How I Became Tourist In My Homeland

This Easter I was lucky to have a foreign friend visiting me in Cairo, though it was not her first time in Egypt, but never she did it with a local, and her request was quite simple “I want to have a relaxed couple of days in Cairo, eat Egyptian food, and shop from Azza Fahmy”. Since she didn’t mention any major sightseeing the plan was to take her around Zamalek, hop on a felouka ride to Maadi, with lots of walking involved in Zamalek & Maadi -since we are both hikers, so walking is really our thing even if the highlight of the trip is “to chill”-, and then we head to 6th of October to show her one of Greater Cairo’s new cities, and a personal favorite. We didn’t really stick to the plan as we got consumed by Zamalek’s architecture, its endless food options, and its authentic “Egyptian and Proudly Made In Egypt” hippy shops.

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Egyptian Identity Revealed

Our first stop was Cairo Kitchen that serves authentic Egyptian Koshary though pricier than any other traditional Koshary place, but this one is totally worth it, if you marvel at the restaurant’s interior you’d see our Egyptian identity all over the place, the setting, the music, and how the food is served. If you usually pay attention to details you’d notice that this is currently something that nearly every new opening in Egypt is after “revealing our Egyptian Identity, showcasing it in no-frills surrounding, and be totally proud of it”. (Photo from Cairo Kitchen’s Facebook Page)


We started with a long walk in Zamalek, my friend would stop to stare at a beautifully decorated door, would get into old buildings to discover their interior, would take lots of photos of food served, Zamalek’s buildings, streets covered in trees, and old cars.

Cairo As Seen By A Foreigner

Were you ever this traveler who locals would stare at while you are taking a photo of something that they would barely notice how unique and beautiful it is? The one who locals would give the “what special do you see in that piece of crap you fool”? (Photo courtesy: Marwa Morgan)


For the first time in my life, I was one of these locals, and so I realized that like any human being, the more we live and are used to one place -mainly our hometown- the more we get acquainted to it; we ignore it, we forget to see its details or not even notice how beautiful it is, and end up taking it for granted.

She stopped to take a picture of Zooba’s door, though usually stunning doors have a special place in my heart, I pass by this door every single day but never I noticed how unique it was, I have captured countless images of doors in Tunisia, Malta, & Italy, but never did I care enough to look at this one, or to capture it. (Photo from Zouba’s official Facebook Page)


It’s only when you show your hometown to a foreigner, that you start realizing how beautiful it is, and how we take its beauty for granted!

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Since she fell in love with Cairo Marriott Hotel’s style, taking her to Ahwak Salon De The with its interior design revealing royalty, and classy art that Egypt once, and still has was a must do. (Photo from Ahwak Salon De The’s Facebook Page).


What All Of Us Egyptians Do 

During this short visit there is a lot that I discovered; we Egyptians only look at the glass half-empty, we keep convincing ourselves that we are living in a big circus, somewhere that’s not the happiest, neatest, or any close to perfection, and so we live in our own bubble, only going to places that we are familiar with, only dealing with people that we already know, not ready to meet, or being introduced to other people, and above all refusing to get out of our comfort zone. (Photo courtesy: Asim Bharwani)


Seeing Egypt With A Novice Eye

For a very long time I haven’t seen Cairo’s, and maybe Egypt’s hidden beauty, the hustle and bustle of our daily life, our super quick life pace has drained us to the extent that we would travel all the way to other countries to capture their beauty, while forgetting the amount of beauty that our hometown already has. I am not here to tell you don’t travel internationally, or not to explore the world around you, I am just asking you to give some more attention to your hometown as much as you give to the world, or even a bit more. Who knows, this might be your chance to look at your neighborhood differently, and to fall in love with your homeland all over again.

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And What We Should Really Do

Walk the streets of Cairo or any other Egyptian city, marvel at its magnificent architecture, visit monuments and attractions, sit in cafes that are thousands of years old, seek the beauty that people from all over the world travel thousands of miles to see.

So why don’t we start seeing our homeland with a novice eye? How many of us have never been to The Pyramids? The Citadel? or The Egyptian Museum? How many have never visited El-Sultan Hassan Mosque, The Hanging Church, or never heard that there is an open to public Synagogue located in Old Cairo? How many would travel all the way to Tanzania to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, but have never done Mount Sinai, Mount Catherine, or never even hiked in Sinai? How many would daydream of diving in the ocean, but never given it a try at our amazing Red Sea that’s probably on every foreigner’s bucket list?

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To cut it short

Yes, Egypt is not perfect, and no country is, in Sweden for instance people get suicidal due to the lack of problems in their lives, in Japan the lack of family bond would get people to go homeless, and sometimes even suicidal, and the list goes on and on. It is for us to choose to see only the good, or only the bad, to enjoy what we have no matter how bitter it is, or not to. So maybe it’s time for us to look at our homeland as tourists “who are acting as locals”, to re-visit our country, seek its hidden gems, to give ourselves a chance to fall for it over and over again. (Khan El-Khalili by Dorli Photography)


Some of the attractions, shops, and places that we have seen or been to -some are personal favorites- are; El-3omda in Zamalek for Egyptian Authentic Food -that’s by the way very expensive compared to other branches-, the luxury design house of Azza Fahmy Jewellery, Nefertari Body Care, Zafir T-Shirts, Nevin Altamann for Egyptian handy crafts, Virgin Mary Church known as Maraashli Church, Caravan Serai Contemprary and Ethnic Furniture, Kasr El-Nile bridge, Tahrir Square, Arkan in 6th of October city, and Diwan Bookstore Zamalek’s landmark.


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Our Readers Comments

  1. i love egypt very much and i am sure if i took a tourist to the egyptian museum,pyramids ,nile cruise and some shopping in khan el khalili and downtown cairo he will go back very happy but i have a huge problem with the dust and garbage that covers our streets and thousands of cars parked everywhere i cant walk on one pavement all the way without going up and down .until cleanliness is everywhere i cant enjoy living here.

  2. I understand what you say because i always hv friends from many countries come to egypt and host or just b around with them & there is a different taste of each culture, for example we will c egypt with Latin america friend different than European one, beside this; there is something i like to call it “traveler spirit ” i can get it through the traveler. But not all of them, this is something i like & important for me because i dont travel a lot abroad…. thx for sharing this experience btw

  3. Great Article, I came to same conclusion when a foreigner friend of mine wanted to visit Egypt, and found myself researching and preparing a list of places that i’ve never been to. (Y)

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