Most lists of top things to love about Egypt focus on her destinations. There are definitely fabulous sites in Egypt. It’s a land that is as fascinating today as its been throughout the ages. However, what draws me to Egypt is her energy. Here are my top picks for what to love about Egypt.
Those who say that New York is the city that never sleeps have never been to Cairo. There is always a million things going on, and it always feels so alive. Whether it’s the middle of a busy afternoon, Friday prayers, or 2 a.m. overlooking the Nile, Egypt has a buzz of anticipation, action, and potential that is simply invigorating. You can’t not feel it.
The people are so warm and wonderful. They smile freely. It’s like dance and music are a part of their soul. You frequently here, “Insha’allah” in response to questions. It means, “If God wills it.” Despite the dirt and poverty, the people seem to really embody this belief that life is as God will it to be. There is an acceptance and peace with life that makes nothing a big deal and everything a gift.
Everything is so fresh and tastes amazing- like it was just plucked from the earth. When you drive by the Nile, you see this thin swath of green abundance that feeds so many people. The fertile river nourishes the land that nourishes the people. It’s unspoiled by chemicals and factory farming, giving the produce a life that you can taste.
The Morning Call to Prayer
There are five calls to prayer daily, but the dawn call to prayer is special. In the darkest, quietest, coldest time of day comes this deeply moving prayer. You awaken (or if you are still awake from the night before, you go to sleep) to the voice of someone singing to God. It enters your bones with its sincerity so that the day dawns in peace.
Shopping in the Bazaar
I know it can be a hassle to bargain, but the whole ceremony of it is also quite endearing – especially when you are trying to obtain a hidden treasure. Whether you’re shopping for souvenirs in Khan al Khalili or bringing home exotic spices from the local El Rawy market in Aswan, the sights and smells of the souk will delight your senses. After a while, you don’t mind the calls of the shopkeepers – especially when one says, “Hey, lady. You dropped something. … My heart.” After an afternoon in the market, you come home with more than your purchases. You come home with memories.
Egypt always gives me something I never could have asked for. It’s always something wonderful. It shows you your pain, your promise, and your gifts. It fills you with longing for things that you don’t allow yourself to dream of. It gives you courage to speak your truth and claim your legacy. It makes you grow in ways that you never thought possible.
I’ve never gotten so many impromptu invitations to weddings, parties, or social events that ended up being so incredibly fun. Have you ever imagined yourself spending the sunset on the Nile in a felucca while your crew plays drums and sings? Ever think you’d be eating the most wonderful meal and laughing your face off in a restaurant where cats swirl around your legs begging for a bite? What about running into world renowned people while window shopping? So much happens there that makes you feel like you’ve just been dropped into a novel. It’s really wild.
The music starts at the airport. It blasts from taxis into the street. If you dare to sing or dance, it will start your adventure off on a happy note. You won’t be able to ignore it. It’s everywhere. It lends an air of a festival to every day, leaving you happy and energized.
Beauty abounds in Egypt. The backdrop of sand, dirt, and starvation simply accentuates it. People have the most expressive eyes. I never knew what it was to have someone seduce you with his eyes until I came to Egypt. The barriers between men and women make personal conversation impossible, so they’ve taken nonverbal communication to heights unknown in places where words separate us.
This doesn’t mean that language is stilted or formal. No! Every day phrases are expressed as poetry. The phrase for good morning translates to something like, “The flowers say good morning” or “I wish you a morning of roses.” The response to “It’s a pleasure to meet you” is “I am happier.” “Good night” translates as “Wake up happy.” The words for goodbye translate as “May God protect you.” When someone is trying to seduce you, watch out! They say what they see. People tend to see lovely, poetic things so it a common conversation may leave you swooning.
Have you seen the lovely decorations like adorn every day life? The carved wooden window coverings, mother of pearl boxes, and calligraphy? They are like wild flowers dotting each day with loveliness. A people who take the care to invite that into their world has beauty in their souls.
There is something wonderfully timeless about Egypt. You can see all the ancient monuments everywhere. They are monolithic. You can also see the “newer” old buildings like the Hanging Church (built in the seventh century) or the Citadel built by Saladin. While the visual reminders add to the sense of timelessness, that’s not what creates it. In Egypt, there is just a sense that life has always been and it always will be. People come and go, but Egypt is eternal. With that feeling all around you, it’s easy to begin to see your place in the world.
Clearly Egypt is one of my favorite places in the world. My journey into spiritual travel started here. Egypt lulled me to a place that was both deeper into myself and also more wildly present in the world. If you go, enjoy the temples, the culture, and the history. That’s what entices people to go, but don’t be afraid to look beyond the surface. Egypt has far more to offer than that. If you open your heart to receive it, you may find that you have your own list of things to love about Egypt. You may become as enamored as I am.