CAIRO - 12 February 2018: Their dazzling photos of iconic destinations ignite wanderlust in the hearts of their thousands of followers, whether it’s a trip to Nubia or Aswan, a walk exploring the magical architecture of Old Cairo, or a dive near the coastline of a fancy Red Sea resort town.
They’ve been an inspiration to many and even plan to publish a book on their travels in a move to boost tourism. Omar Attia and Dalia Debaiky are the couple behind the “Around Egypt in 60 Days” Facebook and Instagram pages that have taken the local social media scene by a storm.
The two Egyptian marketers decided to market the local tourism industry by documenting their trips on an Instagram page, garnering close to 10,000 followers on in less than a year.
Egypt Today chats with Attia about the couple’s exciting project and how it all began.
Who are Omar Attia and Dalia Debaiky? How did the idea behind Around Egypt in 60 Days come about?
We have been married for about three years. I work as a marketing and sales manager in a family business, and Dalia is marketing manager and business analyst in her family business too. This, in a sense, is related to our project because we are simply, marketing Egypt.
At the beginning of our relationship, we didn’t want to get to know each other more deeply through traditional outings or romantic dinners. We decided to do things unconventionally: sailing the Nile on a felucca, visiting the Cairo Tower, and visiting several museums. We explored ourselves by exploring our country. This was how the idea of Around Egypt in 60 Days sparked—the evolution of our relationship was the first and main spark.
Later matters went smoothly, we chose to hold our engagement party in a venue overlooking the Nile instead of a five-star hotel or wedding hall. Our official wedding ceremony, the signing of the contract (Kat Ketab), we held at the Salah El-Din Castle. As for the party, we hosted it at the Mohamed Ali Palace (Manial Palace).
We wanted to explore all the touristic iconic landmarks in Cairo. After we returned from our honeymoon, we asked ourselves, why do we have to stop here? We must continue our exploration journey. I told Dalia, let’s start to visit all the touristic attractions in Egypt, and not only in Cairo.
Later, the project developed and we decided to document our journey in a book, to have something consolidated to our followers and readers, to be some sort of a guide; how everyone can visit all the touristic places in the 27 Egyptian governorates within a certain timeframe. The second lightbulb moment was our first journey to Luxor and Aswan after we were back from honeymoon—it was the first time for both of us to visit either of these dazzling destinations. We spent three days in Luxor and the same in Aswan, documenting this trip by posting photos that we took there on our personal Instagram and Facebook accounts.We divided them by days: Day 1 we went to this place, day 2 we went to the other place. We found that a lot of people started to follow us and like our photos, then Scoop Empire featured us.
So the trip to Luxor and Aswan was a few years ago?
Yes, it was three years ago. We started to roam Egyptian destinations three years ago, in January 2015, but we launched Around Egypt in 60 Days online in May 2017. We have a huge library of past photos and current photos, some of our photos were taken on the spot, like last summer’s photos that we took at The North Coast and Marsa Matrouh. Since we launched, in May 2017, we have been posting photos on a daily basis. Some are more recent, and some aren’t.
We try to have fun with it, so for instance, sometime we have quizzes on the page where audiences guess the attraction or we have a photography contest. With these activities, we aim to keep the followers alert and active, to encourage them to learn about major touristic spots and explore our beautiful country.
Who usually took the photos?
Usually, it’s Dalia and I. But if we want to take a photo of both of us, we usually ask a passer-by. We have a close friend of ours who is a professional photographer, Amr el-Gohary; every now and then, whenever he is free he joins us to capture a few photos.
What is the main aim of the initiative?
The main purpose of our project is to promote Egyptian tourism by marketing all of its touristic attractions, be the famous commercial ones or those of the beaten track that most don’t know anything about. Our aim is not only foreigners—of course a big part of it is to boost tourism inflows—but also, a huge objective of this project is to introduce the real, beautiful Egypt to Egyptians, orient them with the touristic attractions, so they become more familiar with these dazzling places and have more detailed information about them. I used to believe that we can’t completely rely on foreigners as long as a large number of Egyptians don’t know a lot of things about their country.
One of our main objectives is to have a subject called “tourism” in the Egyptian education curriculum, like Thailand and Malaysia do. If we want radical change in the Egyptian tourism industry, we should raise our children from the beginning to realise its importance and to know all the touristic attractions in their country. We hope that the book we are currently writing would be one of the books on this subject. Luxor and Aswan host one third of the world’s monuments, so if we paid more attention to Egyptian tourism, it would contribute to more than 50 percent of the national income. It annoys us that most of the foreign tourists know more about our country than the typical Egyptian does.
Did you take any steps concerning adding tourism as a subject to the Egyptian education curriculum?
The first step was the promotion of our project through the online platform—we now have about 10,000 followers in about seven months. We have reputable magazines, newspapers and websites who are covering it, including the BBC Arabic.
Our second step is writing the book but because it will be a huge book we thought either to make it a trilogy or to divide it into a series, with the first tackling Cairo and Giza.
Large books will be expensive for readers; and most of them may not prefer reading big books. It will be in the form of a narrated novel with photography, where two ordinary Egyptians roam Egypt. We aim to publish our first chapter about Cairo and Giza in 2018.
The third step, after the release of our book, will be taking on our solid material and approaching both the ministries of education and tourism, to try to achieve a collaboration. If we find this difficult, we will approach international schools and dedicate our book to them, asking that they support it with field trips.
What are some off-the-beaten-track attractions that you visited and felt that most people don’t even know about?
In Cairo, the National Geological Museum in Maadi ... This museum is full of dazzling fossils and dinosaur displays. These fossils were in Wadi El Hitan and Qarun Lake in Fayoum—most people don’t know it exists.
We visited this amazing museum three times, and every time we were the only ones there, despite the fact that it is located in Cairo and the ticket is very cheap; LE 5. We always say that Egypt deserves more; so to make foreigners realise the true worth of Egypt, we, Egyptians, need to know this value to start with.
The other example is that we visited a hill named Bubastis in Zagazig city, which holds a big temple full of precious Roman and Pharaonic monuments.
How do you assess the initiative now? Are you satisfied with what you have achieved so far?
I am for the time being, primarily because of the feedback from those who have sent us a lot of messages like, “thank you for making us fall in love with Egypt more,” or others who said that we encouraged them to visit a certain place. Some tag us in the photos of their visits.
Our followers are both Egyptians and foreigners. One of our Romanian followers sent us a message saying,“I just came across your Instagram profile and I loved Egypt and loved your photos too, and I am currently booking a ticket to Egypt.”
What are the destinations that you have covered on the page till now?
There’s Cairo, Giza, the Western Desert, Fayoum, MarsaMatrouh, Alexandria, Alamein, Sharm El Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba, Hurghada, Giftun Islands, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, El Quseir, Zagazig, Assiut, Benha and Tanta. What is left for us to visit is Siwa, Dahab, Upper Egypt cities like Sohag, Qena and Minya, as well as, further South, MarsaAlem, Halayeb and Shalateen. The 60-day journey we are documenting is scheduled to end in 2019.