Cairo, Egypt

Cairo is famous for its deserts, the Nile, and pyramids in Egypt. It is also a huge metropolis with over 16 million people. I visited Cairo in 2008, before the Arab Spring, and found it quite safe and pleasant with friendly and welcoming people. The atmosphere may have changed towards American travelers, so as always, be cautious and do a little research when you plan your travel destinations.

I visited the famous pyramids at Giza, with the nearby Sphinx. You can go inside the pyramids through a low-hanging passage (you have to bend over if you’re tall) until you reach a tomb inside. Prepare for the place to be filled with tourists taking photographs and peddlers selling souvenirs and snacks.

Another highlight was horseback riding by the pyramids in the evening, courtesy of my host. It was a special excursion that made my Egypt experience memorable.

Due to the Muslim sect of Egypt, you will hear the call to prayer 5 times a day. Called “The City of a Thousand Citadels,” this is a beautiful chorus of voices across the desert from amidst the different towers.

The Coptic area of Egypt is fun to explore, and the nightlife is also fun if you like jazz bars and hookah. Beers are available at nearly every restaurant, a relief from the sweltering hot weather and harsh sunshine, if you drink.

Getting around Cairo is fairly easy because taxis are so easy to find and the fares are very inexpensive for most foreigners. The city is sprawling, however, so be prepared for lots of traffic and the sounds of car horns. It’s simply a normal part of day-to-day life.

Most of the population in Cairo is poor, so expect the streets to be crowded and lots of hawkers to try to sell you things.

If you have the time, Luxor and Aswan are old historical sites to visit, away from the hustle and bustle of Cairo, places that I also explored while I was in Egypt.

Alexandria, on the north coast, was another one of my excursions, with sparkling blue water and pristine beaches. I recommend swimming here if you like sand and sun.

If you have a few weeks, try to learn a little Arabic if you can. There is a language school for English speakers, called El-Kalimat, which offers affordable conversational Arabic language practice with other English speakers. I took a three-week course and found I could understand simple, basic Arabic conversations at a high level.

Enjoy Egypt. Be safe.

As always, all opinions are my own.