We are all guilty of saving up our vacation allowance, dreaming of planning big trips to exciting destinations abroad, whether it is a week on the beach in the Maldives or a trip to India’s cities. Whilst we can’t wait to escape from Egypt, husband and wife Omar and Dalia are doing the complete opposite, exploring everything that this country has to offer to help us fall back in love with ‘Om al donya’. They challenged themselves to go ‘Around Egypt in 60 Days’, documenting all of their trips on social media and collecting information to create the ultimate Egypt travel guide.
Where did your love of travelling Egypt come from?
We both travelled individually before we met, but it was pitifully abroad. When we got engaged, we didn’t want to get to know each other through typical dates, with candlelight and movies. So instead we intuitively decided to discover each other whilst roaming Egypt. We would wander Downtown, go to museums and take feluccas down the Nile, rediscovering a city we thought we already knew.
For our marriage festivities, we thought, why not celebrate in Egyptian tourist spots? We were able to get a permit for our Katb Ketab at the citadel, inside Mohammed Ali’s mosque. Then we went all out and had the wedding at the Mohamed Ali Manial Palace. That was how it evolved.
“We were looking over our wedding photos and thought, why stop here? Why not discover all 27 governorates of Egypt?”
How did the idea for the ‘Around Egypt in 60 Days’ challenge come about?
After our honeymoon, we were looking over our wedding photos and thought, why stop here? Why not discover all 27 governorates of Egypt?
We love travel books and magazines, but things like the Lonely Planet are very basic guides, they don’t give a personal touch or go off the beaten track. So we thought why not make a book that delves into the commercial stuff and the touristic stuff and narrate it in the form of the story, instead of just inundating you with just facts.
How did you discover all the wonders and sites that you visited?
We did lots of research; looking online at travel blogs, we went to the Ministry of Antiquities and got a list of sites that aren’t very commercial. Then there is also a lot of ground research, asking locals, guides and taxi drivers. For example, I went to Tanta, not expecting to find anything, but one taxi driver said he thought there might be some historical artifacts somewhere. I ended up finding an area full of scattered Phaoronic items!
“If you want fancy royal palaces, the best beaches in the world, historical monuments from thousands of years old; Egypt has it all.”
Why do you think Egyptians don’t tend to travel in Egypt enough?
People tend to not thoroughly explore their own country. Egyptians take their country for granted and it isn’t a matter of time and money. We are trying to alter this and make sure people have knowledge and appreciation for their country,
What are the issues that need fixing in the tourism industry?
Tourism used to contribute to 30-40% of the GDP and that could be multiplied if we focus on it internally and then export it. Maintenance is a problem, but promoting and marketing the sites is a huge issue. The Ministry of Tourism is trying, but they need more efforts from young local Egyptians, who are enthusiastic about spreading the word, to support them virtually.
What makes Egypt so special?
It is about the blend. If you want fancy royal palaces, the best beaches in the world, historical monuments from thousands of years old; Egypt has it all. There are things to interest every generation.
“We look at things differently now, always noticing the small details.”
What were the biggest surprises for you both?
Luxor was a surprise, we never imagined the scale until we were there. The beaches at Mahmya were also a surprise. The waters were so crystal clear, we go there twice a year now.
What are the best day trips from Cairo?
Sokhna, Ras Sedr, the Delta region and Fayoum.
How has this experience changed you?
It has definitely been an eye-opener. We look at things differently now, always noticing the small details.
We thought we had covered all of Cairo over the years, but when we started doing this book I started paying more attention to signs. Along the corniche there is a shabby-looking National Geological Museum that no one we knew had ever been to. It was full of dinosaurs from Lake Fayoum, and meteor segments!
What are your plans from here?
Well, we are around half way through, so have about 30 days left. We aren’t doing everything consecutively, instead taking day trips and vacations because we both work. We are starting to put together the first book and over the next three years we will create a full comprehensive trilogy of travel guides.
To follow Omar and Dalia on instagram go to @aroundegyptin60days.
Feature image left to right: Fayoum (Courtesy of @gohary.amr); Luxor (Courtesy of @omarattia84); Sahl Hasheesh (Courtesy of @aroundegyptin60days).