Today I spoke to Maha from our office who is with our group in Cairo. She told me a bit about their impressions of their first few days in Egypt and the meetings they have had so far with our Egypt experts. In every place they have visited so far, the Egyptians have been welcoming and happy to see Americans visiting. They feel safe, and if you didn’t know (ie: if you had been living under a rock for the past couple months!) about the revolution, you wouldn’t be able to tell just by being out on the streets of Cairo. Businesses, shops, cafes, restaurants are all open as usual, and any signs of the thousands upon thousands of people that had taken to the streets and Tahrir Square are almost gone.
Maha told me that in spite of the usual heavy traffic in Cairo, the tourist sites are almost empty. They saw a few groups of tourists from Germany, the Netherlands, and France in Old Cairo, but at the Pyramids at Giza, our group was the only foreign group there. Usually there are rows and rows of tour busses parked in the parking lot, but when our group went, theirs was the only one. They said there were a few locals there, but other than that, they had the place almost completely to themselves. At Memphis and Saqqara, it was also very quiet.
The hotels are equally quiet, so this means that those hotels with several restaurants probably don’t have them all open, but the bars and cafeterias are open. The vendors are really eager to make a sale, and can be a bit overwhelming, but we have to keep in mind that while tourists enjoy less crowds, the crowds were what had been providing incomes to so many Egyptians. Now they have no one to sell their goods or services to, so they are really hurting.
Recently, a referendum was passed to allow elections to be held in about 6 months. I asked if campaigning was evident, and Maha said no. You would hardly know that elections were coming if you are a visitor.
The group has a guide with them, a representative from our office in Seattle and one from the office in Cairo, as well as security. There is a curfew from midnight to 6am in place, but it does not affect the group’s schedule at all.
In the morning they will fly to Luxor, and visit the West Bank sites and the temples of Luxor and Karnak – both places usually swarming with visitors, but I expect they will find these sites also quieter than usual. This is really a great opportunity to see these sites without the throngs of people that can descend upon them. It will not stay this way forever as more and more people decide to visit Egypt, as word gets out that it is safe and things are getting back to normal.
We have another group departing for Egypt on April 10th, arriving on the 11th, that will also see the same sites and have meetings with Egypt experts in Cairo. Join us! Space is booking up quickly!