Recently, I was offered to opportunity to travel to Egypt as a cultural ambassador to promote student exchange between Indian and Egyptian students. As much as travel excites me, the spirit of this adventure was dampened by a host of people asking me why I can’t choose another country besides Egypt, whether it was the right time to go, whether I would face too much trouble getting there.
Egypt has always held a great fascination for me and like all children growing up I pictured a land filled with men in their regal headgear, speaking a strange beautiful tongue with mummies lying around every nook and corner. The country also has such a unique geo-political situation- part of the African continent with primarily Arabic roots and culture while going through phases of democratic and military rule.
Recent events have seen the media portray Egypt as a land of youth revolutionaries and extremist leaders. So it comes as no surprise that young people are apprehensive about making a journey to the country and that’s fair. I too, had to tackle protective parents and sceptical friends as well and I just want to give you a first-hand account of what it’s like here.
The capital, Cairo is a great place to live and experience for any young person! As an Indian, there are many similarities here that will remind you of home. The people here are warm and hospitable, eager to guess which country you are from and always grinning when they guess right (It seems the Indian accent is a cult favourite here ;)). You can always catch a glimpse of the glorious Nile, no matter which part of the city you are at. The tourist favourites- the pyramids, mummies and the sphinx live up to all the hype they are given. The architecture is exciting, the culture vibrant and the atmosphere lively! Alexandria is yet another beautiful city located by the Mediterranean Sea that will captivate you. From kind, hospitable people to the city’s Greco-Roman remains, it is breathtakingly beautiful.
There are many misconceptions about Egypt. It is a land shrouded in mystery and the news out there spells doom, violent protests and unstable political conditions. All that is far from the truth and if you can trust the testimony of a 22 year old girl travelling there alone, then be assured, it is perfectly safe.
Things you should know:
- Girls will not be stared at lecherously all the time. Honestly, it’s so much lesser than what is on our own streets.
- Egypt has misconceptions about India. Maybe so, but they LOVE India and adore Amitabh Bachchan. I guarantee you; you will have a conversation about Indian cinema at least twice in your time there.
- Everybody there is not a protestor or a revolutionary or an extremist. That ended a year ago and there is no clear and present danger.
- The country is affordable and reasonable. The value of the Egyptian pound although more than the rupee, can buy you commodities for the same value as in India.
If you have 6 weeks to go for an international internship and are apprehensive about picking Egypt, don’t be. I have had an amazing experience there and it is worth the journey- to witness ancient civilizations and modern day marvels in one bustling metropolis. I am back with fond memories, great friends and a second home to go back to someday soon.