Famous the world over for its ancient history, Egypt has long been a country many desire to experience. The mystery of the Pyramids, sailing down the waters of the Nile, seeing the mighty Sahara, visiting the majestic Karnak and other temples and monuments, wandering the Egyptian Museum, exploring the Valley of the Kings and swimming in the crystal waters off the Red Sea Riviera. These are just some of the treasures that makes Egypt such a ‘bucket list’ destination.
Although the desire for most of us to visit Egypt is understandably strong, there is no denying the reasons solo women travel Egypt is worrying for many. Some of these reasons come down to differing perceptions about the prevailing culture when it comes to how women are regarded. Other reasons are far more real and tangible in relation to personal safety in the wake of a number of terrorism attacks specifically targeting tourists together with political unrest in recent times.
Even though my own experience of Egypt was overwhelmingly good, I do respect that there are differences here compared to other countries where women are concerned. I also need to declare that I did not travel to Egypt on my own and that I, for the most part, travelled in a group tour and in the company of an armed security guard that accompanied the group everywhere.
While this may sound quite alarming, armed guards are now standard for tours such as ours that travelled through the country. These measures were mandated by the government following recent terror attacks. Security is taken very seriously as tourism is extremely important to the Egyptian economy and they are doing their best not to make tourism a ‘soft target’ for would-be terrorists.
This does result in many being quite nervous at first. The effects of the past are obvious when you are in the country. Every hotel and every major tourist site all have metal detectors and security present that you must pass before you enter. These measures you see everywhere you go are constant reminders of the violence that has taken place here.
However true that such violence happened, it also makes sense to look at this in context. The fact is that many millions of tourists visit Egypt each year as tourism continues to recover from the terrible events of the past.
Here is a quote from Wikipedia on the subject:
In 2017, Bloomberg said Egypt has “shed its years of social and political unrest” and makes the top 20 list of 2017 travel destinations. The latest United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) has revealed that Egypt is one of the world’s fast-growing tourist destination for 2017, it raised to 8 million compared to last year which was about 5.26 million.
So things are not all doom and gloom from a tourism point of view. Not by a long shot.
Having said all of that, how should you feel about solo women travel Egypt? Yes, it’s one thing to quote facts, but what about how people feel about it while they are there?
I decided to explore this subject by asking two people I met in Egypt to provide their views to my questions. One was a solo woman traveller in our group and the other was our group tour leader. Both answered extremely positively about experiences of solo women travellers in Egypt.
Are their perspectives something that would influence your decision to visit Egypt? Please read on and judge for yourself.
Solo Woman Traveller
Name: Ana Mestre
Lives: Lisbon, Portugal
Countries visited solo so far: Iceland, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Poland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom, India, USA, UAE, Hungary, Estonia, and now, Egypt.
Age when first traveled solo: 22
How did you first overcome any initial anxiety about solo travelling?
My first time travelling alone was as an exchange student and I had to overcome my initial culture shock.
What drives your choices of travel destinations?
To see places of natural beauty that are famous such as Iceland and Norway. Sometimes I travel to attend concerts and I am very attracted to significant places I have not visited.
What advice would you offer fellow women travellers considering Egypt?
Just go for it. Often the first experience of solo travel can be a tricky one. Stay focused on your itinerary until you start to feel comfortable. Then start to talk with other travellers and share experiences. Don’t drink too much alcohol and stay aware and in control. Start solo travelling in countries that are not too different from your home country and get more adventurous from there. Always take out travel/medical insurance.
Can you give any examples of solo travel when you had to overcome difficulties/tricky situations?
Being hassled on the streets in India. So many people trying to sell me things, offer rickshaw rides and any number of other things quite aggressively. It was a matter of learning to be firm but polite. Smile and always keep your confidence and look of being in control. Other things happen that are out of your control. For example, I missed my flight once from Lisbon to Manchester and could only get to London. It’s all about adapting to work things out for the best.
What have been your travel highlights and best memories?
I find that spending time on my own, especially in nature, as being really relaxing and healing. Solitude in a natural environment without other people helps me find peace and reflection. Being part of a group tour can also be so enjoyable as well because you get to meet new and interesting people.
What do you always take with you?
Migraine tablets because I suffer a lot from migraines. Aside from that, I always have my camera and phone.
What do you say when others express surprise when they see you alone?
It’s all in your mind – travelling solo as a woman is not as fearful as you might think it is. It does a lot for my own peace of mind.
Do you have anything further from your experience that you would like to add?
Don’t be too scared of what you see in the media. Do your best to look at things objectively and examine the actual facts. Most of all, do not let fear make all your decisions.
What are some future destinations on your bucket list?
Greenland, Finland (again – this time Lapland – want to see the Aurora Borealis), Australia, Luxembourg.
Now that we have heard from a seasoned solo woman traveller, let’s now look at a different perspective of a professional in the industry…
A professional working in/with solo women travel Egypt
Name: Mahmoud Ramadan
Profession: Qualified Egyptologist and Tour Guide
Based in: Cairo, Egypt
How long have you been a tour guide?
14 years, starting in 2005, following gaining a BA in Egyptology from Cairo University.
Where do most solo women travellers here come from?
These days it has been mostly Australians. In the past, there have been mostly Europeans, more specifically from Germany. Most solo women sign up to do the classical Egyptian tours with not many that opt for adventure tours such as camping.
What changes in Solo Women Travel Egypt have you noticed?
There are so many more solo women travellers today, compared with 5 years ago. They mostly do their homework and know what to expect. They are not as afraid as in past years. Many that travel here are on a limited budget. It has been a real shame that key influencers like Lonely Planet have scared a lot of women from coming to Egypt. Unfortunately, the media is often not objective at all in their reporting.
Why do you think there are not more solo women travellers?
This leads on from my last point: inaccurate media reporting. Too much sensationalist reporting that does not point out the vast majority of very happy and safe tourists here. There have been only minimal issues/incidents over the past 8 years and tourism is now increasing. 2019 has been the best year so far.
Does your company do anything to encourage the brand of solo women travel Egypt?
Yes. Good examples of this have been to offer affordable single supplement options on tours as well as 2 for 1 offers for 2 single women wanting to share.
What advice would you provide women travellers coming to Egypt?
Do not come with anxiety and worry. Keep an open mind and have confidence that you will enjoy your time here as so many others have. Just pack your bags and go.
Do you have any interesting memories of past solo women travellers?
I remember one lady in particular from Germany that did not cancel on a tour when everyone else did. This was immediately after the Egyptian revolution occurred in 2011. She did not see the political unrest at the time as a reason to alter her plans. I admired her spirit and I actually did the tour especially for her, even though she was the only person. She ended up loving everything about her tour and went away a great advocate of visiting Egypt.
Is there anything further you would like to add?
Most people come to Egypt for all the obvious iconic sites that our country is known for. However, there are many more things that people should consider doing while they are here. I am referring to things such as safari tours and camping in the mountains and desert, nature-based tours that are unique to anywhere else, Valley of the Whales, Siwa Oasis a ‘heaven on earth’, spiritual tours, caves, waterfalls and the desert. I should also add that male guides are just as good as the women guides and are often better at negotiating/bargaining on behalf of tourists.
So, are you for or against Solo Women Travel Egypt?
Given that the two people interviewed above were likely to give a positive perspective (as I did) about visiting Egypt, I can’t help wondering what most readers here think. It may well be that you do not think travelling to Egypt solo is a good idea at all. Maybe you have been yourself and not had a great experience or have heard of another person or people with relevant stories. Or you may agree that Egypt is well worth the effort and feel encouraged to go.
Please have your say either way in the comments below if you would like to share and as always, thank you so much for reading.