A survey of Egypt: Safety Issues
By Jimmy Dunn
Good morning from Tour Egypt. I would like to apologize. As many of our readers may know, I have been in Egypt doing a survey of the Delta, the North Coast between Alexandria and Port Said, and the Sinai. I was supposed to report to our readers during this project from the road. We always realized that this was an ambitious project and unfortunately, I was unable to make my reports while on the road. I think we accomplished what we set out to do, but my days more often than not began at 3:00 or 4:00 am and, by the time I finished downloading the day's images and backing them up, often lasted until midnight. In most locations, internet access was not handy, and sometimes not even available, so it would have been difficult to write a report and upload it even if I had the energy to do so. However, now that I am back, I will be writing a series on this adventure over the coming days.
Specifically, today I would like to address the issue of safety, the assessment of which was one of the main purposes of this trip. In my opinion, safety in Egypt can be related to three specific topics, consisting of the attitude of the general population, the attitude of the government towards safety concerns, and the physical infrastructure of safety precautions. In my opinion, Egypt scores very high on each of these.
Inherently, if a general population is hostile to westerners, then safety must be questionable. Admittedly, I fear that the US government and some of its allies has inspired a growing dislike amongst the Muslim countries towards westerners. Indeed, even though we maintain an office in Cairo, and constantly assess the attitude of the Egyptian people towards westerners, I wanted to see for myself firsthand how the Egyptian people feel about westerners and Americans specifically, and how those attitudes might have changed since my last visit to Egypt. Surely, I must admit, that there should be some cooling of the warm hospitality of Egyptians towards Americans, but I was wrong, and I love the Egyptian people all the more for their open hearts and welcoming souls.
As I traveled throughout places in Egypt that rarely see tourists, and have no real tourism structure, I made no secret about being an American. I was often asked my nationality, and I openly admitted to being an American. And I was greeted with the usual smiles and curiosity that I have come to expect from Egyptians. One might expect this at tourists areas, but the experience was all the more real as we visited Delta villages and sat amongst Bedouin families in the Sinai. I never felt threatened, not once, not by any soul.
On the contrary, I felt welcomed where ever I traveled. Though we tried to avoid it, we were sometimes escorted by police, as tourists always are, but I would sometimes purposely escape these confines, often late at night, and walk the streets of a city that knew no tourists, and I was always warmed by the greetings of the local folks, their kindness and their hospitality. At other times we managed to entirely evade the police escorts, and that was wonderful, as we stopped here and there, and experienced the open countryside without restraint. Indeed, this was a wonderful experience, traveling about where there are no tourist traps, no one trying to hawk a camel or a carriage ride, a papyrus or a day tour. But everywhere, there are bad people. They rob tourists in Washington, DC, bomb federal buildings in Oklahoma City, kill little Amish girls in Pennsylvania, gas trains in Japan and blow them up in the UK. It is not a world without dangers, no matter where one might be, and threats may never be completely eliminated. Therefore, governments must be vigilant and proactive, and I am very proud of the Egyptian government in this regard. Egypt has, for many years now, been a very controlled environment, specifically regarding tourists. A specific body of tourist police has been in place ever since I began visiting Egypt in order to protect tourists, and many of the safeguards at airports just only recently adopted by the US have been operational in Egypt for many years.
Metal detectors grace the doorways of all tourist hotels, manned by guards, and tourists, whether in groups or not, are escorted almost everywhere by police. This has been the typical fare in Egypt for some years. But these days, since the bombings along the Sinai east coast, security has been vastly increased. Near tourist areas, one may not travel many miles before encountering a police checkpoint, and I found the guards at these posts very serious about their jobs and who they allow past. We also encountered many dogs trained to sniff out explosives. At many of the larger tourists hotels, mirrors were used to check beneath cars, and thorough searches were made. Often, it was not even easy to enter a major tourist hotel without a good reason. Egypt is a country under control, far more so than America with our open borders and relaxed freedoms. Egypt depends on tourism, and they are acutely intent on protecting their tourists.
Yet, I was even more impressed by a new, more interesting proactive attitude. In the past, for example, when Israel issued a warning about possible threats in the Sinai, Egypt merely continued its normal rigorous security procedures. However, when Israel issued their latest threat advisory, Egypt actively increased its security measures, sending out special units to track down would be radical elements. I am also told by colleagues in Egypt that, for every uniformed police one might encounter at the moment, there are perhaps five plainclothes police roaming the streets. I feel like Egypt is not only making every effort to protect tourists, but they are doing a smarter job of it than ever before. In the end, the vast majority of Egyptians are very friendly towards westerners, including Americans. This is a moderate country, whose people love life, their families, and they are a good people who work at being good people. And while their may be a few bad apples everywhere, the Egyptian government is doing everything within its power, and its power is extensive, to protect tourists from those who might cause them harm.
On my return to the US, as I shower before leaving for Texas, suddenly a stream of scalding water spews out and I lurch back, sliding on the slippery shower floor and almost toppling. I am reminded that one may meet their end in many ways. Several years ago, cancer almost took me, but I can say that I have never, over the past eleven years, almost met my end at the hands of an unfriendly Egyptian. Indeed, I usually feel safer there than at home. After all, there is virtually no actual crime towards tourists in Egypt, no drive-by shootings. I can only remember one mugging in the last eleven years, and not a single rape. It is a land well worth visiting, and it is as safe as anywhere, and safer than most. Two comments I received after returning home. Gosh, your lucky to make it back! Answer: Yes, I know. I had to go through New York. I stayed near JFK Airport, and the neighborhood scared me far more than any place in Egypt. Those people over their don't like us. Answer: Who are "those People" and where is "over there"? I cannot answer for everywhere in Africa and the Middle East, but the Egyptian people are very different than most. They are moderates who are, and have been constantly in contact with western tourists for hundreds of years. Their attitudes are different than people in most other Muslim nations. They are a progressive people with an eye to the modern world. "Over there" is where? Egypt is in Africa, not the Middle East. It has been a crossroads of civilization for thousands of years, and has a much different mentality than many nations in the Middle East.
Last Updated: June 9th, 2011
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