Meet Faten Ibrahem: Single mum and super guide for solo travellers in Egypt

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As a solo mum of three, I get to shed light on what it’s like being a single woman in Egypt on my Flash Pack trips. I have a unique perspective on society and I shared lots of interesting conversations about how women here support our families through work and what our social lives look like. 

It’s not completely unusual to be a female guide in Egypt, but it is true that the majority of people working in the tourism industry are men. 

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As a single mum, I try to shed light on being a woman in Egypt

Anyone can be a guide, but to make a success of your career, you need to capture people’s attention. With nearly 30 years’ experience, I love to bring the wonders of Egypt’s history alive with my tales of mythology. It’s important to conjure up a sense of excitement. 

From sailing on the Nile to seeing the pyramids, Egypt is a destination that really does sell itself: you don’t need to persuade travellers to come here. But I’m also interested in helping groups to explore the modern side of my country: the evolving food culture; the different neighbourhoods; what people get up to on a Friday or Saturday night… 

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Flash Pack is nothing like other group tours

I led my first ever trip with Flash Pack earlier this year and it was an amazing experience. I really enjoyed the small-group dynamic: I often lead tours of 30-plus people, so having just 12 travellers to look after meant I could become close to everyone. 

I loved seeing this group of strangers get to know one another and become friends over the course of eight action-packed days together. 

It was nothing like the kind of traditional trip I’m used to with other group tours. There was a lot of thought that went into the details and blend of activities – whether that was riding camels in Giza or cycling along the West Bank of the Nile. We experienced so much together, which helped us to bond quickly.

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After one of my stories, my Flashpackers applauded

Everyone was really nice. They listened and had genuine interest in what I had to say. One of my favourite things to do is to explore Egypt’s temples, tombs and pyramids through the lens of ancient myths. You can really draw people in by talking about tales from time gone by. 

One time, when I was explaining the story of how life once existed on the tiny island of Agilkia – talking about the majesty of the ocean and the mountains, along with the gods and goddesses that were rumoured to roam among them – all the Flashpackers ended up applauding and shouting “wow!” 

I was so happy with that reaction. The secret to people appreciating you as a guide is to have a great narrative that keeps your audience entranced. 

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Sailing the Nile by felucca boat is always memorable

The archeological sites we visited were very varied in their nature, too. With the Great Pyramids of Giza, the focus was more on the archeology, geology and architecture of the place. 

But in the Valleys of the Kings and Queens in Luxor, you have all this incredible art. Flashpackers were astonished by the ornately decorated royal tombs, colourful murals and intricate hieroglyphics, with verses about the pharaohs. 

My Flashpackers also loved the opportunity to explore the Nile by traditional felucca sailboat: stopping by Agilkia island, with its temple kingdom of Philae.

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For Egyptians, food is a way to say ‘you’re welcome here’

Hospitality is a big deal in Egypt and I wanted to showcase the very best local food: including a home-cooked meal shared with a Nubian family in Agilkia, and the local restaurants and markets of Cairo. 

Typically, your host will serve you huge portions of food – moussaka, kofta, koshari or ful mudammas (a kind of fava bean stew). Indeed, Egyptians may consider something is wrong if you are unable to keep pace, because offering a lot of food is our way of saying, “you’re welcome here.”

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I see my role as a mother to the group

I feel like my role as a Flash Pack guide is like that of a mother. And naturally, I’ve had lots of experience with that. I want to lead and protect my Flashpackers, helping to answer any questions that come up. 

For example, one time on a visit to a Nubian village, a man in our group wanted to buy a tagine pot. Just by luck, I happened to pass by when he was negotiating a price. I intervened and took him to another store, where he could get twice what he wanted for half the price. 

I enjoyed the opportunity to surprise everyone with little daily gifts, too. For example, in Cairo, I gave out chocolate dates. In Luxor, the present was a bracelet with an Egyptian scarab beetle, which is a sign of good luck. I also had little coloured bottles of perfume. I matched each gift to the region of Egypt we happened to be in. People were really happy with that. 

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A good group dynamic is like the pyramids – built up, day by day

From beginning to end, it was such a fun trip. I was able to create trust with everyone and shape a sense of happiness around them. It’s a very important dynamic to have, and – like an Egyptian pyramid – it’s built up carefully, day by day. 

Of course, we were all so sad when it came to saying goodbye. And yet, we know each other now: we’ve made new friends and we still send messages to one another all the time. 

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My favourite moment was hot-air ballooning over the Valley of the Kings

My favourite moment happened on the penultimate day, on a sunrise hot-air balloon over the Valley of the Kings. 

It was an optional activity, but most people wanted to do it. My plan was to wait for them on the ground. But my Flashpackers said, “Please, come fly in this balloon with us. We won’t do it without you.” I loved how they made me feel included. It was very emotional. The thought of it still catches my heart, even now. 

Faten Ibrahem is a Pack Leader and guide for Flash Pack in Egypt

This year, Flash Pack’s “Don’t be a Tourist. Be a Flashpacker” campaign aims to encourage travellers in their 30s and 40s to stray away from the expected path – seeking out the road less travelled. 

Images for this story were shot on location in Egypt by Flash Pack photographer Sam Walker.

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