Egypt is Open for Business: Our Bags are Packed
I called my parents to let them know that we were moving forward with our trip to Egypt and Jordan. It’s for two weeks in mid-March. My mom wasn’t happy. I had anticipated that. Then she asked:
“Do you have all of your papers together?”
“What do you mean? We have our passports, we get our visas at the airport . . .” I was prepared to rattle off the efficiency of getting a visa in Cairo.
“Well,” a long pause, “what if we need to get into your apartment?”
I fumbled a bit, not understanding what she meant. She lives five hours away and doesn’t have a reason to access my apartment. I told her I was letting my landlord know about our trip and I guess I could give her his contact information.
Ten minutes after that phone conversation, it hit me: by "papers" she meant my Will. My mom thinks I’m going to die.
I was prepared for her to be upset and worried. But how am I supposed to reason with someone who thinks that taking this trip involves a high probability of death?
You know those childhood dreams that seem funny or unattainable as an adult? You know, like “I’m going to eat ice cream for every meal.” This trip is that thing: something I was sure I was going to do when I was a child but seems impossible later on.
I learned about Egypt in the 6th grade and it stuck with me ever since. I even took an Egyptology intro class in college that had nothing to do with my major. Actually going there seemed like a far off idea. A couple of years ago, my husband and I looked into details and began planning this trip. I couldn’t believe we were actually going.
Then, on January 25, all hell broke loose. Over those 18 days, we followed every single development. I gained an appreciation for Al-Jazeera as I watched wall-to-wall coverage online. I followed protestors on Twitter. In their darkest hour, it wasn’t even about the trip anymore. We thought about them, read their stories, and feared for their safety.
Watching these people and their amazing resilience only made us want to visit more. We accepted the reality and planned a “vacation plan B” just in case we needed to cancel. We came within two days of cancelling. I held out hope. It wasn’t about losing money (we weren’t going to lose any). We just really wanted to go. After Hosni Mubarak stepped down and the tourist sites reopened for business, we knew we were still going.
A side-effect of consuming this media around the clock is that my husband and I are remarkably informed and now discuss Egyptian politics with each other. We’ve successfully predicted political moves that the army is going to make before they make them.
We wouldn’t go if we thought it was unsafe. We still consume various twitter feeds and all the news articles we can find daily. There are tourists there now sharing amazing stories, such as this story from an Ohio couple that still travelled during the height of the unrest and this first-hand account of a British family that just returned.
Safety is relative, of course. In Cairo, we will be smart enough not to go wandering around after dark and will stick with our Arabic-speaking guide during the day. All the same, there are places in my own city that I wouldn’t go after dark. We will dress respectfully and did our homework on this before the revolution happened.
Much of the rest of the country did not experience violence during the revolution but the economic blow is being felt. Eighty percent of people living in Luxor depend on tourism.
We are happy to go and spend our money in Egypt. The future of the “new Egypt” depends on the ability of people to get jobs and that is very hard if they don't have tourists spending their money. Most European countries have lifted their travel bans, some going so far as to encourage people to go. The US hasn't lifted their advisory but I have reason to believe they will very soon. Many US tour operators are resuming their services, included operators that cater to senior citizens.
As for my mom, I know she worries because she’s a mom. We are doing everything we can to allay her concerns and I hope someday she will understand. I know she hopes someday I will have kids and understand.
Natalie writes Almost Never Clever, a deviant scrapbooking blog that just might surprise you.