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Women traveling alone in Cairo

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Vancouver
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28 posts
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Women traveling alone in Cairo

I'm going to Cairo in May, and unfortunately my husband now can't go with me because of work. As a result I've decided to cut my 2 week trip to Cairo in half and go to Greece for the second week.

There are many opinions expressed on-line regarding the safety of Western women traveling alone in Cairo, ranging from travelers having no problems, to people expressly advising 'DON'T do it'. My precautions will include seeing the sights through pre-arranged tours, I have transportation arranged through my hotel to/from the airport, I don't plan on walking anywhere at night, will take the hotel car to and from restaurants, I plan on dressing extremely modest and covered, and will wear a hajib if I'm walking somewhere in the day (hint: blonde).

Have any other women been to Cairo alone? If so, do you consider these to be suitable precautions in being able to experience Cairo with reduced harassment? I look forward to the challenge but would appreciate any feedback.

Manchester, United...
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1. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

You addressed your question to women who went to Cairo and there are plenty of them around here so I am sure you will get some replies soon, but let me drop a line here anyway.

I think you are over reacting to some negative reviews you may have read. First, there is absolutely no need to wear a Hijab. You will find that many local women don't wear it. Second, there is also no need at all to deprive yourself from the joys of walking at night and experiencing the street life. Cairo is a 24-hour city. It doesn't get more or less safer at night. So, you shouldn't bother about where the sun is when you plan your days. Feel free also to use cabs and to do your tours alone without a guide if you feel like doing it.

All this is possible with a few easy requirements on your side.

First, dress conservatively, but no need to cover your hair. Just avoid short and tight cloths and you will be fine.

Second, learn a few basic Arabic words to give locals the impression that you are not the clueless lost stranger.

Third, wear your marriage ring and don't smile to local men or look them in the eye. Such things are considered invitations for flirting in the local culture.

Forth, if you will do tours alone, get a decent guidebook and study it carefully before you set-off.

Finally, if you follow instructions above, you should not get in trouble, but just in case of an unaccounted for emergency, in the rare incidents where young locals may try to grab your attention on the street by hissing or so, just ignore them. It happens even to local ladies. If anybody pushes it beyond the limit (very very rare) like following you or trying to touch you, show and ugly face, shout at him and threaten to call the police. You may also request help from passer by. Again, it shouldn't happen, but just in case.

I know western women who lived in Cairo for years and never had trouble. So, I can't see why you shouldn't spend a few days without any.

london
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for Nile River Valley
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2. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

There are lots of previous posts about this which you can find using the search box. All agree that you will be fine. Wearing long, loose clothing would be sensible. Do not go off anywhere alone at night with a man you have just met - it's not rocket science.

In the unlikely event you do get bothered, there are tourist police everywhere who will help you. But the main hazard in the streets of Cairo is the traffic, no question.

Vancouver
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3. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

Thanks for your replies. I guess I should have also mentioned that not only have I been researching much from the internet, I know a number of women who have been to Cairo and none of them have had good experiences when venturing out alone. Some of them running straight back to their hotels 5 minutes after leaving because the harassment was so bad. And we're talking about seasoned travelers who respect the culture and local customs. This isn't swaying me from going, however, but makes me think even more than I should cover my hair (hijab or otherwise) and take the precautions mentioned earlier. Local women are, well, local, and I would assume that local men would be less likely to start up trouble with them vs. women who are obviously tourists. My point is to have the ability to go where I want to go and see as much as possible without bringing any attention to myself.

UK
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4. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

As darsh said, real problems are very rare. If you know more than one person who has had a real problem then they have just been very unlucky, it is certainly not the average person's experience.

Going by the "average" experience, your precautions are way over the top and will be a detriment to the enjoyment and relaxation of your holiday. Of course you can't guarantee anything... even with your precautions you can't be 100% safe... as with anything in life, you have to make a compromise between safety and convenience. IMO, just wearing long clothes and following the tips above, you will be safe enough.

Liverpool, United...
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5. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

Hello,

Thanks for giving more details.

I am a foreign woman (British) also have Egyptian Nationality and speak Arabic quite well after living here for a long time. So I guess I cannot be compared to a first time visitor, but anyway I will make some points which may be of use to you.

I used to get hassled a lot more when I first came (was in my 20's), and could not understand the language (except for a few basic words) so that was difficult and not knowing what people said did worry me. However, after a while I asked other foriegn ladies for advice and what I got from them helped a lot and I have continued to used these methods ever since.

To reduce the amount of attention you get :

- Do not make eye contact.

- If comments are made ignore them, and be cool like you did not even hear them (often it is silly comments in English like "I love You" , "You are beautiful") annoying but if you do not respond with a look or a word they have lost and loose interest, as they do not get the response they were stupidly hoping for.

- Avoid getting into conversation, when there is no real need (taxi drivers, shop workers etc), the less said the better. They are curius and bored people.

So the above are the most important ways to be left in peace !

Dress is also important, I learnt early on that being conservative and not trying in any way to attract attention to myself was another good policy. Just once I wore an attractive dress and walked home through the market area near my home, I n never wore it again !! I got so much attention (all harmless) but annoying ! if I had been in my normal clothes this would not have happened !

Some areas are worse than others, I personally do not like being in the Giza Pyramids area, and would never advise a lone female to stay there, I know from TA female members that just a short walk from the hotel was really annoying and they just returned to the hotel being put off from taking even a short walk.

A much more pleasant and normal area is Zamalek, which also has a high proportion of foreigners living there, so the atmosphere there is much more "normal" and easygoing, I go there myself and have never had a bad experience. There are lots of good shops and places to eat and the area is very busy in the evenings so this is a much better atmosphere to be surrounded by.

I am against the idea of a foreigner (non moslem)covering her hair just to hide it, this is not right and it does seem disrespectful as it has no religious base.

If you dress conservatively and behave as I have suggested above you will be able to reduce the amount of attention and will be in control and confident, which is important.

Here is a page on what to wear, you may know it all an anyway, but just thought I would add it :

tripadvisor.com/Travel-g294201-c74912/Cairo:…

The hassle is not dangerous just silly and annoying, any sensible lady will be fine. As mentioned above by Verity, the most dangerous thing in Cairo is the traffic.

Regards

Wendy

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6. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

I have traveled many times to Cairo alone as well as with others...agree with most comments above..particularly about the eye contact and not engaging in conversations. I think you will be well served, learn alot more and be less worried about moving around by using guides...and most of all wearing a hijab will just flag you and result probably in more attention...you do not need to do this and it will not serve a purpose...Cairo is an international city and they see millions of tourists with all color of hair daily...sounds like a dream trip Egypt and Greece...enjoy !!

Alexandria, Egypt
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7. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

Excellent advice from Wendy! I second all she says, I know some of it sounds rude, like the not responding to comments, even innocent ones - but it really would pay dividends in the end. A pair of dark sunglasses really will work wonders. And just remember that by not making eye contact and not responding to comments and questions - you really are not being rude although it may feel like it.

And since you already have tours and transport arranged, you should be in safe hands.

I hope you enjoy your time in Egypt.

Manchester, United...
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8. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

Those who had bad experience and would tell you that they did "respect the culture" and all that..

well, maybe that is what they think they did. Cultures are not about black and white and there are wide gray areas and sometimes we would do things in countries that we would think are OK while they are not. Don't listen to others. Each traveler has their own individual cases. Also, sometimes people react in different ways. For example, I might tell 2 women they are beautiful. One of them would consider I am harrasing her and another would consider it a compliment. Some would take a slight act of grabbing attention as a friendly joke, others would be offended. Some would ignore something, others would just never let go.

You got plenty of good advice above especially from Wendy. Just try and apply them and don't spend half of your life analyzing stories that you don't know much about their details or their backgrounds.

The issue is simple and straight forward. Follow advice, you will mostly be fine. When things still go wrong (it is rare) you know what to do. Bingo!

Vancouver
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9. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

Thank you all for your valuable feedback! Yikes, disrespect is not what I would ever intend to convey by wearing a hajib. My intentions are quite the opposite but I see your point. I apologize if it seems like I'm overreacting, but lets face it, it's not like I'm going on a weekend trip to Disneyland. The culture is different from mine, I don't speak the language, and I'm going alone. But these are also all the reasons why I love to travel. I just want to enjoy myself, be safe, not offend anyone, and see as much as I can see. Thanks again for your valuable advice and assurances, I'm counting the days!

United Kingdom
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for Sharm El Sheikh, Red Sea and Sinai, Side
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10. Re: Women traveling alone in Cairo

Amelie,

You can always carry a light pashmina / headscarf with which to cover your hair. I did that on my last trip to Cairo as my hair attracts a lot of attention....even in the UK! lol!And I find the constant attention wearing, after a while.

I always wear reflective sunglasses too, at least 3/4, if not full length baggy, trousers & a top with V or scoop neck (no cleavage)so the scarf can cover that if I feel like it too.

I usually wear short sleeves or down to the elbow, at most.

I apply the "no eye contact" I "ignore" approach & I am married, so have a ring.

Be polite, firm & assertive :-)

Regards