4 Months After Revolution: Why You Should Take Advantage Of Egypt’s Rare Travel Window Of Opportunity

Several months removed from a dramatic national uprising and a few more before nation elections, travelers have a rare opportunity to take advantage of a low-cost Egypt relatively free of large tourist crowds. Adaptability, ingrained into an Egyptian culture that’s seen waves of rulers, conquerors, and traders has resulted – perhaps unsurprisingly – in a country quickly back to life-as-usual.

great pyramids giza egpyt

That is, except for tourism; still slow to recover mostly due to apprehensions abroad about political instability. Now, on the heels of the January 25th Egyptian revolution, yet before the potentially turbulent fall elections, present a rare time to visit a budding nation without the normal crowds or costs.

egyptian flags tahrir squareEgypt’s Current Travel Stability

The question of whether it’s safe for foreigners to visit Egypt is one that you may still not be able to shake post-revolution. You can read more about whether it’s safe to visit Egypt right now but basically the country is stable, generally safe, and nearly all major incidents are far removed from popular tourist spots. Aside from the unmistakable red, white, and black bands of the Egyptian flag waving from (seemingly) everywhere and the sounds from occasional political demonstrations, you’ll likely be oblivious that Egyptians recently ousted their government.

Egypt is what I like to call travel-stable; meaning there are problems that make headlines, scare some, but are extremely unlikely to affect travelers. Those incidents, like clashes between groups of demonstrators for example, are those you really have to go out of your way to be involved in. The best safety precaution to take in travel-stable places is a dose of common sense.

Keep The Great Pyramids For Yourself

Granted, a Wednesday afternoon is a relatively quiet time even for the only remaining wonders of the ancient world, but I was shocked to count less than a total of 100 people over 2 hours visiting the Great Pyramids of Giza. Even the persistent camel touts, who all seem to speak 15 languages (and had “lived in Istanbul” in my case) seemed pathetic sitting along desolate paths just waiting for anyone to converse with.

khan el khalili souk cairo egypt

There aren’t many reliable statistics on how hard Egypt’s tourism industry has been hit recently but a stroll down Cairo’s famous Khan el-Khalili souk reveals many foreigners have decided to take their vacations elsewhere. Too bad for them, but great for you.

nile river cairo egyptThe Best Of Egypt Is Still There

It’s not the kushari, Sphinx, or pharaohs that will have you drinking from the Nile as they say in Egypt, but the culture of an incredibly warm and welcoming people. While it’s true that anywhere, people are what make a culture, Egyptians seem to have a twinkle of optimism in their eye post-revolution; eager to tell any and all visitors about it.

The government is different and the political future hazy on a cloud day though the food, history, and tourism infrastructure are more than intact. Hotels have lowered prices to help fill their empty beds and food is about as inexpensive as you’ll find anywhere in the Middle East. For all of Egypt’s recent changes politically, hardly any have changed travel there.

The Pre-Election Window

Egyptians are in the process of reconstructing their government and molding a clump-of-clay democracy after rapid waves of change. There is still quite a bit of work to be done with the next set of uncertain changes and steps likely to take place during the upcoming September elections.

Eager-and-open Egypt isn’t the same and won’t be from this point forward. Visitors will get a feeling that most Egyptians feel optimistic at this crossroads in their 4,500 year history. This combination of stability, travel recovery, and breath of historical fresh air won’t last beyond September’s parliamentary elections and the presidential elections a few weeks after.

alexandria yellow cable car egypt

I noticed a few more tourists in the days right before leaving Egypt last month; enjoying the calm sweet spot of travel after a revolution or disaster. Those are the opportunities that get you the best deals and set up travel memories to be had after you’ve left. Head to Egypt right now and you’ll see the country’s future from the beginning, served with a side of ancient temples and shisha along with your Nile.

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  1. Mikeachim says:

    I had the good fortune to chat to Nick Rowlands (@PharaoNick) on this topic in person a few weeks back, and he’s of the same mind. Egypt is chaos, and Egypt endures. These aren’t mutually exclusive things.

    It certainly wouldn’t stop me from visiting right now.

    I have to wonder how Egyptian tourism is reacting as an industry. Should it be organising press trips and publicity events, like Jordan has been doing in recent months?

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    • Anil P. says:

      May would have been a good time to kick things off in my opinion, but there is an incredible amount of disorganization at many levels of Egyptian tourism. Even before the revolution, I think this disorganization probably sets Egypt far lower than its overall tourism potential.

      I’m digressing a bit but am of the mind that publicity events would be a good idea – just after the late fall elections. It will be an unpredictable time and think the most effective push can be made after. Most likely next spring – there are some rumblings among the tourism boards I spoke with, if they can get their act together it would be great for Egyptian tourism (and the economy as a result).

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  2. Grace says:

    Hi Anil, I have been thinking about taking advantage of the tourist devoid pyramids. They say that Petra, Jordan is also empty as well. How long do you think will this last?

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    • Anil P. says:

      Hi Grace,

      I haven’t heard that about Petra; although in Egypt I don’t see the opportunity lasting beyond August. Tourists are already beginning to make their way back to Egypt.

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  3. That is so true, best time to travel is shortly after you should cancel your trip.. Would you say that by going to Egypt now it would help them a little getting back on their feet?

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    • Anil P. says:

      Tourism will definitely be a huge part of the recovery; people going now can certainly help (their own wallets as well) since they economy is suffering quite a bit due to the hit in tourism.

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  4. Simona says:

    I totally agree! I was in Cairo during the revolution, and I am still here, and I don’t feel in danger or scared. As long as you read newspapers or check Twitter often, you can always know if there is some inconvenience and avoid it!

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    • Anil P. says:

      I’m curious what your thoughts are about the upcoming elections in terms of travel? It’s a question I’ve gotten often and have my opinions about but would be interested to hear a second opinion from someone still there.

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  5. Mark Tisdale says:

    Hard to imagine the pyramids being so empty! I visited Egypt a few years before the revolution during peak season no less. I don’t think I can swing it right now but it does sound like what one hopes is a once in a lifetime chance (i.e. I hope revolution doesn’t become the norm!).

    Knowing how much many Egyptians depend on tourism, I hope they bounce back soon…

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    • Anil P. says:

      It was really quiet, even the camel touts looked bored ;) Even though this is a unique opportunity (I hope the revolution leads to reform) my fingers are crossed when you do return it’ll be a better Egypt you find.

      The pieces are there for a strong comeback, hopefully sooner rather than later, and like you say many people are hurting now because the tourism industry has been hit hard.

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      • Mark Tisdale says:

        That’s always the question in a revolution, what will the future hold? I’m holding out hope for real change and not just a new bad situation. Definitely want to visit Egypt again one day. Loved my time there.

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  6. Greta K. says:

    Thank you for this on-point post Anil… I’m considering traveling to Egypt, but with time passing it’s looking more likely to be a early-mid Sept. visit. Is your impression that Sept. would not be a good time to go because of the impending elections?
    I agree completely with your comment that post-elections the environment could change quickly, what would be your impression about the first couple weeks of Sept. however? I’d be interested in thoughts given this would be either lead up time to the elections or right during elections.
    Thanks again for an interesting post, as well as further thoughts!

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    • Anil P. says:

      I think it would be an unpredictable time to be there, however not necessarily unsafe. By November or late October I think you’d be have a pretty good idea of the stability on the ground; if possible, I’d recommend waiting until then.

      Otherwise, I would be really surprised if there were nationwide disruptions before the elections – right after though might be another story. My best guesswork though, I hope it helped some.

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  7. Anjuli says:

    wow this would be a great time to visit- just wish I had the time. Speaking of time, I’m sooo disappointed because no matter how I tried to jiggle around my schedule- I was unable to get out of my commitments on the 10th of June- isn’t that when you are going to be doing the travel talk in Vancouver?? So disappointing!!

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    • Anil P. says:

      Yes, I just arrived a few hours ago and will be giving the talk on Friday the 10th. Too bad you won’t be able to make it but perhaps elsewhere in the world! Also, if you happen to be in Vancouver or live here and want to meet up over the weekend feel free to let me know. I’ll be in town until Monday for the TBEX conference.

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  8. Kelsey says:

    I wish I were able to take advantage of this! I’m going to be in France this summer instead.

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  9. Sherry Ott says:

    I love this statement, “usually the best time to continue with your travel plans is relatively soon after you should cancel them.”
    Absolutely true – but few have the guts/desire to do it.
    Great post on how to take advantage of low tourism!!

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    • Anil P. says:

      Finding that window is often the toughest part of getting the best (but safest) deal – though I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. I don’t doubt you’d travel just about anywhere!

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  10. Imperator says:

    I agree with you… It’s sad, but it’s true, sometimes the windows of opporunity are just after Revolutions and bombings. Not after wars, as lots of places are destroyed, especially infrastructure.
    I was in Egypt in 2000 in Sinai (St. Catherine Monastery and Nuweiba). Nuweiba was so empty because the 2nd intifada started in Palestina and all the Israeli tourists which represented a huge majority in Nuweiba and Dahab were ordered by their government to come home. Please was empty, prices virtually at 25% of what was written in Lonely Planet (which anyway were low, now, it was close to nothing). On one side, it was great, I had a fantastic time at fantastic prices, on the other side I felt at times a bit ashamed… I was after a month of negotiation training in the bazaars and souks of Istanbul, Cairo, Aswan and Luxor and I was able to get lowest prices… When I bought something after quite tough negotiation (a blanket), after I gave the money, the guy failed on his knees, kissed the money and thanked Allah… and I felt it was for real, it wasn’t a show… Apparently, they were his first money in 2 weeks.

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    • Anil P. says:

      Tourism is wonderful for recovery economies in cases like Egypt since it doesn’t really require a strong infrastructure (though it can always benefit from that). In a sense it’s nice that travelers can play some part in the rebuilding process.

      Your story reminds me of the many worried faces I saw of shopkeepers around some of Egypt’s busiest shopping and tourist spots. Certainly quite a bit of anxiety from those whose livelihood rests on tourism income.

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