You guys are the Perception Busters.
— A comment on our Facebook page in response to our arrival in Cairo earlier this week. And a label we're happy to embrace.
Egypt? But isn't it unsafe now?
When we shared with our friends and readers that we were headed to Egypt, we could understand their fear. After all, recent news has been full to overflowing with images — protesters and demonstrations, violence and crackdowns — pouring in from Cairo's Tahrir Square. Based on that newsreel alone, you might be inclined to think that all of Cairo — and perhaps the whole of Egypt — is under attack and up in flames.
We'd like to offer an alternative story, straight from our experience on the streets, straight from the people we met during our first days in Egypt. We offer this not to refute the violence that has ensued on Tahrir Square, but to suggest that it's not the only thing happening in Egypt right now, that life carries on for many in rather ordinary ways, and that visitors like us are genuinely welcomed with curiosity and warmth.
So while some people imagine we might be dodging bullets, we're actually dodging people approaching us and giving us rounds of freshly-made bread on the street.
The Egyptians we met weren’t only warm, they were downright kind. They also wanted to ensure we were safe.
“Egypt is safe for you. Just stay away from Tahrir Square,” some would say in response to our visit. But they’d finish with “Welcome to Egypt. Have a nice time.” And these weren’t people anywhere near the tourist sites, but people we happened to meet in the old town of Alexandria.
Here are just a few of their faces.