Safety in Egypt (July 20th, 2006)
by Jimmy Dunn
Egypt is a wonderful land to visit, with great, upscale tourist facilities, often at bargain prices, and of course some of the worlds greatest moments. It hosted two of the "Egypt Wonders of the Ancient World", and of those wonders, only the Great Pyramid of Khufu remains. It also has grand beaches, world famous scuba diving and even some of the worlds most ancient Christian monuments, not to mention Crusader era fortresses and many medieval buildings and structures. Needless to say, for anyone interested in the ancient world, or simply a good vacation, it is one of those destinations of a lifetime.
Every now and then, people expect us to make a safety assessment on tourism to Egypt, and this of course, because of what is happening in Israel, Lebanon and Gaza, is one of those times. Hence, we have spent considerable time talking to our various contacts, and others in Egypt, including ex-pats and tourists, to check the pulse of this most popular tourist destination.
In reality, much of what I have to say about Egyptian safety does not really change, because the Egyptian people have not changed. They are charming hosts who pride themselves on welcoming people to their country, be they westerners in general, Americans specifically, or those from other parts of the world. At times, for example, they may not care much for American foreign policy as a people, but what makes Egyptians so very special is that they separate the individual from the government, and almost universally, Egyptians like those individuals.
That is, perhaps, a much more difficult concept for Americans to understand than, for example, Europeans, who because of the proximity of their countries to many others, and their general smaller size, travel more internationally.
This is not to say that they do not sympathize with their neighbors in Gaza and Lebanon, but perhaps even more significantly, they sympathize with those throughout the world who are affected by violence. The majority of Egyptians mourned for Americans after 9/11, and when several acts of terrorism took place in Egypt over the last several years, they took to the streets in order to protest those acts, including one that claimed Israeli lives.
In fact, in talking to various Egyptians, I was surprised by some of their reactions to what is happening in the Middle East. Some even mirrored the feelings of many Europeans, that Hezbollah had brought the initial attack on themselves, but that Israel has now over reacted. Of course, one must keep in mind that Egyptians are predominantly Sunni Muslims, while those in Hezbollah (and such countries as Iran) are Shi'it. That is an important distinction.
Since then, there has been a crackdown on safety measures, which have always been tough in Egypt. Egypt certainly does not condone or harbor terrorists. Quite the contrary in fact. Their tourist trade is one of the main sources of capital for Egypt, and the infrastructure of hotels, monuments and other tourist facilities are heavily vested. In other words, they have a lot to protect, and they work at doing so.
Furthermore, even if the current conflict in the Middle East were to somehow spread, Egypt would certainly not be involved at this point. They have indeed stayed out of the conflicts between Israel and the Palestinians for many years, and are probably considered to be one of the West's best allies in the Arab world. Also, America supplies them with sophisticated weaponry, and they are not a country that Israel would be likely to want to engage, nor vise-versa.
In fact, considering the engagement of radicals elsewhere in the world, Egypt is also not likely to draw much attention from them at the moment. Yet, at the same time, because of what is going on a continent away (Egypt is, after all, in Africa, not the Middle East), tourism is slow, crowds are down at the moment, and as usual in such situations, pricing is very good and competitive at the moment. The only real drawback at the moment is, of course, that it is a pretty hot season.
And as a final note, you can join me. Though I am not rushing over because of any particular reason, I have had a trip planned for next month and obviously have no plans of backing out of it. In fact, as usual in such circumstances, I look forward to an airline with perhaps a few less people and a little more room to spread out.