I was terrified to visit Egypt, not because it was a destination outside of my comfort zone or because of the social anxiety that comes with meeting new people, but because it’s illegal for me to exist there.
What do I mean by that? We’re a married gay couple. Egypt is one of the countries that criminalizes LGBT people.
The week before my wife and I were set to embark on our mission for The Travel Project, Egypt was in the headlines for arresting more than 70 people at a concert for flying a pride flag.
This week we’re living with no regrets while on our @contiki tour of Egypt. Yesterday was one of the most amazing travel days I’ve ever had. We started in Cairo – a city with 20 million people. We visited Tahrir Square and saw the birthplace of the Arab Spring. We learned about modern day Egyptians and what life is like in the mega city. Fun fact; some folks tend chickens, goats, and other livestock on the roof top of their apartment buildings. We also toured the ancient Egyptian Museum to visit the mummies and of course went to see the world famous pyramids of Giza. Watch my stories for more behind the scenes of our journey with #TheTravelProject.
Egypt is far from alone in their anti-LGBT policies. Most people have a perception that the world is divided into groups of “gays are welcome” and “death to gays” when in reality the issues are much more complex. Nearly half of the world’s cultures and wonders – or to be exact, 42.3% – are in areas with anti-LGBT laws. More if we’re including places that don’t have anti-LGBT laws but do have anti-LGBT social sentiments. Just because a place has no explicit laws on the books, doesn’t mean it’s safe or accepting of LGBT people.
While the pyramids are definitely the most famous of Egypt’s cultural icons – they weren’t my favorite. This tour is filled with highlights every single day. We visited the temple at Luxor in the evening while it was illuminated in glowing lights. We rode a traditional donkey wagon into a local village to have tea and break bread with an Egyptian family. We ate shawarma, falafel, tzatziki, and pitas until we were stuffed while we watched the locals in their hajjibs, turbans, and tunics around us finish their meals with Egyptian coffee and shisha. I can’t wait to publish my insider’s guide to #ContikiEgypt and show you all my favorite nooks and crannies from my Egypt memories book. This trip has sealed the deal for me – we’ll definitely explore more of the Middle East and have another #Contiki adventure. #TheTravelProject
I wanted to go to Egypt because I take The Travel Project’s intention of discovering the ways travel can make you a better person, to heart. My wife and I run a popular travel blog, Dopes on the Road. I knew I wanted to document our experiences as an LGBT couple in Egypt so we could spread the word and encourage others about traveling in anti-LGBT countries, but wanted to do it from first hand experience and not just based on what we’d heard from other people.
The day our flight took off to Cairo, I had the most intense anxiety. I was buckling my seatbelt on the plane and thinking about how my androgynous wife would be received. Right before we took off, she looked over at me and said, “what will we do if we’re arrested?”
We were terrified, but we had to go through with the trip because we believe that travel should be accessible to our community. Egypt is home to some of the world’s most incredible wonders and LGBT people should be able to experience that. I’m so happy we decided to go through with it because Egypt is rich in culture, history, and was one of the most amazing travel experiences we’ve ever had.
@lindscale and I have been in Egypt this week exploring ancient ruins and learning about modern Egyptian life with @contiki its been one of the best trips we’ve taken. We’ve met so many lovely people and experienced some of the most incredible ruins of Egypt. You can take this exact same trip and retrace our journey. Want to travel like us? Check out six-two’s community contributors program at Contiki.com/thetravelproject where you can submit your own content, get published on six-two and potentially earn free travel with Contiki.
I felt 100% safe and comfortable with our Contiki tour group. Sherif our Trip Manager, went out of his way to make sure we were taken care of and felt at home.
There were times we decided to cover our hair to attract less attention and we were careful not to display subtle signs of affection. But for the most part, we acted as we normally would.
Lindsay still wore clothing from the men’s department for most of the trip and we hung out together for the entire time, even sharing a bed in our hotel rooms.
The Egyptian side of the Red Sea has some of the best snorkeling I’ve ever experienced. Our @contiki group spent the day swimming around and watching giant schools of fish do their thing. It was the perfect end to an incredible trip. I’m thinking about learning to scuba dive. Anyone done it before? Where’s the best place to get certified? #TheTravelProject
I don’t expect every queer person to travel to the far reaches of the globe or visit anti-LGBT countries like Egypt, but I do hope that Lindsay and I are able to touch the hearts of the people we meet around the world and open their minds to supporting our community.
Our goal is to unlearn fear and hate and teach kindness and respect.
What we’re doing isn’t special or unique to us. Anyone in our community can spread love and help touch the lives of those they meet on the road. Most people are afraid to go beyond their comfort zones which is 100% normal – you don’t have to start in the remote corners of the world. Want to ease in slow and take the pressure off? Try travelling with a Contiki tour group…
Meg & Lindsay Cale travelled to Egypt with The Travel Project, to explore whether this region is a viable travel option for LGBTQ travellers. If you have are an LGBTQ traveller and you have a story you would like to share with the six-two community, visit our community contributor program.