egyptians aren’t known for following a strict vegetarian diet by any means. But many of the most important dishes in the country are vegetarian. For example, the traditional breakfast food often served to travelers is foul, a fava bean dish served with bread. Other main dishes include vegetarian falafel, fried eggplants, an almost goulash-like dish called Koshari, stuffed leaves, and a rice dish called Fatta. Vegetarians have no problem staying well-fed in Egypt.
4. It will be hard to communicate when you are in Egypt
In fact, because there are so many different dialects of Arabic, many (if not most) of the people in Egypt will speak either English or French as a second language – with a large portion speaking both! There is also a hefty portion of Egyptians who speak German, and languages such as Italian and Russian are more common than you’d think. If you have a handle on a few basic Arabic traveling phrases, and fluency in any of the languages listed here (but particularly English), you’ll find it’s easy to communicate around most of the cities and populated areas.
5. People just go to Egypt for the pyramids
The Giza Pyramids are beautiful pieces of history, and are worth a visit – but honestly, they don’t look the way they do in the movies. With the traffic (both vehicles and foot traffic) bustling around them, and the huge desert making them seem a little less impressive than a close up of a camera can, they are not the only reason to visit. Egypt also has tons of other culture and tourist attractions to explore.
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6. All of Egypt is a big, hot desert
About 90% of Egypt is a desert. But the cities, such as Cairo and Luxor, are located in the remaining 10%, where you’ll find Mediterranean beaches, and even mountains to climb!
7. Egyptians are rude or unfriendly
This is a huge misconception, probably based on culture shock from decades ago. The fact is that Egyptians tend to be very helpful and friendly – maybe even overly so. Don’t be surprised if a passing Egyptian interrupts you to give you directions if they overhear you wondering where something is.
8. It’s weird to have to cover up to enter a mosque
When you visit a mosque in Egypt, you are asked to respect the culture of modesty within. Women are generally asked to cover up with provided robes, although if you have a head scarf and an outfit that covers your arms and legs, you may not need to. Men are asked not to wear shorts, and to have at least their shoulders covered. This isn’t really that weird when you consider that you have to follow the same (or very similar) rules to enter the Vatican City as a Catholic.
9. Egypt is a dangerous place to travel
After the events of 9/11, many places in the Middle East gained this reputation. Sadly, there are certain areas of Egypt where tourists aren’t encouraged to visit, such as the remote desert areas near Libya. But the hot spots of Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria, Aswan, and around the Red Sea, are very safe – and very friendly!
10. Shopping at the Khan El Khalili is overwhelming
With all the people and vendors, the Khan El Khalili bazaar in Cairo can seem chaotic at first. But shopping in Egypt is a ritual that is surprisingly relaxing. Often, if you find yourself haggling with a store owner for more than a few minutes, you’ll be invited to have tea or coffee with them while you hash out a price. It’s not as fast-paced as it first seems.
11. Egypt is hot, hot hot!
True, during the summer, Egypt is extremely hot. But in the winter, people living in Egypt actually need to turn on the heat! In the spring and fall, you can expect mild temperatures that are perfect for sightseeing.
12. Egyptian cities are dirty
That is not always the case – sadly, tourist-heavy areas do get dirtier than others due to the larger crowds. But Egyptian cities are often beautiful and filled with history and art.
13. A luxury trip to Egypt will be expensive
That is not always the case! Great food and fun attractions are surprisingly affordable in Egypt, so your budget may not be as thin as you think it is. Check out our many guided tours of Egypt to find the perfect getaway for you!
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