Gorgeous ‘Cairo Time’ makes me want to pack my bags for Egypt

September 8, 2010

I can't rave enough about this gorgeous film (or its gorgeous co-star Alexander Siddig, my new foreign-man crush). Ladies, this film is a MUST-SEE!

I can't rave enough about this gorgeous film (or its gorgeous co-star Alexander Siddig, my new foreign-man crush). Ladies, this film is a MUST-SEE!

Imagine hanging out in Cairo with THIS beautiful man (Sudanese-born actor Alexander Siddig, who plays Tareq) at your side. I'd never want to go home!

Imagine hanging out in Cairo with THIS beautiful man (Sudanese-born actor Alexander Siddig, who plays Tareq) at your side. I'd never want to go home!

After spending almost NO time at the cinema this summer, I’m on another film kick. Forget “Eat Pray Love”  as the so-called thoughtful “chick flick” of the season. For me, the UrbanTravelGirl must-see movie is “Cairo Time,” an absolutely breathtaking film that places the ancient-yet-modern and chaotic Egyptian city of Cairo in a starring role.

I recently raved about “Cairo Time” in “TCW Travel Connection,” the blog I write for the monthly Today’s Chicago Woman magazine. (I hope you’ll check it out!) But beyond making me think long and hard about the movie’s central premise—that “sometimes you need to forget the rules and follow your heart”—and inspiring me to see it twice, this travelogue of a film has me SERIOUSLY thinking about booking a trip to Cairo.

As I’ve said before, even I think it’s a shame that I’ve traveled countless times to Europe but have yet to set foot on the African continent. And while South Africa and Senegal also are on my visit-Africa “wish list,” Egypt’s always been at the top.

I’ve already started checking out flights between Chicago and Cairo, trying to figure out which of American Airlines’ partner airlines fly there so I can trade in some hard-won frequent-flyer miles. I haven’t yet checked out places to stay, but when on the road in foreign countries, I try to avoid large American-branded hotels. Perhaps a small locally owned boutique place, a seaside resort, or even a last-minute all-inclusive might work. But the point is to GET THERE!! My mom has always talked of wanting to visit Egypt, but has frequently deferred the dream because of fears of terrorism. I’m hoping to talk her into going, as we’re far safer on the streets of Cairo than on the South Side of Chicago!

So here’s the deal: you guys know I love traveling alone. But tell me—if you’ve been to Egypt (or even LIVED there!), is it a bad idea for a single woman to go strolling the streets of Cairo by herself, or does the city just get bad PR for that? (If you watch “Cairo Time,” you’ll see leading lady Patricia Clarkson frequently harassed—but she’s blonde and doesn’t cover her hair. At least I’d blend in much better with my Egyptian brothers and sisters!) Is it a place you’d wholeheartedly recommend?

Let me know what you think!

(This post is supported by Luxury Villas Maui.)

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17 Comments Leave a Comment

  • 1. Bonnie DeShong  |  September 8, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Cairo is a must see on anyone’s bucket lists. It is such a mixture of history and present, ancient and new, religion and romance. The food is awesome, the pyramids are breathtaking, and the people are warm. When you go, do not leave without taking a cruise on the Nile.

  • 2. This Time Now  |  September 8, 2010 at 11:26 pm

    Oh. My. Goodness.
    The male actor, Mr. Siddig, is enchanting. Dark-haired men, foreign, with dark eyes AND tall: Home, Jeeves! LOL! Truly, my ideal. Thank you, had not heard of this movie, but will make sure to see it now. I, like you have been all over Europe and have never step foot on the African continent. I believe my first visit will be to Morocco. I love the food and the design.

    Go for it!


  • 3. Vanessa  |  September 9, 2010 at 3:02 pm

    Hmmm, I only spent a week there, but I can say that I won’t be going back. I was CONSTANTLY yelled at, touched (!), and discriminated against. Egypt seems to, like many places, has a definite bias against darker skin. I was without male companionship for three days and it was horrible. Vendors tried to charge me four times what they would charge an Egyptian man and I almost had to throw down in the street because of stray hands! So, yeah, I am good as far as Egypt is concerned. But, this was only my experience.

  • 4. urbantravelgirl  |  September 9, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    Hey there, Felicia — glad I could turn you on to a great film! You’ll have to holler back and let me know what you think. And fine Alexander is worth seeing the movie again and again and again…. I’m serious — if I encountered a man that fine and gentlemanly, America would NEVER see me again!


  • 5. This Time Now  |  September 10, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Maureen, I FEEL YOU! LOL!
    I would have to send my Mom and brother two plane tickets in time for the wedding in Cairo. America what? America who? Please.

  • 6. Lisa Lenoir  |  September 11, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    I will definitely check it out. You know I am ready to be transported!

  • 7. Kelly E. Carter  |  September 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Maureen, you know I travel solo anywhere at the drop of a hat but years ago I was warned not to go to Egypt alone. But this was a very long time ago, in the early 90s. I’d like to think that things have changed. Vanessa how long ago were you there?

  • 8. urbantravelgirl  |  September 21, 2010 at 4:19 am

    My downtown Chicago hairdresser is Egyptian and FROM Cairo, and he insisted that I’d be FINE traveling there by myself. I’d HOPE he wouldn’t steer me wrong. And as he told me, I’d be safer in CAIRO than I am in Chicago, and KNOW he’s right about that!

    I’ve always figured Egypt would be one of the FEW places I’d actually travel on a tour (generally I don’t like being bothered with more than a few people), but I’m always up for an adventure. I’d almost RATHER go by myself just to see how it goes. Again, I think it depends on how culturally sensitive one tries to be. If we show up without a hijab (head scarf) and go running around half-dressed, we can’t be surprised if we draw unwanted attention!


  • 9. Jai  |  October 2, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    I am currently living and working just outside of Cairo in Shiekh Zayed. I feel really safe walking around on my own and have rarely been harrassed. It actually seems that I am more ignored than anything. When I travel around Cairo on my own I get no remarks but when I travel with my white friend, of the pale, pale skin and dark curly hair, she is constantly approached, touched inappropriately and harassed. Cairo is a wonderful city with so much deep history and truly friendly people. Definitely visit if you can, just know that the standards of beauty lean towards white skin and long straight hair. Darker skinned are though of as the maid, the nanny or some other kind of help. Interestingly enough I get a lot of yells of AFRICA. Seems like folks aren’t aware that Egypt is in Africa and they are more African than I can claim to be.

  • 10. urbantravelgirl  |  October 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    Hi there, Jai — and thanks for your insightful comments about Cairo!! I’m sure I would have blog posts for WEEKS after a visit there… sounds like it’ll be a serious “cultural experience!” But that’s a trip that some Egyptians have believed the hype that their country is somewhere OTHER than in Africa — of course that myth had to be perpetrated against them and other African diaspora folks over the centuries to justify the exploitation of the continent and people from it.

    When I decide to head that way, I’ll be sure to drop you a note — would be GREAT to meet in person!


  • 11. khalilah  |  October 18, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Hi there. I was in cairo from Sept 18-27. Loved it but i wouldn’t recommend going there alone, esp for your first time. I am American of some African descent and people thought i was Egyptian there and they were respectful because i always had my tour guides with me who were men. they treated me like a princess. I went there by myself but booked a small tour company to show me around and i got a great deal. I was really uncomfortable at first but once i had a chance to really talk with the egyptian folks i was blown away by their kindness. but yes there are a lot of hustlers there so you have to be careful. also during my tour, my tour company was so damn nice. I will shamelessly promote these guys. Habibitours…. Anyways I live in Japan and its hard enough finding folks to go on vacation with you… But I had an awesome time and the guy who was apointed to show me around, …. my tour guide who is also an Egyptologist… is now my bf. woooh lol Who knows how that will go but at least I had a fackin awesome time in Egypt.

  • 12. Nicole B  |  November 1, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    I am a young, blonde woman who lived in Cairo for a year and I just had to speak up. Egypt is amazing, and Cairo is one of the most exciting and interesting cities I’ve ever been to and I encourage you to go.

    But the “Cairo Time” story is pretty much a myth. In fact, some of my friends and I saw a preview for the movie while in Cairo and laughed for a while at how misleading it was.

    In my experience, the attention I received as a young, fair skinned, fair haired woman was overwhelming and tiresome. I speak pretty good Arabic and was comfortable telling men off when they harassed me. Sometimes their comments were funny, or mildly flattering, but more often I found the attention extremely negative. Men often followed me down the street for blocks asking me for my number or to marry them, and a few even asked me for sex. One of my friends dated an Egyptian for a bit, but unlike in Cairo Time, the cultural gap was too vast: he expected them to get married after only a few weeks.

    As someone who knows the area pretty well, I would never travel by myself in Egypt- especially if you don’t know Arabic.

    Sorry for the harsh reality, but you have to be safe! As long as you have a couple traveling companions, you’ll have an incredible time!

  • 13. urbantravelgirl  |  November 7, 2010 at 4:42 am

    Ciao, Nicole — SHUKRAN! for sharing your perspective. Yeah, after reading the posts women like you have added, I think Egypt is one of those places where even I — Ms. Independent — will join up with a small tour or have to hire a male tour guide. And I know only the basic pleasantries in Arabic, so there’s no way I could tell anyone off in his native language!

    I really DO hope to get to Cairo some day, so I shall report back!


  • 14. Sharon  |  November 11, 2010 at 7:32 am

    Thank you for posting on this film. I’m going to track it down. I’ve always wanted to visit Egypt. In fact, I harbor some guilt. When I was in Crete years ago, I toyed with taking the ferry to Cairo and didn’t. Bad move!
    My nephew visited Cairo. I’ll send you his e-mail and maybe he can advise.

  • 15. Ms Black Travel  |  November 18, 2010 at 4:45 am

    I’ve never been before but I’ve heard the good and the bad. I guess the only way to really know is to check it out. For me personally its not somewhere that I dream of going to…

  • 16. Charis Ambrose  |  February 14, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I really am enjoying your web log I observed it via bing today.

  • 17. urbantravelgirl  |  February 15, 2011 at 6:20 pm

    Muchas gracias for visiting, Charis!!


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