CURLS IN EGYPT

By Jennifer Eberhart Egypt: the land of the pharaohs.  The pyramids, the Sphinx, the temples … the sandy hair? Ugh.

After a recent 9-day visit to Egypt, I was amazed by the beauty and antiquity of the world around me.  I was also amazed at the effect the Egyptian air had on my daily routine!

HAIR

The first thing I worry about when I travel is my hair, which happens to be a very thick, long mix of red curls and waves.  Normally I wash my hair only every few days, but with the air so dry and dusty in the near East, I washed up at least every day or two.  Conditioner is a necessity, which helped get all those tough kinks and knots out!  To try to ward against all the dust and sand flying through the air straight to my hair, I kept it up every day in either a ponytail, bun, or braid.  Some girls also brought along a scarf that they tied their hair up in, which was quite effective.  For the most part though, you just have to accept the fact that your hair attracts the desert air.

SKINCARE

Because Egypt is so dry and sunny, it’s important to always moisturize and ALWAYS wear sunblock.  Hands and face are especially vulnerable to the arid atmosphere.  Cities in Upper Egypt (which happens to be in the south of the country because of the way the Nile flows) are even more susceptible to the harsh rays of the sun.  No wonder the ancient Egyptians worshipped the sun god!  On an adventure to deir el-Bahri, where Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple lies on the other side of the Valley of the Kings, the sun was particularly strong, and I was lucky to have had a scarf to wrap around my head and a light sweater to cover my shoulders so I wouldn’t get burned.

FASHION

If you’re planning on traveling to Egypt, make sure to bring modest clothing.  Egypt is a conservative, Muslim country and tourists who wander around in shorts and tank tops are not appreciated. I brought along light clothing, but items that would cover up bare arms and legs when necessary.  Light sweaters are a necessity there, not only as a courtesy to the culture, but also as protection from the sun and cooler nighttime temperatures.

As a woman, it is even more important to dress appropriately.  Traditional Muslim women cover up their entire bodies when in public, only allowing their eyes to be visible.  American women are easily spotted, so items like long skirts or khaki pants combined with three-quarter sleeves or a shirt and sweater are perfect.  Scarves are also useful there, which can be used to cover your hair if you’re visiting a mosque, or as added security against the sun.  Good walking sneakers are also a must for your Egyptian ensemble – make sure you bring a pair that you don’t mind getting dirty; it’s very sandy and dusty!

HISTORY LESSON

The cities I visited included Cairo (the modern capitol of the country, located towards the north, just under the Nile Delta), Abu Simbel (one of the southernmost cities where two temples built by Ramses II look out over the water), Aswan, Luxor, Thebes, Edfu and Kom Ombo (all ancient cities on the Nile in the south).  The weather in Egypt is much warmer than the United States, even though their seasons are the same as ours.  So their winter days are generally sunny with temperatures averaging about 75 degrees, nights averaging about 50.  Travel in the summer though, and the heat would be unbearably topping 100 degrees.

Get out your trusty map of Egypt and you’ll see that all of the major cities are clustered around water.  Zoom in on any other area of the country and you get… nothing.  Desert.  Sand.  The Greek historian Herodotus once stated, “Egypt is the gift of the Nile," and he’s right.  Without the life-giving waters of the Nile, there would be no Egypt.

All in all, my trip to Egypt was an amazing experience.  After I quickly figured out my beauty basics, I was able to appreciate the culture and history of this unique country.  The temples, tombs and mummies combined with the glistening waters of the Nile, the brilliant sun and the sandy desert are all what makes Egypt so alluring.  It was everything I expected and more, a clash between ancient and modern.  Can’t wait for my second visit! -Jenn