Media and the Egyptian Press Office
by Jimmy Dunn
We frequently have journalists and/or photographers contact us for advice and other information about working in Egypt. They are not usually the "Discovery Channel" or "National Geographic" types. They are often more likely independent journalists, or those working for not as well known publications though, for example, we get many inquires from television stations and even radio personalities. Sometimes we can help them and sometimes we cannot.
Interestingly, on our latest visit to Egypt for our Survey of Egypt, we worked for the first time with the Egyptian Press Office. This may seem like a no-brainer for most, but in the past we have mostly dealt with the various tourism departments and sometimes with the Ministry of Culture, and specifically the Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA).
To be honest, at first I was reluctant to work with the Press Office (Press Center). During prior visits, it has just seemed as though we could get more accomplished quicker by working independent of any ministry. In fact, on this visit, I was at first perturbed by the delays necessitated by various permits in going this formal route. Indeed, I did not really at first like the idea of having to carry along a press staff member on our journey either.
However, I can now report that the Press Office is one of the best organizations I have ever worked with in Egypt. Not long into the trip, I began to appreciate the short delay caused by getting permits. The survey took us across many different boundaries and jurisdictions, to places that tourists really hardly ever go. At times we even passed through military installations, and photographed in places where photography is simply and strictly not allowed. Any annoyance that I at first felt soon turned into admiration for the speed in which these permits were actually acquired. I think, for much of that quick work, I owe a debt of gratitude to Ahmad Sharaf, the Vice-Director of the Press Center. Though I might have at first had doubts, I liked this man from the moment I met him in the Cairo Press Office. It should be noted that he spent a stint in San Francisco and therefore, not only speaks English very well, but also has an outstanding understanding of Western journalists. In the final analysis, I believe that his rushing through of our permits was nothing less than miraculous. Also, I know that he stood in support of our operation throughout the trip, lending sometimes an unseen hand when a special effort in Cairo was needed.
Osama soon became a one of the most valuable members of the team, working on our behalf
And then, of course, there was Osama Gibaly, the press staff member I originally didn't really want. That view very quickly changed. Osama turned out to be a very upright guy, and now I can say that I have another good friend in Cairo. He is a very likeable fellow and it is my pleasure and privilege to call him a friend. But what he did for us in Egypt goes far beyond that. He fought for us, fought our battles and made things happen that simply would not have otherwise. I was expecting a bureaucrat, but what I got was one of the best team members I could have possible had. Fifteen times a day, at every security check point, he explained our presence and got us through. When photographs would not have been allowed, he made them possible. He put up with much, worked hard and always managed a smile.
I believe that the very best place for anyone wanting to write a story about or photograph in Egypt is with the Egyptian Press Office. Of course, they also work with film crews as well. In speaking to Osama in fact, he seems to do more of that than most else. The Press Office can also provide essential information about various requirements. For example, one should not simply show up in Egypt with a load of professional photographic equipment. Technically, a bank letter of credit is required in order to pass though customs with such equipment. Permits may be required even to use a tripod in some locations where photography is ordinarily allowed, and of course, there are many places that a permit is needed in order to photograph at all. Keep in mind that the more extensive the visit, the more time the press office needs to make arrangements.
Keep in mind that those contacting the Egyptian Press Office should be accredited in some manner, having press credentials or a documented history in professional photography, film or video photography. One can usually begin their contact with the Egyptian Press Office through a local Egyptian consulate in the country where one is located. However, from my experience it might be best to contact the Cairo Press Office (Press Center) directly.
Telephone Numbers for the Press Office in Cairo:
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