The other day, I mentioned something about our trip to Egypt last fall to an acquaintance I’ve recently made. He looked dumbfounded, and at first I thought it was because Egypt is an unusual vacation destination for folks in the Midwest. But then he said, completely aghast, “Why in the world would you go there? You could have been killed!” In the moment, my response was something like, “We weighed the danger and our desire, and the desire won out.” But his comment has lingered with me, and the more I think about it, the more responses I have for him.
When the dream of traveling to Egypt was born, the name Isis was that of an Egyptian goddess and nothing else. Terrorism had already invaded the nightly news, but it had been that way for so long that I didn’t give it a second thought. All I knew is that seeing the pyramids was an experience that resided almost at the very top of my bucket list.
However, as we got closer to paying the deposit on the trip, I felt some fear begin to creep in. Isis wasn’t just a goddess anymore, and danger seemed more inherent to a trip to this part of the world. Tim and I sat down and had a very serious talk. Should we pull the plug now and play it safe, or take the risk and take the plunge?
What we did was make as educated a decision as we possibly could. We read news stories, Department of State travel warnings and advisories, blogs written by people visiting and living in Egypt at the time. We talked about what we could face if we went, and what we would miss out on if we didn’t go. And in the end, we decided to put down the deposit, and head in that direction. But, if at any time we felt that our lives might be in danger going, we would pull the plug and forfeit whatever money we had paid. Better than forfeiting our lives.
Now let me step back for a moment: Tim and I may have a different perspective than most. While many people avoid any hint of danger, we came into this experience slightly more seasoned–Tim more so than me. After a tour in Afghanistan and a tour in Iraq, Tim had experienced real danger in a foreign place. His experiences and his instincts developed during those experiences provided peace of mind for me when we decided to travel to Kenya in 2008 after a period of tribal violence that followed the election there. Some villages were still in smoking ruin when we arrived, but I felt safe knowing that Tim could sense danger, and that his instincts would surely protect us should anything go amiss. That may have been a false security, but we’ll never know because we never encountered anything remotely close to danger–only friendly and welcoming hosts who showed only a small glimpse into the terror that had occurred only weeks before our arrival.
And because so many people were afraid for us to take that trip to Kenya, and it all came to nothing, I carried that mentality with me into the trip to Egypt. And I know things could have gone differently for us–a group of Mexican tourists were mistakenly killed in another part of Egypt while we were visiting (though we knew nothing about this until our return)–but the bottom line is that we never once felt in danger. I felt completely at ease. Hesham and Ashram, our tour director and guide inspired absolute confidence in us. They did everything in their power to give us the experience of a lifetime that we were seeking.
And what an experience we had! If we had gone before the Arab Spring, before people became afraid, we would have been two of the thousands milling around the base of the pyramids, hoping that the max entry into the Great Pyramid had not yet been reached. Instead, we were two of maybe one hundred people (including vendors) that were at the base of the pyramids on a sunny day, and were two people completely alone inside the Great Pyramid for half an hour, only seeing another soul on our arrival in and our departure out. We had private tours of so many locations because we didn’t allow fear to win out. I can’t say enough positive things about what we saw and what we got to do while we were there.
And let’s be real: there is danger all around us every day, no matter where we are in this world. A driver could lose control of his car and hit you as you step out to get the mail from your mailbox. Someone could open fire on you while you watch a movie in a theater or dance in a club. The sad state of our world is that danger is everywhere. We can’t isolate ourselves from it, try as we might. Life becomes a calculated risk. You try to avoid danger when you can, and you try to be smart when you can’t. And if you let fear rule your life, what kind of life is that truly? If we live our lives in fear, we will never have the experiences that make life beautiful and wonderful and remarkable.
Do I recommend a trip to Egypt as someone’s first overseas adventure? Probably not. But do I recommend it for someone who has traveled before, and is comfortable getting around in a foreign country? Absolutely. But, weigh the risk with the reward, and know yourself as a traveler. Be informed.
When we made the final decision, and we put down the deposit, Tim and I agreed that it was a perceived risk worth taking. And if something happened to us on the trip, it would happen while we were doing what we loved. We loved our experience in Egypt and are so grateful to have had the opportunity to go.
We recommend Emeco Travel for tour services in and around Egypt. Ask for Hesham and Ashram!