Slog News & Arts

Line Out

Music & Nightlife

« Today The Stranger Suggests | It's April 4 Day »

Friday, April 4, 2008

Arabian Sands

posted by on April 4 at 11:05 AM

I leave Monday for an Egyptian tour with a dozen fellow dancers. We’re going to explore the Nile basin, North to South, by train and river cruise, and immerse ourselves in the ancient mysteries and antiquities.

I’ve got modest clothing, Cipro, sunblock, and the SurvivalPhrases: Arabic podcast ready to go. Have You Been? Anything else I should pack or know?

I’ll try to Slog from there but have no idea how prevalent internet access will be.

RSS icon Comments


Holy crap! That's exciting. What kind of dancing? Slog! Shoot photos! Have a good time!

Uh, you might need a new acronym if you're going to be Slogging from Egypt: NSFAKHSFTAW (Not Safe For Amy Kate Horn Slogging From The Arab World). I wouldn't want you to be beheaded for something Charles Mudede put up.

Posted by Fnarf | April 4, 2008 11:19 AM

Hell, just about the entirety of Slog is not safe for someone in an Arab country. But Savage is particularly unsafe. Have fun and keep us updated!

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 4, 2008 11:30 AM

Pack some Immodium. Seriously. You're gonna need it.

Have a great trip!

Posted by Providence | April 4, 2008 11:30 AM

I just returned yesterday from Tel Aviv on business and I can happily say that the Eastern Mediterranean is in its full blossom of Spring. Leave your window open for pleasant sleeping and the chance to lose yourself in the early dawn call to prayer.

Good luck in bringing your dance style to the region. The traditional men's "knee" dance is uninspiring (in my opinion) and the men's "sword" dance from the Emirates is a waste of stage space. Of course, the middle aged straight white male in me loves the belly dancing.

Most of all just open your senses and you mind and have fun.

Posted by Lawrence Molloy | April 4, 2008 11:36 AM

i must say, oregano pills are essential for int'l travel. my traveling companion in india, who had been there for 3 mos (read: time to adjust) didn't take them, and had persistent bowel problems. india is particularly notorious for intestinal reaming, and i was completely unscathed by taking oregano pills twice a day for the 10 days i was there. i ate whatever i wanted!!!

Posted by april | April 4, 2008 11:39 AM

Sounds like a great trip. I spent a wonderful month there in 2002. You'll find that all of the cities have widespread internet access, and internet cafes are plentiful in Cairo, Luxor, Alexandria, etc. Many of them serve tea and coffee for free! They're less common in the smaller towns, but doubtlessly growing.

Two things to stay aware of: It can be tough to find booze in Egypt, and even tougher for a woman. If you want a drink of alcohol, look for western style places with Yanks and Europeans. Also, the police there take drug crimes super seriously. I heard horror stories of people going to prison for years for hash possession. You WILL be offered hash. If you're tempted to buy it, BE CAREFUL.

Have fun!

Posted by Gurldoggie | April 4, 2008 11:41 AM

In Egypt, when your phrasebook says "j", replace it with "g".

Posted by Chris | April 4, 2008 11:41 AM

My dance style (bellydance) has its origins in the region, of course, but is not often performed in public except by foreigners these days thanks to conservative and religious mores. In what will certainly be a surreal experience, we will perform classic Egyptian and Turkish bellydance, and a Western interpretation of ancient pharaonic dance, for Egyptians and tourists alike. "We're here to show you how we imagine your ancestors moved!"

As an aside, I've heard that Coptic Christian guides are better than their Muslim counterparts in that they tend to be much more knowledgeable and respectful of the ancient belief systems.

Should be interesting...

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | April 4, 2008 11:45 AM

Whatever you do, DONT ask people "Does this bomb make me look fat?"

Posted by catnextdoor | April 4, 2008 11:47 AM

When you're taking pictures in the Egyptian Museum and the security guards slide up to you and whisper "Use flash! Use flash!", don't do it unless you feel like paying some baksheesh.

And if you go to the reviewing stand where Anwar Sadat was killed, you can also view the Worst Bathroom in the World, round the back. Use flash.

Posted by elenchos | April 4, 2008 11:48 AM

Egypt is great! I just got back last week, but only spent time in and around Cairo. You don't need to pack anything special; everything you're likely to need is readily available. Pharmacies will sell you anything (anything) over the counter. Internet access is prevalent and cheap. People are friendly.

When you go to Giza to see the pyramids and sphinx, you'll be overwhelmed by guys trying to get you to pay them for everything - guide, ride, take a photo, here-I-show-you-this-special-shop-my-friend, etc. Just keep saying no. Over and over. They'll leave you in peace after a couple of minutes. Then you can marvel about the fact that the pyramids aren't out in the middle of the desert, but smack in the middle of a scummy suburb. You can get a great photo of them reflecting in the front window of the KFC/Pizza Hut.

Have a great time! If you're going throughout the country, be sure to spend some time in Luxor.

Posted by alan | April 4, 2008 11:50 AM

Also, for intestinal troubles take a small amount of Pepto-Bismol every day. It doesn't do a damn thing if you pick up a bug, but the bismuth does act as a mild anti-bacterial that can prevent one from taking hold.

Posted by Fnarf | April 4, 2008 11:57 AM

Interesting you mention the Coptic Christians. One of my favorite places that I stopped was the city of Assiut, the only Egyptian city with a majority Coptic population. It's on the Nile but because there are no major archaeological sites, it's left off of many people's tourist agendas. Despite that, I found it to be a very engaging and friendly place, and well worth a visit.

Posted by Gurldoggie | April 4, 2008 12:12 PM

Taking one Pepto Bismal table or chewtab a day is the most effective way to avoid traveler's diarrhea. If you don't intend to buy tacky souvenirs, do not make eye contact or even say "no thanks" to the street touts. It just opens you up to endless harrasment. Do not smile at strangers unless you want to talk to them for a long time. If the touts and beggars get too pushy you might consider hiring a personal guide, they are cheap and they keep the others at bay. Your guide, will of course, take you to rug bazaars and such because he gets a commission on any sales but it makes everything a bit smoother and you are not obligated to buy things you don't want. Bon voyage!

Posted by inkweary | April 4, 2008 12:20 PM

a burqa

Posted by michael strangeways | April 4, 2008 12:20 PM

God, if I went to Egypt I'd be all over the tacky souvenirs. I LOVE tacky souvenirs; they're the only kind worth a damn. The tackier the better.

Posted by Fnarf | April 4, 2008 12:24 PM

The "Sultan's Revenge" is a very unpleasant experience. It is made worse by the fact that squat toilets are the norm when you're out and about. Not the best conditions when you need to spend awhile in the bathroom.

Bringing Cipro is the best thing you can do. Take it at the FIRST sign of intestinal distress. If you have a really sensitive stomach you can take it as a preventative before you get sick. It isn't a very socially responsible thing to do, but it works.

Posted by Ashley | April 4, 2008 12:25 PM

I was in Cairo and Hurghada and Sharm el Sheikh last spring for work. In Cairo I was plagued the first couple nights by a mosquito or two in my room. Once someone gave me an aerosol can of bug repellent things were much better!

I stayed at the Windsor hotel, which was an old English officers club in the 20's. Don't think they've changed a thing about it since then. Very cool ambiance, check it out if you get a chance (the bar on the second floor).

Traveling alone as a blondish female, I attracted a lot of unwanted attention. I never figured out if it was better to cover my hair or just keep it in a bun as I was harassed either way. Despite that, it was an amazing trip. Have fun!

Posted by erpp | April 4, 2008 1:06 PM

Should be fun! Say hi to Delilah for me.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 4, 2008 1:18 PM

My friend just got back from a month in Egypt and just yesterday showed my his Lonely Planet guide, which he had very meticulously, and extensively corrected. He's convinced that if anyone from LP actually did visit Egypt, they rarely left their resort.

I'm trying to think of the big ones he mentioned... um, Cabs - you need to find out how much a trip might be BEFORE you get in. If your staying at a hotel, ask someone there. The driver will want to negotiate price before you go anywhere, or you can leave it up to him, which will have the result you can guess.

Bars - Obviously not a drinking culture. If you find a place serving liquor, it will be a speakeasy, and probably a brothel.

Internet access should be fine in the cities. Cairo has about a trillion more residents than you'd guess.

Posted by Dougsf | April 4, 2008 1:22 PM

I forgot to mention one hassle- when I tried to check my bank balance online it wouldn't let me- it detected that I was checking from «airo and shut me down from all online banking. At the time I was with the notoriously awful Wells Fargo and reliant on my visa debit card so it was a problem. You are probably responsible enough to have a decent credit card but thought I'd mention it just in case. If you plan on any online banking you should call your bank before you leave.

Posted by erpp | April 4, 2008 1:43 PM

Excellent idea--calling credit card company and bank now. Thanks, everybody. I will miss you.

Posted by Amy Kate Horn | April 4, 2008 1:46 PM

Went in 2005 and loved it.

General comments: you'll be surprised how little they protect and nuture the world treasures in their country. The museums are makeshift, at best. But it all seems to work.

Baksheesh: Just ignore the commercialization of all their heritage sites and say no. Try to transport yourself back to a time when somebody wasn't trying to screw you over at every turn. It'll take some imagination.

Coptic Christian section of Cairo: Go, it's wonderful and mysterious.

Subway in Cairo: Use's easy. It's modeled after the Paris underground. Just know you'll be the only foreigners there are people will be generally friendly, but will stare - A LOT!

Grocery stores: Go to one and get the yogurt smoothies. OMG.

Cabs: Know how to write your number in Arabic...VERY few drivers know any English and the city is vast and confusing. They don't know Western numbers well, so learn to write out the little slashes and whatnot.

Stop every time you hear the call to prayer and just have a present moment. It's magical. It's nice to be somewhere where people have such a strong sense of tradition and ritual. Refreshing.

Posted by Corliss | April 4, 2008 1:55 PM

Take your penis but leave your vagina at home. (Or wear a burqa.)

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | April 4, 2008 2:33 PM

I'm with @14, in that the best strategy is to ignore the hundreds of people who will try to sell you something or be your guide. And for heaven's sake, don't make eye contact.

Also, be wary of people who refer you to a specific shop or restaurant, particularly if they are your driver or guide or hotel staff (as #14 said, these people get a commission on whatever you buy). Try not to let it get you down that many people will look at you and see only dollar signs.

Oh, and I had never heard of oregano pills, but I have heard that these probiotic pills called acidophilus work wonders for preventing intestinal troubles oversees. I just started using them in my everyday life, so havenít tested them out on international travel yet.

Have fun!

Posted by Julie | April 4, 2008 3:25 PM

Have a great time, Amy Kate. We'll miss you at SLOG night.

Posted by Big Sven | April 4, 2008 5:07 PM

What do you mean, they don't know Western numbers? They're ARABIC numbers. Words, sure, but the numeral should be the same, right?

Posted by Fnarf | April 4, 2008 5:16 PM

Bring a bunch of those little packets of Kleenex, because toilet paper isn't always available.

I don't think anyone in our group of 30 had any issues with the food, but it's good to be prepared for the worst on any trip. Booze is hard to find and you might want to bring some from the airport duty free.

And - if you are doing the overnight train to or from Cairo, do anything in your power to get a sleeper cabin on the train.

Posted by Jason | April 5, 2008 3:10 AM

Read the last few chapters of The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain. He took a similar trip in 1867, its hilariously snarky,and the comparison might be interesting.

Posted by chris | April 5, 2008 8:14 AM

@27- Nope. You'd think the numbers would be the same, but they're not. I'm going to Egypt in a few weeks and just picked up an Arabic phrasebook and guide. Arabic numerals are completely different from Western ones, little slashes and such.

Posted by Victoria | April 6, 2008 3:41 AM

They're "arabic" numbers, but interestingly enough it's the persian version of them that' the prevalent one.

Read from left to right (The dot is a zero, one strike is a 1, "V" is a seven...)

0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

٠ ١ ٢ ٣ ٤ ٥ ٦ ٧ ٨ ٩

Posted by Sidi Mansour Ya Baba | April 6, 2008 1:26 PM

Comments Closed

In order to combat spam, we are no longer accepting comments on this post (or any post more than 14 days old).