When you arrive at the airport in Cairo, you are immediately descended upon by airport “entrepreneurs” determined to carry your bags to the counter in exchange for a tip whether you want them to or not. Since I have only one small rolling bag, this is completely unnecessary and a bit absurd. No less than 4 men quizzed me as I walked through the door, “Madame, which flight is yours? What time does your flight leave?” All reaching for my bag and trying to show me the way to the check-in counter. Unfortunately for them, I don’t want to be separated from by bag (even by a few feet) and I can, of course, read signs.
The signs clearly pointed me to the Egypt Air check-in for the Sharm el Sheikh flight, no assistance required but thanks very much. One especially persistent man actually continued to walk right alongside me (as if he was showing me the way) even after I politely told him I did not need his help. When I got to the counter he had the nerve to hold his hand out for a tip. He didn’t get one.
It was a quick 40 minute flight from Cairo to Sharm el Sheikh and I was at the Hilton Sharm el Sheikh Resort by 9am. I was checked into a Junior Suite with a fabulous view (an upgrade courtesy of my Diamond status with Hilton – yay!) and headed down to the beach for the day.
After a relaxing afternoon overlooking the Red Sea, I took the hotel shuttle into Naama Bay for dinner. This is the primary tourist hub in Sharm el Sheikh and unfortunately the site of a suicide bombing last July in which more than 80 people were killed. According to Debbie in Cairo, the town is one of the safest places in Egypt these days thanks to increased security efforts in the wake of that attack. The security near the Hilton is noticeable but not obtrusive, Naama Bay is a different story.
There are police check points at several places on the drive where our driver must show his ID and cars aren’t allowed anywhere near the main stretch of shops and restaurants. It is comforting and unsettling at the same time. I luck into finding a restaurant with free wireless internet so I settle there for a while for dinner and to update the website.
The waiter (who persists in calling me ‘princess’) hovers excessively at my table though it is obvious I am trying to work. He even asks me to go have a drink with him when he’s done working though he’s already told me he has a wife and children in Cairo – keep it classy, Egypt. I am relieved when more customers come in and he is too busy to “flirt” any further.
Later, I wander the shops in town a bit but am troubled by the amount of persistent, unwanted male attention I am receiving and decide to return to the hotel earlier than planned. I had similar experiences in Cairo but I wasn’t alone as I am now.
Another Day in Sharm and then Back to Cairo
Since my flight back to Cairo doesn’t leave until 4pm this afternoon, I spend another day lounging on the beach. The resort is remarkably un-crowded for this time of year, for some reason I thought this would be high season. The beach is a welcome respite from the sensory overload of Cairo. Sharm is beautiful but I am ready to move on.
Back in Cairo later that day
After an uneventful flight from Sharm and another stomach-clenching, exhaust-inhaling cab ride from the airport, I am back at the Westin Cairo. This time they were kind enough to upgrade me to a really nice suite with panoramic views. By now I have had enough of the leering men of Cairo and Sharm and am weary of not being able to walk 10 feet without being approached by some strange Egyptian man. I decide to enjoy the comfort and solitude of the suite and order room service for dinner. I had a lovely dinner on my balcony; it was my best night in Cairo yet.
Final Thoughts on Egypt
Although I am very glad I decided to come to Egypt and I thoroughly enjoyed my day of touring with Nora and Debbie, I have learned that Egypt is a tough place to be a woman traveling alone. I think this is probably true of many Muslim countries. My blonde hair probably added to my troubles with attention from the local men. Perhaps I am just one who needs more personal space than is possible here in Egypt. Egyptian men don’t seem to care whether you want to talk to them or not. They persist until you are forced to ignore them and I must say, 5 days of that can be exhausting.
It’s little wonder my most enjoyable night in Cairo was spent all by myself on my hotel balcony. Cairo on a clear moonlit night overlooking the Nile is simply magical, and that’s how I hope to remember it.
Next up, Dubai!
The stats update for today:
Miles traveled: 29,742
Hours spent in-flight: 65.75
Airlines flown: Delta, Air France, South African Airways, Egypt Air