Solo in the Middle East? I am absolutely fascinated with Middle Eastern culture and have been dying to see this country since learning about the pyramids in first grade, but most in my life weren’t exactly supportive of the idea of solo female travel in Egypt.
Unfortunately, the area gets a bad rep in the West, mainly due to media portrayals of the region which amplify the issues. Ever since the 2011 revolution, Egypt’s tourism has dropped drastically; however, I am here to tell you that I felt completely safe during my time there, and I would not hesitate in recommending solo female travelers to Egypt. I fell in love with Cairo. The culture in the Middle East is electric, and I really couldn’t wrap my head around how old everything was around me. I mean, I was visiting the cradle of civilization: the feeling was overwhelming, and at times I just had to pause and try to take everything in.
As soon as you clear customs, there will be men offering you taxi rides, tours, hotels, etc. Like I said, Egypt’s tourism suffered after the revolution so the touts are eager to to get your business. I picked a taxi driver at random from the masses and hopped in. Our next stop? The pyramids! As we were driving to Giza, I couldn’t stop staring out of the window. I couldn’t believe that I was actually in Egypt!
Pit stop at the Nile. And then from one “Woah, I’m in Egypt” moment, to another…
After frolicking around the pyramids and taking corny photos with the Sphinx, I was off to Islamic Cairo, an area of the city that is dotted with historical mosques and other important Islamic monuments. Ahhhh, I loved it here! From the smells of falafel and shawarma, to men and women wearing traditional Arab clothing, to the call to prayer, it was so fundamentally different than anything I have ever experienced before. I didn’t want to leave.
I spent the rest of my time eating, shopping, getting papyrus prints made, eating some more, and trying to figure out how to move to Egypt. In the airport, I cried to the lady sitting next to me about how I wished so badly that I could stay. She informed me that, as an American trained nurse, I could go to any hospital in the area and immediately get a job. If my funds hadn’t been dangerously low at this point, perhaps I would’ve tried.
When I tell people that I went to Egypt by myself, most give me a horrified/concerned look and inevitably ask about how I felt in regards to safety. And I tell them exactly what I have told you here in this post. There was not one moment where I felt unsafe as a female traveling alone. Even after I separated from my guide at the pyramids, I still felt totally safe. I will say, though, that all of the locals I met seemed kind of surprised and taken aback that I was alone and not with a tour.
It seems that not everyone has as good of an experience in Cairo as I did, so I feel very lucky. I enjoy being able to speak so highly of a Middle Eastern country to my American friends, family, and coworkers. When I return, I want to explore Luxor, Aswan, and Alexandria, as I have heard those cities are even better than Cairo!
Have you ever been to Egypt or another Middle Eastern country? What was your experience like?