Why Egypt has a Mysterious Love At First Sight Effect on Tourists
Updated: Nov 15, 2021
The truth behind why people say it feels like home
Beware of traveling to Egypt; it’s dangerous.
You're likely to fall victim to the charms of Egypt herself! Yes, the odds are you will fall in love!
How do you know you've arrived in Cairo?
Close your eyes. Let your ears adjust to the hypnotic muezzin (call to prayer).The jubilant “Zaghareets” and beating drums of a local wedding ring through the neighborhood. A truck full of baby camels catches your eye, and you are mesmerized by the sight of them.
So many stimuli.
The scents of frankincense and myrrh put you in a daze as you cross the 6th of October Bridge past “Old Cairo.” On you're left is one of the world's oldest Bazaars (open-air market), Khan el Khalili. There is nothing like those first few moments over the bridge — the smells, sounds, and sites heading into the city.
Your initiation to Egypt begins, and your senses are ignited.
After you leave, you crave it. When your gone, your heart aches for it.
Egypt is the land of ancient desert temples, Cleopatra, and golden mummies. But it's so much more than pharaohs and temples. It's more than all King Tut’s treasures combined. Tourists go to Egypt for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see the pyramids, but somehow, it feels like “home.”
A surprising number of people end up moving there! Plainly put, they fall in love with Egypt herself. The essence of Egypt gets under your skin fast. With a history steeped in great power, intrigue, and art — Its energy is palatable.
Welcome to Egypt!
The Arabic phrase for hello or welcome is Ahlan wa Sahlan. Roughly translated: You are not a stranger but walk among your family and your land. Feel that — it’s beautiful and holds a profound message. It’s much more than a simple hello. You are among family, on familiar land, and you are a friend here.
The sense of community and family in Egyptian culture is unmistakable. Not only are the Egyptian people full of warmth, but so is their language. It’s all about the feeling.
You are important, and Egyptian’s show you this by inquiring after your every need. At its core, Egyptian culture is nurturing, and you're routinely invited to tea, coffee, dinner, and weddings! “You are Egyptian now!” is a phrase you hear often. Egyptian’s claim you as their own in a show of acceptance and endearment.
Egypt and the element of surprise
Every day is a surprise in Egypt. You set out to see the pyramids, but you end up at someone’s wedding. True story. Happens all the time. I call it the “Cairo surprise.” The Cairo surprise is when you head out to do one thing and end up on a magical detour you never expected. Soon, you begin to expect the random beauty and excitement of this phenomenon. There's always another surprise around the corner.
Rain is a rare and welcome surprise in Cairo. The children rush out to dance in it, and folks come out onto their balconies while raising their hands to the sky.
You're walking along and behold a few raindrops from the sky! Yes! Bring the rain! Cool us down! Only to realize it's not rain but drops of condensation from the many over-hanging air conditioner units. Ha! Cairo Surprise!
We can’t talk about Egypt and not address the heat factor
Running from one air-conditioned space after another is a marathon you never knew you'd run. But here you are. I liken the heat of Egypt to a campfire breeze embalming every inch of your body. A simultaneous lava-like sensation of being on fire — but not. You haven't melted! Another surprise!
Fun history fact: Ancient Egypt gave us some of the earliest “window air conditioner” inventions. Egyptians hung wet reed strips from their windows, thus cooling the breeze as it passed through the house.
A typical day in the land of golden mummies
Egypt is a place where mundane activities are meaningful. Perhaps you need to step out for bottled water or a SIM card. You suit up and head out to the nearest corner store.
“Sabah el kheer, ya Wendy!” (good morning in Arabic) smiles Mustafa from his fruit stall. You may have only spoken once, but he always greets you as a friend. It's a small thing, but it feels good.
Shimmying up to the stall — another greeting — “Welcome, welcome Habibi! (dear one) please, sit for a cup of tea!” After a tea and an exchange of lighthearted pleasantries, you make your way back. Another small interaction, but it feels super good.
“Ya, Wendy! Take an orange!” grins Mustafa, on your way back. No catch, just because. Before long, you begin to realize this is a typical day in Egypt.
Egyptians acknowledge you as a part of their community even if you're only a tourist passing through
Egyptians have mastered the art of communication. You don’t have to speak the local language to feel their authenticity and generosity. However, if you decide to learn some Arabic, it will be met with enthusiastic appreciation and encouragement.
Are there touts who hassle you to buy a bottle of water at the pyramids for $25? Sure. Everyone has to make a living. Consider learning a few phrases before you arrive, and you will get the same water for $3 and an invite for tea.
The tea is free, in case your wondering.
Connecting with people in their native language forms a serendipitous bond. It’s like a glimpse into a secret world. It feels incredible and is received as a symbol of respect.
Um al-Dunya, Mother of the world
Egyptians proudly call their country “mother of the world,” or Um al-Dunya, in Arabic.
There are plenty of historical reasons why we call her the cradle of civilization. Egyptian civilization spans almost 30 centuries. Consider the agricultural, scientific, religious, and cultural contributions Egypt has given the world.
Beyond the facts, however, lay an altogether different phenomenon. It all comes back to why Egypt feels like home.
Cleopatra was the last Pharaoh of Egypt, and she embraced her role to protect the country she prized above all others. Ironically, she was a foreigner. While having grown up in Egypt, she was Greek Macedonian.
Cleopatra was so taken with ancient Egypt (yes, it was ancient during her reign) that she learned the language and upheld the old gods' pharaonic traditions. Egypt’s last Pharaoh held a greater connection to this country than her own in Macedonian Greece. Even she was not immune to its charm!
People love it, or they hate it
Egypt has a push-pull effect. You fall in love with it, or it’s not your cup of tea. You get it, or you don’t. Egyptians know how challenging getting around can be— from traffic congestion to the sweltering mid-day heat. With an exploding population of over 100 million people, crossing the street is a chore and often downright scary.
Truthfully, there is an art to it.
It’s why Egyptians link arms crossing the street. It’s a collective effort. It’s why Egyptians come to your side if they see you struggling to navigate the swell of traffic, people, and donkey carts. Between the chaos is where you find the magic. Even crossing the street. Despite Cairo’s dizzying backdrop, you find the uplifting attitudes of Egyptians carry on. In fact, it’s part of the charm of this mesmerizing country.
You come for the pyramids, but you stay for the people
Egypt’s treasures lure you in, but the vibrancy of the people steals your heart. I fell in love with Egypt as a child and moved there as an adult without ever visiting. It was the best decision of my life.
You find yourself among impromptu gatherings sharing tea and linking arms while crossing the streets together. But it's more than that. You get it now. It's all about the feeling. A feeling of belonging to something bigger than ourselves. Roots deep within the history of civilization.
So, what is “the feeling?” It’s love.
The feeling is one of love and belonging — a sense of having arrived home after a lengthy journey. It's the love of country, food, music, family, friends, and community. The continuum of time in this land is vast, and its mysteries astound us. Egypt is full of treasures from antiquity, but what makes this place shine is the people themselves. You come as a tourist, but you leave as family.
While the splendor of Egypt’s history spills over into modern-day life, it casts a spell on your heart and mind. The ancient land whispers, stay a while longer, walk my warm sands — while the Egyptian people deliver a boisterous welcome home, Habibi! (dear one). You are Egyptian now.
If you liked this, you might enjoy 5 Reasons Why Egypt Is the Best Place to Travel For History Lovers.
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