Dispatch, Egypt: Trying to save a country with tips

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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. Her fourth dispatch follows. Click to read Michelle's first, second and third dispatches.

There are advantages and disadvantages to visiting a country in the midst of a tourism crisis.

The advantages, as is the case with Egypt right now, is that prices are generally lower and room and service upgrades are plentiful.

There is also the amazing exclusivity, the ability to visit the sites in silence and solitude — no waiting in lines, crowds or competition.

But there are drawbacks, as well, namely how hard it is to see people so obviously suffering financially, and knowing there is only so much a single visitor can do about it.

I've doled out tips left and right in an effort to help as much as possible, because there is no one behind me who will buy the necklaces or take the camel ride.

But there is only so much one person can do, and it's heartbreaking to watch so many people sitting around waiting, helplessly.

It hit me hardest here in Aswan, the start (or end, depending on which way the cruise is going) of most Nile River cruises heading to sites such as Luxor, Karnak and the Valley of the Kings.

The serene Nile in Aswan seems so far removed from Cairo and the events that unfolded at Tahrir Square. I thought how odd it must feel for this part of the country to suddenly see all the tourists vanish, their business disappear right before their very eyes because of a revolution that happened so far away.

Surprisingly, the Nubian people here who work in tourism appear rather calm. Perhaps it's their way. The gentle nature of the servers at dinner, the motor boat drivers and even the souvenir hawkers only made me want to help more.

I ran into one American and her 12-year-old grandson in the dining room of the Sonesta St. George ship, and she told me that her friends and family thought she was crazy to come to Egypt right now. As a precaution she brought a satellite phone and extra foodstuffs in the event of an emergency.

Having just reached the end of their trip, she said they didn't experience anything unpleasant, that they felt safe the whole time and what a shame it was that tourists are staying away.

She too recognized the unfair suffering of those who work in the tourism industry. She said she would tell people back home she had a good experience in Egypt.

If you do go to Egypt soon, be prepared to feel the pressure of a once-booming tourism economy on your shoulders. It's not anyone's fault, and it shouldn't be a deterrent, but it's the reality for anyone with a heart who comes to Egypt right now.

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