What does Egypt look like in the eyes of foreigners?
There is no question that living in a country and visiting it as a tourist are two completely separate experiences. For the most part, those living in a country become less enamored with it as the years go by — which is why new perspectives can be so refreshing.
“[My trip] was truly incredible,” says Negeen Sadeghi-Movahed about her overall experience in Egypt.
Sadeghi-Movahed is an Iranian-American lawyer working in California. She and her family are visiting Egypt for the first time to get to know her husband’s extended family and their culture.
Their trip, spanning most of July 2023, has taken them to Sharm El Sheikh, the north coast, and all over Cairo. Now, as a well-traveled tourist, Sadeghi-Movahed shares her views about her experiences.
A New Favorite Place
Without hesitation, Sadeghi-Movahed claims Sharm El Sheikh as her favorite location among those she has visited.
“It’s like a summary of the terrain of Egypt,” she says. “You have this vast, beautiful body of water right next to dry desert, which is also absolutely beautiful, in its own way.”
Sadeghi-Movahed explains that the beaches in California are generally surrounded by greenery, rather than desert, and the same goes for the other places her travels have taken her. She feels that the beaches of Sharm El Sheikh stand apart with the sharp contrast.
When recalling her favorite activity at the Red Sea, Sadeghi-Movahed says: “The snorkeling was incredible. I don’t think I’ve ever been snorkeling and seen so many fish — such an array of fish — and such beautiful corals. I thought that was awesome.”
To Feel Welcomed
Egypt is a country well-known for its welcoming attitude. Whether in its famous marketplaces or simply on the streets, Egyptians take friendliness seriously — especially when guests are involved.
“My favorite activity, if you can count it as one, has been meeting my husband’s family,” Sadeghi-Movahed shares. “Just extremely welcoming people.”
Although the couple was married in January 2021, COVID and other circumstances prevented a proper trip to Egypt until now. Even so, Sadeghi-Movahed felt right at home among her husband’s family.
“Of course, going sight-seeing, seeing all the history, eating the food — all incredible things to do, but I think hanging out with family has been one of my favorite things,” she says.
On Local Foods
Sadeghi-Movahed shares that she and her family were excited to try authentic Egyptian food, even looking for restaurants ahead of time.
Foul (fava beans), taameya (falafel), feteer (a layered pastry), and tahini with molasses were among the foods they ate at their first breakfast in the country.
For Sadeghi-Movahed, there were some foods that stood out among the rest.
“I’ve really loved all of the times I’ve eaten mesa’aa (eggplant casserole), mahshi (stuffed vegetables), and, you know, all the home-cooked foods,” Sadeghi-Movahed recalls.
“It’s all been absolutely amazing, but I think the number one thing I’ve had here has to be mango juice — and just mangoes in general,” she laughs. “Yeah, can’t say enough good stuff about the mango juice.”
A Compassionate View
While the trip was full of fun experiences, some things still weighed on Sadeghi-Movahed’s mind by the end of it.
“One thing that I would change, if i could, would be to change society!” she shares with a chuckle.
She expresses a desire to see a version of Egypt in which people don’t feel like they need to run a scam by the pyramids to get by, or feel they have to “divide and conquer for an extra tip.”
However, she understands that circumstances might have pushed these people to such actions.
“I don’t see it as anything other than just a survival tactic for folks,” Sadeghi-Movahed explains.
She hopes that, one day, improved circumstances will render such actions unnecessary.
Though she wishes for the improvement of the unfortunate circumstances of many in the country, Sadeghi-Movahed maintains that her first trip to Egypt has been a thoroughly unique experience.
“I have been to quite a few places in my life, but I have not experienced a country where you can get such deep, rich, and fascinating history coupled with […] white sand beaches, and turquoise water like in the Mediterranean.”
Her last comment is that the diversity of Egypt is something that surprised her. She felt that Sharm El Sheikh, the north coast, and Cairo each had “distinct identities and personalities.”
“To experience it all in one trip — in one country — is so unique and just so cool,” notes Sadeghi-Movahed fondly. “It’s been incredible.”
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