Off to Egypt: A Little Bit of Work and Play

We’re headed again to Egypt, this time to experience a taste of what it can offer in the way of adventure and adrenaline travel.

We will also present at the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) Travel and Media conference. There, we will tie a real-time case study of this Egypt experience together with some of our prior travel experience to demonstrate the value to destinations of digital storytelling and engaging travel bloggers during challenging news cycles.

Great Sphinx of Giza in late afternoon light. #egypt
Great Sphinx of Giza, Instagram style.

During our last visit to Egypt in December 2011, outside of another conference where we presented, our focus was Alexandria, Cairo and the pyramids nearby.

For this, our return trip, we’ll head in the direction of the Red Sea to experience something a little different. Here’s just a sample:

  • A hike through Wadi Al-Hitan (Valley of the Whales), a UNESCO site outside of Cairo, where we’ll be able to see ancient shark and whale fossils amidst the modern-day desert. Sites like these indicate the sweeping geological changes our world has gone through over time. Climate change has a long history, regardless of the cause.
  • Adventure sporting at the Red Sea city of Hurghada. In addition to kite surfing and parasailing, we hope to get a little down and dirty with a quad bike safari. To allow our adrenaline to settle, some much-needed spa time – yes, that incudes Dan, too — will follow.
  • A visit to Marsa Alam, a town that sits on the edge of the Arabian Desert and the Red Sea. We’ll enjoy a Red Sea diving outing just before the conference portion of our trip begins.

We will also enjoy these adventures with our colleague and friend, Erica Hargreave of Roamancing and Ahimsa Media. During our last visit to Cairo, we rode camels together, struggled equally to make Egyptian flatbread, and helped fend off Erica’s Egyptian admirers. Like us, Erica embraces the unexpected and is up for spontaneity along the way.

Audrey and Erica at Saqqara Pyramid - Egypt
Erica and Audrey at Saqqara Pyramid near Cairo. Love the red boots!

Finally, we look forward to sharing all of this with you in real time on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and this blog.

UNTWO Travel and Media Conference: A Real-Time Digital Storytelling Case Study

In case you are wondering how we’re going to tie our Egyptian adventures into a UNWTO conference presentation, there is a method to the madness.

The most relevant background: an article we published earlier this year which encapsulates our thoughts regarding the perception of travel safety in some select current event flashpoints that we have visited in the last year. The piece is entitled How Travel Beats the Media Fear Machine.

Within the last 14 months, we have visited Iran and have also cooperated with tourism boards in Jordan, Greece, Mexico, and now Egypt. At times, each has faced tourism industry challenges due to travel safety and security concerns related to current events and the resulting media coverage and prevailing public perception that followed.

So when we heard that this year’s UNWTO’s 2nd Travel and Media Conference would focus on the theme of “Partnering with Media during Challenging Times” it struck us as a great fit for the way we view the world, travel through it, engage with it, and report on our experiences in it.

Together with Erica, we will share all of this in a discussion entitled “Real Time Digital Storytelling for Destinations During Challenging News Cycles” on the first day of the UNWTO Travel and Media conference (April 26, 2012).

Get involved!

We also hope you will engage in this digital Egyptian adventure to help demonstrate the power digital storytelling and delivering messages based on personal experience.

If you are curious about Egypt, or you have memories and content from a previous trip to Egypt that you’d like to share or highlight, we invite you to:

  • Follow the hashtag #WeVisitEgypt on your social media networks. We will continually update Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram (@uncornered_market) throughout the journey. Please retweet or share what you find engaging and fun.
  • Ask us questions and interact with us through our social media networks. You can find us on @UMarket and you can find Erica at @Roamancing.
  • If you’ve been to Egypt, or you’re there now, please share your own photos, video and blog posts from Egypt using the #WeVisitEgypt hashtag. Not only will we do our best to retweet and highlight your content, but the Egyptian Tourism Authority (ETA) may also do the same.

However you decide to take part, we thank you for being part of our #WeVisitEgypt adventure!

Camel Head and Guide - Giza, Egypt
Welcome aboard!

Disclosure: Our trip to Egypt and the UNWTO conference is being provided by Egyptian Tourism Authority. As always, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own.

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Comments

  1. says

    Sounds like a great trip, fascinating to hear the strategies tourism managers are using to combat all the negative press. Will be following closely on Twitter!

  2. says

    @Ryan: Thanks for following along closely on Twitter and supporting our trip! Should be interesting for everyone at the conference – to learn about traditional media strategies, as well as how to work with digital media and storytelling.

  3. says

    I’m really looking forward to getting your posts on Egypt! We were there just before the mass protests and I’m wondering how the country is faring now.

    What struck me most about Egypt was how diverse the people were in beliefs, customs, cultures, and more. The layers of modern day experience there ran five thousands years deep.

    Happy travels and keep us posted!

  4. says

    I’m planning to go to Egypt in February next year and look forward to hearing all about your adventures and how the political scene is.

  5. Mike says

    I just got back from a fantastic trip to Egypt. If you can squeeze it in go camping in the Western/White deserts, truly amazing scenery.

    Can’t wait to go back!

  6. says

    Wow, what a great opportunity! I loved your travels through Iran and your experiences really give you some insight into traveling into “dangerous” countries. This sounds like the perfect partnership and hope that this will benefit travelers and some discussion will come out of this conference.

  7. says

    @Gary: We have to give credit to ETA for suggesting a visit to Wadi Al-Hitan as we hadn’t heard much about it before. Really looking forward to it!

    @Kristina: Yes, it’s hard to get more ancient than the Egyptians…

    @Andi: Aren’t the red boots fabulous?? Erica even has a red book dance…maybe she’ll share it on this trip as well.

    @Sutapa: Thanks for getting on Twitter to follow along with this #WeVisitEgypt trip! Really appreciate all your support! And, all your great questions too.

    @Barbara: We last visited Egypt in December 2011 during a second wave of protests on Tahrir Square. The mood of most people we met was that they were anxious for the elections to be done with and to get stability. Tourism numbers were *very* low, so we had some big sites to ourselves. While nice for us, we really felt for all the people who depend on tourism for their livelihoods – really a difficult time for them.

    Your comment about the diversity in Egypt is spot on. We also felt the same – so many layers, contradictions, and complexities.

    @Liz: Great to hear that you’re planning a trip to Egypt next February. We’ll be sure to post updates on what the feeling is in Egypt towards travelers and with current events.

    @Mike: Thanks for the tip for camping in the Western/White deserts. This trip already has a pretty full itinerary, but this is just another reason to return in the future! Glad you enjoyed your recent trip!

    @Jeremy: Thanks! This theme of trying to put a “human” face and perspective based on our first hand experiences is one that it really important to us. We’re hoping that this partnership will raise awareness to how travelers can sort through what they see on mainstream media to find out whether a place is truly dangerous…or just has bad press. We’ll be sure to share discussions from the conference and throughout the trip. Thanks for your support!

  8. says

    Agreed that first-hand accounts help combat people’s fear. I’m always shocked at how many people are afraid of Mexico or all of Latin America without knowing it’s much safer than places they would consider going to.

  9. says

    Wadi el Hitan is definitely my favorite 1 day excursion from Cairo! It’s great to camp there and go sandboarding… all this just about 2 hours away from Cairo!
    Oh I can’t wait to go back:)

  10. says

    Amazing work you are presenting and I wholeheartedly support your theory! So wanted to let you know to update your twitter handle. You forgot the N! Want to make sure you get your followers!

  11. says

    Ahh, Egypt. There’s obviously lots of things there you won’t see anywhere else. The driving drove me a bit insane though. I’ve found the best time to visit a country is after a bit of unrest, because you’ll have the place to yourself! I went to Argentina a year after the 2001 riots, and had a great time there. Enjoy!

  12. says

    From the sound of it, you all have really been blessed with great opportunities to see the world. I went to Hurghada almost 15 years ago and one of the highlights of the trip was scuba diving in the Red Sea. I actually recently heard that polution has become a real problem in the Red Sea and scuba diving isn’t what it used to be in or around Hurghada. I hope this isn’t the case – it was a wonderful experience when we went. If the rumors of polution aren’t accurate then I would highly recomend it.

  13. says

    Apologies for the late reply on these comments. It was a good – but rather busy – trip through Egypt!

    @Ayngelina: I couldn’t agree with you more! Before we went to Mexico earlier this year, all of our friends and family were worried for us and giving us the “it’s so dangerous” speech. However, after we spent some time there and shared what life was like the perception changed completely and now those same people are thinking of vacations in Mexico. It’s great to see!

    @Giulia: Wadi El Hitan and the area around there was the highlight of this last visit to Egypt! I would have loved to have camped there like you did – loved the photo you shared on your blog of the campfire and stars. Next time we’ll have to stay overnight.

    @Nora: Thanks for your support and understand of the idea that first hand experiences are the best way to share and provide perspective of a place…and security fears.

    And yes, our twitter handle – uMarket – is rather confusing. Should have set it up differently years ago, but now we’re stuck with it :)

    @The Travel Tart: We joked with all the Egyptians we met that we felt safe….except when we were in the car. Cairo traffic is just horrible! And highway traffic can be hair-raising as well.

    Not only do you get the sites to yourself when you visit shortly after riots or some sort of event, but local people are usually so thankful that you are there that you get better service, too :) And, it’s good to help the local economy.

    @John: I’m really curious to know what Hurghada looked – and felt – like 15 years ago. These days it is quite built up with resorts stretching for many kilometers. We didn’t go scuba diving around Hurghada, but did spend some time swimming there and the water was surprisingly clear. However, we did hear that Marsa Alam is better for diving these days because the fish and shark populations have returned, perhaps because there are quite a few natural reserves now in the area. Egypt is trying to make some of these Red Sea resort towns “green” by reusing waste for energy and implementing other “eco” initiatives. I really hope it happens sooner rather than later….

    @Nicholas: It is incredible to think of all the manpower and ingenuity that went into building a pyramid, not to mention the sphinx and all the other great tombs.

  14. says

    I love your photo of the Sphinx and the birds on top. Looks beautiful. I have never been to Egypt, but really want to go. I’d really like Egypt to regain confidence of travelers again after the Arab spring and ongoing conflicts. But it will happen. Look at Thailand-the protests two years ago only damaged the tourism industry for a short while. So I have high hopes for Egypt too.

  15. says

    @Tammy: Now is as good a time as any to go to Egypt. Prices are as flexible as ever and tourist sites are nowhere near as packed as they usually are. Let’s hope Egypt does what it needs to do to continue to regain travelers’ confidence.

    Your comment about Thailand’s tourism industry bouncing back after their political unrest reminds me of this piece we wrote as perspective on that:
    http://www.uncorneredmarket.com/2010/04/thailand-and-kyrgyzstan-travel-media-fear/

  16. says

    Great pictures, and what an exciting journey you are embarking on. Any idea on the talking points you are going to attack during your conference? I’d be interested to see your take on real time digital story telling.

    Best of luck in your journey and travel safely!

    Ryan

  17. David says

    I really like that you all are providing a digital Egyptian adventure. The Red Sea is a great region to explore. One thing that would be incredible to include is to show just how green and verdant the Nile River delta is around Cairo. Many people’s perceptions of Cairo are just solely of desert, which it is of course. It would be interesting though to include some pictures of the agriculture and lush scenery outside of just the desert!
    Sincerely,
    Austin passport

  18. says

    @Ryan: We’re still waiting for a video of the presentation, but you can see a copy of our slideshow from our presentation at the UNWTO conference here: http://www.slideshare.net/UncorneredMarket/unwto-tourism-media-conference-realtime-digital-storytelling-for-destinations-during-challenging-news-cycles

    As you see, we explained what digital storytelling was about, how it was effective not only in exposure, but in developing real time conversations about important issues. And, we shared the reach of this through some statistics. This was important as many people didn’t understand what bloggers did the extent of our communities. We were able to change a few perceptions on bloggers and our professionalism. Let us know what you think of the presentation.

    @David: The digital storytelling Egyptian adventure was a great way to share Egypt travel experiences and get the discussion started in real time about safety and other concerns. We didn’t visit the Nile River Delta, but did go out to Fayoum Oasis where we saw the contrast with the green, lush agriculture and surrounding deserts.

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