When Footloose organized its first trip to Marsa Alam, only about 20 people signed up because nobody knew much about the destination, says Sherif Fawzy, co-founder and CEO.
But word of that trip – and Instagram-worthy beach photos – spread quickly on social media. The company’s second trip to Marsa Alam (in 2016) had a packed bus of 45 people.
“We’re no Greece, but we’re better,” organizers had enticed on the trip’s Facebook event page. “Proof? Our Marsa Alam’s shore Hankorab is listed as the 13th most beautiful shore worldwide.”
Footloose has since grown as a reputable and affordable tour agency perfect for youth, backpackers and solo travelers.
To date, Footloose has taken some 4,500 travellers of 36 nationalities to trips around Sinai. They’ve offered off-the-beaten-path itineraries like stargazing in Wadi el Hitan, yoga in Ras Sidr and backpacking in Luxor.
And while major travel agencies are concerned with bringing tourism back to Egypt, smaller agencies like Footloose are brainstorming new destinations. They’re “trying to combine different cities in a way that’s never been offered before,” Fawzy says.
“When we first started, on the very first trip we went to different hotels and camps, and we were the only ones there,” Fawzy says. “On our 10th trip to Wadi Hitan, we had 900 people on Facebook in four days saying they were interested.”
Downtown Cairo isn’t on many tourist itineraries. A typical visit to Cairo includes a few hours in the famous souq of Khan el Khalili, the pyramids and a stop at the Egyptian Museum.
But Cairo’s rich modern history is definitely worth exploring. There are no plaques on historic buildings, cinemas or squares to make a self-guided tour easy.
Cairo D-Tour is a free guided walk held every Friday morning. It’s when the city is most quiet, before Friday prayers.
The tour goes through the city’s famous squares like Tahrir, heritage sites and old cinemas that made Egyptian cinema famous in the Arab world.
You’ll see the Egyptian stock exchange on a sidestreet lined with potted plants. You’ll have a drink at Cafe Riche, where revolutionaries once gathered to plot against the British occupation. And you’ll peek inside the Yacoubian Building, the setting for Alaa Al-Aswany’s infamous novel depicting homosexuality.
The tour goes beyond the iconic sites to offer insights into modern Cairo life. There’s a stop at the hip cafe Kafein, bar El Horryia (a great spot for beer), and bookstores, theaters and art galleries.
Tour Guide Muhammad Zeineddin doesn’t have a marketing department. He markets his initiative Mosaic Club – which offers city tours, trips and cultural exchanges – solely on social media.
Social media has also made researching new destinations much easier, Zeineddin says. Even the smallest towns have their own Wikipedia pages.
And Mosaic Club offers trips you won’t find elsewhere.
Last year, Zeineddin lead a “Banknote Tour” around Cairo that hit an array of mosques found on Egyptian banknotes. Tours of little-explored museums like the Abdeen Palace have also proved popular, Zeineddin says.
The Mosaic Club’s cultural exchange events also give Egyptians an opportunity to experience new cultures. Zeineddin’s posts on volunteer work or scholarships abroad get thousands of shares and inspire many to travel.
Expats and foreigners both love the tours as a safe and hassle-free way to explore lesser known parts of Egypt.
“Egypt needs to promote itself outside of the desert and camels stereotypes,” Zeineddin says. “Tour agencies need to offer more variety. They need to give people something more interesting – because we have a lot of competition.”
Redefine Egypt is a small community that offers walking tours around Cairo (often free of charge) and trips to further off destinations like Port Said.
From visits to a small Egyptian village famous for harvesting jasmine, to day trips to a rural island in the heart of Cairo’s Nile River, Redefine Egypt’s tours are always refreshingly unique.
They offer a more authentic perspective on non-touristy destinations with a focus on architecture and hidden gems. And the tours are often lead by local guides familiar with the destination. There are also stops for coffee for a chance to meet some local residents.
Redefine Egypt was launched by young Egyptians to counter the negative stereotypes that surround Egypt. By offering occasional tours free of charge, they aim to popularize local travel among Egyptian youth.
The tours are open to anyone, whether Egyptian or foreign, and often attract street photographers and Instagrammers.
Redefine Egypt also hosts occasional photo contests and exhibits for the winners.