The Best Comments Of April 2012 And May LIVE CHAT! Solo Female Travel To Post-Revolution Egypt With My Guest Giulia Cimarosti

anil polat in cairo egyptHello and welcome to this month’s live chat. I’ll be discussing post-revolution and solo-female travel to Egypt with my guest Giulia Cimarosti.

Click here to jump right into the chat happening for the next 2 hours!

The chat is only open from 12pm-2pm US EST; (4pm-6pm GMT; 9pm-11pm New Delhi)

giulia travel reportageI’ll begin as usual by rounding up my favorite comments from this past April before opening up the discussion on traveling in Egypt with Giulia, who writes Travel Reportage. Here’s a short introduction in Giulia’s own words.

  • Giulia is a solo female traveler from Italy traveling indefinitely around the world. She pays for her travels with occasional jobs and photography.

I was fortunate to meet Giulia last May in Cairo, toward the end of her 9 month stay in the country. You may have apprehensions about traveling to Egypt, be curious what it’s like for female travelers, or want to know how many shishas it’s possible to smoke in one day (believe me, I’ve got your answer!) So drop down into the comments and ask away. We all love to talk travel here so feel free to take the conversation on any path you choose. Giulia will be joining live from Genova, Italy and I’ll be in Istanbul, Turkey – we look forward to hearing from you!

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  1. Anil P. says:

    To throw in my opinion to the conversation, I loved Egypt and found it difficult to leave. I was there for a month and kept extending and extending my stay. I’ll certainly be back to the country and am really pulling for the Egyptian people post-revolution. It will be a difficult path but that has been true of most countries after similar circumstances; including France, the US, India and others.

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    • Theodora says:

      I need to leave this chat now, but I completely agree with you that Egypt is an amazing place. I love it. And, quite often, I also hate it. But I too am finding it very difficult to leave. So many cultures, so many cities, so much wonderful stuff…

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  2. Anil P. says:

    Theodora, how long will you be in Egypt, where in the country have you been and what have been some of the highlights? I read you loved Alexandria and I have to agree with you, wish I had spent much more time there…

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    • Theodora says:

      We’re currently in Siwa, heading back to Alex tomorrow night. So glad you’re another Alexandria fan — I think it’s amazing.

      Then I think we head to Jordan from Nuweiba in about a week, which will be a shame, because I find Egypt as fascinating as it is frustrating.

      We’ve been in the Sinai, based in Dahab. Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, Abu Simbel, Alexandria, Siwa and various points in between — we did a long felucca trip from Aswan to Edfu.

      Highlights: the felucca trip is gorgeous. The Sinai desert is hugely under-rated — we spent four days there — and Dahab is backpacker heaven. Siwa is also gorgeous, although we had a car crash yesterday which meant we won’t see as much of the desert as we would have done.

      Aswan is a pretty chilled city, and if I did it again I’d take a house on Elephantine Island to experience it differently. It’s historic but without the hassles you get in Luxor, and also with Nubian culture, which is amazing.

      Cairo? Cairo’s an odd one. I couldn’t fall in love with it as easily as Giulia did, but I can see how people do. Some great finds there, particularly the Fagnoon art school.

      I’m a geek, and my son is learning through travel, so the ancient stuff has been very important to both of us. One thing I loved was the artists’ village — Deir Al Medina — in Luxor, where you actually get an idea of how non-elite Egyptians lived in the old days.

      I’ve had fascinating conversations with people on politics and other things. I’ve loved, often, the public transport experience, which is a good way to meet ordinary, non-elite people.

      And, actually, I think Egyptian food is seriously under-rated, too.

      On another visit, I’d love to see more of Egypt’s north coast, not just Alex but Aboukir and the towns around Marsa Matruh. I wanted to do the oasis route from the Western Desert out of Asyout, but I felt my son would wilt — it’s 50 degrees in some of those places now. And I would definitely do that now, because the oases are very different.

      There’s also 15000 year old rock art on the Nile (and in the Eastern Desert). We didn’t find the really old stuff this time around, but I’d love to go back and see that.

      The Nile is amazing, awe-inspiring, the contrast between the green and the desert. So… a lot of highlights, I think.

      Egypt’s an amazing country. And, to be honest, it is well worth doing even if you don’t have an adult man to hold your hand.

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  3. Anil P. says:

    Hi Erica, where in the world are you chatting in from today? I’m curious about your travel plans.

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  4. Anil P. says:

    Giulia, I think you’re going to kill me with the pace of questions! but I’m a fan of your photography, if you’ve got links to a few of your best Egypt shots I’d love to post them here…

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  5. I’m mad I missed this! I was out all day, just got back and took sometime to make the internet work.

    on a side note, never ever be in “Select Hotel” in Tahrir square, beside the Jewish Synagogue…The room has lots of insects, WiFi isn’t available in all the rooms…
    The staff is really friendly though…

    Tomorrow I’ll be moving to Roma Pension, Theodora you were staying there I think it was good enough yeah? Hope it is…

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  6. Anil P. says:

    I’m going to begin wrapping things up for this month’s chat. I want to thank all of you for participating and reading – and especially Giulia for being my guest this month. You can follow more of Giulia’s writing and photography at Travel Reportage. Giulia is also on Facebook, Twitter, and her photography on Flickr; be sure to follow her there.

    She’s also planning quite an overland-sea journey to get back to Egypt from Italy – here’s her latest “crazy idea” as she calls it!

    http://blog.travelreportage.com/2012/04/17/turkey-to-egypt-by-land-my-latest-crazy-idea/

    Thank you again everyone and talk soon,
    -Anil

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  7. Anil P. says:

    The chat will be open for another few minutes everyone so if you’ve got any final thoughts…

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  8. Anil P. says:

    As the chat winds down Giulia, feel free to add anything we haven’t covered you’d like to say about Egypt, traveling, or anything else!

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    • Giulia says:

      Wow this was an intense chat with so many interesting questions and I was very happy to answer.

      Thanks Anil for inviting me.

      I know Egypt can be intimidating for a solo female traveler but I also have to remind everyone that this is one of the countries in the world with the lowest violent crime rate.

      For the first time visitors I always recommend some sort of organized trip if you’re traveling on your own and don’t know anyone in the country. At least this will taking away some of the stress of orientating yourself in hectic Cairo, and also avoiding to be ripped off etc.

      But you’ll see that it will take short time to feel comfortable and start making friends. After that, everything will be much easier!

      I wish you all happy travels to Egypt and feel free to contact me for any information or tip about this great country. :)

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  9. Deniz says:

    I’m a bit late on the veil topic, but there is an Egyptian film called “Cairo 678″ that is pretty good and addresses the issue of sexual harassment in Cairo. Just thought I’d throw that out there!

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    • Anil P. says:

      Thank you!

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    • Giulia says:

      Hi Deniz and thanks for the suggestion! I remember seeing a trailer while in Cairo but never had the chance of watching the movie, and then… ops, I forgot. So thanks for reminding me and everyone on the chat!

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      • Theodora says:

        Thanks, Deniz. I’ll take a look at that. I found Luxor was the worst for sexual harassment, but Cairo came a close second. Interestingly, I’m currently in Siwa, which is very conservative, and — note I haven’t done unsafe things like walking in the gardens unaccompanied or swimming solo — it feels quite a safe place to be female.

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        • I’d have to mention that Siwa is one of the safest places in Egypt, though extremely conservative but I can guarantee 100% no theft, no sexual harassment there (as long, of course, as you aren’t very annoying to the local culture, i.e don’t walk around in a bikini for example)

          Sorry I’m extremely late, was out all day, my first time to the Egyptian museum since I was an 11 years old kid :D

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          • Anil P. says:

            Hi Mina, sorry to have missed you; would loved to have heard your thoughts on this topic especially. Thanks for sharing though and look forward to hearing more about where you were if there’s a post coming up about it ;)

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          • Giulia says:

            Welcome Mina and good to see you around!
            Hope you enjoyed your second visit to the Egyptian Museum… as an adult:)

            It’s great to have the opinion of an Egyptian person! You should write about the topic, I am sure it’ll be very interesting for many people too read about the opinion of an Egyptian man!

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  10. Anil P. says:

    Also, Giulia I’m curious what your motivations were to go to Egypt initially? What was your travel experience in the Middle East like before then?

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    • Giulia says:

      I have never been to the Middle East before my first trip to Egypt.
      I went to Algeria and Morocco before and those were my only experiences in Muslim countries but it was just for a couple of days.

      I was not even interested in Egypt before going. My mother took me there for a Nile cruise and I didn’t expect what happened – as soon as we landed in Cairo I instantly fell in love with the place.

      After that week in Egypt I already knew I wanted to go back and live there. I applied for jobs but they didn’t hire me so I kept going back every year on holidays and then on my own, until I started to think I’ll buy a house there and settle down in Cairo, one day!

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  11. Anil P. says:

    So Giulia and ladies, one common question I get is “can I travel now to Egypt” as a woman?

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    • Theodora says:

      Yes, but you need nerves of steel because the sexual harassment is very wearing, even when you are dressed appropriately, and getting worse with rising Islamism, in my opinion.

      I’d add that the Sinai resort towns are much more comfortable on a sexual harassment/relaxed clothing front but currently dodgy because of the Bedouin insurgency, as per my post.

      Generally, I’ve found Egypt much easier when I’ve been travelling with, or walking with, a male friend. In fairness, the prevalence of older Western women, often British, going to Luxor and Sharm for toyboys does not help the lot of the rest of us.

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      • Anil P. says:

        I read you post about Islamism and the increasing sexual harassment and I somewhat disagree. I think the increasing lawlessness due to the lack of a government authority is more to blame. I’m not a religious person but I think for now the best option Egypt has is the organized Islamist-leaning parties. Some authority is better than none and the army is increasingly being more laissez-faire with governing:

        http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2104323,00.html#ixzz1jFlbZDqV

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        • Theodora says:

          I would certainly agree that the lack of a strong government is behind the lawlessness, and that Egypt needs a strong government, and the only one it will get will be an FJP government, be it Moussa, Fotoueh or one of the more hardline candidates as president. And I hoped that was clear in the post, that the key issue is the lawlessness.

          Anecdotally, many people attribute the increase in sexual harassment to Islamism, and, in particular, the view of many mainstream Islamists — who of course make up 75% of the electorate, pus or minus — that women should be covered and at home tends, I think, to increase harassment of women who are neither covered nor at home.

          Cf: the harassment of women in Saudi, the most conservative culture in the region, and a behind the scenes player in what’s happening in Egypt now…

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        • Completely agree. And must say the Muslim men treated me with a great deal of respect.

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          • Theodora says:

            And, one more time! You were in Egypt for how long, exactly? And how much of that on your own?

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            • I’ve already answered that question Theodora. My experiences are no less valid than your own. And yes, I am protective of Egyptian men as a whole as they have been good to me, protective of me and respectful of me. I think over generalizations on Egyptian men is a dangerous thing.

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              • Theodora says:

                I don’t think you have. You’ve told me that you’ve been emailing Egyptian men about work. You have not told me how long you have spent in the country or how much of that time was actually on your own.

                This is relevant, because you’re making a lot of blanket statements about how you never had a problem with sexual harassment. If you were there for a fortnight, always in company, then you might have escaped that.

                Further, I haven’t generalised about Egyptian men. You have. You have made blanket statements about Egyptian men, Muslim men, etc, etc. I’ve observed that sexual harassment is an issue in Egypt, and that Islamism (as opposed, of course, to Islam) might be driving the increase, and said that many Egyptian men are not like that.

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                • There is sexual harassment the world over Theodora, from women, as well as from men. This is not solely an Egyptian issue, yet you attack me for not having felt sexually harassed and suggest my experiences are less valued than your own. They are different from your experiences, but just as valid.

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                  • Theodora says:

                    No. I understand you are being paid to promote Egypt.

                    I am asking you how long you have spent in the country, and how much of it on your own, because as Giulia has said, as has every female traveller I know, have read, or have met other than you, every woman I know who lives in Egypt, and every Egyptian female expat I have encountered, sexual harassment is a huge issue in Egypt. Your position is unique. That’s why I’m asking how long you were there and who

                    You seem to be really unwilling to say how long you were there. I don’t understand this.

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                    • Giulia says:

                      I must say that even if I experienced sexual harassment in Egypt, this didn’t bother me *that much* to get to the point of hating it… so probably it’s just that some women are more annoyed by it, and some others aren’t.
                      I often fee like some of my friends exxaggerate about it but it’s probably just that it’s not a big deal for me… And maybe Erica has the same reaction that I had. (?)

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                    • I am not paid to promote Egypt Theodora. Get your facts straight. Egyptian Tourism has invited me as a guest before, but they have never paid me a cent. The #WeVisitEgypt Digital Travel Storytelling Demo was also not Egypt Tourisms idea, but Dan, Audrey’s and mine, as we felt passionate about Egypt and it’s people.

                      Egyptian Tourism is also not whom I have been discussing work with.

                      I have also already answered your question with regards to time in Egypt and don’t feel I need to answer it repeatedly.

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    • Definitely, and with confidence. I have many Canadian girlfriends living in Cairo. They have fun, are respected and don’t wear head scarves.

      I have also been negotiating work deals with Egyptian men since January, and am only ever treated with a great deal of respect. I should also note that I have found the Egyptian men to be quite protective of me.

      That said, I am respectful of them and of the culture, and I think that makes a difference in how I am received.

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      • Giulia says:

        I agree with Erica – I could be one of her friends who happily live in Cairo!
        I enjoyed every bit of it, and I think the key is respecting the culture, the good and the bad of it.
        Also the other important factor is not to stress too much. If I had to get mad at every man that commented when I walked by, I would be in a madhouse right now!
        I don’t care what they think. My friends and co-workers know who I am and if some Egyptian man thinks I am a whore just because of the language I speak well that’s not my business.
        I obviously hope that education in Egypt will get better and that the conservative mentality will come to an end one day, and I am positive about that.
        But for now, it is what it is… You start recognizing the “kind of people” you meet and the more I stayed in Egypt, the less weird encounters I had.

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    • Giulia says:

      Of course you can!
      I agree with Theodora on the sexual harassment that can be very annoying but the trick is just to ignore it and keep going.
      Of course not all Egyptian men are that kind of person and I made so many friends, so that when I want to have male company in certain areas or trips I have no problem and they can sort of protect me, and they have never tried flirting with me or anything.
      Also there is this sexual tourism in some beach resorts on the Red Sea that doesn’t help the foreign women’s reputation but honestly I never had any unpleasant experience apart from the verbal harassment.

      Even on the Red Sea there are very conservative places where local women bathe with vests on, and a bikini is not the best idea but if you have male company no-one will harass you.

      Other than that you must remember how beautiful Egypt is, so apart from the harassment downside you will definitely compensate with beautiful landscapes and experiences that in my opinion are more than worth the hassle.

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      • Theodora says:

        I think you’re absolutely right to highlight that the scum one encounters on the streets are by no means typical of the men of Egypt: I know some great Egyptian men.

        And on the Nile, most women I saw bathing were bathing fully clothed, complete with abayas and scarves.

        But I think your point about male company is important. Egypt is much, much easier as a woman with an adult male, or two, in tow. I thought my 11yo son would count as male company, a child, etc, and I’m really rather shocked by the fact that he didn’t.

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  12. Anil P. says:

    I’m going to be offline for about 2 minutes while I work on a technical issue behind the scenes… (of course it happens now!)

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  13. Theodora says:

    Question for Giulia. I’ve held off on wearing a headscarf — largely because Egyptian liberal older women have phrased it strongly that I shouldn’t. But I notice you’re wearing one in your headshot. Did you find it helped with the sex stuff?

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    • Giulia says:

      Hi Theodora and welcome to the chat:)
      In the photo above I was wearing a headscarf but it had nothing to do with religion or local customs – I always do that when in the desert, to protect my head from the sun and keep clean as long as possible from the sand!
      I never needed to wear a headscarf for other reasons. Even in Cairo, many women don’t wear it and unless I have to enter a mosque I free very comfortable without.

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      • Theodora says:

        We’re currently in Egypt, so, of course, in the cities and elsewhere both Christian and some Muslim women choose not to wear it. My question was whether it worked in terms of reducing the sexual harassment that most visibly non-Egyptian women will experience in Egypt.

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        • Giulia says:

          Unfortunately sexual harassment in Egypt is a fact – it is almost exclusively verbal so women are often addressed by men in the streets with comments, and this can be very annoying.
          Anyway from my experience I can tell you that -not that this is great news- even veiled women and the ones wearing full niqabs are still receiving comments.
          Therefore what I can suggest all women is to dress appropriately in the sense of covering your shoulders and lower legs, and try to fit in as much as possible. Headscarves don’t really make a difference…

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          • Theodora says:

            Yeah, that was my impression from Egyptian women as well, not to mention the Mona Eltahawy piece. What is interesting, though, is that some people have recommended it simply to cover the non-Egyptian coloured hair, as a way of reducing the tout hassle etc.

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            • Giulia says:

              The thing is that as I’m sure you noticed, Egyptians have all kind of hair and skin tones including red hair, green eyes and all so I don’t think covering the coloured hair is enough – when in touristy areas such as the Giza pyramids etc we stick out and we are obviously tourists so there’s not much to do but ignoring the touts!

              In other areas that are no touristy, there are no touts and it’s more about sexual harassment, for both Egyptian and foreign women. (is this good news or bad news?)

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              • Anil P. says:

                I got quite a bit of attention when I visited the Pyramids of Giza but not nearly as much as I thought based on the stories I had heard about the aggressive touts. Then again, I was the only one there for more than an hour – and I’m pretty boring by ignoring ;)

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              • Theodora says:

                I’ve experienced LESS sexual harassment in non-touristy areas, to be honest, precisely because, I think, the men there don’t operate on the “Western woman = whore” premise that they do elsewhere.

                I’d add, in my case, travelling with my son, who’s often with me, that in non-touristy areas they assume “son plus woman = mother”, ergo respect. Whereas in touristy areas, they look for the wedding ring, don’t see one, and think “whore!”

                I’d say it goes down to Egyptian levels outside the tourist zones. Which is still pretty high. Unfortunately, I now know some of the Arabic words that have been repeatedly directed at me, which makes them hard to ignore…

                It’s difficult to know which is more objectionable, the touting or the harassment, but on balance, I’d go with the harassment. Particularly when it comes from touts…

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          • Anil P. says:

            I’m surprised to hear that women even in full niqabs get verbal harassment. You too spent a day traveling in a niqab to see what it was like, I recall you posting this video:

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            • Like Anil, I find this surprising, as Egyptian men, while not being shy to tell me that they fancied me, were respectful and gentlemanly to me when I said ‘no’. Although, admittedly in Egyptian culture ‘no’ needs to be said about 5 times to be understood as a ‘no’.

              I wonder if part of my experience with Egyptian men is not in how I treat them ~ respectfully, with a smile and with humour. As a result, many Egyptian men I have said ‘no’ to have become my friends.

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              • Theodora says:

                How long were you in Egypt, Erica? And for how much of that time were you actually on your own? As in, not with local friends, not with foreign friends, not with a guy, but on the streets, on your own?

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            • Giulia says:

              Unfortunately even the women with niqabs get that! Of course to a lesser degree, but still.
              I would say that it also all comes down to different areas… some are more traditional and others (often richer areas) are more open.

              Yes, I wanted to experience how it feels to wear a niqab and I did. It was just for a couple of hours so it was too easy, but I want to do it again when I go back to Cairo to be able to speak about this experience after trying a different range of things such as having dinner in a restaurant, riding a metro etc – all this wearing a niqab.

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            • Theodora says:

              Did you see Mona Eltahaway in Foreign Policy on this, Anil?

              http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/23/why_do_they_hate_us

              There’s an argument, also, that the more a culture covers the more common sexual harassment is. I’ve found it really fairly rare to see a woman on her own here.

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              • Giulia says:

                I have also read that piece and it was very stark.
                Of course we as foreigners don’t experience all that a local woman would.
                But I have to say that in Cairo I saw many women on their own, especially during the day.

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                • Theodora says:

                  I saw more in Cairo than elsewhere in Egypt, but still, if you compare it to a Western city, the question of “WHERE ARE ALL THE WOMEN?” really raises its head. Anecdotally, this is because the wave of rape after the revolution made it feel less safe to be a woman on your own — and it is less safe, because fewer police.

                  To be honest, I’ve experienced a lot more sexual harassment than I was bargaining for. Up to and including physical grabs and full-on masturbation.

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                  • Giulia says:

                    Oh no! I never had anything like that. I am sorry it happened to you!
                    Where in Cairo did it happen?

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                    • Theodora says:

                      The grab was downtown, late at night — I’d gone out to use the ATM and the guy mistook me for a prostitute, forced cigarettes on me, put his arms around me and then tried to get into the lift to my hotel. Not far downtown, in fact: Sharia Mohammed Farid, not far from Mustafa Kamel.

                      Masturbation was a bus from Aswan to Abu Simbel.

                      I’ve also had inappropriate touching from “guides” at tourist sites, and one inappropriate touching in Alexandria, accompanied by half an hour of verbal abuse.

                      But most of it has been verbal. And I should add that we’ve taken microbuses, local buses, etc etc, and the guys have done the right thing — i.e. shunt up so there is no body contact whatsoever. But, of course, it’s the masturbators, the grabbers, the abusers that really stick, unfortunately.

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              • Anil P. says:

                I did read that and it’s a fascinating piece. Though I think the harassment issue is a complex one that takes many forms around the world; it’s difficult to correlate with covering and sexual harassment. Certainly the argument works when compared to Europe however.

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      • I actually asked some Egyptian men about this one night in Cairo, and they stated that this is entirely a woman’s choice.

        Like you, Guilia, I found the headscarf to be a necessity in the desert to prevent sunstroke. The Egyptian men I was with tied it on my head in the same way they wore their own headscarves.

        Also Audrey Scott and discovered at one of the mosques that it is not actually imperative that the scarf be worn on the head, some times the shoulders are preferred. We learned this, as two Egyptian gentlemen helped readjust our scarves at the entrance to the mosque ~ replacing my scarf from my head to my shoulders and readjusting Audrey’s on her head.

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        • Giulia says:

          Exactly – while in the desert I found a headscarf very handy, both preventing sunstrokes and keeping my hair clean (which is great when you are camping under the stars and can’t shower for days!), and sometimes it’s not even required to enter the mosques.
          In the mosques that require women to cover their heads, they usually have some “mantles” at the entrance so that all women can be covered in the appropriate way (by the way this happened to me also in Italy last summer when I wanted to visit a church!)

          p.s. Happy for you being in Egypt! I hope you enjoy it and please feel free to ask if you have any kind of question :)

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          • I very much did and am hoping to be back this next year doing a bit of work.

            I should note, as we are talking about the sexes here, that Egyptian men have had no issues with working with Audrey and I or addressing us as equals. In fact they would typically address Audrey and I for advice, before Dan.

            Curious, being in Egypt for 9-months, I am assuming you were working. How did you find how you were treated and addressed by your male colleagues?

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            • Giulia says:

              I hate having to say this but the treatment you get from men often depends on their “social class” or better their level of education.

              When in Cairo I had my group of friends and of course if they were people I hanged out with they could at least speak English so they were at least fairly educated and they never showed to have a conservative mentality in that sense. I never felt like I was treated unequally, even at work.

              I had many jobs while in Cairo and had to deal with different people including men. Even when I had a male boss he was always super respectful and he always addressed me as the expert one! So really I never felt like I was treated differently just because I am a woman.

              I am not sure if this applies to Egyptian women too, but I think it depends on the working environment and what kind of job it is…

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              • I’d say the same is true in North America though too. I don’t think this is an Egyptian issue, and hate seeing it made into one.

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              • Theodora says:

                Amen to that, Giulia. Literacy in Egypt is still really low, with a huge underclass: only 83% of men and less than 60% of women can actually read.

                And I think it is the underclass — who are also the majority — and the urban underclass in particular, who cause the troubles one experiences.

                I’d note, though, that female employment in Egypt is low.

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                • Female employment is lower in Egypt Theodora, as in the culture, when married, the husband is suppose to provide for his wife. Woman only work after marriage if they choose to. And this is right from the mouth of an Egyptian woman.

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                  • Theodora says:

                    I don’t think Egyptian culture is as monolithic as you treat it as, Erica. Copts, Nubians, Berbers, Bedouin all have different approaches, even before you get to the class factor. But, yes, I’d agree that women are supposed to stay home, and even among the elite a two-career family is highly unusual.

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                    • Not suppose to. Many Egyptian women have the choice, but just as in any culture and family group around the world, certain groups and certain families follow specific traditions and some women have more pressure to stay at home.

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        • Theodora says:

          Covering shoulders and upper arms is an absolute must in most parts of Egypt, but especially in mosques. I’ve found wearing a scarf around my shoulders helpful here.

          And, like most Egyptian women, I cover to the ankles and to below the elbows.

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          • Anil P. says:

            A fascinating conversation. I often wish I could travel as a woman for a few days to see the differences in many cities and countries. I think in many parts of the world it would completely change my travel experiences.

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            • Giulia says:

              I would like to try and travel as a man to see the difference… let’s swap :)

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              • Anil P. says:

                We’re about the same height so I think it would work, done! Now to find a magician or that movie where the kids change places…

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            • Theodora says:

              Anil, I have wished in Egypt sooo many times to be a man for a day. I thought being with a child would cover me from a lot of the sexual harassment stuff, because of the cultural respect for mothers and fondness for children: it doesn’t.

              You realise how many spaces are male spaces as a female visitor. As a chap you can hang out in the ahwas, and you’re not an oddity. You can swim wherever you like, and strip down to swimwear to do so.

              I have enjoyed Egypt, and made friends male and female. But my god it would be much more fun as a guy.

              I’d add that as a woman with a child I’m also a magnet for every tourist scam out there. I imagine your experience as a man who could conceivably pass as Egyptian — my son and I have blue eyes and fairish hair — will be overwhelmingly different from mine.

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              • Anil P. says:

                I thought I would blend in much better in Egypt than I did overall but after a few days I found my ‘stride’ if you can call it that. There’s a bit of tourist face that has to wear off, at least I think it did in my case in hectic Cairo…

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                • Theodora says:

                  They do get used to you once you’ve been somewhere for a while, you become a familiar face. The other key thing is ALWAYS to look like you know where you’re going, and keep walking.

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                  • Giulia says:

                    Yes! That makes a lot of difference. Looking confident definitely helps, even with prices when you have to haggle for taxi fares and everything else. Look like you know what you’re doing and you’ll be fine.

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            • Personally happy to travel in Egypt, as who I am ~ a woman and proud of it. Discovered that many of the Egyptian people were more comfortable to talk more openly to a woman and were often more comfortable being photographed and filmed by a woman.

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              • Theodora says:

                Again, Erica, I have to ask, how long were you in Egypt? And how much of the time were you actually on your own there?

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                • Plenty of time Theodora. I treat people the way I wish to be treated in return and this often results in me having positive experiences. I also know how to let men down without insulting their egos, which I believe makes a difference.

                  Aside from the experiences I have had on my own and with others in Egypt, I have also been negotiating work deals with Egyptian men for 4-months now. They treat me with respect, and address me in business before my male colleagues.

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                  • Theodora says:

                    Yes, I know you’ve been emailing Egyptian men. My question was, “How long have you spent in Egypt and how much on your own?”

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                    • If you treat Egyptian men as disrespectfully as you are treating me Theodora, then you are bound to be treated disrespectfully in return. That is true of anywhere in the world that you might go.

                      I have spent about a month in Egypt to date, and will likely be back and forth from time to time for work.

                      Once again, my experiences are no less valued then your own. And to believe otherwise is narcissistic.

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          • Giulia says:

            That’s good use, and also wearing shirts that are long enough not to show our backs when we sit is important.

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            • Theodora says:

              Oh god, yes, Giulia. I’ve internalised the modesty thing so much that if my scarf slips to expose even a collar bone I feel virtually naked.

              I’d also add that the least I’d wear to swim anywhere in Egypt is a singlet and shorts over a one-piece, and in rural areas I swim fully clothed — that’s long sleeved top and trousers. I *might* consider a bikini in a resort hotel, but even there that would feel disrespectful.

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              • Giulia says:

                Well… anyway in general you shouldn’t stress too much. I mean, you’re not in Saudi Arabia and it’s not *forbidden* to show parts of your body. It’s just weird, bizarre, it draws the attention on you.

                There are some places in Cairo where you can walk in shorts and no-one notices (mostly new and rich neighborhoods outside of Cairo).

                I also used to go to hotels in Cairo to use their swimming pools, I had bikinis and it was perfectly fine.
                Then if the waiter thinks I’m a whore, I honestly don’t care… his problem!

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  14. Anil P. says:

    Giulia, as you were living in Egypt pre and post-revolution, I’m curious what changes on the street you saw both in general and in terms for women specifically?

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    • Giulia says:

      I was living in Downtown Cairo before, during and after the Revolution. Of course in the first days there was a curfew and there was no-one in the streets. Or better no-one was allowed to be there.

      Unfortunately I found myself in the street after curfew once as they used to close all access to Downtown and I was late so I had to walk.

      Was it scary? Yes. It was me, the army, the tanks and a few dogs in the dark streets.
      Was I in danger? I don’t think so. Or better with all those officers what could ever happen to me?

      The situation then got gradually normal again, and the last time I was in Cairo (november 2011) I found the street life perfectly normal.

      I know that now there are some roads in Downtown that are closed to cars, but I don’t think this affects safety in any way.

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  15. Reposting an earlier question Guilia, that I think got lost in the thread above:

    Curious, being in Egypt for 9-months, I am assuming you were working. How did you find how you were treated and addressed by your male colleagues? and your female colleagues?

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    • Giulia says:

      Hey Erica, I must have missed this one but I answered to the previous question above speaking about my working experience in Egypt:) Hope you found the answer!

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  16. Anil P. says:

    One question I like to ask Giulia is how you got set up with your apartment in Cairo for anyone looking to stay for a longer trip – what were the costs like?

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    • Giulia says:

      In order to find a room in an apartment there are 2 main ways:

      -word of mouth
      -a newsletter called “Cairo Scholars” that is the Craigslist of Egypt!

      You can subscribe to it or ask someone you know to have a look at it to find the right place for you.

      You can expect to pay something between 800-2000 EGP per month (100-250 EUR per month) for a decent place. Of course this all depends on what area you pick, how big is the flat, if it has elevator or not, and of course if there’s A/C!

      I know about people paying less than that: a guy I met used to pay 500 EGP (about 60EUR) per month, but his apt was on a street of sand with camels on it and hours away from the center. So that wouldn’t be my choice!

      Of course if anyone needs housing you can ask me and I’ll give you contacts of people I know are renting rooms, mostly in the Downtown area.

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      • Anil P. says:

        Great information, thanks Giulia – and incredibly cheap too! I’m not surprised though, in one month I paid about $100USD for accommodation…another good reason to visit post-revolution, much lower prices.

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        • Giulia says:

          Yes! And if I can add another little detail,
          if you go on summer it’s even cheaper because all the students that usually rent the flats are away so the prices can drop.
          Of course it’s hot and all but A/C will help. :)

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    • Oh good question.

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  17. Anil P. says:

    Giulia, I’m curious to hear more if you could share your Egypt return plans with us. It’s a pretty interesting route you’re coming up with :)

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    • Giulia says:

      Yes! I have some great projects ahead.

      I am planning to travel all the way to Egypt from Turkey on my own and by land as much as possible (I’ll be forced to fly once to skip Syria).

      As a solo female traveler I am getting the “you are crazy” face a lot, but I am very much confident and not scared.

      Since I’ve been to Egypt many times but never really explored other areas in the Middle East – it was my plan but then with the unrest and everything it was not great timing – I thought this will be a great way to discover more about the area.
      Also I want to show everyone that it’s ok and safe for women to travel alone.

      I think a pinch of common sense is all a traveler needs :)

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      • Anil P. says:

        I’m with you Giulia, if I stopped doing things because people said I was crazy…well, my life would be completely different now! It’s also going to be one very interesting journey – especially both sides of Cyprus. Not too many people I know have traveled through both and it’s a fascinating political situation. And beautiful as well; just drink lots and lots of water, when I was there I think I nearly melted in August!

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  18. Anil P. says:

    A bit off topic here but Giza Pyramids, what’s your take as a tourist spot?

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    • Theodora says:

      Dahshur is much better, because you can have the site to yourself. I blogged about the various pyramids here: http://travelswithanineyearold.com/2012/03/29/the-pyramids-101/

      I also rate Sakkara, not so much for the pyramid, but for the context and the tombs.

      Giza is oppressive. I wouldn’t say “Don’t do it!” because you do want to check off the sphinx, but I think Dahshur is more rewarding for pyramids and Sakkara for the context, if we’re talking about the Cairo sites…

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    • Giulia says:

      Giza Pyramids didn’t really impress me at first sight.
      Touts were all around and the guided tour under the burning sun was challenging.

      I think the best moment to see the pyramids is at sunset, after the touristic area closes, and you can enjoy the sunset and the Adhan (muslim prayer) from a balcony – like the now famous Pizza Hut rooftop – being on your own and in silence.
      That is how you get to feel the majesty of the Pyramids and your imagination starts wandering backwards in time trying to imagine how that place looked like thousands of years ago… without touts, buildings all around and tourists crowds.

      I also suggest the Dahshur pyramids, at just about 1 hour from Cairo, that are much less touristy, have no lines for tickets, are and not surrounded by buildings and you can easily enter one of the pyramids (the Red Pyramid).

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  19. Anil P. says:

    Hello and welcome to this month’s live chat. We’ll be kicking off our conversation with my guest Giulia Cimarosti about Egypt but first a few of my favorite comments from this past April.

    Imperator is predicting I’ll be getting threats soon from disgruntled best city entrants while Mina predicts ladies will be fighting over me. That sounds better as I prefer stalkers to shooters.

    Speaking of the Best City to Visit Tournament, looks like Suze is already preparing for next year.

    Mina and Carlo+Geneva both talk about the Macbook Air and it’s wireless connectivity issues, here are some possible causes.

    Margyle has the same packing habit as I do.

    Finally, Mina asks whether or not you can extend you laptop’s battery life by taking it out when it’s plugged in. Here’s the answer.

    Alright, and now on to the chat, welcome everyone!

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