Jasmina is a Dutchie who lives for several years in Egypt. She knows this fascinating country quite well. So it’s time to ask her some questions for aspiring travellers who want to visit Egypt.
Lately Egypt has triggered a sharp fall in tourist numbers. I think it’s time to put this beautiful country back on the map. Can you tell us as a locoal why Egypt is a good travel destination and why?
The country had something to offer for everyone. Just want to enjoy the sun? Want to explore? Want to see some ancient history? Want to enjoy a real oasis? It’s all there! It depends on your interest what side of Egypt you should go. If you want to go for the sun and the beach or some diving, Hurghada, Sharm el Sheikh and El Gouna are the place to go. For a more cultural vacation, Luxor, Ashwan & Cairo are the places to be. Don’t forget to take a boattrip on a felucca (Egyptian boat) on the Nile when you are there.
Is it easy for a traveller to interact with the local people? What are the do’s and don’ts?
Very easy, Egyptians are very friendly and open people, they love to meet foreigners and interact with them. A lot speak English but not all. Remind yourself that they pronounce the letter p often as the letter b. This may get you in some hilarious situations otherwise.
What is the best time to visit Egypt?
It depends on which area you would like to go. If you want to visit Luxor and Ashwan (South of Egypt) for example I wouldn’t recommend the summertime. It is more than 40 degrees over there! From September to May the weather is great. If you know which place you want to go it’s best to search for the weatherforecast online to see what’s best for you.
On special events, like Eid el fitr (suikerfeest) and Eid el Adha (offerfeest) it’s really nice to be in Egypt and experience this with the Egyptians. Everybody is outside and celebrating, everything is decored, there’s a lot of delicious food and all the people are happy and will welcome you into this celebration.
What are the must try foods in Egypt and why?
One typical Egyptian dish is Koshari. Koshari is a dish made of rice, macaroni and lentils mixed together, topped with a tomato-vinegar sauce; some add short pieces of spaghetti garnished with chickpeas and crispy fried onions. You might wonder, can you mix this all in one bowl? Yes you can! And it’s delicious, you have to give it a try. Ofcourse you have to try the Egyptian falafel as well, delicious and very cheap.
Konafa is a well known Arabic dessert,with a cream cheese filling in the center of Kataifi dough.There are many different types of fillings. I personnally love the Nutella filling.
The grill restaurants are very very good here. If you’re staying near the sea make sure to visit a fish restaurant as well.
Egypt has some beautiful places to explore. Which are the top 5 must see places?
For me personally that would be Al-Fayoum Oasis (south of Cairo), Khan al khalili (major souk in Cairo, the atmospere is amazing), ofcourse the pyramids of Gizah (you’ve to visit them at least once in your life), Siwa Oasis (near the Libyan border, so might not be so safe right now) & my new hometown Alexandria. Also here it depends ofcourse on your personal interest and in which area you are staying. It’s a big country and every part has it’s beautiful places.
It can be very hot in Egypt. Do you have a favorite shoe what you’re wearing when it’s hot? If so…what kind of shoe is it?
My personal favorite are my Havaianas flipflops! But if you go for a day of exploring outside I recommend some nice fitting sneakers, the roads and sidewalks can be a bit bumpy.
Can you give some traveltips which are not in any travelguides, what could help travelling through Egypt more fun?
For the more adventures people, try couchsurfing! There are a lot of locals who are on this website and they love to show you their country. And besides that it’s cheap you can really get to know the locals, local customs, local food etc. The trains are relatively ok and you can ‘train’ through the whole country for a low price. It’s a whole experience by itself! Especially around the big tourist attractions people will “bother” you with merchandise. Don’t be rude if they keep trying (and they will), it’s probably the only income they have. Just smile and say Shokran! and keep walking to the direction you’re going to. When paying in a local shop it’s custom they decline your payment 3 times before they take it. They expect you to know that, so don’t put your money back in your pocket after the first two times they declined.
And when buying something, always bargain! Traffic can be a bit of a hazzle here, especially when trying to cross the street. Look for a local around you who is going to cross the street as well and stand next to him/her. When he/she goes, you go. Do not drink water from the tap, only from a bottle. You will be much happier travelling without have to search for a toilet every 3 minutes. Pens and balloons are always a nice give away to local kids, they will appreciate it.