Photo Credit: Photo Courtesy of Derek Brown.
Traveler Story: Black Man Takes Egypt
While visiting San Diego in 2019, videographer and stand-up comedian Derek Brown stumbled into a love for travel after he ventured across the border with his friends and spent two hours in Tijuana. Years later, his desire to explore the world would take him the furthest he’d ever been to the sandy plains of Egypt.
Between his visit to Mexico and 2021, Brown had visited nearly 10 countries and was itching to add more stamps to his passport. After talking with an old girlfriend and her family about their visits to Egypt, Brown set his sights on planning a birthday voyage across the world to the land of Pharaohs and pyramids.
“You know that feeling or those things that you go through that you really can’t explain,” Brown said. “Everybody had that same feeling towards Egypt. So I was like, `You know, I need to go there’.”
In May 2021, Brown and his sister traveled to Egypt and spent the next two weeks soaking up the ancient culture and heritage of the nation. They stayed at the Steigenberger, a German hotel in downtown Cairo near Tahrir Square, and Brown was amazed by the excitement and festivities in the streets. Ramadan had just ended and the city was filled with thousands of people enjoying the Egyptian breeze.
“Cairo was very, very loud and it had a lot of energy,” he said. “I like to call the place spirited.”
While moving about, Brown and his sister ran into another hotel guest who had a lot in common with the traveler. His name was Dion and the trio spent their entire trip together exploring and experiencing the city.
They visited the Saqqara and The Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the oldest and largest of the pyramids. And after riding ATVs, Brown had a chance to really take in the beauty and radiance of the Egyptian landscape.
“We had a chance to just sit and look and that was probably one of the most spiritual experiences I’ve had, mainly because a lot of people in the world haven’t been there,” he said.
Brown spent the majority of his trip sightseeing; spending time gazing from a stand-still boat on the Nile River and venturing up to the beautiful ancient city of Alexandria for a calmer experience away from the bustling streets of Cairo. He also visited the National Museum of Egyptian Civilization, spent some time visiting different mosques throughout the city, and rode camels through the desert.
He took some time to engage with the locals and realized Egyptians are very prideful people who love their culture. Everywhere they went storytellers were orating the history of the place they were visiting.
“One thing that I noticed is that they won’t let anyone else tell their story,” he said. “They’ll come in and tell their story before they let someone else tell it.”
Although everyone was friendly, Brown did notice a considerable amount of salesmanship happening everywhere he went in the country. Everyone was a salesman and tried to make deals happen no matter what the conversation was.
“If you’re going and you’re not from Egypt, they’re going to think you’re rich,” he said. “So they might definitely throw a lot of sales pitches at you.”
Despite the beautiful atmosphere of the city, Brown was not impressed by Egyptian cuisine. He only found one dish that satisfied his desire for good food and was totally turned off by the Kosherie, a meatless dish composed of lentils, pasta, and rice that is very popular in the country.
“As far as taste and it being fulfilling, I didn’t really get that,” he said. “I ate at the hotel a lot after I kept having terrible instances with food.”
Looking back on his voyage to Egypt, Brown believes that the country is not the typical vacation destination most millennials would seek out. Whereas most people are looking for parties and high-energy nightlife, Brown says Egypt is a place to come and gain knowledge about life, living, and history.
“Egypt to me doesn’t feel like a vacation place,” he said. “It feels like where you go to learn about a culture and have understanding versus just going to party. No, you’re going to go there to learn.”
Through his online vlog series Wander’n and his video production company NotionMedia, Brown hopes he can continue to show more people places they’ve never imagined they’d visit. His goal is that, through his travels, he can become more human and gain even more understanding of the planet and those who inhabit it.
“Seeing the planet that I live on gives me a better understanding of myself which translates into me having a better understanding of other humans,” he said.