As part of our Frequent Flyer series, we post follow up stories from previously spotlighted travelers. Scott is a Respiratory Therapist based in Metro Atlanta, GA that has traveled the world extensively with an affinity for visiting countries with vivid cultures like India and Namibia. In his previous feature, he shared his experiences traveling overland throughout Namibia, camping out in the wilderness, and bungee jumping in the city of Swakopmund. Now he's back to shed light on his recent experiences traveling in Egypt post revolution and why he thinks now is the best time to visit the country.
What have you been up to since you were last feature on your experiences traveling overland through Namibia?
If I wasn't breaking the bank to fly halfway around the world, I was in Georgia (USA) living and working. I did however, have the pleasure to travel to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico last fall and have since returned from my incredible trip to Egypt.
How does photography influence the way you travel and view the world around you?
One of the many thrills of traveling is experiencing a new culture, so what better way to do this than through photography. For me, photography has a way of striping down the barriers and walls we create for ourselves which in return allows for more vulnerability and connection to cultures different from our own.
What sparked your interest to visit Egypt specifically?
Ever since I could remember learning about the pyramids, I knew someday I wanted to visit Egypt. My plan to travel to Egypt were initially halted when the 2011 revolution occurred and the country was deemed unsafe. However, 4years later, my curiosity for such an adventure overshadowed any doubts to whether it was the right time to go. Luckily for me, the timing proved to be spot on.
What was your favorite approach to photography while there? Did you generally strike up a conversation with your subjects or just candidly capture the moment? How did people react to being photographed?
It has always been my aim to maintain as much authenticity as possible when capturing a moment and this was no different while in Egypt. In general I have always found it intrusive to stick a camera in ones face and just start snapping away without permission. So I was always sensitive to this and relieved to find that mostly everybody I approached was receptive to being photographed. You will be surprised by how a simple gesture of “Can I take your photo” opens up dialogue between you and your subject. Most times you find that you can produce a more genuine photo through that than if you hadn’t asked. But I would be lying If didn’t say that I did rely on my zoom lens went I didn't want the moment disturbed.
Of all the images you captured during your trip, which would you say was your favorite? Why?
The photo above was taken while exploring The Temple of Edfu. I happened to be walking down a corridor when I spotted what photographers consider that magical moment when everything lines up just right. The elderly gentleman was standing so eloquently where the light gazed part of his face and his Gallibaya (traditional attire worn by men). It was as if he thought this photo would be a great representation of the entire Egyptian culture. After I snapped the photo, I was left speechless at what was created and had to thank him for obliging me.
What was your route? What cities did you visit? How did you navigate between each city?
I mainly stuck to some of the major cities in Egypt. In order: Cairo, Aswan, Luxor, and back to Cairo. Trains are the most efficient way to travel longer distances, while taxis/buses are the next best thing. We used local overnight trains form Cairo down to Aswan, followed by a traditional felucca from Aswan to Luxor along the Nile River, then back to Cairo via overnight train. While in each city I stuck with local taxis and by foot. If I could give a word of advice when using taxis it would be to stick to marked cars because everyone who's not will try and pick you – HAHA, I’m speaking from experience!
What was your experience as a traveler in Egypt? Did you travel by yourself or with others?
Egypt was actually an unplanned trip. I had initially planned to travel to Costa Rica with some friends but unfortunately had to cancel at the last minute. As I mentioned earlier, Egypt was on my radar and this was the cheapest it would ever be to go. So with the short amount of time I had planned and the travel warnings associated with Egypt, I went with G adventures. I knew I needed something that would allow the flexibility that traveling alone would permit while also taking care of some of the transportation logistics. So no I was not alone, I was with a group of then strangers and now lifelong friends. As of now, Egypt is suffering tremendously in tourism and this can be felt while traveling through. It’s like stepping back in time when a region was first discovered as a place to visit. Although refreshing, traveling through Egypt post revolution can be very difficult to maneuver through without extensive planning.
Did you have any expectations or preconceived notions about the cultures you would be exposed to? How did they differ from what the cultures actually were?
In all honesty, this was the first time I had ever approached a trip without any expectations or preconceived notions about the culture. All I heard before leaving was that I was insane to travel to such a region when ISIS attacks were at an all-time high. In hindsight, the public’s forbidden attitude on traveling to Egypt was probably why I was more keen to go. It was an amazing experience and one I could never duplicate.
What were some of your experiences?
Having recently visited India, Egypt draws a lot of parallels. Equally as vivid and visually powerful in its culture, it’s a country that strives hard to preserve and display its traditional roots. From standing at the foot of the Giza Pyramids to drifting along the calm waters of the Nile or being at the receiving end of the warm smiles of the Egyptian people, it was easy to fall into a dream like state. With such visual abundance, let’s not forget the most amazing Falafel that has even been created. Egypt definitely lived up to its reputation.
What surprised you most about your experience?
Every time I travel to a different country in Africa I wonder how I will be received as a Black American. I honestly could not anticipate how popular I would be. At every turn I was greeted with “Hey Brother”, “Hey Cousin” and even “Welcome home Nubian”. It made for quite an experience that I enjoyed immensely.
What recommendations can you share for future travelers?
Besides marveling at the Giza Pyramids outside of Cairo, visiting the Valley of the Kings and Queens in Luxor, or gazing at Abu Simbel-Temple of Ramses II, you definitely have to see The Edfu temple in Edfu, Egypt and Karnak Temple in Luxor, Egypt. I also thoroughly enjoyed a hot air balloon ride over Luxor and sailing on the felucca down the Nile, which makes for spectacular views. The most important thing is to tailor your trip according to what you want to see. There are loads of sights to see and plenty of markets to get lost in.
What is your favorite/funniest memory from your trip?
If I had to choose my defining moment in Egypt, I would say it would be riding a Donkey through villages on the way to The Mortuary Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, located on the west bank of the Nile near the Valley of the Kings. Children came by the roadside to greet us while farmers would stop working to give a wave. In general, everyone was curious as to the commotion that was being created. You would think donkey’s would be well behaved but of course mine had a mind of its own!
What’s next for you? Any final words of advice for those interested in the region?
My family and I have a trip planned in August to visit Croatia and Turkey and hopefully before the year is over I can get to Iceland. But for those looking for a place to emerge yourself into with great food, stunning architecture, and the most passionate people you will ever meet, I couldn't recommend a place more highly. Egypt is one of the most visually rich places I have ever visited. I promise Egypt will never be so freely available than it is right now.
To keep up with Scott and more on his travels and photography, be sure to follow him @Scottiej_84 on Instagram.
Images Courtesy of Scott Jackson