De-Brief of Another Unauthorized SOM International Experience: Egypt

March 25, 2008

Oh hello again. School is back in session and there are only 6 weeks of class left, but before we get back into it I thought I'd share some thoughts on spring break, one of the great luxuries of being in an MBA program. Unlike Yaz who participated in the "Understanding Global Financial Centers" trip, fellow SOM blogger Paul Ip and I took a somewhat different spring break and went to Egypt. How was it you might ask? Well, even with pretty lofty expectations the sights of Egypt did not disappoint. From the pyramids of Giza to the temples of Karnak, from hiking Mount Sinai to relaxing by the Mediterranean Sea along the Eastern Port of Alexandria, Egypt is a wonderfully fascinating country to visit. My biggest surprise was the unexpected low cost of the excursion. Our flight had a price tag of $900, shockingly the rest of the trip cost only $450 for a total of US$1350 for two weeks in Egypt. WAY below my back of the envelope budget while making initial plans. Food was very inexpensive (Falafels for about US$0.20-$0.30), and clean budget hotels cost us about $9.00 per night (per person). Given how easy it was to travel around the country and the super low cost of lodging, I'm surprised Egypt isn't more of a common destination for backpackers. Anyway as I always like to do, using the Yale SOM grading scheme I'll briefly comment on aspects of the trip warrant a "distinction" (top 10%):

  • Low Costs: Already mentioned, but important since it caught me so off guard. Street food is plentiful and delicious. If you have a brave stomach and are willing to eat like the locals, you can literally get by in Egypt on a food budget of US$2-3 per day.

  • Surprising "un-touristy" nature: Despite boasting so many amazing sights, Egypt does not feel very touristy. Sure, vendors are somewhat aggressive and want to sell you things, but overall, the sights feel authentic and undisturbed by the ugly scars of tourism.

  • Friendly locals: The Egyptian people are a bunch of jokers. They love to laugh and play pranks and have a very good sense of humor. Most of the locals actually seemed quite intrigued to see two Chinese guys walking around and would often gesture to us to join them for tea or offer us random food. It was amusing.

  • Islamic Cairo: Egypt is the first Islamic country I have ever visited and even after two weeks the "call to prayer" never got tiring. I also had the opportunity to visit several mosques, which was an element of the trip I didn't really think of when choosing Egypt as a travel destination.

  • Pyramids of Giza and Sphinx: Its the ultimate cliched site to visit in Egypt yet surprisingly the experience does not disappoint. Seeing the pyramids in person is awesome, the grandness of the structures inspiring.

  • Hiking Mount Sinai: While it's hardly "optimal" to wake up at 2am on your vacation for a morning hike up a mountain in darkness to catch the sunrise, the experience was worth it. The actual hike in darkness was pretty cool, and even though it started to rain just as the sun was coming up, it was a sight to behold. Having to bribe the police officer to let us hike alone (the police officer insisted that we needed a guide, despite no mention of this fact in the Lonely Planet book) was also a pretty funny episode for me.

  • Temples like Medinat Habu: By the end of the trip we were a little "templed" out, but all of the temples we visited were amazingly well preserved. To stand in these great structures and see the level of detail of the hieroglyphics and statues was exquisite... hard to believe some of the things we saw were over 2000 years old.

Overall this was definitely a spring break to remember. It caps a very fruitful two years of MBA-related travel experiences, and I'm really glad I went, as it might be some time before I have the opportunity to travel again. On the advice of the office for international students at Yale, I probably won't be traveling outside of the US until the H1-B visa process is concluded. I start work at the end of July and the H1-B process ought to be adjudicated by June, which leaves a window to travel, albeit a small one. However, even if Egypt is the last trip I take for a while, my travel adventures will have gone on hiatus on a very high note. That's all I have for now. Stay tuned for more blogging as I chronicle the final 6 weeks of class here at Yale SOM. In the meantime, some select images from the trip are in the collage below. Enjoy!

Categories

About the author

Patrick Ma