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, travel to Egypt is making a huge comeback, and tourists are heading back to Egypt more and more every year to enjoy a trip of a lifetime.
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If you’ve heard some bad or scary things about travelling this beautiful land, you could have been hearing some of these common myths concerning travel in Egypt:
1. Women are not respected or safe in Egyptian society
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; they do work outside the home, and many of them routinely go out to bars or clubs just like women do in any other modern country. It’s true that Islam forbids Muslims from drinking alcohol, but this doesn’t stop Egyptian women from going out and having a good time.
When you travel to Egypt, it’s often recommended that women cover their shoulders and knees because this is a common cultural practice – especially when visiting mosques and temples. However, you definitely won’t be arrested for showing some skin during your trip in the Land of the Pharaohs.
2. People go swimming in the Nile
Another one of the common misconceptions is that many Egyptians routinely go swimming in the Nile River. In small remote villages or small towns, it is true that some people may wade or swim in the Nile but it is not something you will often see when you travel to Egypt. And, in places like Cairo and other bustling cities, you won’t see any local people swimming in this river because doing so is actually pretty dangerous. There are Nile River cruises; private sailboats; freight shipments, and lots of other traffic on the water.
Besides the risk of being injured or killed by a boat or ship, swimming in the Nile can result in schistosomiasis, a disease that is caused by a certain type of parasite that is present in the river. While the risk of infection is considerably lower in fast flowing water than it is in still or slow moving water, there is still a risk. The good news is that schistosomiasis can be treated and cured. With this having been said, many people swim in the river during their trip to Egypt and they don’t become infected. Some travel guides actually recommend doing so, but you should know that there is a risk.
3. Egypt’s cuisine is very heavy on the meat
It’s true that Egyptians aren’t known for following a strict vegetarian diet by any means. However, many of Egypt’s most important and most popular dishes are vegetarian. For example, the traditional Egyptian breakfast food often served to travelers is a fava bean dish served with bread. Other main dishes also include vegetarian falafel, fried eggplants, an almost goulash-like dish called Koshari, stuffed leaves, and a rice dish called Fatta.
Even though not many Egyptians are vegetarians or vegans, you can be certain that vegetarians and vegans have no problem staying well-fed in Egypt. Also, if you have booked your trip through us, you will usually have one of our guides with on on most day, and they will be able to exactly what places and meals to recommend if you don’t eat meat.
4. It will be hard to communicate when travelling 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. Languages such as Italian and Russian are also more common in Egypt than you’d think.
If you have a handle on a few basic Arabic travel phrases, and fluency in any of the languages listed here (but particularly English), you’ll find it’s easy to communicate in and around around most of the cities and populated areas that you are likely to travel through during your trip. All of our own guides speak fluent English, and several of them are also fluent in one or more other languages as well.
5. People only travel to Egypt for the pyramids
The Giza Pyramids are beautiful pieces of history, and they are absolutely 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 by far not the only reason why people choose to visit Egypt.
Egypt also has tons of culture and an abundance of other ancient tourist attractions to explore. For instance, many people who have visited Egypt in the past have said that they were more impressed by the Valley of Kings than they were by the pyramids.
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 pristine Mediterranean beaches, and even mountains to climb! Let’s not forget, countless people visit Egypt for reasons other than sightseeing and camel trekking in the desert. Many people just want a wonderfully relaxing break and lazy days at the beach on the Red Sea coast, or perhaps they want to enjoy world-class SCUBA diving opportunities.
7. Egyptians are rude or unfriendly
This is one of the biggest myths, probably based on culture shock from years ago. The fact is that Egyptians tend to be very helpful and notoriously friendly – maybe even overly so. Don’t be surprised if a passing Egyptian interrupts you to give you directions or some tips if they overhear you asking where something is or if you appear to be lost or confused about something.
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. However, most parts of the country, including places like Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria, Aswan, and around the Red Sea, are very safe and very tourist-friendly.
Countless people book trips to Egypt every year and it is almost unheard of to hear someone say that they felt unsafe during their trip. Also, if you book your trip through a reputable tour operator, you can be sure that you will never be taken anywhere that isn’t deemed to be very safe.
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. For many travellers, a visit to Khan el Khalili ends up being one of the highlights of their trip.
11. Egypt is hot, hot hot!
True, during the summer, Egypt is extremely hot, and especially during the days. However, in the winter, people living in Egypt quite often on need to turn on the heat! In fact, some nights can be positively cold, and if your trip itinerary includes one or more nights in the desert, having some warm clothing is essential. 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. Yes, Cairo, the Egyptian capital, can have a lot of air pollution but the same can be said about many densely populated cities around the world.
13. A luxury trip to Egypt with a Nile cruise 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 Egypt tour packages to find the perfect getaway for you!
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Country Specific Egypt Tour Information
We have a specific international guide covering the most important points you need to be aware of before traveling to Egypt.