The day the Mubarak regime fell in Egypt, I called Joe, my business partner, and said, “We’ve got to go experience this firsthand.” Three days later, we landed in Cairo.
Our time there was one of the most fascinating travel experiences I’ve had. If it were possible to celebrate winning the World Cup, the Super Bowl, and a presidential election all at once, that party might begin to approach the level of celebration we witnessed. We talked to Egyptians from many backgrounds—government ministers, travel professionals, journalists, restaurateurs, young people without jobs—and felt their pride in their country. We saw them taking responsibility for their home: cleaning the streets, planting flowers, directing traffic, guarding national treasures. The people were proud to have brought down Mubarak, obviously, but they were also eager to see what else Egyptians are capable of. Surrounded by the antiquities of a great civilization, they aspired to achieve greatness again. And they acknowledged that it wouldn’t be easy.
One of the many hurdles they will face is a decline in tourism dollars. Understandably, many travelers will stay away until things have settled down. But I can say that our trip was enormously energizing, inspirational, and fun. We were warmly welcomed with an enthusiasm that I have never experienced in decades of travel around the world. And if you’ve ever wanted to see the pyramids, go now. We had them to ourselves.
We at AFAR are thinking of organizing a three-day event in Cairo this September to help people experience the excitement of what is happening in the country. It will be a celebration of Egyptian culture, past and present, and a chance to witness this pivotal point in history, which Egyptians believe is a rebirth of their country.
We will introduce you to residents who are doing notable things in food, music, art, and business, and prepare you to go off and experience Egypt in more depth with one of our travel partners or on your own. What do you think? Would you go? What would you look for in an experience like this? Let me know your thoughts, and see more images from our trip, on AFAR Connect at afar.com/Mag/EgyptExperience.
COFOUNDER & CEO
Photos by Q Sakamaki/Redux
This appeared in the May/June 2011 issue of AFAR Magazine