The story of Ibrahim

I’d like to share a story to address a question I often get. Hang tight—it’s a bit of a long one, but it includes, hopefully, a good story, a point, and a moral.

The question I often find myself answering is whether traveling alone is sad. To respond, let me tell you about the time I met Ibrahim.

It was a Thursday afternoon, and my vacation in Egypt was winding down. I had checked out of my hotel and stowed my suitcase until I needed to head to the Luxor train station. With just a backpack, I decided to roam the city streets aimlessly, enjoying the atmosphere. After wandering for about an hour, I found myself at the waterfront, settling down to enjoy the view of the Nile. Predictably, the first vendor soon approached, eager to sell me a ride on his sailboat. I declined politely, steadfastly repeating my refusal until he moved on. This scene repeated a couple of times with different sellers.

Then, another man walked up. After his initial offer to take me on a boat ride—which I declined—he didn’t persist. Instead, he accepted my no gracefully and sat down on the other end of the bench, quietly enjoying the view himself.

After a few minutes of silent appreciation, he sparked up a conversation by asking where I was from. “Denmark,” I replied, and from there, the conversation flowed naturally. We ended up chatting for a while. His name was Ibrahim, and he owned several sailboats that took tourists around the Nile. He also owned some apartments for tourist rentals and even one of the many hot air balloons that floated over the river each morning.

After our chat, I continued my explorations around the Luxor Temple. On my way back, I bumped into Ibrahim again. He was with a friend, walking in the opposite direction, but he greeted me warmly, spreading his arms wide. This time, he insisted I join him on a sailboat ride—free of charge since I was now his friend, and there were no tourists renting his boats at that moment. Thinking I had a couple of hours to spare and even if he expected payment later, it wouldn’t be much, I agreed. Ibrahim made a call, and soon we headed down to the river where two sailors waited with a small sailboat.

We spent the next few hours sailing aimlessly on the Nile. We stopped at a banana island where I was treated to fresh bananas and a drink, got a little tour of the plantation, and learned about banana cultivation.

As the day neared its end, and I needed to return to my hotel to collect my baggage, we discussed my travel plans back home. I was unsure how best to get from Cairo’s train station to the airport. Ibrahim advised getting off a stop earlier at Giza station since it was quicker with less traffic. He made another call, and soon, a driver was arranged to meet me at Giza station and take me to the airport for 350 Egyptian pounds.

After being dropped off at my hotel and bidding farewell to a fantastic afternoon, I thanked the boatmen with tips and headed for my train to settle in for some sleep. The next morning, despite a delay that got us into Giza around 7:50 am—nearly an hour late—I worried about making my flight. However, when the train doors opened, there stood a smiling man holding a sign with “Mr. Andresh” written on it. His name was Ahmed, and he reassured me that we would make it in time. Thanks to the quiet Friday morning traffic, we arrived at the airport early enough for me to relax before my flight.

So, that’s my story. The point is, had I been traveling with a group, I might never have struck up a conversation with Ibrahim on that bench. Traveling alone makes you more open to outsiders and immerses you in local culture in a way that can make you a part of it, as you need to engage to socialize. I’ve had many such experiences. Therefore, my answer is no, traveling alone isn’t sad—it’s incredibly enriching if you’re open to new people. And I consistently find that people are generally good and open-minded wherever I go. Of course, you should always carry your common sense and take precautions, but generally, if you meet the world with an open heart, you’ll receive so much in return if you’re just willing to trust in the goodness of others. And there we have it—a moral to wrap up our tale!

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