It is rare that a trip moves me so much that I feel compelled to write about it, but having recently returned from Egypt with 20 clients on an Abercrombie & Kent Moment in History tour, I felt the travel community might benefit from a firsthand report.
As you know, Egypt is constantly in the news since the Arab Spring of January 2011 as it transitions to a democracy. One has to understand the culture of this country in order to put things in perspective. Egyptians attend a protest like we attend a ballgame. They gather on Friday evenings at Tahrir Square with food vendors and protestors voicing their opinion about something until late in the evening, then, they go home and resume a normal life. Our Egyptologist made a detour and had our group driven by there on a Saturday morning after a protest had been held just to prove the point of how distorted the media makes things, and you could not tell anything had happened. In a city of 20+ million people, this area is a tiny dot on the map and we certainly didn’t know a protest was going on miles away from our hotel.
What the media fails to report is how welcome Americans and all travelers are in their country. Upon arrival in Cairo, we had to take a bus from the plane to the terminal. It was packed and an Egyptian woman offered her seat to an elderly woman in my group. She said, “We are so glad you are here; thank you for coming.” The woman in my group teared up as she told me this story later that evening, as this trip had been an emotional roller coaster during the months leading up to the tour. Friends would say we were crazy for going and made us feel like we had made an irrational decision. My continuous case in point was that A&K would not operate a tour they did not feel was safe and I placed my faith in their excellent reputation. I always had total confidence in their ability to keep us out of harm’s way and I never once felt we were in any danger. Yes, there are Tourist Police (and regular police) everywhere that are well armed and our bus had a police escort many times, but it made this seasoned traveler feel very safe.
Whenever we were touring by bus or foot, the locals would smile and wave to us, giving us the “thumbs up” sign. While visiting a mosque, a very pretty young lady with an iPhone asked if she could have her picture taken with me so she could send it to all her friends. We passed by a group of young school children and they would wave and some would stop and in their best English say “Hello, my name is….” Then they would shake our hands or take our picture. This is the generation to come and what a great generation it will be—I hope these are the peacemakers.
To understand the world, you must go to Egypt and experience it for yourself and hopefully with an Egyptologist as great as Azza Ammar, one of A&K’s top guides. In a short period of time, she enlightened us to the many wonders of a great civilization and how it relates to the present. We hear about the Great Pyramids, Nile River, Valley of the Kings, Abu Simbel and the other major sites all our lives but to finally stand in front of them was the most profound moment in my 27 years of being in the travel business. My group of 20 will tell you the same thing—they all said it was the trip of their lifetime.
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