Travelling in Egypt: Expectations vs Reality

What to Expect When Travelling to Egypt: Expectations vs Reality

Move beyond the times of the pharaohs and discover the beautiful country of Egypt!

At the mention of Egypt, you’d think of mummies, pyramids and deserts. Now, we all know of Ancient Egypt, but what about the Egypt of today (other than Mohamed Salah of course)? Let’s dig further into this archaeological treasure trove and see what shows up!

Expectation: Egypt is nothing but an ancient desert

Image credit: robleto

Commonly known as the cradle of human civilisation, Egypt’s rich history has piqued the interest of many for a long time. However, Egypt’s strong ties to human history seem to have influenced some people to believe that Egypt remains a bedrock of ancient sites and backwards architecture. Essentially, Egyptians live in desolate fields of desert sand, right?

Reality: Egypt is actually a modern country!

Image credit: Faris Knight

Nope! Conspiracy theories and mythical lore aside, Egypt is actually a technologically advanced country. While it may be true that a large part of the country is desert terrain, the majority of Egyptians live in comfortable, modern cities like Luxor and Giza. Egypt also has numerous airports with Cairo International Airport being its most prominent, and even has its own national airline, EgyptAir.

Expectation: It’s all just sand, sand, and more sand!

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Okay, so Egyptians live in modern cities. But that doesn’t change the fact that Egypt, as a whole, offers only one kind of scenery, right? I mean, it’s just sand!

Reality: Egypt is a diverse landscape

Image credit: Fanny Schertzer

Have you ever heard about this river called the Nile? It’s the longest river in the world and its waters nourish the green pastures in the Nile Valley.

Image credit: Filip Maljkovic

Apart from that, Egypt also boasts of pristine beaches. Finally, some sand that we wouldn’t mind digging our feet into! The city of Alexandria is a city that is famous for its beaches. During the summer, the beach resorts here are packed with locals and tourists alike!

Expectations: Egypt is really hot! The only storm here is a sandstorm

Image credit: richiedogg1981

The weather is dry as anything and the sun is unforgiving!

Reality: Egypt has moderate temperatures and it rains here too

Image credit: Ben Snooks

In reality, the weather in Egypt is pretty average. Days are usually warm while nights are typically cool. In fact, Egypt actually experiences a mild winter between the months of November and April. And yes, it rains in Egypt, as well.

Expectation: How Egyptians commute to work

Reality: How they actually commute to work

Image credit: KaiAbuSir

Curses! I can’t be late for the meeting this morning! Where’s my camel when I need it?

Expectation: You need to read hieroglyphs to get around

Image credit: Steven Straiton

Reality: Egyptians are quite linguistically gifted!

Image credit: USAID Egypt

By Thoth, Ra and Horus, how will I ever understand these complicated symbols known as hieroglyphs! I’m doomed in Egypt!

Calm yourself, friend. Contrary to belief, Egyptians today don’t communicate by drawing abstract symbols. Arabic is the official language but even if you don’t speak that, don’t sweat it. A good number of Egyptians can speak English and a myriad of other languages too. French, for example, is quite a popular third language amongst Egyptians.

Pro tip: One particular local slang word you should familiarise yourself with is “Khallas” (haa-laas), which means “that’s enough”. This is especially useful when dealing with belligerent peddlers. Say it forcefully to add a note of finality.

Expectation: You can peacefully admire the majestic pyramids up close

Image credit: Roderick Eime

Reality: Is this where the line starts…?

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Although tourism has slightly dipped these past few years, you can expect popular attractions to always be crowded. Now, I’m not saying what Thanos did was right. But I have to admit: maybe… just maybe, the guy had a valid point. Maybe.

Expectation: You might be struck by the Curse of the Pharaohs!

Image credit: Mark Fischer

Do you remember that movie you watched where the archaeologist who opened the tomb of a Pharaoh, gets struck with a sudden bout of illness and dies? Also known as the Curse of the Pharaohs? You might think that it will happen to you when you visit Egypt.  

Reality: Nothing of that sort happens

While the story of the Curse of the Pharaohs certainly adds a sense of intrigue and mystery to the tombs and pyramids, remember, we’re not shooting a Hollywood movie here. Meaning it’s unlikely there’ll be any curses coming your way.

Nope, no zombie mummies coming back to life or supernatural scarab beetles either! So, don’t worry as you explore the ancient tombs. You’re unlikely to encounter the Curse of King Tut.

Expectation: The pyramids are the only thing worth visiting

Okay, but for real though, there’s nothing much to see in Egypt except its pyramids, temples and ancient religious sites, right? I mean, sure, there’s the mystique of exploring the ancient tombs of kings and the temples of the Egyptian Gods, but that’s all there is to Egypt, isn’t it? I mean sure, if you wanna go a bit further, you could visit the archaeological museums but apart from that, what else is there?

Reality: Egypt is teeming with attractions

Wrong again, my friend! For starters, there is the Nile River, one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world. You can take a guided boat cruise to learn more about the Nile’s importance to civilisation and admire the picturesque scenery. You might even catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife that live off the river’s life-giving water.

If you’re looking to hit up the Egyptian nightlife scene, head down to the night markets where the city bustles with vigour! You can shop for a wide range of product here, ranging from food to local fashion and even nifty handicraft.

Image credit: Jorge Lascar

And speaking of shopping…

Expectation: Egyptians shop in street bazaars all day every day!

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The Egyptians shop in street bazaars like the famous Khan El Khalili in Cairo, everyone knows that!

Reality: They have malls just like everyone else

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Though to be honest, personally I WOULD prefer to shop amidst the ambience of Egypt’s street bazaars (technically they’re called “souks”).

Expectation: Egyptian food is all kebabs, shawarma and meat

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Reality: Egyptian food is traditionally…vegetarian?!

Image credit: Dina Said

Say whaaat? Yep, I hear you. It’s a common misconception by proximity, I think. Since Egypt is located so close to the Middle East (Egypt is a North African nation, mind you), people often assume that their national cuisine is influenced by Middle Eastern heritage.

While it’s true that Egypt has a number of different meat dishes to choose from (shish taouk is said to be particularly delicious), the staple of Egyptian cuisine is actually vegetarian. For example, koshari, one of Egypt’s most popular dishes is made with rice, macaroni, chickpeas, lentils, and tomatoes!

And there you have it! A list of expectations regarding Egypt and the realities behind them. How many of these misconceptions were you guilty of? Hopefully, this article has helped change your mind and shown you a different side of Egypt!

About Authors

Annabel Pang
Annabel Pang

Annabel is a final year English student at NTU wit a h00d playlist. She's no Mary but she's defintely poppin'. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Annabel is a part-time jedi and a force not to be reckoned with. Also a huge foodie with spectacular vernacular. Tread gently.


Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.


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