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.
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
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 wont
be approached or stared at as often by the local men.
Find a safe
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
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, its 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,
Ive found that these females enjoy the opportunity to talk
with a foreign woman. Most of them have never travelled outside
secret for women...
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. Its 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
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 its 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.
Its 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).
ask for help...
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