If you have had contact with Egypt, I can understand why you are a bit skeptic about what I am about to say. There is an enormuous cultural barrier that you need to overpass. We wrote in another article about the cultural challenges that you might face in Egpyt , but even so, Egyptians are happy to see tourists.
They don’t get offended when you repeatedly say: “No, thank you!”
When we ordered our first Uber, we wanted to make sure that we hop-on the correct car, so the obvios plan was to check the license plate number. We had the number in the Uber app, but the number on the license plate was in Arabic.
Just before the Uber arrived, close to us there was a taxi driver that kept insisting in taking us where we wanted to go. He knew we were waiting for an Uber, but he was there, and the Uber was not. We kept refusing the taxi driver, and for the first time we said “No, thank you!” more times that I could count. When the Uber car arrived and we were puzzled about the license plate number, the taxi driver understood our worry. He came to us and helped us by reading in English the number that was in Arabic (there was no way he could have known the number we had in the Uber app).
We have an entire article written about transportation in Egypt if you want to know how to read the Arabic license plates by yourself.
Don’t judge a nation by the pickpocketers
We dropped our hotel room key in the historic center of Cairo, Khan el-Khalili, without noticing. This is normally the kind of place where you have to be very careful with your bellongings and watch your pockets.
We heard someone yelling after us, but we were just set to ignore this kind of stuff because sellers are oftentimes too pushy. Some 300 meters later, a guy came running after us and gave us the key that we dropped. He was extremely happy that he helped us and didn’t expect anything in return for his favor.
Egyptians always welcome you to their country
Some people are just transporting goods with their donkeys in some city areas. They have nothing to sell directly to tourists, yet they always greeted us with a huge smile and a warm “Welcome to Egypt” with an Egyptian accent.
They don’t get upset when you don’t buy from them
Egyptian sellers can be annoying, but if you’re in the market, try and enter some stores, don’t avoid them all. Just make sure you go in the stores you chose, and don’t follow anyone to a specific store.
They always say that looking is free, and they mean it. If you only go and take a look inside, they will say “Thank you!” at the end even if you didn’t buy anything. We even tasted and smelt spices in some shops, and the owner was extremely happy to tell us about each of them. We ended up not buying anything because we couldn’t agree on the price, but they didn’t mind it, they were happy to have us there anyway.
Catcalling is a friendly thing
I read many times about people, especially women, complaining they got catcalled on the streets of Egypt as if that is a bad thing. Yes, in my culture, and perhaps yours as well, it is rude and can be a sign of danger. However, catcalling is common among Egyptians, even our guide used to catcall the waiters in the restaurants when he wanted something from them.
Of course, there are problems and things to look out for, but you should also remain open-minded because they are culturally very different from us. What seems rude to you, might just be normal for them. What is normal for you, might be awkward for them. You are not right or wrong, and nor are they. Just try to understand them before judging.
In case you are wondering what you should look out for and how to get prepared for Egypt, we have some other useful posts: