Egypt Expedition Leader Interview: Ahmed Abul Ella Ali
Where are you from?
I’m 42 years old and was born and raised in Giza, near Cairo.
Where do you call home?
My home is Egypt.
When did you catch the travel bug?
Speaking English since childhood resulted in me working in the travel business before I actually graduated from college and that is how I became interested in travel and decided to continue in travel business after I graduated. Over time I have visited many places in Europe, North America and some countries in Asia.
How long have you been a guide?
In 1990, I graduated from the University of Cairo with a degree in Ancient Near East History. I began working as a guide right after university.
How many languages do you speak?
I speak and guide in English and am fluent in Arabic but I can also communicate in Spanish, German and French.
Tell us about your job – What do you do? How do you prepare? How often do you go out?
I did full-time guiding for so many years but lately I am more like a part-time guide, going out only twenty weeks every year. I also write about Egypt and over the past seven years have published several books, most recently National Parks of Egypt, Great Temples of Egypt and Ancient Egypt 5,000 Years of Art and History. This year is my twentieth year in the business and my specialty is leading study tours for institutions like Harvard University and the Smithsonian.
What is your favorite part of the job?
In Egyptology, just like in medicine and computer science, every day brings new developments, new discoveries and research and this fuels my career with new information and topics to talk about with our clients. For example, I’m fascinated with how new DNA new research is revolutionizing our knowledge about the Pharaohs!
This is one of the reasons I have continued with my job. I like the challenge of keeping up with the field, and it is also fun to see all of the country’s temples and tombs.
Can you tell us about a particularly unique experience you have had with a traveler on an expedition?
I have guided clients all over Egypt. I always enjoy taking people to the Western Desert and its oasis. One of the most wonderful guiding experiences I remember is flying low from the Sudanese border to Alexandria in Ted Turner’s private jet with him and a number of American politicians. I have actually guided many celebrities during my career, usually private tours. For example I guided Prince and Roger Moore.
What should people know about traveling to your destination?
During the trip people will see two different sides of Egypt, what I call “unreal Egypt and real Egypt.” This means the desert versus the valley, the rich versus the poor, the ancient versus the modern – it is the land of all paradoxes! People should realize that they will see both sides.
What, if anything, do you recommend that travelers do to prepare in advance of their trip?
Coming to Egypt doesn’t require physical preparation, but people should be culturally prepared. I recommend knowing something about Islam, Egyptian culture and familiarizing yourself with a map of the Middle East.
Is there a place you haven’t had a chance to visit yet that you’d like to?
Latin America, India and parts of China.