Today TraveLinkSites sits down with Giulia Cimarosti, the lovely Italian who’s known as bit of an expert with travel Egypt over on her Travel Reportage blog. Egypt is a heady place filled with ancient wonder, bustling markets and exotic food – no wonder she’s a fan!
1. Hi Giulia! Could you briefly introduce yourself, your site and your experience travelling in Egypt?
I am Giulia, an Italian digital nomad on a lifetime long RTW trip. I think this pretty much sums it all up!
Speaking of Egypt, I visited this country for the first time in 2004 and never stopped coming back every couple of months since then. As most people I started with a Nile cruise, but by now I’ve spent overall about 1 year around the country and discovered new and often unexpected places all around.
2. What made you choose this country and what were your first impressions?
The first time I came to Egypt I was with my mother and it was actually her choice. I wasn’t even interested in coming! But as soon as I saw Cairo, I fell in love with the place. The first impressions? I remember being so fascinated by this huge city with so many bridges, traffic, enormous commercials on the sides of the streets, the Nile river and young couples strolling on the corniche, and the Pyramids on the horizon at sunset.
And that was just the beginning: as we embarked for our Nile cruise, I was enchanted by the temples and the Ancient Egyptian Mythology.
I chose to come back because since the first moment I felt this was the right place for my soul!
3. How much money can someone travel around Egypt for? What are the greatest expenses? What things are relatively cheap?
Coming from Europe, the greatest expense is actually the flight. Depending on what part of Egypt you want to visit, prices can vary pretty drastically.
Packages to beach resorts on the Red Sea usually include the flight and are the cheapest option, but you don’t get to see much of “real Egypt”. Of course if you’re into diving, clubbing and sunbathing then this is the place for you.
In Cairo, hotels offer cheap options (lowest price for a hostel is around €3/night) to five stars hotels. If you plan to stay for a long amount of time, you can rent an apartment or a room and this will definitely be the cheapest option. A room in a high end apartment in a residential area can cost up to €400/month but if you opt for more “popular” areas and no frills apartments, you can spend as little as €100/month.
Everything in Cairo can be extremely cheap or expensive, it’s a matter of choice. A dinner in a fancy restaurant can cost you €50 but you can also eat typical falafel or foul in a sandwich for about €0,20.
Also, transportation is extremely cheap: just to give you an idea, a ticket for the metro costs around €0,20 and for a taxi ride to the airport you will pay less than €10. A 10 hours bus ride from Cairo to Dahab costs around €10, and so on.
If you fly to Cairo and decide to move across the country independently, you will definitely find very good deals.
4. What is the local cuisine like? Did you find yourself trying new things or pining for the familiars of home?
The local cuisine is… tasty. A little too spicy and heavy for my taste, but usually very good and fresh, with a great choice for vegetarians too.
The most popular street food is taameya (falafel) and foul (bean paste), together with koshary (a mix of pasta, rice, lentils, onion, spices and chickpeas). Other than that, something very typical as in the whole Middle East is the mezze salads (tehina, hummus, babagannoush, etc). In typical Egyptian restaurants you can try some specialties such as camel liver, stuffed pigeon and molokheya (a sticky green soup served with rice) to name a few. Other than that, on the streets you can always find shawerma, which is basically the Egyptian version of kebab.
Generally speaking, I don’t eat Egyptian food very often as it’s too heavy for me, but I can’t get enough of babagannoush and fried eggplant sandwiches.
5. What cultural activities and events would you suggest everyone seeing or taking part in while travelling in Egypt and why?
I would suggest anyone to attend an Egyptian wedding. If you spend enough time in Cairo you will definitely be invited to some, and it’s one of the most entertaining things ever. Sometimes they can get very tacky but that’s part of the fun: strobes, smoke effects, disco music and wild dances make it something you just can’t miss!
6. What is your favourite thing about travelling this country? What is your least favourite thing?
Ok, straight to the point: least favorite thing is sexual harassment in the streets, which comes as comments by guys walking by you, and can get very annoying. However, this happens only in the cities and in some areas only.
My favorite thing is that in Egypt in just a few hours you can go from the city to the most beautiful sea, breathtaking deserts or incredible temples and pyramids, reminders of Egypt’s glorious history.
7. What things do you focus on most when you blog about this country? Why do you choose these things?
I usually try and describe the daily life in Egypt. We all know about Pyramids, temples and diving spots but who knows how to haggle in a souq, how much to pay for a taxi ride, or how safe is the place after the Revolution? I want to give as much information as possible for the potential visitors, together with some nice photos of course!
8. What’s one thing you can’t travel around Egypt without?
I would say an open mind, plenty of time, and bottled water.
9. What kind of response have you had to your blogs about Egypt? What post had the most interest?
After all the time I spent in Egypt, I am very happy to see that people are starting to consider me as a local expert and will send me emails and private messages asking for more information and personalized advice on their upcoming trips to Egypt. This makes me feel very proud and flattered at the same time!
I would say that the Egypt-related post that got more attention was Blackout in Egypt, where I wrote about the 28th of January 2011, or “Friday of Rage”, and my experience on that day. It’s pretty dramatic but it’s a honest report of those frightening, puzzling, unforgettable moments.
10. If you could think of one thing you wished someone told you before you started travelling in Egypt what would it be?
Since I visited Egypt with a tour operator the first 3 times, I never thought about dressing appropriately, but when I first visited on my own I realized that it’s actually very important to respect the local customs and cover up and try to avoid showing the upper legs and cleavage. Not only this will be more appropriate, but it will also make you feel more comfortable, believe me. Looking back at those days I feel very silly, and I wish someone told me this before I went!
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