Tell The Truth About Egypt

April 29, 2013  |  

Last year around this time, I was spending a quiet Saturday exploring the wonders of the internet. This day, my meandering led to Groupon. I clicked on the site’s “Getaways” section and that’s when I saw it. A picture of the Sphinx advertised an 8 day tour through Egypt. Instantly, my heart started pounding. Historically, that type of physiology reaction is a clear sign from the Divine that I need to take action. So I knew at that moment, one way or another, I was going on this trip.

When I ran the idea by a close friend, he reminded me that I didn’t have any money and therefore, wouldn’t be able to go. That was the last, little push I needed. If I went for no other reason than to prove him wrong, I was going. When I told people I was going to Egypt, everyone assumed I was going with my sister or several of my friends but I was going alone. I had to go it alone because no one had the money/desire to go when I wanted to leave. While I would have loved the share the experience with someone else, I couldn’t forgo the experience by waiting.

After some borrowing and negotiating with the travel agency who posted the deal, everything was set. I was going to Egypt. I was set to leave in November, around Thanksgiving.

But then ish went left. About three months before my trip, the political protests increased and in the eyes of many around the world Egypt became synonymous with smoky streets, screaming protestors and aggressive military personnel. My family was concerned. Everyone who had heard about my trip called and asked me to postpone it. I wasn’t happy about it but eventually I obliged. My new trip would be in April.

When the time came I had my anxieties. As yet another black girl who can’t swim, I felt a little uneasy flying over the Atlantic Ocean for hours on end. But as soon as I got on the plane, a sense of peace came over me and I knew that I would be safe and protected throughout my journey.

The trip exceeded my expectations.

Looking at temples and statues that were still standing nearly 4,000 years after construction was awe inspiring. Sailing down the Nile, a river that watered and nourished the original man, the first civilization, was breathtaking and at times a bit emotional. Staring at the pyramids trying to figure how the ancient Egyptians moved and stacked blocks weighing several tons was baffling. Seeing the opulence and grandeur of all the treasure from King Tut’s tomb was amazing. Kanye was really onto something when he told us it’s in black folks’ soul to rock that gold.

But more than the exploration of history traveling to Egypt, as leaving the country often does, even gave me an opportunity to do some reflecting about myself. I remember the first time I went to Africa, Ghana to be exact, I was surprised to learn that the people there didn’t regard me as black. In Egypt it was the complete opposite. People were sure that I was Nubian, or Sudanese or even Latina. I realized, that while in America brown skinned people might be “minorities;” but in the global context, brown skin is the norm. And while I smiled or chuckled at their inaccurate guesses, I realized that I could have been any of those things. It was there in Egypt that I recognized my “brown girl privilege”: the ability to travel and blend in with a variety of people.

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  • Kimoni Kevin Johnson

    ur stupid ! Egyptian are African ! so educated and still dumb !

  • monitorette

    A nice written article Veronica.

    Of course you are American. Does a German American visiting Europe lose his American identity? Nope. So you are not losing your US identity when visiting the motherland of your ancestors.
    Answering ‘American’ to this Nubian boy’s question does not mean that you are trying to hide you’re African part; That was the ‘right’ answer to me.

    As for the Ancient Egyptians being black –> no: being brown skinned does not equal being black. Claiming what is not yours show a sense of unease.

    And there is absolutely no malice in my words, but I do not see a brown skinned girl in the picture, but a dark/black skinned girl

    • Samuel Rothenberg

      So to be black in America you must be pitch black? Wow we don’t have many black people here apparently. All black people have the right to claim Egypt as theirs. Same way we have the right to Greece and Rome.

  • Coco

    Wow, thank you for such an inspiring article!

  • It’s funny that I came across this article, because Egypt is the one place that I’ve dreamed of visiting. I love this article by the way! I’m glad that you enjoyed your experience there as well.

  • i have seen a lot of the world. literally from far west, europe, mideast, south east and far east.

    i do not know why you would be suprised that you were not seen as just blk.
    you are in AFRICA… it is a continent and not a country with different ethnic groups europe, middle east , south east asia, and the far east. it is normal that somethings will be assumed of you by others because of the way you look to them and that it will only be by your mannerisms or until the hear your accent will they be able to tell you are of the west or at least, definitley not one of them.

    the “usefulness” of those terms is very dependent and relative to where you are in this world.

  • Lauren S. Clark

    Ms. Wells, I am glad you were able to experience Egypt. One day I hope to go.

    • vwells1

      Thank you! I’m sure you can find a way to make it happen.

  • Laine

    I loved the story.. ! BUT..( and I hate to be the Debbie Downer), I don’t know Egypt to be very friendly to black people. Someone I know went there for work, and when he stepped outside of the hotel, he was advised by hotel personnel to stay inside, .that that would be a lot safer for him. And that was just because he was black. I also saw a youtube video once, in which a black woman, who had lived in Egypt for several months, described that she was spit on, on a daily basis, just because she was a black woman. The author probably didn’t experience any racism because she stuck to the “tourist attractions” and maybe didn’t really go out by herself? I don’t know.., but I’m glad that your trip was a positive one! Another great destination is Salvador Bahia… !

    • Andrani

      The Arabs there are generally racist towards blacks. Zahi Hawass, the head Egyptologist there, is like this. . Hawass doesn’t seem to realize that he is not in any way related to the people he studies and fights to protect for a living, the ancient Egyptians.

  • Amani

    Nice story but I’m curious as to what the people of Ghana considered you as, if not black?

    • vwells1

      They didn’t know what to call me but were CERTAIN that I wasn’t black. One man pointed to his skin and then pointed to mine and said “something happened in between this and this.” It was like of like a reverse “one drop” rule. So in America where one drop makes you black, they were telling me that one drop of anything other than black made me non-black. Mind trip.

      • Amani

        As someone who spent my formative years in Ghana, I find this story incredulous – the views they expressed toward you are not characteristically Ghanaian. I can emphatically tell you that to most natives of the former Gold Coast, a black person is a black person, irrespective of his/her origin. Thanks for obliging my request.

      • Kenedy

        I agree with Amani. This must have just been the view of this particular man, & not Ghanians in general. As an african, we don’t trip about light skinned people, & not considering them “black”, there’s a lot of different shades of black in Africa, as you would probably know, and we all consider ourselves Africans, so I’m not sure what this guy was smoking, lol

      • Wuluwulu

        Kola Boof has always said this is how most Africans view Black Americans, or non-African Black people. She says many Africans would not consider the average Black American as Black by virtue of their lighter complexions, and different facial features. If you communicate with her about your experience in this regard, I am sure she would be happy to shed more light on it for you.

      • Andrani

        It’s like this in Brazil. In Brazil, Obama would be considered white, not black.

  • the story of Moses is based off of Pharaoh Akhenaten and his older brother Prince Djhutmose (thutmose) their parents are Pharaoh Amenhotep 3 and Queen Tiye both being black/nubian descent that makes both brothers black/nubian which makes moses a black egyptian <<<<<<<<<< off subject by the way

  • Na Na

    I am sooo glad you wrote this piece! Most commentors on here always have negative things to say about Islam, yet have never experienced it at all.

  • angie

    i wanna go back to Egypt so bad…i loved it i went Aug. 2001…it was one of the best experieces that I ever had. you def. get “brown girl privileges in Kemet (Egypt) and def. Nubian. Especially when white folks are around…you see it and its a great thing.

  • michaelderrick

    Unfortunately most african american are very i-gnorant when it comes to Africa It is as if they are ashamed of it. Sadly, It has also become fashionable to say ” i am not african american” .Africa has a rich heritage and it is a rich continent. Many have bought into the bad image shown by the media. it is ironic when you think about it. i just wish more african american go out more and travel to africa and see for themself, maybe even invest and own stuff in africa.

    You don’t know where you’re going until you know where you’ve been !


    Beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!

  • miss zarah

    Interesting article! Luxor was the place where I felt most in-tune with our deep ancestry in Egypt. Visiting the karnak temples,valley of the kings, the sphinx, just taking a stroll through the streets where people run to you yelling “my people…my colour”. Them knowing that I was not born or raised there but we are nonetheless distant relatives was beyond moving. Egyptians really show love!! This should be a MUST vacation for everyone who has the means to do it! You won’t regret it!

    • angie

      the temples def. feel like you are home esipcally with the carvings of ppl with thick hair and the african features…loved it

  • FromUR2UB

    You have to admire people who step out and make their dreams, reality.

  • ♥♥♥

  • Guest360

    Thank you for writing this. I can’t wait until I save up enough money and start to travel. Your story was absolutely breathtaking. I’ve always heard that the best way to gain perspective on life and learn about yourself is to go out and explore. Can’t wait until I do it myself 🙂

  • sabrina

    OMG, I appreciate this so much! Thank you for sharing this; it really wakes me up to the fact that there is a whole world outside of America and Europe that needs to be visited (by me). I would absolutely love to go to Egypt, as well as Israel, one day.

  • Bee

    Wow, wow, wow! I am so happy that I read this. I love to travel and this just signified that I need that I need to visit Africa for real. So inspiring!

  • Drea

    I couldn’t agree more with “Andrani Rasalila Foster: Yes. Race is a social construct. Not biological”. <—–To True!!

    After reading this article, I couldn't help to think about how Africans saw you as "Nubian or Sudanese". Because some of us can't trace our exact point of origin/tribes in Africa I always wondered what kind of ethnic group in Africa I would be mistaken for…maybe Senegalese, Ghanaian Hausa-Fulani, or Nigerian, but surprisingly all the African Immigrants I encounter in America always think i'm Ethiopian. Never having been to Africa (I would love to go one day), I was always just so curious about that. And it's true that ancient Egyptians were black!! After having taken and African history Class at my University, there is too much evidence to even guess the race of our ancestors. I believe this world is so white washed that it's hard to acknowledge that our African ancestors did have a rich history in egypt and all over africa!!! If you read Frank's Snowden's book "Black's in antiquity: Ethiopians in Greco-Roman Experience" or Ivan Van Sertima's book "Egypt Revisited", these books will reveal what Egyptology don't want to reveal about our African ancestors. So sad, but true. Anyways…I loved this article!!

    • Lana

      I don’t know if you’re familiar with the work of Cheikh Anta Diop. He was a Senegalese anthropologist. He stated that Wolofs (one ethnic group in Senegal) might be related to ancient egyptians. I often watch Hindu movies and there are some words the Hindi and Wolof languages have in common. But a lot of people tried to debunk his theory because he proved that ancient egyptians were black, which of course does not sit well with them. I believe he was right. You know, Senegalese people look very different. There are light-skinned people, brown people, dark people since we have different ethnic groups. As a Senegalese who’s always mistaken for a Malian, an Ivorian or a Comoran, I sometimes get frustrated when people tell me I don’t look like a typical Senegalese girl. 🙂

      • Andrani

        Would love to read this. .

    • Andrani

      Anyone with sense can tell that they were black. If you look at the way they depicted themselves, they don’t look white to me. Even the color they used for themselves, a reddish brown, shows that they were at least a medium brown complexion. And there’s no way you can live in such a hot climate for eons and not be tanned/black. Europeans are white and pale because of the cold climate. Egypt’s climate is not conducive to pale, white skin. All prejudices aside, I would say the best evidence is what the ancient Egyptians said about themselves and how they depicted themselves. Well, they traced their lineage from the “land of Punt”. It was the land their gods were believed to have came from. Hatshepsut opened up an already ancient trade route with Punt for this reason. Ancient Punt is modern day Ethiopia. Yeah, I think they were black. I also get the Ethiopian thing all the time. .lol. And yes, there were other advanced ancient African civilizations besides Egypt that one cares about and the reason, I think, for this is that the whites made Egypt famous in antiquity. It became a claim battle between races.

  • Jenn

    Beautiful article. Would love to go to Egypt one day :sigh:

  • SheBe

    Jealous! Egypt is my dream vacation. Love this article.

  • Jessie

    This is Amazing!!! I can agree 100% with everything you said!

  • tony

    Why dont you move to Liberia? There is a great place called Baboon Town, where you can see all the accomplishments of your ”Egyptian” ancestors in action, especially the open air latrine on the beach.

  • rainydaze80

    Love this article! I wish more young black women would get out and travel like this! Most people don’t understand how you can discover things about yourself traveling far and away. People think I’m crazy, always wanting to travel and live abroad, but for me it’s all about experiencing something new. I was thinking of visiting Egypt also, since I am planning my first trip to Africa this summer. I had some concerns about safety. you, but you are so right…trouble is everywhere. God created this world full of wonders for us to discover, so we should enjoy it. Thank you for sharing!

  • Yes. Race is a social construct. Not biological.

    • Oh please

      Yes…. of course. Except in the 100 metres sprint at the olympics…

      Just look at those Japanese runners go.

  • Lana

    This is beautifully written. Thank you!