For over a century people came from all over the world to see Egypt's amazing tombs and temples. About 10 years ago a tourist group was attacked, and tourists were understandably reluctant to visit for a while thereafter. Tourism is Egypt's number one source of income, so the government instituted much-improved security for tourists. Today the Tourism and Antiquities Police are omnipresent and alert. Hotel entrances had metal-detectors. An armed plain-clothes guard accompanied us everywhere we went. We traveled to and from the Dendera Temple in a police-escorted convoy. The stern of our cruise boat had a fixed gun that was manned by a policeman when we entered and left port. It was unfamiliar to see such heavily-armed policemen, but we always felt quite secure.
That said, Egyptians are much friendlier than Americans. People went out of their way to help. Egyptian tourists, fishermen, donkey-riders, farmers, merchants, and kids waved to us and called hello.
Most Egyptians are poor and some of the poorest are the attendants who clean the restrooms. The standard tip to a toilet attendant is one Egyptian pound – about 16 cents, so it's a good idea to have a few one-pound notes in your pocket. For some reason, banks and currency-exchange places are always out of these notes. Our guide told us that the only way to get one-pound notes was from a toilet attendant – one would think that the toilet attendant cabal controls this part of the currency!
Mecca (in Saudi Arabia) is the holy city of Islam. The second pillar of Islam is prayer and one should face Mecca when praying. To help one face the right direction, hotel room ceilings and airline flight trackers have arrows that point to Mecca. The fifth pillar of Islam is to make a pilgrimage to Mecca during your lifetime. In an agricultural village near the Valley of the Kings, a few houses proudly proclaimed their owners had already made pilgrimages. The doors and window coverings were painted turquoise, walls had descriptions of the trip, and some had drawings of airplanes depicting that part of the journey.
This is what happens when you fall asleep while typing....