Ignore the headlines and delve into the adventure and intrigue that Egypt has to offer. Travel expert Cath Graham tells us how.
By Ria Lawrence
Egypt is often touted as a no-go destination. The country’s image has been shrouded in negativity, perpetuated further since the Arab Spring in 2011. Yet for travel expert, Cath Graham, the country has always been warm, welcoming and inclusive.
“If you greet a local with a smile and a ‘salaam alaikum’ (hello), you will be showered with hospitality,” she says.
With more than thirty years of experience in travel management, Cath’s love for Egypt has grown. When it comes to busting stereotypes about the country, she is quick to expel a few. Combining her passion and knowledge for travel, here are a few she would like us to take note of.
Myth #1: The pyramids are in the middle of the desert.
Reality: It’s true that a lot of Egypt is desert, but contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to go all the way to the desert to catch a glimpse of the pyramids.
“The pyramids are actually on the edge of the city. It can take you anything between 30 minutes to two hours to get there depending on the traffic,” Cath says.
Myth #2: There is a strict dress code for women
Reality: People assume that women in Egypt always have their heads covered but that’s not true at all.
“It’s a personal choice and people are respectful of each other, there is no strict, traditional dress code” Cath says.
Myth #3: The food will give you ‘Mummy’s tummy’
Reality: “One of the best ways to avoid an upset stomach is to have the local yogurts, it makes for a great, healthy breakfast option,” Cath says.
The salads are quite healthy too. Egypt has plenty of vegetarian options too. Mekhalel (pickled eggplant), Koshari (a mix of rice, pasta and chickpeas, lentil, onions and tomato sauce and Fatta (rice with moistened bread, garlic and tomato sauce) are popular options.
Myth #4: They are not friendly to foreigners
Reality: “Egyptians are extremely helpful in nature and generally very welcoming and generous.” Cath says. They might come across as a bit introverted but they are actually a very warm and beautiful people.
Myth #5: It’s all about Pharaohs and pyramids
Reality: According to Cath, Egypt has a rich tapestry of nature, food, city life and heaps of activities to offer.
“There’s a lot more than what Google will tell you,” she says.
Myth #6: It’s not safe
Reality: Cath strongly recommends Egypt for travel aficionados.
“Egypt is no less safe than London or Paris or Istanbul. It’s a great place to visit with family or if you’re travelling alone,” she says.
So what are Cath’s tips for nailing the ultimate Egypt trip?
The biggest tip is to smile. The locals might come across as a bit reserved, but they are the most beautiful and welcoming people.
The light and sound show is a must-see but make sure you check when it is in English.
The best time to visit Egypt is between March-April or September-October.
Stay out by the pyramids, not in the centre of town. If you’re out by the pyramids, it’s easy to walk around on the footpaths and there’s a lot of restaurants in the area.