Remember how I decided I didn’t like having a guidebook with me in Morocco? (read it here) Well, as soon as I got to Egypt I was almost in a panic trying to find a map of Cairo—or any travel information whatsoever. Egypt’s tourism industry isn’t exactly friendly to individual travelers. It’s built much more for groups and large bookings.
But I’m getting sidetracked. This isn’t about Egypt’s frustrating tourism industry. It’s about our generation’s greatest achievement: Wikipedia!
Maybe that’s an overstatement. Maybe not. Wikipedia has changed the way we learn and I like it for that. It should never be the only news source, but sometimes it’s the easiest & most readily available. And I would argue that it’s better than nothing. So when I showed up in Egypt without any guidebook, Wikipedia quickly became my best tool.
WikiTravel is a really useful tool. City and country guides are a great supplement to guidebooks. And, in a pinch, can even replace the need for a printed book. Accessing it on an iPod or smart phone makes it even more portable and easier. And then you don’t necessarily stand out as a tourist. Just a douche.
The site is set up like Wikipedia, but instead of giving you historical or cultural information on a topic, members add restaurants, hotels & attractions. It’s hit or miss, but definitely useful. And definitely better than nothing.
History & Cultural Information
Wikipedia’s best use for traveling, however, is the vast amount of historical & cultural information in the gazillions of articles. So many attractions are poorly labeled (especially in Egypt) and you’d be lost without knowing some of the history. Well, maybe not lost. But you definitely wouldn’t appreciate them as much if you didn’t know some background before showing up.
So that’s why I try and look things up on Wikipedia before (or after) seeing them. At least some of the times. And that’s where the absolute best iPod app of all time comes in: Simplepedia — Simple Wikipedia Reader.
Why do I love this app so much?
First of all, it’s got an easy interface to read & search Wikipedia articles. Table of Contents are included as well as the ability to change the font (and even line spacing!) size.
Secondly, every article you search for is automatically saved (pictures included!) for offline reading. Other Wikipedia apps charge for this service, but Simplepedia is FREE. They offer a premium version but as far as I can tell, the simple version is all you need.
So now you can just quickly look download the sights you’re going to see that day, open them in Simplepedia and then when hanging out inside Jerusalem’s Western Wall, you can read everything you ever wanted to know about it.
I understand there is some controversy about the legitimacy of articles (especially political/religious ones), but as long as you take it with a grain of salt, you should be fine. Just don’t take everything as fact without your own research or knowledge. I’m a firm believer that some knowledge is better than no knowledge.