“I unearth stories I never dreamt of discovering,” Amr Hamed, a travel vlogger and documentary maker, told Al-Ahram Weekly when reflecting on the differences between his present career and his initial training as an accountant.
Hamed started travelling and discovering new places in the world ten years ago. This 40-year-old traveller first took his hobby as his profession and then made it into his passion. He now studies new places, craves for adventure, and ventures into new experiences.
He started a travel agency after his popularity had exploded on YouTube where he had been sharing some of his travel experiences in Egypt and worldwide. Once he had reached five million views on his YouTube channel, Hamed gave up his earlier life in accountancy to shift career and take up travelling as his only income.
“What is special about vlogging is that people believe in you as you are offering your own personal experiences. They trust you so much that they might even want to pack their luggage and book a trip to the place you are talking about,” Hamed commented.
“I was an amateur at first, just capturing photos or videos on my mobile phone without any editing. But then I started to treat my vlogging more professionally, taking videography and editing courses. I also hired a visual editor and a social-marketing team to monetise my content and help my business grow,” he added.
Unlike other travel vloggers and agencies, Hamed says that the Covid-19 pandemic did not affect his work. Instead, these two years were the prime time of his experiences. “I worked heavily on domestic tourism in Egypt and travelled to every part of the country, showing people different unknown places in our beautiful country,” Hamed said.
One of his most famous trips on YouTube was Port Said, Dahab, and Nuweiba where people can taste the different flavours of Egypt.
At the time the pandemic was seen as an enormous threat to tourism, but many people took it as an opportunity to explore their own countries, something which was also true in Egypt.
There were many trends and hashtags on social-media platforms such as “capture yourself as if you are in Europe,” “capture yourself at the Pyramids,” and “make heritage fun,” among many others that made people eager to travel to places in Egypt and encourage domestic tourism.
“We took the pandemic as an opportunity to develop our company. We worked on our company database in order to design trips that suit our clients,” said Andrew Nasri, founder of 4travellers, one of the large social-media platforms dedicated to travel in Egypt.
“I think Egypt is not only one of the beautiful countries in the world but also the most beautiful country on Earth,” Nasri said. Though he has been in the tourism business for over six years, he always finds Egypt a tremendous mix of features from all countries in the world.
“You have the mix of astounding nature, the best beaches, the best sand dunes, the best heritage sites of all kinds, and the remains of magnificent ancient civilisations. There are so many things that put Egypt in a class of its own.”
“That’s why we never stop working on discovering new places and new plans for all kinds of tourism in Egypt,” he said. After two years of Covid-19, he is now focusing on planning trips to new places inside and outside of Egypt.
Many people today are also keen to try new tourism destinations, which for Egyptians may include new countries such as Tanzania, Zanzibar, Albania, Morocco, Thailand, and Malaysia.
One newly married couple who find travelling a source of endless delight, Mahmoud and Aliaa, was among the first Egyptian travellers to venture to Albania in southeastern Europe, now an increasingly popular destination.
Though not number one on the Google search engine for tourism in Europe, Albania offers no visa entry for Egyptians and no compulsory restrictions as far as Covid-19 vaccinations are concerned. Such travel procedures have made the country one of the top destinations for Egyptians in Europe, besides its being a beautiful country that also will not break the bank.
“We always plan our travels inside or outside Egypt in a way that suits our budget, our holidays, our preferences for food, our health, and our priorities,” said Mahmoud Abul-Soud, a visual storyteller and CEO of an advertising agency in Cairo.
“Albania, for example, was a great adventure to discover ourselves as honeymooners who also adore travelling and wished to enjoy every bit of our experience together,” he added.
“We study the country we want to visit first, google top visits and cities, and plan our transport and activities, all according to our budget. But this is not as important as always trying to understand one another and respect the needs of one another,” said Aliaa, a senior media buyer.
Their “Rotta and Aliaa” page on Instagram and Facebook exemplifies how people can plan their travel destinations and enjoy the little things around them. “We share details on our page so that people can benefit from the best food, hotels that offer great prices, and the free things that everybody can enjoy when they travel,” the couple said.
“We feel that people need personal experiences to trust the places they visit, and that’s why we are keen on documenting our trips,” they added.
Travelling is a great way to experience other cultures. “The more you travel, the more you discover that the world is more than being about you as a single person,” Rasha Salah, manager of the Symphony travel agency, told the Weekly.
Conjuring up images of different countries that you have visited can mean retaining experiences that will never be forgotten. For Salah, travel is not simply about visiting a country’s cities or touring top heritage sites. Instead, it is about getting used to different scenes, enjoying the different cultures and sub-cultures that can exist in one country, and most importantly discovering things in oneself that people forget are already there.
“The Covid-19 pandemic made many travel agencies discover new places and many people want to travel more despite the economic crisis the world is facing now,” Salah added.
She said that many countries that had suffered from a tourism crisis due to Covid-19 had opened their doors to tourism this year. “These countries provide many offers, cheap accommodation, and various affordable flights. They are eager to attract tourists from different countries in the world,” she added.
So, no matter where you travel, remember that it is the travelling that is important. Salah said that even if you are travelling on a tight budget, you should spare some of it to make memories for yourself, your children, your friends, and your parents in good company.
A version of this article appears in print in the 30 June, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.