Sunday, February 6, 2011

Egypt: Would You Do It Again?

If you haven't heard there's little something something going on the Egypt right now, I'm surprised you're reading this. You must get excellent WiFi under your particular rock. Last summer, Egypt was our "big trip," and since the recent hubub I've been getting quite few questions about our trip and how I feel seeing what could have just as easily happened while we were there a few months earlier.

So let's tackle a few of those questions.

Is it scary to watch the coverage since you were just there?
Ah, no. I'm here now. I do wonder and worry about some of the great people I met there, though. And I really hope that they and their families are safe. The people in Egypt were wonderful. We found them to be friendly, hard working and very welcoming. They seemed to have so much love for their country and their culture and were pleased to see foreigners there to experience it.

Would you go back, now that this happened?
It's hard to say now what the next leadership will bring to the nation. Egypt is a muslin country and part of the Middle East, but it is the most Western-accepting country in the region. Hopefully it stays that way and other non-Egyptian can have the amazing experience we had there.

Obviously, we wouldn't go right now, and probably not for at least a year. But if the country retains its foreigner-friendly attitude, then I'd definitely still recommend it. (And really I think they have to. Egypt depends too strongly on its tourism to throw that away.) We don't tend to repeat countries, because there is still so much of the world to see, but Egypt is without a doubt the most exciting, adventurous, breathtaking and delicious trip we've ever been on.

Did you know something like this could happen when you went?
You can't really prepare for something like mass revolution, and if you think it can't happen anywhere, you are kidding yourself. That said, I do think we knew what we were getting ourselves into when we went and we prepare (as much as possible) accordingly. Egypt was probably one of the more dangerous places (for an American) that we've been. If you want to see the world, there is a certain level of risk involved. Knowing that helps to keep you safe.

So how do you prep for potential political unrest? First, you research, research, research. Know the laws and your rights (if any) as a foreigner. Beyond the laws, know the customs, and be respectful of them. Egypt was far more accepting of Western behavior and dress than I had expected, and John and I probably dressed and acted more conservatively than we HAD to, but not more than we SHOULD have. I saw several American women (including one in my tour) who seemed to be going out of their way to dress inappropriately. It's disrespectful to the people you are visiting and makes all Americans look bad.

Next, register your trip with the State Department. They will provide you with contact information for your Embassies in the country, information about health and safety concerns specific to the area and they will begin sending updates if there is activity in the region you should be aware of. Registering your trip also means while you are there, the State department will be aware of your general location. If for any reason, they decide to evacuate Americans (like they did recently in Egypt), you'll be on their list to contact.

Finally, leave a friend or family member with as detailed an itinerary as possible. Note where you are staying when, contact information, and all your travel details. Make sure you know how to contact home and the local authorities if needed. Dialing abroad can be confusing and most cellphones turn into paperweights once you leave North America.

You can see all our pictures from Egypt here. Maybe it will inspire you to visit too... Once it settles down.