It’s an overcast morning here in Dubai. The air is comfortably warm and there is a slight breeze; it’s the perfect temperature for reflection. I’m easing myself into the day because the past 24 hours has been a whirlwind going from Cairo to Dubai. I did not realize I had a brief layover in Bahrain 🇧🇭 in between Cairo and Abu Dhabi, so brief that I missed my flight. The fortune 🔮 part was I unexpectedly had the opportunity to visit another new country, making my grand total countries visited to 18! 🌍Anyways, enough chit chat, here are things you should know about when traveling around Cairo:
1. Purchase a local phone plan! Unlike in the UAE 🇦🇪 and Lebanon 🇱🇧, purchasing a local SIM card and phone plan is very cheap. It will help you a lot with navigation and booking Ubers so that you are not ripped off by locals when riding taxi 🚕 cabs. Although, as I said earlier, you can always have the taxi drivers turn on their meters as well.
2. Bring your energy, resilience and desire for thrill! There are often no sidewalks so I had to wheel side by side cars and, more frequently than not, the cars are driving by you closer than you are comfortable with. It is not uncommon to have cars almost touching each other either from the side or from behind. When you cross the street, focus your eyes ahead while also being acutely aware of the cars coming from both sides of traffic. Once you hesitate, that’s where they whiz right past you and make you feel like you nearly went to the other dimension of life.
3. I started noticing an odd phenomenon where all the Egyptians had a black/darken skin around the middle of their forehead. Some people’s dark skin discoloration are more noticeable than others. At first I thought they were birthmarks but that did not make much sense since so many people had them. I finally asked one of them what it was, and he proudly said it was from praying. Cairo does have dusty and/or smoggy air, so I’m assuming that’s what it is from? The guy who is always sitting in the front entrance of my hostel had such a noticeable discoloration and several polyp looking things around it that I thought he had a disease.
4. Most people do not speak English and most of those that do, do not speak it well. For my last meal in Cairo, I wanted to get something from my favorite restaurant, Felfela. It was a little after 4pm and the only nutrient I had that day was a cup of mango juice. The waiter asked if I wanted a beef or chicken shawarma 🍗, I said beef. Later, when I took a bite of my shawarma from the cab heading to the airport, I was annoyed to have tasted one of my least favorite food of all time, lamb.
5. Wheelchair accessible public restrooms are always hard to find any where, but it is especially true in Cairo. I try not to eat or drink so much so that I don’t get myself in emergency situations. And as a general rule of thumb when traveling to developing and third world 🗺 countries, always bring a small pack of toilet paper with you.
6. Make sure you have $25 or something equivalent in Egyptian pound when you arrive at the airport in Egypt so that you can purchase your VISA. I mistakenly had only $20 because I thought they weren’t going to be strict about it, but oh how wrong I was... My travel rewards card didn’t work for some funky reason and, for a moment, I was panicking over $5 because that was the thing that was stopping me from entering that beautiful country. If my next credit card didn’t allow me to withdraw money 💵, I was ready to go up to each person and ask if they had a $5 American bill...that was how desperate I was... Anyways, by me sharing this with you, hopefully you can avoid the panic I went through. The reason I misread the situation is because I thought I was supposed to be charged for a VISA when I entered Lebanon as well, but they did not charge me anything and barely gave me any trouble at all. This is to say, treat every country differently and don’t assume just because one country does things a certain way, the others will be similar as well.
7. Speaking of treating each country by a case by case basis, this could not be more true with my wheelchair repair kit. So far, I still have my wheelchair repair kit, but I don’t know how much longer I will be able to hold onto them. I almost missed my flight in Beirut because they were waiting for the various levels of approval for me to bring them. And then, in Bahrain 🇧🇭, the guy said it was not allowed and was about to confiscate them until I resisted. I think if I had them as check-on items , it would be easier to go through; but my problem is that I only do carry-ons on my trips because I never want my stuff to get lost or delayed. I can’t afford these kinds of mistakes when I’m only in these countries for a few days at a time.
8. Everyone is very proactive and positive. If they see that you need help, they will come up to you and just assist as they see things happen. This is actually really helpful when so little of the sidewalks that do exist do not have curb-cuts.
These are the main points I can think of for now. I wish I had written more when I was physically in Cairo because now that I’ve left, my mind is drawing blank. Feel free to always comment below or on my website if you have any specific questions I can help with. Salam Alaikum (peace to you).