Conflict in Egypt: A Traveler’s Thoughts

Conflict in Egypt: A Traveler’s Thoughts

The current conflict in Egypt is on the minds of many people lately, and for me, it seems to be on the forefront, completely overshadowing every other news story out there. I realize that there are other conflicts going on throughout the world, but to me, this is one that stands out more than any other.

Why? Because, exactly one year ago, on a very empty plane, I flew from South Africa to Egypt, not knowing what to expect. I knew the country wasn’t fully healed after the revolutions and elections, but it was a place I always dreamed of visiting; it seemed like the perfect opportunity. I also hoped that a trip there would inspire others to see that traveling there was safe, and that eventually the country would get back on track as far as tourism was concerned, thus helping economically.

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I arrived unsure of what lay ahead, but excited to discover a new country. What I learned from the people I met was invaluable. We discussed life and politics, we learned the history of each other’s countries and shared meals. I spent time with young children, teaching them English, as they taught me Arabic. I grew to love Egypt and everyone I met there. Each had a story to tell, and they were ready to start over and to see tourism make its way back to the country that has so much to share with the world.

But now, only a year later, so much has changed. The photos out of the Egypt tell an entirely different story. Unfortunately, with travel warnings and cancellations, the country is no closer to sharing its glories with the world.

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I understand that it’s a complicated situation, and from the media here, it’s hard to tell what is really going on. Still, images can paint a thousand words and emotions, as can the ever-growing death toll. Maybe my short stay there wasn’t enough to fully understand everything about the country, but it was enough to empathize with the people living there, especially those who are are the heart of the conflict and those who have loved ones who may be involved.

Throughout my journeys to other countries, my eyes have been opened up to the world around me in ways they never would have been had I just stayed at home. I have experienced places and the people and have learned that no matter where we live, our religion, skin color, or economic status, humans are humans and underneath it all, we are all the same. I become very connected to the places I have visited, leaving pieces of my heart in each one and a promise to one day return. Egypt was no different, and because of this, the current conflict in Egypt is especially hard on my emotions.

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This is what I believe is truly special about traveling, and why it’s so important. A true traveler is there to understand a country, and this eventually breaks down barriers between people, sheds stereotypes, and overall, brings a greater understanding of the world to those who encounter each other on the road. This isn’t just exclusive to travelers alone, but anyone who meets someone who is from another country. Conversations between two people from different places can change a lot about each person’s beliefs and understandings about the world as a whole.

Travel has a way of opening up the eyes, heart, and minds of people. As travelers, we hear the stories directly from people that live in the countries we are visiting, we experience what life is like in those countries first-hand, and don’t allow anyone else, especially the media, to tell us otherwise.

The traveler meets people, asks endless questions, journeys off the beaten path, tries local cuisine, and overall, does all that he or she can to become educated about the place that is being visited. I believe that a traveler leaves a place with a better understanding of life in the country that was visited.

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As someone who dreams of seeing the world and meeting as many of its inhabitants as I can, I hate seeing anyone in any country have to go through difficult times. But, it’s even worse when I have been to the country that’s suffering.

This is what I believe makes travel so important. To better understand the world and its inhabitants, but to also breed a more kind and caring group of people who can look at the world for what it is, and realize that all that really separates us is our location on the map. When it comes down to it, we aren’t all that different, and by realizing that and coming together, we could one day have a peaceful world.

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Comments (24)

  1. Harvey (H-Bomb's Worldwide Karaoke)

    I’ve had similar thoughts recently, Erin, having been to Egypt just 11 months ago. I found the people there to be kind and nice, and I really wanted to support them and send more visitors their way to assist in the country’s recovery. I too hate to see the people of Egypt going through such strife. In addition, while I think it’s unfortunate that Westerners will be deprived of the chance to see the country’s incomparable treasures in the near future (because no leisure traveler is going to think it’s safe to go there anytime soon — and, per the ongoing State Department warning, it really won’t be for most travelers), I think it’s equally disappointing that so many locals whose livelihoods were dependent on tourism will continue to struggle.

    1. The World Wanderer

      I agree, Harvey and can understand why you had similar thoughts. After visiting a country, it’s so much easier to relate and understand the people who live there. Travel brings us closer together. I wish more people could visit and see what the country is like, plus be able to see the vast history there is to see there. It’s an incredible place and the fact that all of that history has been preserved is impressive. So many people depend on tourism, and it doesn’t look like it’ll be back anytime soon. In the meantime, I’m so grateful I was able to experience Egypt, though I still feel the need to visit again in the future.

  2. Karisa

    I’ve dreamt of going to Egypt my entire life. I keep watching the headlines fearing that my dream will have to wait even longer. I hope for the best for this country and that through all the chaos and the violence that eventually it will move into an era of peace.

    It really must be surreal to watch the news after having visited Egypt last year!

    1. The World Wanderer

      It really is! I keep looking for places I know. You will get to Egypt soon, just take any opportunity as soon as things calm down. I only had three days to work with and hired a guide to help me get everything done. He was amazing and invited me into his home and made me feel as if I was a part of his family. I can’t wait to get back there. 🙂

  3. Stef

    I totally agree with you. I experienced the first days of protest in Istanbul this year. I talked to a lot of locals about the topic and it became somehow realer than it is when you only see it on the news. And yes, this issue became the most important one for me to track on the news of course. It is definitely different when you’ve been to the country in trouble. When I came back home I firstly didn’t understand why people didn’t bother much about the situation in Istanbul. I couldn’t understand what was happening there. How could one person have so much power and do so much harm to his people. But all people home didn’t see what I see and didn’t talk to the people to see how they feel about the situation in their country.

    1. The World Wanderer

      I can completely relate to this. It’s the first thing I saw to people, and so many didn’t even realize what was going on. Maybe I’m that sheltered when it comes to other news stories though. That’s why travel is so important, it’s great to get a better understanding of what is going on in a country from the people who are experiencing it.

  4. Raul (@ilivetotravel)

    Well said, Erin. Like you, I love Egypt and its people – so warm and welcoming. I take what you say a step further as even within our country, we don’t try to understand each other and respect each other. So it is not only traveling that requires open eyes and minds but also in our day-to-day wherever we live.

    1. The World Wanderer

      I agree, Raul. At home, it’s sad to see the way people treat each other. I see it in my classroom on a daily basis. Then I usually reference something I’ve learned while traveling. Maybe if everyone saw the world and how others lived, they better appreciate what they had and be kinder in general.

  5. Amanda @ Adventure Year

    This is such a thoughtful post, and I’m so glad you posted it! I’ve wanted to visit Egypt for so long, but my family highly pleads against it right now. It’s wonderful to hear your thoughts on travel as well, those are the feelings that I’m definitely after.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks, Amanda! Yes, right now probably isn’t the best time to travel there, but hopefully soon things will work themselves out. Hard to watch people suffering after visiting a country.

  6. Mary Anne

    It’s a sad thing to think that a country in such turmoil could be closed off to the rest of the world when it has so much greatness to share.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Agreed, Mary Anne, they have so much to share with the world.

  7. Lance | Trips By Lance

    It is so sad what’s going on. I haven’t been to Egypt. There are so many places in the world I want to visit, and while Egypt is one of them, what’s going on makes it harder for the country to move up the wish list.

    1. The World Wanderer

      It’s hard to watch, especially having been there. I hope you get there one day, it’s such a special place.

  8. Traveling Ted

    It is interesting when you visit a country you become vested in its future and with the people. I felt the same way when Thailand and the Philippines had recent political struggles, and I know a lot of people feel this way towards Syria. Wish we could all live in peace, but that will never happen.

    1. The World Wanderer

      I know, Ted, it’s wishful thinking. But, at least there are some of us who travel and can see the world for what it really is. 🙂

  9. Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap)

    Fantastic post and 100% right. Karen worked in Egypt a few months ago and connected with her co-workers straight away. Unfortunately, the news stories are pretty accurate as her co-workers text us often with front line accounts.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks, Paul. It’s hard to hear that the media accounts are so accurate. Hope Karen’s co-workers are staying safe. I’m sure she’s thinking about them often.

  10. Eileen

    Beautifully written. Thoughtful. Great pictures!

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thanks, Eileen! It’s a beautiful place, I hope you get there one day.

  11. Lola DiMarco

    This is a wonderful and thoughtful post. You visited during a time where the pieces were being put back together and egyptians, more or less, were starting to gain a sense of normalcy and now you see the news and the pictures and everything is different, its scary. Regardless of the politics, you have a better understanding of egyptians and that can help you better understand what they are going through. In many situations Americans especially are not tuned into the rest of the world, but travel does help us sympathize and empathize and that type of personal growth is part of what we love about travel.

    1. The World Wanderer

      Thank you so much. Exactly. It’s so strange to see it in the state it is now…very sad because I really thought it was on its way to building itself back up.

      I also agree that travel helps us get in tune with the world – that’s one of the most important parts.

  12. the lazy travelers

    im so glad you got a chance to visit before things went topsy turvy. there are a few places on the map that we’d love to go to, but it just may not be possible due to internal conflict. very sad indeed.

  13. Gary Yeates

    Well said. I’ve just written a piece with a similar vein on Syria but I’m not sure whether to pitch it to the media or post it on my blog site. I’ll ponder it overnight. Keep the stories coming and I’m about to follow you on twitter.

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