A finalist at last year’s Wanderlust World Guide Awards, Ashraf Masoud explains why a guide’s work is never done in Egypt – at least not when they keep finding new wonders…
But ever since I was a child in Egypt, she told me that language is the key to learning about other cultures. She made me study, and every day she’d say: “May god put you to use for other people.”
That has always been her prayer for me. Then, when I was old enough to go on school trips and saw guides taking guests around for the first time, and what they did for them, I knew I’d found my calling.
Even if it’s simple things, like providing guests with coins to pay the bathroom attendant for toilet paper, I like to help.
But it can be hard. One couple I guided were in the middle of getting a divorce and I found myself stuck between them – but I heard they’d stayed together in the end.
Before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, there were large communities of Italians, Greeks, Lebanese – even a big Jewish community in Alexandria. Afterwards, many left but they return now on tours, and I love showing them their old neighbourhoods.
One lady took me to where she used to live and we knocked on the door. There were tears in her eyes as the owner invited us in for lunch. She showed us where she used to play; even where she met her first boyfriend. To see her reliving these moments was incredible.
It always shocks visitors to learn that this huge temple was moved stone by stone by UNESCO from Lake Nasser in the early 1960s, to save it from being destroyed by flooding from the Aswan Dam. I love seeing their look of surprise.
It’s rare you’ll find a solid fact in Egypt; there will always be a new theory that comes along, such as how King Tutankhamun died – was he killed or did he die of a disease instead? So you have to keep up.
New finds are happening all the time. Recently, the 4,300-year-old tomb of a nobleman was discovered near Cairo. The artwork inside is really detailed – I can’t wait for it to fully open.
The Grand Egyptian Museum won’t open its doors until May 2020, but I run tours that go behind the scenes, so visitors can watch the restorers at work. It will display some 100,000 artefacts when finished.
It’s a shame that few visit sites like the White Desert in the west, an alien-looking land of chalky rock formations that resemble giant fungi. Then there’s the Valley of the Whales in Faiyum, a fossil site dating back to when Egypt was one big sea. You just need to explore!
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