E24 – Let’s Go To Egypt
In today’s episode, I speak with Mitch Lynch about Egypt. Mitch Lynch is a Distinguished Solution Engineer at Salesforce but has lived many different lives. After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in anthropology, he’s been an archaeologist, a developer, a project manager, an African policy analyst, and a Settler of Catan.
A study abroad semester at the American University in Cairo opened him to a bright and fascinating world, introduced him to his wife, Marcie, and changed his life. He traveled to five continents to support the U.S. Department of State and its embassies abroad, including a long stint in post-war Sudan, where one of his three children was born. When he’s not busy being a dad, building apps, or turning wood into expensive sawdust in his woodshop, he’s traveling the world with his family, giving his kids the worldview he craved at their age.
He lives in Virginia, with easy access to multiple international airports.
Are you ready? Let’s Roam.
Here is a transcript of the podcast. Please keep in mind this was done via AI, so there are typos and mistakes. I tried to catch as much as I can, but it is definitely not perfect.
Welcome to the rooming Yeti podcast where we share stories and tips to inspire you to roam your neighborhood and the world. I’m your host and heady Eddie Beth Schillaci. In today’s episode, I speak with Mitch Lynch about Egypt. Mitch is a distinguished solution engineer at Salesforce but has lived a lot of different lives, graduating from the University of South Carolina with a degree in anthropology. He’s been an archaeologist, a developer, a project manager, an African policy analyst, and a settler of Catan Study Abroad semester at American University in Cairo, opened him to a bright and fascinating world, introduce him to his wife Marcy, and changed his life. He traveled to five continents to support the US Department of State and its embassies abroad, including a long stint in postwar Sudan, where one of his three children was born. When he’s not busy being a dad building apps or turning wood into expensive sawdust in his woodshop. He’s traveling the world with his family, giving his kids the worldview he craved at their age. He lives in Haymarket Virginia, with easy access to multiple international airports. You ready? Let’s Roam. Welcome back, everybody to the roaming Yeti podcast today. I’m excited. Again, to talk with Mitch Lynch. We’re actually going to talk Egypt, this was not a subject I was expecting to talk about. But I didn’t know I was gonna find an expert, but I’m really excited that I did. So you Mitch, first of all, I always jump into questions without thanking people for coming, because I get so excited about talking about it. Thank you for coming. I appreciate your time. If I understand it correctly, you live there and went to school in Egypt? Sort of. So how long? Give us a little bit of that background?
Yeah, sure. Um, it is literally like my favorite. It’s my favorite topic. Yeah, so when I was in college at the University of South Carolina, I had applied for this national security scholarship and told the government all about how I would study in Egypt to, you know, learn Arabic and all about current events and foreign policy in the Middle East was 2004. So you know, Iraq was big, Afghanistan was big, Yemen, all the different things that were happening in the Middle East and, and what I was really doing was extending my, my, my, my interest into archaeology, which I was an anthropology major. So I was I was trying to be an archaeologist. And, and they gave me money to go and study in Cairo. And I thought, oh, man, I fooled them, I fooled them. And so 2004, I went off for a semester and got, you know, this opera, awesome opportunity to take Arabic and Middle Eastern history and Egyptology and live in Cairo. And, and it was just, it was just amazing. And it was really just a semester, but it turned out to just be the most, like, important, pivotal moment in my whole life. Getting there and being in the energy of the city. I mean, Cairo is just this melting pot of all sorts of people that are just from everywhere, let alone you know, Egypt, and, and so being there. Being in the American University in Cairo, where I studied, I got to meet and have classes with experts that I had grown up, living, you know, reading their books, and now I was taking their class. Oh, wow. Okay. Yeah. And, and I met another study abroad student there at the time. And we got engaged before we left. still happily married now, 70 years later. But so my son Marcy, and I met when we were at Cairo studying in the same survival Arabic class. And survived we did. But, but I’ve returned there for work a few times. We took our honeymoon there in 2006. And then, we kind of disappeared because we started having kids. We lived in the region for a little bit in Sudan, and then had kids and we came back to the states and really didn’t leave much. But I came through for work several times. I It’s just a really great place but the Arab Spring occurred it politically became very unstable. And we decided after COVID We were going to just do as much travel as we could possibly afford. So we the first thing we did was we took the kids we booked a trip to Europe and we did a 10 country road trip through Western Europe. And and before we left because it was having us before before we left we said let’s go ahead and buy tickets to Egypt because if we don’t we’re gonna get back from Europe with no money and and we won’t be brave enough to buy the the airfare if we buy the airfare now we’re committed and and we have to go so we did and Yeah, six weeks. So we went. We did 10 days from end to end in December right before Christmas. So it was it was a it was a really good time. It was right before their busy season, which is Christmas and on. So it really it really the timing all worked out. But
I guess it is it’s better to go. That time of year. It’s a little cooler. Is that?
Is that the reason? It’s busier?
It is? Yes. And apparently you know you if you’re Russian or actually there’s a large number of Ukrainian tourists that come to Egypt every year Russian that actually because of the war is kind of down right now. But Europe has picked up the the extra supply of airfares to Cairo and so yeah, apparently people go there for their winter break. Yeah, and you can hardly get you can hardly get a ticket. But right before Christmas. There’s this really cool lull between, like if you want to go between Thanksgiving and Christmas, find a week or two in there. I bet there are actually even deals if you want to do if you do like a tour or if you’re going by yourself. There was there was definitely a little a little window of opportunity. But yeah, the summer the like, summer here is just it’s so unbearably hot there. But, but you’ll find yourself getting chilly at night and in December even if you’re sweating. It’s a pyramid or a
Yeah, it’s a hit. I guess it does. It stays pretty. But I would think yeah, definitely the desert but you think it doesn’t stay hot at night usually, right?
No, as a matter of fact, that desert can’t hold any of that heat in it immediately. As soon as the sun’s gone. It’s a you know, it just immediately starts to freeze up. And yak it’s quite quite chilly at night. But it also makes it really pleasant. out and it’s never really humid. There is a humidity in around the Nile. But But yeah, it’s a nice, they say it’s a dry heat, it is kind of a dry heat. You won’t know you’re sweating, unless you’re just like genetically inclined to sweat at all times. You’ll just know because your your hair will start to stiffen up like you put hairspray in it. And it’s the can you know, like crystallizing on your hair. You’re sweating. So you have to be really you have to be really careful.
Yeah. So what is it that made you fall in love with with Egypt and Qatar is Cairo where you spent most of your time?
Yeah, I mean, I traveled around in my, in my student days. Marcy and I took a couple of different trips to Alexandria on the coast. And that is a really nice laid back seaside town. There’s not like a ton to do. It’s just a nice place to walk and meander and just sort of experience street life. But it’s a nice sleepy kind of place. You can take a train or fly. The Luxor is amazing. I’ve been there a couple of times we went there in December. It was sort of a must. If you’re gonna go to Egypt, you can spend your entire time in Cairo but you’re missing out on the the ability to see more than pyramids and museums. And so Luxor Luxor is just chock full of amazing temples, all the the Valley of the Kings the valley, the Queen’s the valley, the nobles, there are all these funerary texts impulse on the west bank over there as well with the tunes that are just that mean you’ll feel like you’re on a movie set in the middle, you know that you’re waiting for Charlton Heston to come around people to be let go, right? Yeah. Yeah, it’s just amazing and you can crawl around in all the tombs and I mean, everything from King Tut to, you know, nobles that you’ve never heard of. I gotta tell you, all of the tombs are just amazing. They’re all you know, beautifully inscribed or painted, they can sometimes be easy to get into, sometimes they can be hard to get into. So you know, usually you could ask around or ask a guide or, or look at a tour guide in terms of ease on how to get into and out of, because I’m out of shape. I didn’t know that until I got on. But But Luxor has all that great, wonderful, big temples to wander around in. Luxor is also kind of a nice little sleepy town. I spent Ramadan there one time and they threw this big, huge, I mean, it’s just like the whole town came out and had this massive street festival, you know, a feast and it was just amazing vibes the whole time. But you know, usually it’s just sort of this nice little casual, you know, place and from there, you can go all over. You can go down to Aswan, there’s more temples on the Nile, a lot of people start, they start like a river cruise in in Luxor, and then go down the river to you know, see all the temples, you can go to Abu Sindh Belle, that’s the big temple that they had on the edge. Now with the four big statues of Ramsay’s, there’s just massive. And Nefertiti has a temple there too. We also took a date, when we were in Luxor, we took a day trip to Dendera. And literally the hotel arranged a nice little, you know, current guide, and we drove hours out or north up into the, into sort of rural Egypt. And so you get to see all of that rural, you know, life in in play right on the other side of the window, and you can see these amazingly preserved temples. So there’s a lot of options and a lot of things to kind of get your attention. If anybody that’s listening is into diving, Sharm el Sheikh out in the Red Sea is gorgeous. It’s a resort town. There’s not much else out there for that. But I mean, I when I was there, I had a cold, I was a kid, I saw I couldn’t go diving or go out on the boats with everybody else. But like I walked out on a dock and just look down. And it’s shark this and yellow fish that and these blue things swimming around. I mean, you can see all the way down. You can snorkel and explore shipwrecks go diving, it’s some of the best diving in the world. From what I’ve heard so. So it can be an amazing, an amazing spot. There are a lot of good diving places in Egypt in the Red Sea. But that that’s sort of the big one, I think. So just a little something for everybody.
Really, not just desert,
not just desert. Yeah. And you know, and not all just Egypt, ancient Egypt, either. If you’re, you know, in so inclined, there are parts of Cairo that are like all sort of like Islamic, or Coptic sections, where you can explore all the old mosques and bath houses and all these really like classically, you know, Ottoman palaces and things from years gone by, right all this wonderful era of architecture. And actually, as an American, you’d be sort of like getting something back because some of our foreign aid money is actually spent preserving and conserving those sites for as part of our relationship with Egypt. Oh, yeah, there’s this this great institution called the American Research Center in Egypt, and I interned there, they do a lot of Egyptology. But they also do a lot of Coptic and Islamic art conservation. So they save a lot of these places. A lot of these old mosques that were built 800 years ago, so that they’re there for the Egyptian people and they’re amazing to go through. So, you know, there’s that there’s shopping. It’s very European, and Cairo’s, so there’s a lot of like, really, you know, pretty neighborhoods that you can kind of go and wander and explore Lots of good shopping lots and lots of good eating. Not just air and food. But you know, if you’re into Tai fusion or, you know, you want to go and eat Italian one night, you know, they they’ve just got it all. So yeah, it’s hard not to find what you’re looking for in Cairo. But
know what? So I mean, you’ve already named a lot of things. So if this is your someone’s first trip, what would you advise of the touristy things they sort of have to have to do?
So I’m there, I mean, you have to go to the, to the pyramids in Giza, outside of Cairo. I mean, you have to see the only existing you know, still standing. Wonder if the world of the seven ancient wonders of the world, the Pyramids of Giza or the or the Great Pyramid is the only one still, you know, still standing. They are bigger than you think. They’re bigger than you’re told, they’re bigger than I can tell you. And you won’t understand it until you’re in their shadow. Just how massive they are and what that means for what what humans can accomplish. Even if it’s, you know, 5040 500 years ago, something that I heard this this last year preparing Cleopatra. Ancient Egypt is so ancient, that Cleopatra is actually closer in age to us than she is Khufu. Who built the Great Pyramid? Well, this time between us and her than there is between her and the the Great Pyramids being built and the Sphinx and, and all those those those old kingdom monuments. So that’s how old they are. And the fact that they’re there and that you can explore them, you can go in them. It is not something for the faint of heart. So So I think I almost died this last trip traveling out of shape. I was like, you know, you go in and it’s just like, you know, it’s like climbing a never ending staircase. Okay. hunched over at a 45 degree angle.
And you’re not selling me well here on this one now.
But you can sit outside and wait for them to come out at the other end. I had forgotten about it. When I was a kid. I had already done this. And then I’m like, oh, yeah, kids, let’s go because we our trip was was me, my wife and our three three teenagers. Let’s go in. Okay, they all went because they’re all you know, young, Spry, and, and then here, I you know, come way behind them, and huffing and puffing lapsing in the burial chamber thinking, You know what? It’s a burial chamber, just bury me here.
It’s gonna be for them. It’s good enough for me.
Yeah. So it is not for the faint of heart. They’re all the interiors of the three are a little different. And depending on which ones open, which ones are open, you know, you might might might have a different time of it. But they’re mostly all, you know, very confined spaces. It’s a little muggy. So you know, it’s not for everybody. But, but if you want to say you have done it, then and take your take your opportunity there. But you know, you should go to Cairo, you should go to the pyramids, the Egyptian Museum, in in the heart of downtown. The museums in in Egypt are going through a transformation. They’re moving around the collections, they’re building. They’ve built new museums. So if you’re so the original one was the Egyptian Museum in the middle of town, but and that’s where you go for like King Tut. And just about everything. Everything was just in this one building. And honestly, what was really cool is I collect old travel guides, and this is from 1908. It’s a Decker guide for Egypt. But I took it with me. Yeah, it is they still have the collections in the same place they did when they opened the place. It is a the Egyptian Museum is like a museum for museum aficionados, because it has been relatively gone unchanged since the Victorian age when it was built. So same exact display cases. I mean, the same little placards that are written on everything, you know, I mean, they haven’t had to rewrite them right there. Some of them are in French because it was started by a French archaeologist. They haven’t updated them, right. So it was funny how relevant this old travel guide was. But you’ll never go to the Louvre or the British Museum, or any major museum anywhere in the world. And it still be the way it was 100 years ago. It’s just it’s an experience. Wow. Its collection is getting the kind of split up, they were even packing it up. While we were there. A lot of its going out to the big museum, the grand Egyptian Museum that’s opening near the pyramids. And this thing is the largest museum ever constructed. And they’re, they’re basically taking most of the major collections like all a King Tut’s tomb stuff. And they’re finally getting all the space needed to display everything. Because all this stuff’s been crammed into this one museum basement for 100 years, they were actually like having to re excavate it stuff they hadn’t seen since they packed it away in the 20s. So they’re finally now conserving it and now have enough space to lay it all out. And that is in the process of opening right now. So if you’re going to Egypt in the summer, this will I mean, they’re already having limited like, like soft opening type stuff going on, it’s going to be amazing. And you should just like they say, with the Louvre plan on it being a day event. Like that’s going to be what you’re going to get here, right, you’re going to have a massive amount of things that you could spend time looking at. Or maybe, you know, go to the pyramids in the morning, before it gets hot before it gets super busy. Because it takes time for tour groups to get themselves together enough to get out to the pyramids, from breakfast, and so you can go early. See it and then before it gets hot, maybe transition over to the grand Egyptian Museum, that would be probably a really good day. There’s also the Minna House Hotel, which is right there in the shadow of the pyramid of the pyramids, kind of in between these two things. So it’s a great spot for a really beautiful lunch. It’s expensive, but it’s it’s a really nice place. There, there’s even another couple of museums that are still like that, where they’re again, trying to spread out the collections, the National Museum of Egyptian civilization, that’s where you go if you want to see every royal mummy that’s ever been collected. And except for King Tut, who’s still he’s the only mummy the only Pharaohs still in his tomb and Luxor. But, but the National Museum of ancient civilization, Egyptian civilization has those those are that’s an that’s in Cairo as well. But beyond museums, you have to do going back to the pyramids. People are on the fence sometimes about whether or not you want to take camo rides at the pyramids. I do it every time. It’s It’s like going to Disney and having to go on it’s a small world. Except 1001 times like, like, it’s an infinitely more memorable experience. I can’t even explain it. We have pictures of my wife pregnant with my daughter, on Campbell at the pyramids. And then this year, we actually got to take our daughter back. And now we all have that same picture. But it’s all of us, as you know, all of them as teenagers. So just a really great, really great experience.
Yeah, makes a good memory. And do you so I know there’s the there’s river cruises and stuff too. Is that would you recommend those on a trip or?
Yeah, you can take the LUCA, the wooden sailboats. You probably do them in Luxor, but I’ve only done them in Cairo. But that’s a really great way to see the city out on the Nile. You know, it gets quiet out on the Nile it’s very noisy and busy in the city. So the full Luca rides you can usually just sort of go and arrange for that like on the day unless it’s really a busy season and you can kind of book those online in advance through different different tour companies. The main river cruises that people do are the like where they take multiple days down the Nile from Luxor Cairo I have not done that. But that is a that is a bucket list item because you get to stop off at you know, all sorts of different monuments and you see, sir To the it’s like the behind the scenes backstage tour of Egypt because you get in life, you know, going through, you know, parts of Egypt that aren’t touristy. And that’s what they were doing on in the poro film murder on the Nile.
That’s that’s essentially the experience that that you can get.
Yeah, that was, that was the first time I sort of saw some of those temples or they considered temples and stuff and yeah, and that and, and I have to admit, moon night too. We watched moon and I was like, Alright, I’m ready to go to Cairo.
Yeah, there was a lot of that that really hit home when they were in Cairo. I’m like, oh, never seen any warlords. But, you know, that kind of got the vibe right for the city?
Yeah, it was. I don’t know what I was expecting. But I was like, Oh, okay. That’s not what I was expecting. But it was definitely like, That looks fun. Yeah, minus the warlords and, yeah.
But you know, if you remember the mummy with Brendan Fraser and Rachel Weiss, like, that’s the vibe you’re gonna get when you go to the Egyptian Museum, because it’s it’s that time period, you know, and you’re just, it’s just like, going back back in time. They got that that movie literally got that one. Right. So
nice. Food wise, you’ve said there’s a lot of like, what what do you recommend that you have to try?
So the big dish that I would get in trouble for not mentioning is called kosher theory. And it is like the quintessential like, like street food for for Egypt. And actually other it’s mostly an Egyptian thing. It’s like eating in New York hot dog on the streets of Manhattan. Kosher is like this. It’s a miscellaneous pastas and lentils. Like all sorts of different miscellaneous bits and pieces of pasta and lentils thrown in a little rice. And then it’s like a tomato sauce on top and then they throw nervous has chickpeas, but then it’s like crispy onions are kind of sprinkled on the top. And it’s very filling. It’s super dirt cheap. There are a couple of restaurants where you can go in and actually sit and have some you can also find it sometimes like out on like, literally street vendors and I mean it is just it’s a one it’s a one bowl dish that is just the Egyptian comfort food. By definition.
Is it cold or serve cold or hot?
It’s served hot. Yeah. There are all kinds of street food I mean down to like getting like a big sweet potato, you know from like a donkey drawn cart. And you’ll have a little Charcoal Oven on the back of the cart making you know sweet potatoes. But most of the hotels will if you inquire they’ll make Egyptian breakfast foods for you. Sometimes they’ll be out on like a buffet there’s usually a big big hotel buffet, but you can ask them specifically to make falafel which is called Tamia in in Egypt they know the word falafel they make something called fool which is like a bean paste that you eat with bread and it’s just amazing my my daughter’s like just ate it up every morning. And what was great about that was the Egyptian hotel staff loved seeing us coming and then we’re like shoving more and more foods onto the table and telling us how they eat it you know we’ll take some of your falafel and put it into PETA and and get a little tahini and you know, make a little sandwich out of oh here, but this you know this other stuff this other sauce on it. It’s a little spicier and I mean you’ll endear yourself immediately to any question. Trying to eat some good Egyptian you know, staples like like falafel and sure it’s fried but it’s not that fried it’s it’s it’s it’s all chickpeas. It’s all good for you.
You’re on vacation. It doesn’t count.
Yeah, these are Wait, wait, nobody’s watching. Nobody’s watching the points here. So but they also love sweets. We covered desserts and pastries. Also, I mean, everybody knows that. Ocklawaha everybody thinks they baklava originated in their country. Right? The Egyptians are no different, you know, Turkey, they’ll say if you go to Greece, they’ll say it. I’ve been all those places and just remove yourself from the politics of origin and just in vibe,
just enjoy it.
Enjoy it. But yeah, Coach, I mean, sorry, not kosher, but yeah. balaclava and then things like baklava in like 5000 other shapes or combinations, you know, it’s all got pistachios and, and filo dough and honey and it’s just all it’s all amazing.
Sounds really good. Yeah, definitely go for that. Any, any best kept secrets that we can share? So.
So like, Will one be cautious around being told there’s a papyrus museum that you should see. Or there are a lot of things that have the word museum or Institute thrown into them. And they’re really just tourist shops, they’re all just souvenir shops. So a lot of people get sucked in. I mean, I’ve I’ve I’ve seen it a bunch but you know just be with your taxi cab driver. Now I don’t want to go to your brother in law’s I don’t want to go in and look at your jewelry factory or your own perfume factory. God the market for one of those things. Don’t Don’t Don’t act like or don’t think you’re going into a museum per se or an institute. It’s a shot.
But get outside of the the main pyramids in Cairo there Sakara is the step pyramid of XO sir, at Saqqara and it is gorgeous. Since I was a student there, they had been conserving and cleaning it up. It was covered in sand and had been kind of crumbling. They’ve spent 15 years cleaning that up, it really only just got reopened. Like fully just in the last year. And amazing sight. It’s within an hour of Cairo you can get you know your driver or your tour, you’ll find plenty of ways to get there. It’s not nearly as crowded as Giza everybody goes to Giza. Fewer people go to other pyramids. But Soccer is the first pyramid. That’s the oldest and it’s and it’s gorgeous. It’s absolutely stunning. Get outside of Luxor. Dendera is a beautiful temple. It’s one of the most well painted temples in, in Egypt. I mean, the same pigments that were there 1000s of years ago are still on the ceilings, they’re beautiful. There’s not another temple quite like it. So, you know, definitely try to maybe get a little off the beaten path and explore something that you know just because it’s just because it’s king tide doesn’t mean it’s gonna be great. Think Tut’s tomb in the Valley of Kings is the least adorned smallest underwhelming place I’d even go there this last time we took a picture outside on next to the sign and then walked away. It’s just not interesting. Something else could be very, very pretty. And very, very, I mean, just memorable. Right or quintessential about going into an Egyptian tomb. There should be carvings and inscriptions and, you know, brightly colored relief carved into the wall, and you’ll see all those things in other other tunes. So don’t don’t don’t feel like you always have to go to the you know, the highlight. Yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Yeah. I mean, that’s, that’s great advice. Because, you know, with crowds and stuff, it’s probably a little easier to go to the other ones.
Yeah. And there’s an upcharge. There’s an upcharge for like, the most popular ones. But I guess, I mean, I didn’t do that at all this last time and did not regret a single tomb we went into. So
that’s good to know. And you were saying about, so we have to make sure we don’t end up at the wrong shopping. How do we make sure we’re at the correct shopping?
Yeah, so right off the bat, don’t don’t feel obligated to buy things at, at the monument that you’re at. Like at the pyramids. You You’re going to be sold every like left, right and center. Like everybody’s trying to sell you something. If you see it there and you like it, buy it, but if not, like that thing is literally going to be in every other place. So, you know, don’t necessarily feel pressured into buying things at the monuments, but go to some of the souks. There’s a there, you know, Cairo has a very famous market called the Annika Li Li and it is just a, like the one of the oldest markets in the world, and it’s just this little Warren of little passageways, and everything is shops, and lots and lots of different things that you might find there, you know, reproductions, you will not find anything authentic. Don’t know, nobody should ever go there and think they’re going to buy real anything. If you if you accidentally do you will probably you will probably be going to jail. So but there are some really lovely reproductions at the Egyptian Museum. I bought a few things there that were really nicely you know, high quality. The new grand Egyptian Museum, I saw a preview of what their gift shop is like, and I just might want to go back to Kairos. So I can go there. But the one thing though, definitely the the konica Lely, you’ll bargain, expect to bargain, don’t expect to get a bargain. Like, you might want to do a little bit of haggling but the experience is really more cultural, it’s not actually meant free to really get a deal it’s already gonna be a steal. And they’re hurting really bad the economy is so terrible, their their currency is just tanked. So the American dollar is really super strong on the on the on the Egyptian market. As a result, my advice is haggle for the experience haggle, because it shows some respect for the process with the shopkeeper don’t expect to just get a really, you know, I I’ve been over tipping everywhere I go. Just because again, you know, be generous because they’re obviously in a place of hurt, it’s already going to be really affordable to shop. There’s a another market crossing the comically called the Bob suela. They do a lot of fabrics and carpets, and rugs, and just all sorts of wonderful textile work. So you’ll find that as you go through any of these markets, there are sections and it’s like all gold, or all souvenirs, or all clothing or all spices. You know, get out there and explore all the little, you know, Warrens, and passageways to just see what there is, and then make an offer. There oftentimes, like vintage items, like I have the sign back here, the Coca Cola sign. Yeah, that’s cool. Yeah, I picked that up in the college lately. They had this vintage sign shop, and they had old records and old photos and old, you know, 10 signs. And so I was like, yeah, that is totally me. I gotta I have to take that home for free. You know what it was like? Probably 1520 bucks. Yeah. But also, there’s a little island in the middle of the Nile in Cairo called is a Melek. And it’s this. My dorm was there when I was a student. It’s not there anymore. But it’s, it’s like a very, it’s just this really nice, quiet neighborhood in the middle of busy Cairo. And it’s full of restaurants, and shops, and places to sort of meander around and, and do window shopping, or just have a coffee or go to a bookstore or buy handmade arts and crafts. And there’s just like a limitless number of things that that we’ve picked up there. And it’s a very walkable part of Cairo. I actually have always suggested people stay somewhere in the Melek. And one of the hotels right there in the Melek on the island, because it’s quiet, you can get a good night’s sleep. But there’s also plenty of stuff that you should feel safe and secure walking to even in the evenings. And you’re not going to just get stuck in your hotel, which is what happens in some of the big high rise hotels on an island. There’s nothing around them. It’s neighborhoods of apartment buildings. And you know, there’s nothing to really walk around and do or eat at
So we know where to is there like a quintessential souvenir to bring home that that people do or, or you would suggest they look for.
Yeah, you know, a lot of people really like Papyrus, you know, painted, you know, Papyrus read paper with different scenes, I it’s not my thing. I tend to buy a lot of pottery where I go, or if I can grab vintage items that you know are from that place. I love that stuff. I have though, in the past bought a lot of like hand painted like watercolors of Egyptian like Nile scenes and different tunes, or I’m sorry, Temple scenes, there’s a lot of like, there’s a lot of hand crafts. But the one thing I’ve done since I was a student, and I even made my kids do it is always buy scarabs you can buy lots of little reproductions, but you know, like little, little, little scarabs that you can you can buy handfuls of them, right? And just in case you forget to bring a gift home to somebody. No, it’s just like, really great cheap, you know, oh, well, I got you this and they are there. They’re really cool. They’re hand carved. And they’ve got everything with Sonam. And but, but yeah, scarabs are kind of like our backup your go to? Yeah, I still have like a whole 10 of them from my, like 2000 for travel somewhere, too. But I still bought more when we were there. So they’re just fun to throw in the bag and have have along for the ride. But yeah, if you if you like Egyptian art or iconography, there’s just so much stuff to choose from you’ll never be you’ll never be a at a loss.
Bring bring an extra bag.
Yeah. Yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of brass work, they do a lot of really pretty lanterns with like stained glass, in them different kinds of shapes and sizes. There’s just there’s something for for just about everybody and in Cairo or in Egypt, in Egypt. So
how much language wise, I know, it’s, if I remember credit, it’s Arabic, and some French, I believe, is inked. Like, how much of a language issue is there? Like? Do you need to learn Arabic? You know?
Yeah, I mean, for getting around, if we don’t take into consideration what people might think about somebody traveling to their country that doesn’t take time to learn a few phrases, you can get around in Egypt with pretty much pure English. Most Egyptians at some point learn English. And because at 90% of their whole economy is based on tourism, they’re pretty well like, aligned to the idea that we need to like this is an international language of of communicating with people that you know, support us and come here to learn. And so you can get around with English, but we went to 11 countries last year. Plus, then we went to Egypt, every country’s language, I did a little guide for my kids. And it was all of like, those basic expressions of, you know, Hello, how are you? Yes, no, thank you, please. Sorry. That’s like, what should be the first word anybody learns in any languages. Sorry. But, you know, while I, I had forgotten a lot of Arabic and it all kind of came back. I mean, you know, just knowing a little bit. Like, I’ve been in France before, and I used to speak French and you’d speak a little French they’d hear your American accent and they immediately start talking to English because they don’t want you butchering their language. Right? They just didn’t want to go there. You know what? Life is too short. Please stop. Yeah, yeah, exactly. But in Egyptian I mean their eyes light up. When you say good morning to them and you can say so that here, you know, or chakra and thank you. You know, they just as soon as you’ve made the effort, like you have won them over. It is just the most easy way to make a temporary friend ever. So no, some numbers. No some of those please thank yous know how to ask how they are. You know, there are different ways of saying it for different times a day and if you get it right, again, friends ever. If you can say good morning versus Good evening, you Yeah, it’ll, and you know, like, you’ll never come across a menu that is doesn’t have the English on it, but doesn’t hurt to learn a little bit about, you know, drinks and, you know, maybe some basic food names and stuff like that, but, but I would say that more like that conversational across the, you know, desk with the person at your hotel or the taxicab driver, or the person checking you out of the shop. Like anything you can do to throw a couple of words in there. Yeah, you just make an instant connection. instant connection.
That’s, I think that’s, I think there’s always the the need to try. Only make an effort but terrible at picking up languages. So I it’s always a struggle for me, but I always have some written down somewhere for myself.
You just got to make the effort. And you’ll figure it out quick if they appreciate it, or have a beard garden in Germany one time, and we tried a little bit of German and he was just like not having it, you know, just nope, not today. Not today, Americans. Just Just order in English. It’s fine.
Just Just point, it’s great.
That’s right. You know, also, I was just saying Google Translate, you can get that stuff offline now. And have, you know, if you really needed to get your point across, say something, have it read back out loud and Arabic or whatever. You know, those tools are all very handy in a pinch, when you need something specific, like, hey, he hurt, he’s bleeding. You know, I mean, where’s the pharmacy? You know, we’re getting a doctor, like, you know, you might want to be specific about that. So but yeah,
definitely, it’s good time to pull out the Google for us. Right. How do you suggest getting around or especially in Cairo? Is it is it walkable? Is there probably transportation taxis? rideshare. Yeah.
I’ve done a lot of taxis. Even with my kids. I was really by the way I had mentioned this, I was really nervous about going to Cairo with or going back to Egypt, with my kids. I thought, the closer we got to the trip, oh, man, what am I doing? And, you know, this is not, this can’t be safe. This is I’m thinking, Oh, it was all great and fun. When I was a student, you know, it was just me running around. I put myself at risk in some situations, and I didn’t even know it, or I did and it didn’t matter. But now I’ve got my kids like it’s different. And my kids, they’re walking around Cairo jumping in front of traffic, like they’ve lived there for 10 years and wiggling in between cars in the street. We were running around in multiple taxis because we’re family five. So that was going to be a problem. The taxis are really tiny. They’re really, you know, kind of dirty and not super, you know, clean but, but they’re an experience. And they’re they’re pretty affordable. They’re just hard sometimes to find people that want to take you in a certain direction at a certain time of day. I was like trying to like order taxis right there on the on the on the street with my kids. And, you know, they didn’t want to. We don’t want to go in the middle of downtown this afternoon. You know, if you just need to go somewhere local, you know, fine. But you can use Uber. There’s a we used Uber several times. Uber did not exist in 2004. So that was a real nice thing to find, especially when you’re trying to get to and from your hotel, at like the middle of the night when everybody’s flights take off. No, there are taxis just always roaming. But you can order an Uber. There’s also an app called Kareem. And it’s like a Cairo based, like a knockoff of Uber that’s really, really popular and really safe. A lot of people use that when they’re in Cairo. So Kareem, but there are a couple of different types of taxis. I also arranged for like airport shuttles with hertz, and I’ll provide you a link because I thought it was phenomenal. I’ve used it in Paris and I’ve used it in in Cairo. You can just order and have hertz arrange for a driver to come pick you up and take you to the airport or back. So it’s sort of ordered for you in advance and they just show up and it’s already prepaid. You don’t have to negotiate. Yeah, but parts of Cairo are super walkable. Especially once you get into a neighborhood where there are going to be things you’re going to want to do, you can usually walk around pretty easily. There are some big streets though, where it takes some time and effort to try to get across that’s Sometimes a little stressful, especially since it’s not like people follow all the rules all the time, in a big traffic circle, that’s like seven cars wide. But you can do it. And you know, nobody wants to hit a foreigner it’s too much paperwork. So Cairo also expanded its subway system and has a subway. It’s the only up until probably 10 or 15 years ago, it was the only subway in Africa. And it’s not great. But you know, so sometimes there’s parts of Paris that I wouldn’t want to go see on it so yeah, so a lot a lot a lot of transportation. And if you ever wanted you could probably always arrange for a car to go and do certain things with your hotel. We actually did that with with with the pyramids, we just said, Hey, tomorrow we want to go the pyramids, can you arrange a car service for us? And yeah, no problem. Just tacked it on to the hotel bill. And it showed up, they stayed with us all day and we didn’t have to worry about anything is really easy.
Yeah, that’s perfect. So what and I’m the overpack are in the family. So, I asked this carefully, but like what what what did you wear or pack with you on a on your trip to Egypt?
Layers? Yeah. You know, all my girls all always take, you know, always wear things was sleeves. You know, you know, shorts are not really something that you want to be wearing. And in a predominantly Muslim country, it’s just sort of a little, you’re putting yourself at, you know, at risk there. Just because it’s you know, seen as a little bit disrespectful, but it’s just not it, it’s not expected behavior. Women tend to get a lot of attention when they when they don’t cover up. That said, have an on a t shirt, you know, some linen, linen slacks, you know, if you’re going in some place, and you need to cover your shoulders a little more, just take a scarf, you’ll all you know, everybody even I wear a scarf, when I’m there just all the time, it’s just a nice thing to have and cover up with when you need a little bit more cover from the sun or a little less exposure to you know, Egyptian cat calling. But, but yeah, it’s just all about layers, because it will get you know, you might get chilly at night walking around after dinner. But you know, that same exact scarf you’re gonna wear that might help you stay out of the sun in the middle of the day. Always have a hat, sunglasses, good pair of walking shoes. You know, something that’s kind of close toe is probably best sandals. I mean, the streets can be very dirty. So it won’t be a great experience for you. If If you wear a lot open toed stuff. It would help to I mean, we brought some pretty good some pretty good walking shoes with us for climbing around in tombs and temples. And all that but yeah, you will walk a good bit. Yeah. So make sure your feet are ready for it. You know you’re gonna sweat through things. Don’t expect to wear them multiple days in a row, maybe without a without a good wash. So
very good. Well, this has been super informational. I always ask a few questions at the end that I do not send ahead of time have a little pop quiz. There very easy. It’s quick and painless. But what do you have a favorite road trip snack.
So I like chewy candy. And I will find a taffy or every country I go to. I will bring a few with me. But I will always find some kind of weird, chewy Taffy candy. I love pistachios. A lot of countries do pistachios differently so sometimes you’ll find some weird stuff. But chips are another one. There’s there’s a new there’s a different kind of chip everywhere you go. You know, and some of them are terrible.
But you have to try them. We do that all the time. Oh no. Sounds terrible. Let’s get it.
Yeah, let’s get it. Yeah. I can remember like as a kid walking around Epcot. And it was like every time we went to a new pavilion, you know you get a different snack food and like my dad came back with cuttlefish it like the Japan Pavillion one time and I’m like, not even, not even. Oh, but you know, I’ve been in like Mexico and tried like, like, like toasted grasshoppers their grain, you know, just sort of depends. But yeah, chips. There’s always a chip somewhere.
Hey, good. Did you I mean, it sounds like you just had a dream trip. But do you have a bucket list? dream trip?
Yeah, the money’s all been spent. We’re gonna do anything this year. But yeah, our big bucket list trip. After Europe last year, I learned about the Tour de Mont Blanc. And it’s this like 100 mile circuit around Mont Blanc in the Alps. And you walk it 10 miles a day. And in between, you stay in all these little like hostel like B and B’s up in the mountains, and you just walk through the French and Swiss countryside all day, you know, and they cart you’re stuffed from one hotel to the next one for you. And so you just show up later on in the day and have beer and wine outside and eat cheese from the region. Oh, yeah. No, we were, I’m totally doing the Tour de ma. Glorious.
That would sound even more glorious if I didn’t have to walk 10 miles a day. But at least I’d burn off the calories. So that’s fair.
Well, some of them
that does sound like a lot a lot of fun and
those are alive. That’s what I’m imagining you know, just with wine in one hand and cheese in the
and some chocolate so what is on if you’re on a road trip or you’re flying on your on a flight? What what do you have on your playlist? Are you a music and audio book podcast? What are you listening to?
Well, so every trip, like I don’t know that the playlist seems to vary but and it doesn’t seem to be different too much from like, what I listened to all the time. It’s all 80s Rock, maybe even older, gotta get some, like, I remember being in like, some temple in Egypt this last time and I was I had like air pods and and I was listening to the Doobie Brothers with a different kind of experience. But there’s this one song by Jason Morales that I always listened to when I travel. It’s he has a song called I’m yours. And I’m not necessarily a big Jason morass guide. But it was the like, the welcome song for KLM Airlines for about a decade. While I was doing all my international travel for work. That’s what they would play as you got on the plane. It’s what what they played you would when you would get off the plane or wait to get off. And I just get that song in my head and I have to listen to it. But But yeah, that’s that’s that’s sort of my like travel anthem somehow. After all, yeah.
Well, thank you so much for all this amazing information. I know people that are looking looking to go they weren’t before they probably will now. It sounds like a fun trip. So I really appreciate you sharing our your expertise with us.
Absolutely. Thanks for having me on. It says it’s an amazing place. I can’t sell it enough. It was a it is more attainable. Whether you’re on a tour or whether you’re going you know, on your own. It’s more attainable than people think.
Yeah, it definitely sounds like that. So you’re you’ll be getting your check from Egyptian Tourism Board, I’m sure very soon.
Right. I’ll look for it.
Thanks a lot. Got it. Thanks again to Mitch for sharing his expertise and all the information on Egypt. And thank you for listening. I hope these episodes inspire you to get out there and roam even in your own neighborhood. Please subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes. And if you like what we’re doing here, please leave a review and a rating. Also to help support us please head to Yeti to shop to pick up some roaming Yeti merch, talk to you soon and keep roaming.