In 2007 I ventured off to Egypt, I wanted to see the pyramids. I found something much different when I was there. I liked seeing the pyramids and all the ancient stuff, but the difference in the culture was so dramatic, and often in a good way. The other thing I liked was that on this tour, which was with Contiki, we only had 20 people on it, the smaller tour size made a big difference. I should also mention that our tour guide was an Egyptian and he was amazing, really made us Westerners understand life in Egypt.
While cruising on the Nile we stopped in some smaller towns/cities. These places gave a glimpse of what life was like thousands of years ago. While technology has come here, there are satellite dishes everywhere, it’s obvious some things have changed very little. I guess when you live in a small town and have little need to travel a donkey is just as good as a car. Also, if you live in a mud brick house you don’t really need an air conditioner. Life seemed simpler. Even in Cairo things seemed simpler. Just build a building anywhere and don’t finish it, then you don’t have to pay taxes on it. It was pretty bizarre but it made sense once I had this conversation with Sherif, my Tour Manager:
Sherif: Poor people at home don’t do that?
Me: No, you have to get a permit to do work. If you don’t get a permit when you build you have to get it when you sell the house.
Sherif: Well here we just pass it down through the family, they don’t sell it.
Me: Well then the neighbors might call and report you.
Sherif: That’s not very nice.
I’m not ready to move to Egypt just yet, but I can appreciate keeping things simple. It seems that things just get more and more complicated here at home, and the more complicated things get the more there is a need to make new rules and regulations, making things more complicated.
My tour only had 20 people on it and we really jelled as a group. I wont tell you that everyone liked each other and that we were all one big happy family. But we were all friendly and everyone got along and many of us have continued to keep in contact in the past 2 years. I also felt like everyone in the group was always willing and able to help each other out. I think part of it had to do with being in Egypt, but also I felt that since we were a smaller group we got to know each other well and also had to count on each other a bit more. When I did my tours with groups of 50 people I did have good groups, but with the size it can be hard to get to know everyone (or easy to never get to know people), and even with a great group it’s hard to really jell as an entire group, you’re more likely to get cliques and they’re more likely to isolate themselves from the group. After this tour I’m more interested in trying to do things with smaller groups. A friend of mine did a 38 day tour of SE Asia in 2006 with Intrepid Travel, which has small group tours, from his writing I like Intripid. Groups max out at 12 or 16 and the tour company tries to help you get to know the communities more then Contiki does, both pluses.
In my future travel I’m looking to either tour with smaller groups or to spend more time in one place. I think if my tour had rushed through Egypt more then it did (I was there 10 days), then I wouldn’t have had a chance to get to know Egypt and the culture. Unfortunately, I have to work and I’m not rich in money so sometimes I have to compromise and that’s why I like tours. They get you to see several different places in a short amount of time without wasting a lot of time.