Is Travel in Egypt Safe?

“How big of a risk taker are you?”  When I am asked about the safety of traveling to Egypt these days, I always ask this question back.  A quick scan of current articles on the internet will yield a number of encouraging posts, all stating how important it is to support businesses in Egypt right now, how low prices are at this time, how friendly and welcoming Egyptians are to tourists that are willing to make reservations. 

All of these facts are true.  However, there are many additional facts being left out in these posts that every traveler has the right to consider when making decisions about safety.

Giza Pyramids from the west, Cairo, Egypt

Foreigners are being kidnapped in Egypt:  The majority of these kidnappings have taken place in the Sinai near the popular resorts.  Tourists traveling independently by car as well as a full busload of travelers have been taken.  All were eventually released after the military intervened.

Foreigners are being killed in Egypt: In one incident, a Canadian traveling in Luxor was shot.  In a second, a German in Cairo was stabbed to death.  There are frequent stories of others, however I have personal connections to these incidents and can vouch for their validity.  Violence does occur in every country and tourists are not immune anywhere.

Residents in Egypt are dramatically increasing their security precautions: People who live in this country, Egyptians and foreigners alike, are being extremely safety conscious in the day-to-day living.  Selecting which roads to drive on, and the times of day to be on those roads, carrying weapons in cars, hiring bodyguards to ride on school busses… If concerns of the locals have increased so drastically, this should be a factor considered by visitors as well. 

The violence is ongoing: Articles that discuss the values of visiting a destination after a major upheaval do not take into account that the Egyptian revolution is not over.  In addition to the daily protests, strikes and crimes, recent elections have stirred the pot again and tensions are very high.  Police presence and involvement is still extremely minimal.  Violent incidents occur regularly and general crime has increased considerably.

Tourism has long been the staple of the Egyptian economy.  The radical drop in visitor numbers has cost jobs and closed businesses.  Workers lucky enough to receive a visa leave their families in search of work abroad.  Most simply remain unemployed.  Without a doubt this country desperately needs a return of tourists.  It must also be stated that it is possible to travel throughout Egypt and complete a journey unscathed.  Choosing to travel here again is certainly a legitimate decision and tourists who do so will be rewarded with great appreciation and attention. 

However, to select Egypt as your travel destination without knowing the full picture is a dangerous game.  Articles that deny the security concerns are doing vacationers a tremendous disservice.  When researching how to invest your family’s time and money on a holiday, be aware of all factors that will affect your experience. 

A day will come when the warmth and graciousness of Egypt’s people will again be the main reason tourists select Egypt as a destination.  Those of us who have chosen to make Egypt a home, have a true love for this land and its people.  We are eager to once again speak without hesitation about this country’s security.  Until then, travelers must be aware when making decisions, and be cautious of articles ignoring the safety realities.

 (Originally published on Examiner, June 19, 2012)