Dispatch, Egypt: A peaceful drive through Tahrir Square

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Michelle dispatch Egypt

Travel Weekly's Michelle Baran is in Egypt for one week following the country's 18-day revolution, which prompted the evacuation of hundreds of U.S. citizens out of the country last month.  

The problem that Egypt faces in the aftermath of last month's political uprising is one of perception and lack of information.

I myself didn't know what to expect upon touching down in Cairo on Monday. Media reports of ongoing lawlessness and protest flare-ups as the country's government restructures leaves one thinking that Cairo might still be unsafe, or at the very least unpleasant, for visitors.

But as I drove from Cairo International Airport through the center of town to the Four Seasons hotel, my local guide, Ahmed from Big Five Tours & Expeditions, pointed out the few, lingering signs that the country experienced an 18-day revolution last month that ultimately resulted in the ouster of longtime president Hosni Mobarak.

A couple of tanks were parked in front of the Egyptian Museum, for one. But perhaps most surprising was just how uneventful the now-famous Tahrir Square was. Aside from a handful of police officers stationed around the square, the one-time heart of the revolution was quiet, with people milling about like they would on any average work day.

I may be reading into it too much, but Cairo feels a bit more optimistic than when I was last in this bustling city a year and a half ago. There are Egyptian flags hanging off of apartment buildings.

And as I stood out on my hotel room balcony overlooking the Nile River, the city had a celestial glow beneath the setting sun. Whereas in 2009 Cairo just seemed like an overcrowded, polluted metropolis, today it seemed to be basking in the glow of victory.

Perhaps Cairo seemed so serene because of the stressful buildup of coming here, the concerns of friends and family equally uncertain of what awaited me here. And who could blame them? One realizes the power of the photojournalist's lens in situations such as this. The images of violent protests in Egypt were powerful, but they were only pointed in one direction, toward the action.

In preparing to head to a destination where the situation is uncertain, one wishes they could almost control the cameras on the ground remotely, have them pan around, show the whole panorama of events and non-events, to get a better sense of what is actually happening in the destination to better decide whether to go.

Big Five and other tour operators anxious to reignite their Egypt business have tried to combat international media reports focused on the political clashes and constitutional changes underfoot with personal testimonies from travelers who have visited Egypt since the revolution and can report on the tourist experience, using social media like Facebook to share their accounts.

Tomorrow I'll spend more time in Cairo, to get a better sense of the situation on the ground, but for today, the city sleeps quietly, the silence only interrupted by the honking of Cairo's notorious traffic and the daily prayers emitting from the city's plentiful mosques.

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