Egypt may conjure up all kinds of associations, such as, walk like an Egyptian dance moves; the epic tale of Moses and his God who wouldn’t quit; Asterix & Obelix cartoons; movies like Death on the Nile (1978), Stargate (1994), The Mummy (1999), God’s of Egypt (2016) and XMen: Apocalypse (2016). But for me it evokes childhood aspirations of becoming an Egyptologist. Although my life didn’t set down on that path, Egypt still had a gravitational pull on my soul. I was blessed to be able to spend Christmas and New Years there recently. Our Topdeck tour covered the full range of the country, from Alexandria and Cairo in the north, along the Nile from Luxor and Aswan to Abu Simbel in the south, crossing the Suez Canal in the west, ending off with climbing Mount Sinai, pilgrimage to St Catherine’s Monastery, diving the Blue Hole and chilling at the beaches of Dahab. Egypt is indeed the crown of Mama Africa. Not only is a photo journal of this adventure long overdue I thought an interview with our tour guide, Mohamed Fouad (aka Medo), would be an ideal accompaniment.
1980: Born in Cairo, Egypt
1996: Graduated from El Tawfikya Secondary School, Cairo
2001: Graduated with honours for BSc in Tourism Guidance (Helwan University, Cairo)
2003: Started working with Topdeck Travel
2004: Graduate with a Masters in Egyptology (New College, Oxford)
2012: Started a PhD in Egyptology (New College, Oxford)
How long have you been a tour guide?
I am an Egyptian tour guide for more than 16 years.
What are some of the most moving moments for you in your job?
One of the greatest joys in my tourism work is seeing the wonder in the faces of clients marvelling at the many sites in Egypt. My work brings me great satisfaction.
Ancient Egypt captures the imagination of people the world over. However, what are some of the misconceptions that you have had to correct?
Ancient Egyptian civilization inspires many people but also raises questions about, for example, the provenance of the pyramids: was it built by the Jewish slaves from the Judeo-Christian tradition or by some intergalactic alien civilization? It takes some convincing through historical and archaeological proofs to show that it was more likely constructed by the ancient Egyptians. Another mystery surrounds the Exodus story – which pharaoh and dynasty did that story reflect on?
The focus of your PhD is women’s rights in pharaonic times. But wasn’t it just a ‘man’s world’?
My PhD focuses on women’s rights which is completely in keeping with the pharaonic civilization where women had pride of place. Women had many rights such as inheritance, managing the house and family finance, religious leadership as a priestess, freedom to marry and many others. Women in many parts of the world today are struggling for these very rights where in many respects it appears women in ancient Egypt were leagues ahead of their time.
What are your top 5 reasons to encourage everyone to visit Egypt at least once in their lifetime?
- Rich and ancient history spanning pharaonic, Greek, Roman, Coptic, Islamic, and modern influences
- Despite reports Egypt is a safe country with superbly hospitable people
- Incredible beaches and resorts by the Red Sea and the Mediterranean Sea
- Great deserts with beautiful landscapes
- Competitive prices and low cost of living
The Topdeck Pyramids & Beaches tour was indeed a 15-day whopper, but so worth it. The first part of the tour definitely felt like a sleep-deprived marathon on the best of days (necessary to pack in all the sites), which made the laid back beach portion of the latter half all the more magnificent. The tour had everything you would expect: pyramids and sphinxes, deserts and camel rides, hieroglyphs and papyrus, pharaohs and mummies, ancient gods and temples, felucca Nile cruises, Nubian villages and tempting markets. I would recommend this tour to anyone.