TRAVELING IN EGYPT - 2013
The Embrace Founders were in Egypt from the last week of February through mid-March. The
Founders did not take this trip to visit antiquities, so the following is regarding the state of Egypt, the
people, economics and a few of the spiritual and religious sites.
The economy of Egypt is in a difficult state at present. We recommend visiting this diverse and
remarkable country if you are a citizen of any country other than those instigating and supporting
wars in the Middle East. This is an especially good time for tourists from the nearby Gulf. Currently
Egypt has less traffic than usual so it is quieter than normal and is free of extremely unwieldy
crowds. In addition, you can get excellent rates on almost everything. However, just as importantly,
you can help the people of Egypt and their developing economy.
If you are booking rooms through an internet agency, we strongly recommend using a credit card,
rather than a debit card. This is due to the fact that agencies or their Egyptian intermediaries can
hold on to money and not release it to the hotels in a timely fashion, causing frustration and anger
with the hotel front desk and management. A credit card payment gives you the option of changing
hotels or withholding payment if your money has not been forwarded to the hotel after you arrive.
Western Media Exaggerations
Please note, that while we were in Cairo and Tanta, the Western press was enthusiastically
reporting so-called violent incidents and anticipated violence. The Founders however, never once
witnessed or heard of any political violence anywhere. Again we advise most strongly, that
anyone viewing the Western broadcast or print news media with regard to any countries of
the non-Western world, to do so with a skeptical eye.
We do not recommend travel to Egypt for those who cannot afford to tip fairly for services rendered
or resent doing so. If you can afford to travel a long distance to come to Egypt, it is reasoned by
Egyptians, you can afford to tip. Tipping is a way of life in Egypt, even among Egyptians
themselves for all sorts of services. It is a way of acknowledging people and supplementing less
than adequate salaries. It also helps the economy.
In keeping with this theme, on route to the airport our taxi driver stopped at a gas station and let an
attendant fill the car with gas. He tipped the attendant and later told us that the attendant was
working without a salary. He was unemployed. The attendant simply went to the gas station and
was allowed to fill tanks in the hope of getting tips.
Egypt is a melting pot. Egyptians strictly speaking are not necessarily Arabs. They are mixed with
Berber, Turkish, European and Nubian blood. They also have a small but active Jewish community.
In addition, Egypt has numerous immigrants and refugees (many Palestinians.).
The people of Egypt have as many opinions on everything as there are citizens in the country,
which makes them interesting to listen to. In fact, the major complaint today is that no one can agree
on anything. - This sounds to us like democracy in action. Cairo has quite a number of excellent
bookstores. One chain is Alef and another is Diwan.
The general character of the people of Cairo and the Bedouin we met in the Sinai is one of a very
perceptive and observant people, with a great appreciation for knowledge.
Side Note on Young Egyptian Women
An interesting take on the younger Egyptian Muslim women, is that they often wear skin-tight jeans
and fitted tops, but wear a hijab (or head covering.) This is worn as a political statement giving
evidence of their pride in being Muslim. This practice began about the time the Western press
began attacking everything Islamic.
Curiously, the opposite dress code for more modern Islamic women exists on the Indian, Pakistani,
Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, “sub-continent.” Modern Muslim women in these countries wear relatively
modest shalwar kamez, pajamas or sari, but the head is not covered except when entering a
Mosque or Dargha. The issue in this part of the world -is in not attracting unwanted attention.
St. Catherine (the town) and Mount Sinai are primarily Bedouin areas, with the exception of the St.
Catherine Monastery at the base of Mount Sinai where an off-shoot of the “Burning Bush” thrives.
Hiking up Mount Sinai requires sturdy shoes; the path is rocky and narrow. You must go with a
Bedouin guide. The fixed rate at present is E 250 whether one person or two. If you want to miss the
crowds, it is best to go in the late afternoon. We stayed with Bedouin here and we still recommend
any one else doing so (see info. on Bedouin kidnappings). The Bedouin in this area are
knowledgeable about the world and have a long history with the Greek Orthodox monks at St.
If you are Russian and are reading this, please note that for some reason, a number of Bedouin in
the Sinai consider almost all Russians visiting the Sinai as Israelis with Russian passports. Our
recommendation is to be honest. It is secretiveness and the activities of a regional rogue intelligence
agency that creates dislike and suspicion. If you aren’t working for them, don’t worry.
Despite the tensions between the governments of the Holy Land and most of the Middle East, it is
easy to understand why religious and spiritual grassroots Jewish people, especially Rebs and
Rabbis would like to visit one of their Holiest sites. In particular, the people near Mount Sinai should
be especially receptive to all their brothers and sisters in the Sephardic Jewish community living in
North Africa and Iran, as well as, the Naturei Karta Hassidic community.
Note: There have been kidnappings by Bedouin of Western tourists, generally on route to
Sharm el-Sheik and a few other coastal to inland routes. The kidnapped are well treated.
The issue is one regarding Bedouin grievances with the Egyptian government.
Sharm el-Sheikh at the tip of the Sinai is a beautifully landscaped and a carefully designed resort
area. However, there is a tension between the values of the local towns and the culture of resort
guests. The men who work in the resorts normally come from families where women are well
respected but do not wear revealing clothing. They dress to protect themselves from the sort of
incidents which recently occurred in India and Mexico.
On our visit, we saw affluent Egyptian and Gulf couples coming to enjoy Sharm el-Sheikh resorts.
This is a good fit and hopefully many more of our Gulf friends will come. This will help the Egyptian
economy without bringing in present political issues, however, at this time it would probably be
prudent for Westerners to refrain from going there.
The Coptic Monasteries
Although most tourists traveling to Egypt are primarily eager to see the antiquities, any traveler who
can manage it, should visit to the Coptic Monasteries which are a real delight. If you have an interest
in Christian development and history, the Coptic Monasteries should definitely be on your itinerary.
A number of young travelers have written about their great experiences visiting these monasteries
and we had a wonderful time as well. The monasteries have art, miracles, history and good natured,
as well as helpful monks. Even those from other traditions can find a welcome at these monasteries
and many from the local Muslim community enjoy these sacred places where some remarkable
The Mosque of Sayyedna El Badawi
Some people estimate that nearly a third or more of the Egyptian population follows some form of
Sufi practice or attends their celebrations. Hazrat Sayyedna El-Badawi is one of the most revered
ancient Sufi Saints in all of North Africa.
The Sufis of the El- Badawi Mosque and dargha are no exception to Sufis all over the world. The
men and women welcomed visitors with big smiles, chanting praises to Allah and singing to the
“Beloved” with joy in their hearts as the Founders happened to visit on the day for cleaning the
dargha. This is a place that creates a palace of “Love” in your Qalb (the center) of your Heart where
the “Divine” resides, metamorphically speaking as the Sufis do.
To get an exquisite psychological insight into past modern Egyptian culture, read the trilogy of Nobel Prize winner
Naguib Mahfouz. The Books are: Palace Walk, Palace of Desire and Sugar Street.