Hello one and all, my name is Bryce and I have been tasked with walking you through a trip that has touched my soul and has been particularly meaningful for me as a person. While several come to mind I am going to focus on my most recent trip to Egypt. In October of 2019, I traveled to Cairo; it was a special time before all the chaos that we are trying to accustom ourselves to currently.
Booking the trip to Egypt was remarkably easy, hotels are simple to find online, and you can easily get your visa online before arrival. What was difficult was fielding all the questions that my friends and family asked upon learning that I planned to travel to Egypt, alone. A country where I do not speak the language and according to my circle, safety was questionable. Over the years, I have frequently traveled alone and have grown rather used to it. The ability to travel and explore on my own time and follow my heart has become invaluable to me. To be honest, some of my fondest memories would have never happened without such spontaneity.
When it came to choosing Egypt there were several reasons. One, being that I am a lover of history and culture, something Egypt provides in droves. Two, being that I happened to stumble upon an incredible flight deal. Initially I was indifferent to thrusting myself into a foreign land, but I began having to field questions and concerns for my safety, and having never been to the country in question I turned to travel blogs such as this to find my answers. What I discovered was that this was not a unique experience, but that I could expect to enjoy my trip and be reasonably safe as long as I took all the traditional precautions that come with traveling to any new country.
Now you all came for an inspirational travel story, so I will dive right into that. The week long trip was focused between Cairo and Giza which, are remarkably close to each other. They are only separated by the Nile River. Cairo is a bustling city that never seems to sleep. This is something I quite enjoy while traveling and appreciate even more so dealing with a desert climate. I arrived in the evening and rushed to get my experience underway.
Per usual, I fired up my couch-surfing app to see if I could find any locals or fellow travelers who were out and about and looking to connect. Right away, I found a couple of locals taking tea and smoking hookah in a local cafe and I jumped at the chance to take this experience in. When it came to ordering, I put myself entirely in my new companions’ hands. We sat for hours eagerly enjoying tea and conversation. We spoke about our families, our responsibilities to them, and our passions for meeting new people and making new memories. Naturally, the usual questions about the state of American politics arose (a subject I try to avoid while traveling) and the questions of what brought me to this country. During this time, we were able to learn about each other in many respects.
All in all, it was a lovely evening that reinforced my notion that all of us, however different, typically share more commonalities than we know.
Between jet lag and the previous evening activities, I ended up sleeping in a little bit. The morning was spent perfectly, waking up slow while having coffee in the hotel lobby and researching the days planned activities. The night before I learned that, seeing the light and sound show at the Pyramids is best taken in at a local cafe.
The trip to the Elhadba restaurant and cafe ended up taking longer than expected. Two things were surprising to me. One, Uber is plentiful in Egypt and two with the help of Google translate, getting around was beyond simple. With all my travels, I thought I had experienced crazy in cabs before, turns out Egypt taught me that I had barely scratched the surface. Daytime traffic in Egypt is insane!
After several twists and turns I arrived at a cafe tucked away in a back alley. It is one of those locations you would struggle to locate without being dropped off directly in front of. Once again, I ordered tea with the help of a lovely English menu and settled in for the show. The light and sound show was simply astonishing. The beauty of the pyramids lit up with the night sky for a backdrop was breath-taking.
The most memorable part of my trip hinged on a chance encounter with my friendly Uber driver, Mohamed. We started off early in the morning by heading to the tour of the pyramids. He was friendly and engaging and ended up offering to be my driver for the day at an incredibly meager fee. Let me tell you, his services were above and beyond. So, I made sure my tip reflected the services he kindly offered.
Mohamed took me to a local tour guide that he once knew when he was in the business of being a tour guide, where he introduced me, and waited while I set off on horseback to tour the pyramids. My horse, Ramses, and I rode through the desert. Unbeknownst to Ramses, we had just ticked off one of the many items on my bucket list: riding through the desert on a horse, admittedly a horse with a name.
The tour was a once in a lifetime experience and my tour guide was both knowledgeable and slightly forceful about taking pictures to commemorate the occasion, looking back I am forever grateful he did.
Upon finishing the tour, Mohamed was waiting for me as promised. He wanted to know if I would like to see some lesser known pyramids and I responded with a resounding yes. Not only was Mohamed my driver, but became a tour guide and translator for me. We walked through several smaller sites taking in the beautiful landscapes.
While on our way back to the hotel Mohamed informed me that Cairo is known for their carpets and that there were several carpet making schools nearby. As if he even needed to ask, “would you like to stop?”. Watching and learning about how these carpets are made was simply fantastic. When you experience it firsthand, the amount skill that goes into each one is undeniable. Observing the dedicated craftsmanship was a reward all in itself. Of course, you are welcome to purchase carpets of various sizes and support the school. It felt like it was a necessary souvenir to take home for myself.
While I was picking out a carpet Mohamed took this opportunity to update his wife on the day’s activities. He then came to me and offered me dinner, before I could reply he said, “my wife insists”. How can you say no to that? I was more than willing to oblige for a taste of authentic food and a look inside the family life of a typical Egyptian.
Mohamed never skipped a beat making sure I was getting the full experience. On our way to dinner, we stopped once again to see how traditional papyrus was made, another learning opportunity for me and a chance for more unique souvenirs.
Once we arrived at Mohamed's home, I was greeted by such a warm family it felt as if I were at an old friends’ home. Mohamed's children and grandchildren joined us, and we all engaged in conversation and food. Rest assured; my plate was not empty for one second.
The kindness shown to me by these relative strangers was immense. My goal was to see the sights and people and I have ended up with a friend for life.
During the rest of my trip I took in more sites, visited more museums, and formed even more local friendships. All of this was again accomplished through couch-surfing. There were many Europeans of various backgrounds, an Indian woman, and even more locals. Several of us still chat via WhatsApp about the current state of affairs.
Unfortunately, I did not encounter any fellow American travelers; in part I think due to the social stigma I experienced when I announced my trip. Yes, security is a concern, but it is always a factor in any foreign country. Yes, I did encounter heavily armed police, but I have encountered this in Europe at times as well. Yes, there is a language barrier, but I at least had my greetings and thank-yous down by the time I left and google translate handled the rest.
The end of my trip was marked with Mohamed and his wife taking me to the airport, we exchanged goodbyes, promised to stay in touch, and left warm wishes for each other. I returned with fantastic photos to share, new knowledge, a bucket list trip completed, but more importantly a new friend.
If you take anything away from this story at all, let it be this, I highly encourage all of you to take the bold trips, live outside your comfort zone a little, and dare to try something new. I promise you will become a better person for it.
Thank you for reading and warmest of wishes,
Bryce | United States | Instagram
1. Three hours early to the airport or running to the gate? Three hours early to the airport, gives me time to relax and enjoy some food or drink before a long flight.
2. Pretzels or Lotus Biscoff cookies? Lotus Biscoff cookies all day FTW
3. Excel planned trip or just wing it? Like the rest of my life, just winging it and hoping for the best
4. Favorite continent? So far Europe, I have enjoyed every trip there and am looking forward to more.
5. Dream destination? I want to experience the running of the bulls, Holi festival, Oktoberfest, and more, I travel for history and to see things I would not otherwise so anywhere new is exciting for me.