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Trouble in Luxor: My Experience Getting Harassed in Egypt

harassment egypt woman

No country has tested my patience quite like Egypt did.

It was a balmy 115 degrees in Egypt when we stepped off the overnight train in downtown Luxor. M and I were both very excited to be away from Cairo and to get to see the exotic Egypt of our dreams, the Valley of the Kings, the mummies, and the Nile river. After checking in to our hotel, we decided to head over to the famous Karnak Temple for the afternoon. Hearing that it was close by and really wanting to avoid dealing with the pushy cabbies, we decided to walk.

Worst. Decision. Ever.

Knowing that Luxor was like an ancient Egyptian theme park, and the fact that it was so hot it felt like my face was going to melt off, I decided to break all the rules and wear a dress. Rule number 1 when traveling in Egypt as a women, don’t wear a dress that doesn’t cover you from wrist to ankle and looks like a burlap sack.

I thought it we be more ok since we were sticking to the major tourist sites and I picked a dress that covered my shoulders and my knees. Also, the thought of putting on the same pants I’d been wearing for days made me want to cry a little. Egypt was so damn hot that even when I wore light linen pants, I could feel the sweat trickle down my legs and if I were to sit down, I would sweat through the back of my pants in approximately 1.5 minutes offering that nice, “I just wet my pants” look. Too damn hot.

My people are Polish. I have a semi-arctic tolerance for cold in my blood. I wear shorts in winter and I down half a bottle of vodka and still stand. I was not meant for this weather.

harassment egypt woman

A day’s worth of water

harassment egypt woman

Shade hunting in Luxor

By the time we arrived at Karnak, we were so sweaty, hot, sunburned and tired, we were willing to pay 5 dollars for a bottle of water and all we wanted to do was pass out in the shade. It didn’t help that we were harassed constantly by cabbies and calèche drivers (horse-drawn carriages) offering cheap rides for “the pretty ladies;” our moods were tense. We were stared at so much I kept having to check to make sure I hadn’t tucked the back of my dress in my underwear.

In my defense, I don’t think we were harassed solely for the fact that you could see my elbows and shins. M and I were two girls alone traveling in Egypt at a time when tourism had dropped over 80% because of the revolution. People were desperate because so many jobs relied heavily on tourism, especially in places like Luxor. This meant that westerners and tourists were targeted much more strongly to buy things from scarves to water to horse rides.

It may not seem like a big deal, but for two young American women who literally could not walk 1 minute down the street without being called out to about something, it made things challenging, to put it lightly. Inside, I wanted to punch the teeth out of the next chauvinistic jerk who dared to call me Barbie and offering camels for my hand in marriage.

harassment egypt woman

The dress that started it all at Karnak Temple

By the time we got back downtown, both of us were hot, sticky and in really foul moods. As we turned on a narrow street looking for the entrance to Luxor temple, a guy on a horse drawn carriage started following us. He kept calling out to us, trying to hawk a ride on his caleche. After we repeatedly told him no and tried to ignore him, he started saying provocative things to us. This went on for a good five minutes and we had no where to turn off to on this street. As we literally tried to run from him, I heard him yell to me, “hey blondie, nice ass!” Oh, no he didn’t!

At this point I lost it; I was sick and tired of being made to feel cheap and dirty 24/7. Imagine 5 days of constantly being stared at, propositioned and proposed to, and being swindled out of every dime I had. It was ruining our trip! It didn’t help that it was so hot sweat was pouring in my eyes, ruining my make-up and making me look like some crazed panda on steroids. All I wanted to do was visit some temples in peace, is that asking too much? I was done with these touts!

“F*** you, who do you think you are to talk to me like that?” I screamed at him. “No means no! I am not getting in your damn caleche, go harass some other tourists you misogynistic pig!” I then proceeded to go on a mini-tirade about how just because I’m wearing a dress doesn’t mean men can speak like that to women no matter where in the world I was, full-on all feminist women’s college rant, Mount Holyoke would be proud. Who knew my damp blonde hair and perspiring calves were so irresistible and sexy? Stupefied at my squawking and flinging arm motions, he yelled at me in indiscernable Arabic before galloping off.

Fuming, I stomped off looking for the entrance to the temple. If only it ended there. Why does it never end there with me?

harassment egypt woman

As we wandering around lost looking for the entrance to the temple, more and more people kept coming up to us trying to hawk something. I suddenly realized M was quiet and looking surly. M only gets quiet and surly for two reasons. She needs to eat or something is bothering her. Since neither of us could keep any food down thanks to the ever present third world stomach bug owing to our penchant for eating street food in Egypt, I had to assume something was on her mind. M is not always one to eloquently express her feelings. So smack in the main square in front of Luxor Temple, grumpy and hot, I asked her to just spill it.

“It’s. Um. Well. I dunno….WHY DID YOU HAVE TO WEAR THAT DRESS? YOU CAN’T SAY THE ‘F’ WORD IN EGYPT!” She blurted out at me.

Oh God. Really? Really? Were we going to have that discussion there? A screaming fight ensued between me and one of my best friends in quite possibly the most central location in all of Luxor. Neither of us had slept in days, we were both so hot and uncomfortable, violently nauseous to boot and in really bad moods. M thoroughly chastised me for not respecting the culture enough to wear pants 24/7 while I tried to defend myself saying we were in tourist city and it was only one afternoon, and I just couldn’t put on a pair of pants. Even looking back now I don’t think I could have worn pants again. It was ungodly hot, and I’ve lived in southern Spain in the summer, and that was nothing compared to this.

We all have our limits but that day in Luxor, I reached mine. I can put up with so much when I am traveling but that hot afternoon in Egypt, I couldn’t take another minute of the hassling.

harassment egypt woman

Sunset at Luxor Temple

And the best part?

Let’s not forget the happy go lucky, ever-present Egyptians who are more than willing to put in their two cents. In the midst of our fight, we realized a circle literally had been formed around us of all the local caleche drivers and touts, and at about every 30 seconds or so, someone would interject something into our argument, like “don’t be angry, you’re in Egypt, be happy!” or the constant “want to ride my donkey? I give you good price.” Eventually, we cried, we hugged, we made up and even let 9 year old Ali let us drive us around the block in his carriage for five bucks for god measure.

And the even better part?

Did I mention that there were virtually no tourists in Egypt when we were there because everyone was afraid they would get tear gassed and caught up in another revolution? This meant that for the next 4 days we were in Luxor, everyone remembered us and knew who we were and weren’t afraid to yell out “hey Barbie, you look happier now, no crying! Want to see my papyrus collection? For you I give special price!” as we walked downtown and around the souks. It definitely made Luxor unforgettable for me.

harassment egypt woman

Please notice how M is holding her purse. No one is wringing that out of her hands!

What to take away from this?

Ladies, suck it up and wear pants in Egypt or toughen up to the harrasing. Don’t be afraid to make a big old scene because I can tell you ignoring does NOT always work. Maybe not drop the f-bomb. Also, be careful with the street food and don’t walk to Karnak temple. It’s a lot farther than it looks on the map.

In all seriousness, it’s important to respect the culture of the country you are traveling too, and the day women wear a dress like mine in Egypt will be the day King Tut’s mummy comes back alive. HOWEVER, the harassment of women in Egypt is a hot topic in the news. It’s a big problem, and it’s not only something foreign women are subject to. I will add that I was just as harassed wearing khaki pants and long sleeve botton-ups as I was when I wore a dress.

Times need to change, and Egyptian women will be the first to say it. I was disgusted by the way I was spoken to in my two weeks I was there, and it negatively impacted my opinion of a country that I otherwise loved. Just mentally prepare yourself for this before going, and if your dream is to visit this beautiful country and you are a woman, it shouldn’t keep you from traveling to Egypt. I will also add I never truly felt threatened when I was in Egypt. Will this experience keep me from traveling back to Egypt or to other similar countries? Not in the least. Will I invest in a portable fan and pay double for air conditioned rooms? You bet I will.

Have you ever traveled to Egypt as a woman? What was your experience like there? Would you be able to travel to a country like Egypt? Have you ever reached your limit when traveling?

harassment egypt woman

harassment egypt woman
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The dress that sparked it all

harassment egypt woman

harassment egypt woman

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71 Responses to Trouble in Luxor: My Experience Getting Harassed in Egypt

  1. Cassandra December 11, 2012 at 8:14 am #

    As a female traveler hoping to make it to Egypt one day, I will remember this advice!!

    PS. Lovely photos, they give me even more ganas to visit!

    • Liz December 12, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

      Thanks! I have a whole lot more Egypt photos on some different posts on here, such a beautiful place to photograph!

      • Khaled March 15, 2014 at 12:31 am #

        Hi Liz,
        Thanks for your honest account of what had happened in Egypt, the ugly truth one would say, and I am frightfully sorry for what you periodically have been subjected to, totally unacceptable, therefore, please do accept my apology as an Egyptian man.

        The culture in the Middle East is fairly complicated, it is fair to say not all men are bad, but a sizeable number of men will misbehave provocatively , not only towards foreign women but also towards Egyptian women that even will include the scarfed/veiled ones, why do they behave like that, hmmm long story really, so to explain; we will need to 2 liters of iced tea, 1 liter fresh lemonade + Tom & Jerry Chocolate ice cream but I could be flexible on flavor to prove to you, that not all Egyptian men are bad lol 🙂

        A food for thought, before arrival, try to find and secure the services of a cheap tour guide, normally university graduates will charge little and advertise their service on the net, this way, you don’t need to important a male companion with you, get indirect protection and you get further knowledge about the place you are visiting…keep your delightful smile on, and have a great day 🙂 . Khaled

        • Maggie August 22, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

          Hi there, my husband and I are planning a trip to your country next year. What are the conditions there for a retired couple travelling on our own. I’m rather nervous about it to be honest, but my husband does not want an organized package tour. Would it be safe enough for us to use public transit throughout the country and tour about alone. Thanks for any comment. Maggie

          • Norma August 27, 2015 at 7:42 am #

            I suggest that you contact a travel agency like Audley travel. They offer individualized tours where they will develop a package where it is just you and a guide. I am in the process of arranging a tour myself and they have been very helpful and accommodating.

    • ahmad October 24, 2013 at 10:38 am #

      hi dear i feel shame of what u said about the illitrate pple of streets in lxr ……can u accept my appology for that…… as am working as a tour guide i do understand what u said……sorry for that … i wl report this to the authoroties

    • Martyna October 4, 2015 at 5:55 am #

      I just moved to Egypt and I’m relieved it’s not only me who experiences that. I can’t deal with it and I refuse to wear jeans in 40degrees. Sometimes I want to beat them up, sometimes to cry.
      I’m Polish too.

    • peter May 10, 2016 at 12:45 am #

      In Rome do as the Romans. All great travelleres from Herodotus han has travelled unnoticed.

  2. Claudia December 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm #

    I usually get harrased in Barcelona by Africans… and it’s true that ignore them not always helps.

  3. Alex @ ifs ands & Butts December 11, 2012 at 3:46 pm #

    We are half in the Polish thing, and that’s the vodka half. It’s only at freezing here in Germany and I already hate going outside.

    And I had a similar experience in Turkey. Except I think it was just that I was blonde. Even though there were so many tourists they acted like they’d never seen a blonde before and all the harassment ALMOST ruined Turkey. Luckily Turkey had a lot of other things going for it to help.

    • Liz December 12, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

      Yeah same for Egypt, I tried to focus on the positive but this day I just lost it! I can put up with so much traveling but this pushed me over my limits!

  4. Liam December 11, 2012 at 6:16 pm #

    As horrible as the experience sounds, I have to say that I loved reading this. Very funny, as awful as it must have been!! 🙂

    • Liz December 12, 2012 at 2:27 pm #

      Haha it’s true! In retrospect I think this story is hilarious which is why I shared it here! Can you even imagine? Having people butt in and add commentary to our fight? It was hysterical, like something from a movie!

  5. Brandon December 11, 2012 at 7:40 pm #

    Funny and revealing article. And I couldn’t help but wonder why, in the past, women in the US couldn’t wear pants. I’m really confused about proper attire. :/

  6. Tiana Kai December 11, 2012 at 9:36 pm #

    Wowza. I’ve been to Egypt 4-5 times and will probably head back in Feb or March. My Father runs hotels there, which are a part of a global portfolio. So, I would first not advise two young Americans to travel there solo unless they were ready to be harassed. I have gone out with Egyptian women many times in Egypt (luxor, cairo, sharm, etc.) and the men just know when to listen to the women when they are stern. Americans come off too nice and then some of them can explode… as you have witnessed in Luxor. 😉

    I have been in your same situation here in Florence with Africans or Indians trying to sell my an umbrella. I yelled at one in the Milan train station because I was hauling two huge suitcases in the rain. I screamed ‘how the hell am i supposed to hold an umbrella? with my third arm? are you stupid?’. Ha, that was the most I’ve chewed someone out in the last 5 years that I can remember.

    Egypt is very unique. You need to know where to go, how to dress, how to talk to the locals, etc. It is the most opposite culture to mine that I have been immersed in, but being from Miami I am used to pushy, annoying men… even in Italy.

    • Liz December 12, 2012 at 2:29 pm #

      Haha that’s hilarious! I just lost my patience that day, the level of harassment was ridiculous, especially in Luxor after the revolution! Literally we weren’t left alone for 1 minute!

      So when are we going to hang out in Sharm missy? Sounds like you gots the hook up!

  7. Escaping Abroad December 12, 2012 at 1:26 am #

    Everything-Everywhere just posted about Egypt and that he’d been constantly harassed as well about buying things. I’m sure being a female in a dress only made it that much worse. But part of traveling means respecting the culture and rules of the places you go…

    • Liz December 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm #

      Oh I have to check out Gary’s posts! Thanks for the alert!

      I definitely pushed my limits wearing a dress that day, my only defense was that I was equally harassed wearing long sleeves and pants in Cairo and other cities!

  8. amelie88 December 12, 2012 at 2:00 am #

    My roommate in college traveled to Egypt with another American girl for a few days. She told me she recommended not visiting the country without a guy, the level of harassing and attention she and her friend got was nearly unbearable. (And she never made the mistake of wearing a dress either) As someone who would rather not be constantly harassed and not have someone in my face (I hated Las Vegas for this very reason) telling me to buy this and that, I think I will skip Egypt until I can find a guy friend to travel with!

    • Liz December 12, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

      This makes me so sad! Women should be able to travel places without a man! This is the 21st century for heavens sake!

      I did travel to morocco with guys and it was easier but damn Egypt definitely tested my patience! The good thing was that even though I constantly attracted attention, I never felt threatened, Egypt felt very safe for me at least!

      • Kristina November 29, 2016 at 1:35 pm #

        I agree. Not only should you be able to travel without a man, you should have been fine in that dress. Your arms were covered and it was just above the knees ( although I hear below the knees is best it seems like a minor difference and would not have made a difference) I’m all for respecting another’s culture while traveling, but I have to argue that when there is a double standard for men and women, what about that is worthy of respect? Besides Egypt is not strictly Muslim, so it not fair to me that the whole of society must follow the rules of one religion. Imagine if Mormons or Quakers were dictating the behavioral norms for all of America. I think sexism should never be respected as cultural.

        On a more shallow note I’m going to Egypt soon and am heartbroken that I must dress frumpy to avoid unwanted attention. I loathe tourist clothing as it is, but trying to pull off full length dresses and loose slacks on my short voluptuous frame is not as easy as a taller thinner women by design. The shorter and wider, the more frumpy one looks. Oh well!

        Oh lord! I am a crazy person with pushy salespeople!!!! I’m not sure how I’m going to zen that one out, because usually after 5 “no thank you”S I almost chewed the head off of a guy selling bootleg purses in Florence. He followed me and my fiancé for a block trying to hand me a statue as a gift but then demanding money for it, so I refused to take it and he almost pried my hand open to take it. He only stopped when I insisted I was going to drop it the minute he forced it in my hands!!! That’s when I found out not only was this guy wanting money for the statue, he planned to take it back the minute I gave him cash. So I know not to take anything from these pushy guys, but I desperately need to know the best way to discourage pushy salespeople as to not ruin my trip. Egypt is too special to miss out on because of a few jerks, and I hear most Egyptians are very nice people, Muslim and non Muslim alike. Any advice from locals would be helpful.

        Thanks for sharing your story, that sounds exactly like a day I would have. 😃

  9. Kaley [Y Mucho Más] December 12, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Man, I’m not sure I could handle that! I really disliked some parts of Jamaica due all the street hawking, so this sounds much more extreme. I’m not one for being pressured by people to buy, buy, buy … so I’ve never really been attracted to places like Egypt or Morocco, which is a shame, as they have lots to offer.

    And btw, very fun/interesting entry!

  10. Sofie December 18, 2012 at 8:52 am #

    I’ve only been to Egypt once. It was with my parents and brother and I must have been about 14 years old back then. I vividly remember a guy asking my dad how much he wanted for me, so that the guy could get engaged to me.
    My dad hesitated for a split second, but decided to keep me anyways.
    Just kidding:)

  11. pointsandtravel December 23, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

    Wow! what an experience! I love how you tell it like it is and give us information for when we go. So glad you survived to tell the story!!!

  12. becci January 9, 2013 at 5:49 am #

    Aah I loved the swapping camels for marriage one… I guess they use the same smoothe pick up lines as the boys in Morocco! I never got called Barbie but I did get Shakira ALOT… I don’t know why.. maybe I wobble when I walk??
    And I love your pictures, they’re stunning

  13. Nellie April 28, 2013 at 10:15 am #

    I LOVED Egypt, it was one of the most memorable experiences in my life but I agree when I visited Egypt and was harassed to a certain extent. The difference is the color of your hair and the fairness of your skin(add to that & I apologize for in advance for this.. you’re quite voluptuous). They find it so fascinating to see Blonde Western women. I have dark hair and tan skin but a friend I was traveling with was fair and blonde and the offer of camels for us was constant BUT we traveled with a male friend as well which also deterred a lot harassment. It shouldn’t be so easily accepted and I was quite firm and sometimes rude with the people but found that a lot of them were beautiful and respectful.
    I never wore and dress and went in summer and the effect that the heat has on your body is sometimes scary.
    I hope you go again and experience the Egypt I experienced – I dream about going back. Although it was the first time I ever got sunburn (I was beet red) but my poor (British) Red-headed pale friend got sunburnt through her SHIRT!

  14. mostafa kamel May 2, 2013 at 8:02 am #

    I have read your article it’s already a beautiful article …. I am Egyptian man and deep apologized to you for what you encounter there ….things are out of control there after the revolution, but this does not prevent that Egypt is a beautiful country

  15. AMR May 10, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

    :S Oh you made me hate my country so much but i feel really upset about the way you talk about Egypt , the situation after the revolution is really awful and shitty but still the way you talk is not nice and you tell the world that this country is rubbish! you know there’s lots of nice places in Egypt but the fact you can’t bear hot weather but you go to luxor anyways

    We really don’t need such awful articles like this! We need our country to stand up against people like you who tell tourists not to come. Show some mercy you terrible American!

    • Melissa March 19, 2015 at 12:27 am #

      She never once said to not travel to Egypt unless you can’t handle harassment like that. It’s very sad everything that has happened there and I can imagine things aren’t so good. She said there’s so many beautiful things to see in Egypt and that she would go back. But the problem of sexism there and in all countries of the world is a PROBLEM that needs to CHANGE. I don’t care if it’s culture, culture can be wrong and it’s been wrong since the beginning in every single country in regards to the placement of women. Just some have it worse than others. So my point is, she isn’t telling people to not go to Egypt. She’s simply giving tips and explaining that if you go, you have to respect the culture and take people yelling things at you. This article has not made me want to go to Egypt any less. I’ve been dying to go since I was a little girl and as soon as I have enough money I’m going to go. but thanks to this article I’m now more informed. rant over, have a nice day.

      • Kim November 6, 2015 at 5:26 am #

        I went to Egypt for the first time in 1991, alone, for business, and swore I would never return. I had been previously married to a muslim Pakistani so I was very familiar with Islamic culture. I dressed very conservatively, wore a head scarf in presence of men, etc… yet I was still endlessly harrassed, propositioned, and followed. I returned again in 1999 again on business but with my male boss and it was much easier although he was less patient than I with the street hawkers! In 2000 I returned with my children and a female friend. We had a horrible experience one evening while walking on the street during Eid celebrations when a group of young men – aoubt 5 or 6 of them – surrounded my friend, groped her, and pulled her clothes off – right on the street across from the Rameses Hotel. I had my two young daughters with me but I was trying to fight the men off of my friend. I screamed for help at least for 5 minutes before an older man came to my assistance and ran off the attackers. My friend was not physically injured but was molested right there in public in front of my 8 year old daughter. Basically, western women should not travel alone in Eygpt without expecting problems. A dear male Egyptian friend of mine told me that there is no excuse for the way Egyptian men behave with foreign women but he added that it is mostly from the uneducated who are desperate to make a sale of their goods or services and believe that western women “enjoy” the attention and that western women have loose morals and would be willing to bed any one them (toothless, dirty, smelly – yeah, right), and that because of the way that we dress (even what we might consider a conservative dress is very sexy to them) that we do not “deserve” the same respect that they must give to their own women. He said it is like men who visit strip clubs do not respect the strippers the same as they respect their wives or girlfriends. I do not agree with this type of male perspective but I am just trying to shed light as to why western women are harrassed so much in Eygpt. I know that everyone wants to visit Egypt at least once in a lifetime because of the history but I do caution women not to travel without a male escort.

    • Tammy April 6, 2015 at 9:33 am #

      She never said anything bad about the country but your comments and attitude does make me feel reluctant to go to Egypt. Her article just gave me information on how to dress and what to prepare for. Your rude and insulting comments makes me think Egyptians are rude and not nice.

  16. Ed May 11, 2013 at 6:47 am #

    Funny story but its a sad reality. Its my country and I myself wont go there with my wife now. Yes culture is important to follow but cmon!! The men need to follow their akhlaq (manners) because it leaves a stain on all of Egypt. You know who u are.

  17. Hossam May 22, 2013 at 11:24 am #

    well dear Liz, apologies for such hilarious experience you been through in the good old Egypt. and sadly yes its kinda better to have some man along when you walk through such touristic places (I know you shouldn’t but that is fact that will keep ya away from all the hassle in a way)

    now for the reply that Amr just posted as I got really provoked by such hate reply, what is the matter with you ya Amr, the girl is being so freaking honest so what the hell are you blaming her for, instead of just being like wabbit and attack the poor girl for speaking herself out and telling her story , why don’t you simply apologize to her and admit that we really have such stupid problem of harassing every single women who dared to wear something for the hot weather and that goes for both foreigners and locals, you’re are soooo provoking seriously and did you really think that Liz’s “article” would make the people hate Egypt or be afraid of coming for a trip ?! come on let me ask you this , do you know anything about NYC and where to go and what to do there , how about Cali ? can you locate the good safe spots to go out there ?! just put yourself in that girl’s shoes and tell me what would you do if you’re in a different country that you know nothing about! does she had to study or take a course on how to walk with such dress which i find not that revealing or appealing or even inviting but we do have an issue that needed to be solved so don’t just act childish by attacking that girl for our very own problems starting from the very first bazar and the salesman who is harassing tourists trying to sell them a pc of papyrus for 20-30 $ that actually worth less than 1 $ and the taxis, the public transportation , the dirty look that many men have at women ?!! so should we simply hide all this and pretend that we’re the coolest country on the whole F world !! come on give me a break for God’s sake and in my very own humble opinion you are no different than those men who gathered at those 2 poor strangers to drop another useless words

    • Hossam May 22, 2013 at 11:26 am #

      and btw, I really enjoyed such pictures of yours they are really outstanding dear, and a msg for all who wanna come to Egypt, yes Egypt situation is not really cool at the moment but rest assured that there are majority in here who are trying hard to change such situation and I will be more than happy to help anyone who wanted to visit our beloved country by info or hints or anything I can do , have a great summer all of ya out there

      • Kristina November 29, 2016 at 1:46 pm #

        Thank you Hassam I will be visiting Egypt soon and appreciate hearing there are Egyptian men out there that want us to visit your beautiful country without harassment. You are a breath of fresh air. Thank you

  18. kelly May 27, 2013 at 8:05 pm #

    Yeah I got it in Tunisia which has the same haggling culture as Morroco (how many time to I have to tell one person that I don’t smoke therefore I don’t want to buy 5 boxes of cigarettes?) as it’s only next door to it and they must have been attracted to my blonde western features, but I was alright in wearing shorts and dresses. I’ll probably get it again as well when I got to Marmaris, Turkey in 5 weeks time. Also I make a point of always going to these types of destinations with a travelling companion as you’ve then at least got some backup if the hassling gets a bit too much.

  19. Dave June 13, 2013 at 8:24 am #

    Hi Liz – My wife, I and 2 teenage daughters are thinking of heading to Luxor next month. We did chuckle reading your post, very funny but also very informative so thank you very much.
    Best wishes for your future travels.

    • Kate May 6, 2014 at 3:52 am #

      Dave, I recommend you hire a local to act as a guide and provide some level of protection from being annoyed. It is remarkably cheap and often pays for itself in the deals you’ll find with the help of the guide.

      And, as I’m sure you’ve figured out, make sure the girls are covered up 🙂

  20. theme June 28, 2013 at 9:22 am #

    hi liz h am egyptian
    iam sorry to say that all bad things u told about egypt are true
    i hope that people change and give apositive picture to tourists about egypt

  21. Laura July 28, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I was in Egypt right before the revolution and found it an amazing country to go to. I was on my honeymoon so I wasn’t alone. We also booked a tour as I felt safer that way. I wore shorts and skirts in egypt and tank tops. My rule was I could show some leg, but cover the shoulders and cleavage or show shoulders and cover the legs. The only ‘harassment’ we received (besides those pushing their wares which happens in almost every country I’ve travelled to) was my husband was told he was a very lucky man repeatedly. I assume it’s due to my fair skin and red hair. I recommend if travelling as a single gal in this area, doing a tour and having a guide. Helps immensely.

  22. Emily August 30, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

    Liz, thank you for your story! I’m actually a Mount Holyoke alum (!) and I studied abroad in Egypt during my junior year at MHC. This will sound awful, but…Luxor and Aswan were the least harassed I ever felt during my stay there. I studied in Alexandria, which sees far less Western tourist traffic than the resort areas or Cairo. Harassment, always obnoxious and invasive, sometimes bordering on violent, was a daily occurrence. If I got the chance to do it all again, I would DEFINITELY wear looser pants and cover my hair – us fair-skinned blondes stick out! I toyed with the idea of just wearing head-to-toe long skirt, long sleeves, a headscarf and big sunglasses – just to see if it would keep me from getting harassed. I’m so glad I was able to experience Egypt and living in another country, but it ABSOLUTELY gets to you after the eighteen-millionth “Welcome in Egypt!” or “One thousand camels!” being yelled in my direction.

    I did have the distinct advantage of being able to yell back in Arabic, both curses and guilt-trips about sisters, but don’t let anyone tell you that the F-word is unacceptable among Egyptian men – they use it all the time. Learn to yell something in Arabic before you go back, they’ll leave you alone quickly if you sound like you know what you’re doing!

    Stay strong fellow uncommon woman, and don’t less this dampen your wanderlust!

  23. Danee October 17, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    So far on my travels Egypt has been my favourite destination. I travelled there with a group of my friends (all female). I’ve been around South East Asia and East Africa as well. I spent a total of two months in Egypt January 2013 and June 2013. The most harassment and worst experience I had was at the pyramids. Our car was surrounded by men trying to sell us camel rides and the harassment from people trying to sell you stuff was relentless. On the plus side there were very little tourists. Unfortunately, I think that the touristy destinations are the places where you will receive the worst treatment. Downtown Cairo was another place that at times, the harassment was annoying. Go across the bridge to Zamalek and you can avoid touts and much of the harassment.

    Outside of tourist destinations I found Egyptians to be the most friendly and hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. People were incredibly generous even with the failing economy of the post 2011 revolution. Numerous times Egyptian women and men stopped and introduce themselves, gave us their facebooks, invited us for dinner, and to stay at their homes. Getting off a bus in Alexandria for the first time a group of women in full niqabs came up to us and helped us barter for cabs.

    I felt that when people saw a couple of girls traveling alone their first reaction was to give their help and advice.

    Yes, you will encounter some creeps. I have encountered creeps in many of the other countries that I have travelled to as well. However, I also made some really great friends with Egyptian men and was amazed by the respect and hospitality they showed towards my friends and I.

    My advice for travellers heading to Egypt is to try go to destinations that are not so touristy. I especially loved Nuweiba in the Sinai, and Siwa Oasis in the Western Desert. Go to the pyramids last rather than first. Then you will be more comfortable in the country and better equipped to deal with all the touts.

    Happy travels everyone!

  24. Kerry Fritz II January 24, 2014 at 8:53 am #

    I just arrived in Cairo yesterday from Sri Lanka and before that Indonesia – I AM constantly harassed by men too – I ask them where are all the women cab, tuk tuk, etc. drivers and that I don’t want to tell them where I am from or where I am going and that I don’t like even talking to men. They follow me anyways and try to talk to me, sell me things, etc.
    In Sri Lanka they stand at the beach and stare at the women (and men) – I went over to one guy and said ‘hey, if I thought it would be appropriate to stand there and stare at a women, then I would do the same myself.’ I then asked the woman (who was German I found out by talking to her) and she just shrugged, then I told her what had been happening.
    I am not certain that wearing a dress because of the heat was the only motive here.
    Women constantly say one thing and mean another.
    I see women hanging out more with local guys than I see them trying to meet and hang out with fellow travellers.
    I did have only one nice experience with the only single American woman I;ve met since June when I left the US – in Sri Lanka she actually asked me if I wanted to go take a look at the ocean – but then I was not aggressive because I didn;t want to scare her away and thought there would be plenty of time to get to know each other. That was my mistake and now aI am very sad and ready to buy the first 2 meter tall virgin over 18 that looks good so I can have a companion and oral sex partner (haven;t had vaginal sex since a 2 meter tall girlfreind in spring of 2010 and do not plan to).
    Another nice experience was outside of Sevastopol where two short Polish girls wanted me to go with them on a day tour but I was having problems with my car that was stuck 15 kilometers away in Balaclava so was changing hotels.
    Your experience may not be as gender-based as you think.
    I see women traveling together all the time and wonder why they can;t find or don;t want a man and why they think it is in-appropriate for a man to have a natural desire to want to be with them, especially if they are showing some skin.
    I just found out last night that hotels are not allowed to check-in an un-married woman and man – that is the real terrorism of being in a Muslim country – seems the New World Order does have an agenda of making everyone androgenous – but that still won;t solve the fighting over tourist money. Even when I say my bags are too full to buy souvenirs they try not to understand and keep the sales pitch.
    Being called a ‘barbie’ seems to be a compliment given (unless they dis-respect ‘Barbie’ because she;s a bimbo) and the reaction to it in-appropriate, although I am not saying one should have to talk to everyone that wants to talk to them either.
    I;d like to find the places where there are beautiful women who will sensually harass me proper (not just to try to get money) like the way they used-to and the way YHWH intended.
    Be glad you are at least blessed with a certain degree of beauty, there are a lot of ugly women who envy the attention men show you.

  25. alexandriatoday March 16, 2014 at 7:35 am #

    Hi. Solo 40ish female traveller in Alexandria now, been in Egypt for 2 weeks. I wear loose long pants, layered long sleeve clothing, covered neck but hair is loose. Sorry, Im not wearing a scarf on my head for anyone. I am size 16 too, so not a barbie doll. Does this give men the right to harass me? In 3 days in Alexandria I have had at least 60 cars stop up ahead of me, roll their window down and make some gesture I presume is to “entice” me to their car for sex. This is middle of day. Not night. If I ignore they follow. If i turn around and shout go away, they think its a game and be more agressive in wanting me to come in the car. So I go back to hotel by 5.30pm because I dont want to see what after sunset will bring for me, if the daytime is bad enough. Do I deserve this disrespect? Do I NEED a male to travel? Even when I was with my brother, men would shout “hey you lucky man” MANY TIMES. Please. Why?? Repressed sexual society and it shows. Double standards. Sorry, but Egypt is a big disappointment because of men behaviour and the rampant dishonesty I encountered with many people. Would people go there if there were no ancient ruins?? I think not. Wake up Egypt.

  26. Laila Husain March 27, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    I enjoyed reading this post and can most certainly relate to it 🙂

    I’m a 18 year old British Muslim who does wear the hijab and cover up and I still get exactly the same harassment as you have experienced. Clothing does not matter, but being a female does! Its almost as if they get turned on by the mere existence of our female anatomy underneath clothing, regardless of whether or not anything is visible. I am fine until people speak to me in Arabic and I’m just like “errr sorry I speak English” then the harassment starts. Also, being from the West, regardless of being a Hijab wearing Muslim woman is also what provokes the attention. Its almost as if western woman = loose. I have travelled to Cairo and touristic places such as Sharm el Sheikh with my mother and even in touristic places we have been hassled e.g. cars driving at the same pace as us, getting beeped at, and countless comments in Arabic towards us because they assume we are Egyptian (God knows what they are saying!). I remember one time a security guard in a hotel we stayed at said to my mum “I will take you to the bedouin”… funny enough, I told my mum I wasnt sure whether or not he said ‘bedroom’ or ‘bedouin’ and she replied saying “either way, it means the same f*cking thing… HAHAHA”. Another observation of mine is that the harassment is worse in times of political turmoil as opposed to normal. My next voyage to Egypt will be to Luxor hopefully (December 2014) but I am slightly worried about all the harassment as it is one of the biggest let-downs about Egypt, despite the country being so rich in culture and history. Yes, wearing extremely revealing clothes will clearly attract attention, but covering up wont necessarily stop harassment (evidently).

    May you enjoy future trips to Egypt 🙂
    and i suppose all the harassment makes us stronger in a way.

    x

  27. Nadine April 2, 2014 at 11:12 pm #

    Hi Liz,
    I’m an Egyptian woman who’s been living away from Egypt for the past 8 years. I’m sorry to say that all what you described is true and very common in Egypt. Egyptian woman are exposed to harassment every day, regardless of their age, dress or behavior. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been harassed when I was living there. It’s a major problem in Egypt. There are many reasons for it, but no excuse. The only positive thing is that recently this problem came out in the open. It’s now being discussed in the media and the police started having a positive attitude towards women who report it. There are also campaigns and demonstrations organized by women against harassment.
    I’m sorry about your bad experience. Egypt is one of the most beautiful places you can visit. But my recommendation for any woman who wants to visit Egypt is not to go alone. You need to have a male companion, be part of a tourist group or have a tour guide.

  28. Jordanna May 12, 2014 at 6:27 am #

    When I went to Luxor, I covered myself shoulder to ankle in clothing. This didn’t stop the harrassment.
    I have red hair and I’m of a stocky size 14 build. This attracted ALOT of attention. I was 15 and with my parents when an old man starting telling me i looked like his sister and tried to guide me away from my parents.
    My dad is extremely worldly and experienced. He stepped in and all was well.
    the next day a boy about my own age grabbed me…
    that was it.
    my dad went crazy… and a crowd swarmed him everybody was shouting until an elderly man stepped in and scalded my dad hatefully. My dad explained that the boy grabbed me and he was disgusted because would never do that to an Egyptian woman. The man understood instantly and gave the boy a hard smack…
    Depending on where you go in the world the intensity of male attention will vary but its always there…I get the odd car horn back home in England, In Cambodia our tour guide was so respectful… Instead of asking my name he asked my dad on the sneaky what he may call me with his permission aha… In Egypt men asked me what colour my pussy was… This experience deeply shook me but also made me stronger and wiser. It certainly wouldn’t stop me going back because I met plenty of Egyptian people who were nothing but the kindest of souls. 3 years later I’m actually going back with my family this July.
    I feel your frustration. It’s immensely unfair.

  29. Robin August 5, 2014 at 11:55 am #

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and let me
    tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The problem is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about.
    I’m very happy that I came across this in my hunt for something concerning
    this.

  30. Feras December 5, 2014 at 1:12 am #

    Liz I will not talk much here. People have said whats enough to apologize to you on what happened. But what I can promise you is that I will do my best to let this story arrive to the Minister of Tourism by a way or another. I will just do my best!

    p.s. women here wear way lighter than what you were wearing even 🙂 but in the appropriate places 🙂
    Check this out:
    http://www.cairozoom.com/
    See? we’re not Afghanistan yet 😛

    The point is that maybe they don’t wear this in very public places like temples. However I’m sure this will be better handled in future as we go far from the chaos caused by the revolution days.

    Thanks,
    Feras

  31. Justicesupremo January 28, 2015 at 4:00 pm #

    Firstly, I recognise the Caleche boy. You can be grateful you got him and not his older Brother as then the sexual harassment would be unbearable. The young one is fine which although not the case with all young Caleche drivers, however they tend not to be as bad as their elders as age has its benefits in the manner of innocence. I had met the Brother Adli and his cousin Hassan. Hassan was young himself and although not without fault he kept his mind on the job. I have however recently watched some of my holiday video and discovered that he insulted me so now I have a different opinion of him and through that I will not give this family any of my business. In regards to girls, I can say from experience they have the same regard towards Egyptian girls who although wear the Nijab are not quite modestly dressed below the waist as they wear the tightest jeans they can get into which has the Egyptian boys comment to them as they pass. One time during the Ramadan celebrations of 2009 I was watching the Tannora (Whirling Dirvish) boys wanting to film it. It was absolutely hypnotic. An Egyptian friend asked to film it for me. I let him. When I played it back he played no attention to what was happening on the stage. He turned the camera on Egyptian girls in the crowd often zooming in on their rears. Some people in Aswan even asked me to bring some girls from England so they could have sex with them. Well, I don’t know any girls like that. I don’t know any girls full stop except on FB. They have on overt interest in porn. They are always showing me the porn on their phones even though I have no interest in Girls. Even a Policeman sat and boasted that he had 150 films on his phone. In a recent survey Egyptians were shown to be one of the top for searching for porn on the net. They tend to think that all Western women are highly sexual and available for sex. In regard to dress code I was there in the height of summer. It would be right to wear a T-Shirt, however I know from experience that when I wear T-Shirts I get shouted at “You Gay!” Well, I wore long sleeved shirts most of the time, and then one day I put on a T-Shirt. What happened? “You Gay!” So in a largely conservative country I have learned to gain respect through how I dress and how I conduct myself. My new style went down well as I accessorised. But we men do have it better. I could wear knee length shorts if I wished and it would not matter, however I tend to stick with my jeans and blend in. The harassment situation has grown worse since the revolution sadly. Caleche drivers desperate for business will swarm around those rare tourists. Men who are eager to feed their families and horse and in the souk men whose savings are depleted. Sadly many people share their stories on forums and pages like these. It is asked that Egyptians change before they scare away all of the tourists. Tone it down as many people share their stories and many read them and through reading them they are deterred from going to Egypt. So you need to curb your behaviour and respect the tourists whose money you need. This is the reality of the situation which Egyptians know better than most.

  32. evn March 18, 2015 at 1:37 pm #

    https://youtu.be/zOEeZMaDnzU This is how i feel in Egypt:

  33. Notanidiot May 15, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

    You should get a refund on your college degree. How did you expect Egypt to be? Do you not understand their culture? And bte, its not 2015 there, its 1436 there. They do not use the gregorian calendar because, wait…get this, its not a European based culture……

    • Egypt needs a feminist revolution November 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm #

      Actually as a place that has been dependent on tourists from Western countries, a popular vacation spot for People with money and education and class, one would assume that it would be free of such intense harassment, what I want to know is how have they been getting away with this behavior for so long???? I am booked to go to Cairo next week and this is much worse than I thought. I assumed if I stated covered I’d be left alone.

      And for the record, a hijab is not enough? God forbid a women want to wear a fitted pair of jeans instead of something a fat housewife from the 80s would wear! As a fanshion designer I would like to point out to men that we DO NOT just wear clothes a certain way to be sexy. Sometimes it’s the fashion, or in the case of Egypt, sometimes it’s just darn hot!!!

  34. Dr-Mohamed Ahmed May 23, 2015 at 8:41 am #

    Unfortunately, You are so Right..
    But you made a mistake that 2 lonely girls travel to Egypt on their own , it’s much safer that you make a friend in Egypt “even by online way” -preferred to be female friend- before going out there
    this female friend with some of her relatives or even male friends can help you so much on different aspects.
    *they will avoid you from getting fraud by unreasonable prices to the tourists
    *they have more sense of Nature of Egypt , where to go and where to avoid
    *you will feel much safer with them , as Egyptian people will respect that you are in company of a local citizen,let’s say afraid more than respect , afraid that a local citizen(your Friend) as they themselves know how to use the advantage of defending tourists when you got to police station or something like that because of a fight in case of worst scenarios , and local citizens have great fear of police & Authority
    However, with just easy precaution you will have much nicer , safer stay in Egypt as well as familiar & warm spirit with newly made friends
    I hope you do it again

  35. Erin July 14, 2015 at 9:17 am #

    Thanks so much for your honest account of your trip to Egypt. My husband and I are going this summer and I was planning to wear long skirts due to the heat but now I’m guessing I should wear pants. I’ve heard about the harassment of women and my experience may be a little different, at least I hope so, since I will be traveling with my husband. Again, thanks for the info!

  36. Nina October 1, 2015 at 7:40 pm #

    Hi Liz! Found this post while I was doing research in order to decide whether i want to travel to Egypt or not on my own. Really helpful, and with combination of latest events in Egypt (beheading of Croatian guy, plus shooting on Mexican tourists) along with standard harassment of female travellers i decided to skip it. Am sad, but although being a well travelled female i feel like i couldn’t cope with all that on my own what you describe here in your post! I will simply fly straight into Sudan.

  37. Greg October 5, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

    Your Hot. It’s too bad you can’t just ignor the men lol do you know how many women wish they had men doing that to them? Lol

  38. Trish Lashley November 7, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    Love how you turned what was at the time a terrible day into a hilarious account of your trip. It’s all about perspective! ! I told my husband to be prepared because we are going to Egypt next year no matter what. I was interested in how to dress when I came across your article. Thanks for the info and FABULOUS pics. I am even more excited now!!!

  39. Pam February 28, 2016 at 2:00 pm #

    Just got back two weeks ago – was there for 2 weeks. All the harassment issues still exist. Two main understandings I came back with; a)absolutely spring for an Egyptian guide – whether you are part of a tour or hire one for yourself. They know when things are not safe; where not to go; & what time of day to go, They can fend off the locals well & keep most of the harassment issues at abeyance. b) skip the craziness & filth of Cairo – but focus on the Lower Nile. The cruise, felucca sailings, and Nubian village visits made the trip – because the rest of the trip required a squad of Egyptian soldiers to escort us everywhere – we could be free in these places to enjoy the people & the sights.

  40. Cathie March 12, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    I want to go to Egypt very much and I have watched what the temperatures are in Cairo for months. It is not that hot in Jan and Feb. That is the time to go so you can enjoy all the magnificent sites in perfect comfort.
    Another thing I’d like to say is it would be smart to get enough rest before you go out. That way you are much more able to handle difficulties and have a good trip.

  41. Nour Eldeen Mohamed June 27, 2016 at 7:06 pm #

    As a male and as an Egyptian, I’m so sorry this happened to you Liz. I want you to know that not all male Egyptians are like that and believe if any educated Egyptian saw you in this situation, he’ll not hesitate to interfere. You did nothing wrong by wearing a dress, you have the right to wear anything you want and it wouldn’t have made a difference since Egyptian girls are getting harassed all the time even when they’re covered from head to toe. Perhaps, if you were with a male guide at the time, he’d insure safe travels for you. Again, sorry for the unpleasant experience. I really wish i could be there at the time to offer guidance and protection.

  42. Nifertiti July 19, 2016 at 12:25 am #

    If you travel with a man you will not get bother by other man . I’m half egyptian girl but Im born in canada so Im western women also. I went to egypt with my father I did not had too much problem. But yes it is preferable to cover yourself when you hang in big cities. I also went out alone there with my girl cousin and we did not got haress because we were dressing conservative. You have to act like them. If you go as tourist women you can get a tour guide not to be bother. I’m preparing to go back but alone this time but I will try to stay with my friends and familly all the time because I know It will be hard time if I hang alone there. But to be bother about buying things even if you are a man or woman they will harast you for sure because they are very poor and need money to eat. It is ennoying but we have to look trought this because egypt is such a wonderfull country with wonderfull and loving people. I’m totally in love with this country.

  43. Karen October 11, 2016 at 10:35 am #

    Great account. Hilarious in fact.
    I’m married to a wonderful Arab gentleman but I also know from personal experience including travels to Egypt and the ancient sites you’ve visited that pants too, I’m afraid, are not the answer to a woman tourist’s dilemma. They accentuate the female form to put it politely, even baggy pants accentuate a woman’s butt if you’re larger than tiny. You’d do well to copy a local. Take a look around you, just like knee length dresses (your knees were exposed actually), Arab women do not wear pants.
    Sad, I know, but the only solution is ankle length garb or if you really must wear pants then a long tunic covering the bottom has to follow. Until things change, that’s just the way it is. Will you still be hassled? Of course you will because you will still look like a tourist. Your European looks are a dead giveaway but at least it shouldn’t be so bad.
    Your blog is fantastic! Happy travels! xx

  44. Marie Berberich October 19, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

    I lived in Cairo for 2 years and 2 years in Luxor between 1983-1987. I was a single American woman. I was treated abominably. I was there 3 months when a soldier followed me into my apt house in broad daylight at pm and took his pants off in the vestibule. I was stoned by sn elderly woman from.her balcony, yelling at me what was I doing there. I was an AUC student. I was assaulted in the street by a man on a bike who grabbed my right breast and wrenched it. I was constantly harrassed.in the streets on a daily basis.

    • Katy November 2, 2016 at 11:31 am #

      I am currently on Cairo on a short vacation and can tell you I wanted out of here within 3 hours of landing. I am a blonde from Canada but currently working in Saudi Arabia. Still wearing my sack-like abaya when I first arrived I went for a walk on the evening and literally was cat-called by every man I walked by. It was soo unnerving. The next day I got pressured, lied to and ripped off at the pyramids. The third day I was followed by teenage boys at the museum trying to sneak a photo of me, and cat-called (doing this weird whispery literal cat calling thing) by the museum employees. In between tourist sites I am just hiding at my hotel and starving because it’s too uncomfortable to walk the streets even wearing full coverage clothes and a scarf over my hair. The pyramids were cool but I’m not recommending this place to any woman. The men here need to learn manners and respect or else this place should remain starving for tourists. The fact that I’m more comfortable in Saudi Arabia should say a lot. I even tried to rebook my flight out for earlier. Can’t wait to leave, the most oppressive Islamic country in the world is more comfortable for a woman than Egypt.

  45. Marie Berberich October 19, 2016 at 7:49 pm #

    The main problem with Egypt is that men can’t afford to marry until they are over age 30 – so they go without sex until then unless they work in tourism or otherwise “get lucky”. Now it is next to impossible to get married as few people have work to save to get key money to buy a flat – which must be done before marriage. So now starts the public rapes as they have totally lost their minds in a marriageless and sexless existence with no hope of things ever getting better until the Egyptian economy massively improves.

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