We were only in Egypt two days and this is nowhere near enough time to truly feel the pulse of a place. We would have to spend weeks here and talk to hundreds of people to get a true sense of what Egypt might become. But TCS and Starquest Expeditions hire very knowledgeable and well educated local guides who have the pulse of a country in mind when they show us around. Although these trips are fast paced, the amount of material imparted to us is phenomenal. The secret is to pay attention, even if the wake up calls come early and the nightly entertainment ends late.
While in Egypt, I toured with local guide and Egyptologist Manal Khalil. She was excellent in all respects and has guided tours for Smithsonian Journey's throughout the Middle East and North Africa. I asked her some detailed questions about what Egypt might look like in the future. She of course did not know but what struck her was how quickly the country returned to "normal" within a month after Mubarak's removal. There were no radical claims on the presidency by any group and the people (all 85 million of them - an Egyptian is born every 23 seconds) went back to their normal routine very soon after the president's removal. It seems that Mubarak's only crime was one of stupidity (or greed) in that he could not see that 31 years of self rule was enough. The Egyptian people simply wanted his corruption gone - and he was unable to see that his people were tired of it. (Take note President Bashar al-Assad in Syria).
The ones really hurt in all of this change are those who work in the tourism industry, a 13 billion dollar annual enterprise and just as important to the economy here as the receipts on Suez Canal passages. After the overthrow, unemployment in Egypt went from 7% to 12%, and most of the job loss was from the tourism sector. And yet from what I saw, Egypt is as safe and unchanged today as it was 3 or 5 or 10 years ago. The removal of Mubarak did see some violence but it is amazing how quickly everything has seemed to return to normal.
When viewing Egypt today through the lens of its ancient past, it appears that Mubarak had a Pharaohic complex. He tried to make himself 'King of Egypt' but the people said no. If you've ever wanted to see this country and its antiquities, there may be no better time than right now. Travelers will come back here as reports such as this filter back.
We took off from Cairo International Airport about 9 AM and flew due south towards Rwanda. Here are few pictures of our day.