Having never travelled to a Middle-Eastern country before, I did not know what to expect. As soon as I stepped foot into Egypt, I received the most unexpected welcome.
I’m standing in an airport surrounded by people smoking, with bags flying everyone and I am starting to question why on earth I would come to Egypt. Then a nice man holding a board with my name on it approaches me. I’m the only white girl standing in a field of dark skinned natives, so obviously he knew straight away I was his client to collect and save from the chaos that is Cairo Airport.
After collecting my bags from a carousel overflowing with bags sitting at wrong angles, I’m whisked away from the chaos. I ask how long it’ll take to get to the hotel, 3 hours is his reply. It’s 5pm, which means we won’t get to the hotel until 8pm. My international roaming isn’t working, so I can’t call my family to let them know I have arrived safely.
It’s peak hour in Cairo. Which means the roads look more like a car park, than that of a road. There are cars coated in Styrofoam to protect them from damage, as they nudge other cars along like dodgem cars to help them progress further through the traffic.
I pass the time and chat with my driver Siede, about his life in Cairo, his wife and three children. When we finally arrive at the hotel, there are no goodbyes with my airport saviour. He hurriedly takes my bags to the concierge before disappearing to either save another soul at the airport, or to head home to his family. I will never know.
With my phone still not working, I speak with front desk on where to get one, they provide me with a map and directions to get to a Vodafone store. With my map in hand and no form of communication I start walking in what I hope is the right direction to Vodafone. I’ll be honest, I am incredibly nervous to be walking the streets of Cairo at night and 10 minutes still no sight of Vodafone. I stop and examine my map and a man in his 40s approaches me. He knows I am lost and politely asks if I am okay. I am cautious in telling him I am looking for Vodafone, “Ah yes, you follow me, I will take you there. Not far.” He says. I hear nothing, but my own heat beat as I focus on what he’s saying. He’s asking me to follow him. But will he take me to Vodafone, or somewhere else.
I try not to judge, but I need to be careful. I agree to follow and off we go. I take stock of my surroundings as we walk. Searching for anything suspicious in the crowd. We walk for another 10 minutes, when I finally see the bright red neon lights of a Vodafone shop up ahead. I am conflicted in this moment of realisation, where part of me wants to be praised for being a cautious traveller, and the other part of me should be scolded for being so judgemental.
This event really sets the precedent for the entire nineteen days spent in Egypt. The kindness and warmth I go on to experience from all the Egyptian locals, for the rest of my Egyptian holiday was the last thing I expected to experience there, and one that will forever be in my heart.
Travelling through Egypt taught me a lot about the type of person I should be, want to be, and how I want to share those experiences with others through writing. With the hope of sharing these stories of remarkable places, filled with some of the most amazing people, I hope I motivate you to step outside your comfort zone and open your eyes to this incredible world we live in.