What is the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Egypt? It is not the Pyramids. It is not the Nile. It is the political instability. As I prepared to join my husband on my first business trip to Cairo, I had the same sentiments in my mind. I didn’t really care so much about visiting the Pyramids. I cared more about returning home safely. Friends and family requested me not to go. Once they realized that I am not going to change my mind, they showered me with safe travel checklists and advice – carry a spare phone, dress conservatively, don’t venture out alone, etc., etc. I took my time to plan for this trip. Of course, I wanted to be back home with my kids safe and sound. I landed in Egypt 5 days ago and honestly speaking, none of the planning really helped me prepare for what was actually in store for me.
The airport was absolutely clean. The staff very courteous, helpful and professional. As I stepped out after immigration, I could hear the request for Taxi services from all direction. “Wow, this is so much like India” was my instant reaction. But nah! I didn’t need a taxi today. My love was waiting for me just on the other side of the glass doors. The chauffeur for our car spoke English pretty well and he whisked us into the city.
This is when my heart literally sank. The city was BEAUTIFUL! Wide clean roads, rows of beautiful apartments dotting the entire landscape and clean blue sky. There was no sign of any pollution on the roads, in the air, and most importantly in the minds of the beautiful people of this country. While I admired the city, in the back of my mind, I kept searching for some marks which would indicate the bitter political upheaval that the country has just been through. Where are the broken buildings, shattered window panes, or the army for security? How can this city look so safe and mesmerizing so soon?
For the first two days, as we traveled to business meetings and plant sites, I kept searching for signs of trouble. There was nothing I could find. I came across extremely professional, loving people who have very close ties to their families. They love India and everything about Indian including our dresses, our food and our Bollywood. I met an eleven year old Egyptian girl who dreams of one day marrying Shahrukh Khan. I was smiling throughout.
I consider myself fortunate to have been able to see some of the most beautiful countries in the world. While each country possesses its own charming characteristics, there are very few countries/cities which just grow on you so easily. In my love list, Venice tops the charts. And surprisingly Cairo silently sneaked into the second place even before I knew it. The amazingly strong Pyramids and the beautiful Nile are just some of the things that make you fall in love with this city. More than that, it is the rich culture, the strong family ties, and the love with which they receive you. It is the balance between the history and the modernity witnessed in the Pyramids on the one hand and the swanky shopping malls and hotels on the other. It is the sense of peace and the focus on developing strong, reliant infrastructure. It is self regulated traffic, it is the hygiene, it is the love for life that you can sense around you.
Today is my last day at Egypt. Had it not been for my children waiting for me back home, I would have extended my trip to visit a few more places and soak in a little more of the culture. I have fallen in love yet again and I am absolutely not complaining about it.
P.S. Cairo is the dream holiday destination for anyone. I found it better than other Middle East holiday destination as it is not just another city with modern infrastructure.
Stay at Al Rehab city (see apartments at Air BnB)