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Senior escapes ‘cultural bubble’ in solo trip to Egypt for spring break

Taking advantage of an opportunity to check another country off her bucket list, Oklahoma Christian University senior Allison Robinett traveled to Egypt over spring break, where her fascination with archaeology, ruins and the histories of ancient civilizations came to life.

“Egypt has been at the top of my bucket list since before I can remember,” Robinett said. “This past summer, I started Googling flights and tours of Egypt, mostly just daydreaming and to see how much it would actually cost. I found that it would not be all that expensive for me to go and the dates of the tour lined up perfectly with OC’s spring break, so it could not have been more perfect.”

Robinett flew alone, but met up with the rest of her group at the hotel once she arrived in Egypt. The tourist organization she connected with, G Adventures, provides participants with different styles, lengths and activity levels of trips around the world based on personal preference.

“I went with one that was labeled ‘18 to 30-somethings,’ which basically meant that it was a younger crowd and you would have people there relatively close to your age,” Robinett said. “I did not know who was going to be there ahead of time, but I figured that since it was an eight-day trip, I would surely make friends. Our group had 16 people in it, so it was a great size and full of people from all over the globe. Some were from Germany, Sweden, England, South Africa, Scotland; getting to meet all of these people and comparing countries, customs and food was amazing and something I will never forget.”

During her eight-day trip, Robinett stayed in Cairo for two days before boarding an overnight sleeper train traveling to the city of Aswan for a few days. After sailing down the Nile River on a felucca boat, Robinett and her group boarded a bus to travel to Luxor.

“The pyramids and the sphinx were the first things that we got to see, and we even got to go inside one of the smaller pyramids,” Robinett said. “We also got to see a ton of different temples dedicated to various Egyptian gods, goddesses and kings/queens. One of my favorites was the Temple to Abu Simbel, which is a temple carved into the side of a mountain that was built during the reign of Ramesses II, also known as the pharaoh mentioned in Exodus.”

“Due to the plans of construction for the Nile dam, this temple would have been flooded and lost, so in 1968, an artificial hill was made not too far away from the original site and the entire temple was relocated to safety. They literally took this massive temple carved in a mountain and moved it. I still cannot wrap my head around it.”

While Robinett was in Aswan, she was pickpocketed, and lost her entire wallet, including her driver’s license, debit/credit cards and cash, when it was stolen out of her bag by a woman selling papyrus. According to Robinett, however, this ended up being one of her favorite moments from her time in Egypt.

“What made it a good moment was that the people in my tour group who I had met just three days earlier were there with me the whole time, helping me as much as they could and offering to pay for the rest of my trip while I was there,” Robinett said. “Our tour guide was also amazing and did everything in his power to help me get everything back. I ended up having my wallet with all of my cards returned to me, just without the cash. There were Egyptians that I did not know helping me and apologizing for what happened as well. They were all so ashamed that someone had done that and kept reassuring me that ‘this is not what Egypt is like.’”

According to Robinett, although Egypt sometimes has the reputation of being dangerous, especially for women travelers, she never felt unsafe, even after being pickpocketed.

“There are tourist police everywhere you go whose specific job is to make sure that the tourists are being treated well, and if you ever had an issue, you could always go to them for help,” Robinett said. “I honestly felt safer walking down the streets of the markets at night there than I would have in the States. I am a firm believer in not letting fear keep you from doing what you truly want to do or going places you want to go.”

For Robinett, the last two “big” trips she has taken, Israel and now Egypt, have been by herself, meeting up with groups along the way. While she said it was a little nerve wracking the first time, she said by traveling alone, she has had some of the best experiences of her life, met incredible people from all over the world and has conquered many of her fears.

“When you travel and experience other places, your eyes are truly opened to the world around you,” Robinett said. “People joke about the ‘OC bubble’ all the time, but I would argue that the ‘bubble’ a lot of us are in is so much bigger than that. I think many people get trapped inside a ‘cultural bubble’ and forget that there are other ways of doing things. I believe it is so important to get out there and experience as much of God’s creation as you can.”

For anyone considering a trip to Egypt, Robinett said it is important to remember that the country’s economy heavily relies on tourism and, with the drop of tourists after 9/11, the civil war and riots, the economy has taken a large hit.

“Now that the government is stable and tourism is starting to pick up again, all of the locals are so excited to see people like us,” Robinett said. “I like to joke that I came back with 50 marriage proposals and was offered over one million camels and Lamborghinis. Egypt truly is a safe place and I think that everyone needs to go at some point in their life to see all of the beautiful things that this country has to offer.”

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