Journey Woman

 

Her Gal Travel in Egypt
advice from one who’s been there...

Johanna Sinclair is a dedicated traveller, travel writer and regular contributor to the Journeywoman network. What follows is her female-friendly advice based on a month-long stay, in Egypt, with her mother.

Dress conservatively...

No BikinisThough Egyptian cities are very modern and local women may appear in public with makeup, jewelry and flowing black hair, they always dress conservatively. They do not show their shoulders or wear tight shirts. Their skirts are always just past their knees, or they wear slacks. It is rare to see an Egyptian woman or man in shorts. In the smaller towns of Egypt, many females will wear the traditional galabiyya (loose gowns) and most will cover their hair.

When travelling in Egypt, my philosophy is to dress as the local women do. Bring shirts that cover your shoulders; T-shirts are fine. I always cover my legs with long, cool, cotton Indian skirts. And, in the evening, I wear long culottes that look like a skirt. If you follow this formula, it indicates a respect for the culture and, you won’t be approached or stared at as often by the local men.


Find a safe hotel...

Three StarsIf travelling alone, American hotels have security checks at all entrances and are generally very safe. But you can also find interesting smaller, family-owned three-star Egyptian hotels where, once they get to know you, they look out for you. These can become your home-away-from-home.


Book local female guides...

female guideNo matter how much you learn from reading travel books, having a personal tour guide is wonderful. Inquire at the front desk of your hotel or ask your travel agent about how to go about finding one. For very little money you can book a local guide (and a driver) who go through rigorous training and years of classes on Egyptology (some are even Ph.D. Egyptologists). If possible, it’s really nice to have the
intimacy of a female guide. This way you can talk to her about such issues as marriage and family life. From past experience, I’ve found that these females enjoy the opportunity to talk with a foreign woman. Most of them have never travelled outside of Egypt.


A transportation secret for women...

bus Cairo and Alexandria both share a secret pertaining to women. Alexandria has its streetcars. Cairo has a wonderful ‘Metro’ which is safe, clean and very cheap. Because Egypt is, to a large extent, a Muslim country, the front car (or two) on each train or streetcar is reserved for women only. It’s a wonderful experience just mingling exclusively with the local women. Many will come up and talk to you, while laughing shyly. However, women can also ride in the “mixed” compartments and you will invariably be offered a seat. Very few tourists use these systems and, personally, I felt that the locals were impressed to see a foreigner on their transit system.


Inexpensive local travel...

Flying from one destination to another in Egypt is safe, quick, cheap and reliable. You can also use their rail system, very inexpensive (but also very crowded). The train ride through the Delta from Cairo to Alexandria is beautiful and it’s only $10 return-- first class! Train stations are bustling with thousands of people, so do take the precaution not to leave your luggage unattended and watch your purse or daypack. Get a porter to take you to the right platform. He will even position you at approximately the area where your car will stop.


actorEvening escapades...

It’s nice to go out in the evening. While in Cairo, take advantage of attending local concerts or the opera. For as little as $10 you can attend the Opera or, as I did, an international Arab Music Festival. Again, very few tourists attend and because Egyptians are so friendly, many will come up during intermission to talk and even introduce you to their family. As in the evening in any large city, remember to arrange for a taxi to take you there and pick you up after the event (unless you are with a group of people and you feel that there is safety in numbers).


Always ask for help...

traffic cop Never be afraid to ask for help. Egyptians are amongst the most friendly people I have every met. “Tourist police” are stationed near all the busier tourist areas and will not only help, but they will file a report if there is a problem. If you are feeling tired or uncomfortable in any situation, need directions or simply do not understand the language, do not hesitate to ask a passing female for her assistance. They will generally graciously help you out. In fact, I found that many empathetic women would step in even before I realized that I needed help. Egyptian women definitely heightened my belief in the international sisterhood of females!

For more female-friendly advice about Egypt, click here

 


 

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