I was lucky enough to experience Egypt during the last shameful elections that took place in early December. It was the last straw for Egyptians which led to protests that kicked dictator Hosni Mubarak out of office. It was a tense time. One would endure some extent of culture shock just being there... everything is different (and the same). Only when I was there, the unrest was palpable.
One thing that puts you off balance is the 5 am call to prayer on loud speaker echoing through the city, which then happens five times a day. The language is so beautiful and exotic, it's almost melodic and even romantic when you hear it as the sun rises. I had one startling experience in Giza, on a Friday at prayer time, which is just before protests begin. I was on my way to the Pyramids, which I was advised against doing, and the streets where dead. I noticed one large tin trailer containing armed forces on one side of the street and on the other was an apartment complex. On the ground of the parking lot there were a hundred or so men bowing in prayer. As many men as I could see had hand guns in their belts. These men were Mubarak's thugs. The oppression just slapped me in the face. I am so thankful to be born Canadian.
Aside from that I felt very safe. One night we rode horseback to the pyramids in the desert. We rode to a nearby hut where we drank tea and played cards. I hadn't been on a horse in ten years so, naturally, I fell off as soon as the horse broke into a gallop which gave me such a burst of adrenaline, I actually think it was the most exhilarating experience I've... ever had.
We went to the beach, where the skies and water were the most beautiful shades of blue. The city, Hurghada, reminded me a little too much of Cancun, only it was catering to Russian tourists and not the N.A. ones, which is a whole other bag!
Some culinary favorites... The tastiest rotisserie chicken possible from the grungiest hole in the wall in Khan El-Khalili, the seafood platter of the freshest, juiciest seafood marinated in lots of lemon and olive oil in Hurghada, Fuul (a bean patty), Taamiya (Falafel), the rice platters, the lamb... the list is endless. I strongly recommend a visit to Egypt for the sole purpose of the food.
Also incredibly impressive, although I apologize I don't have better/more photos to share on the matter (I was camera shy) was the design. The architecture, the mosaics and the interiors were all stunning. This all goes without saying, the history is paramount to a trip to Egypt...
I hope you all get the chance to go one day. I already can't wait to go back and hope that this transition in Egypt takes place peacefully and swiftly.