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Egypt, because of its popular ancient history, has long been a desired destination for travelers across the globe. While the country was, for a long time, celebrated for its image as aesthetically ancient yet sturdy in the modern Middle East, Egypt was far from unscathed during the Arab Spring. After half a decade of consistent civil unrest, violence, governmental upheaval, and coups, Egypt’s reputation as the rock for traveling in the region has been somewhat tarnished. However, 2017, was the first time in years when the country saw a positive trend in incoming tourist traffic. With this optimistic progression, many people are eager to pack their bags and head to the country of pharaohs and sphinxes. Below we explore recent events, reports from Egyptian authorities, and current travel warnings to answer the question is Egypt safe?
Places to Go/Avoid
There are definitely some places in the country that should not only be avoided, but tourists are actually not even allowed to go. To get an idea, assume the area that stretches along the Nile River and over to the coast is OK to go to. The western deserts are currently advised against visiting, whereas the Sinai Peninsula — aside from the tip where Sharm el-Sheikh is located — is under continuous threat from terrorist attacks. The portion of the Sinai that borders Israel and the Gaza Strip is especially dangerous. Currently, Egypt is in the process of passing a proposal to invest billions in the peninsula to further its development, which is believed to help eliminate militant insurgency. Major cities like Cairo and Alexandria, as well as coastal resort towns, should be safe when sticking to touristy areas.
In The News
In 2018, there have been two major news stories concerning tourists coming out of Egypt and gaining credence with major news sources. The first is following the deaths of a British couple at a hotel in the resort town of Hurghada. The hotel has been cited as having fallen below cleanliness standards (notably hygiene tests revealed the presence of E. Coli) but this does not seem to be the cause of death. While no conclusive results are back, experts say this is an isolated incident. The more alarming story for tourists was the recent arrest of a man carrying a backpack of explosives near the United States Embassy. Luckily, the matter was handled before any detonations, but security forces are on high alert.
Terrorism is absolutely the story that will come out of Egypt when it comes to safety, however, petty crime is a much more likely and prevalent danger awaiting tourists. While violent muggings don’t occur very often, pickpockets are rampant in densely walked places like the metro in Cairo. The biggest thing to watch out for, however, is scams. Like many places, overcharging tourists is common, but many Egyptians get a bit more creative, offering free gifts, which turn into guilt trips for money, or will claim museums are closed when they aren’t, to get tourists to follow them to their café or shop.
Travel for Minority Groups
For women, there are conflicting reports about the safety of Egypt as a destination. There are stories of verbal, and rarer stories of physical assault from cab drivers and people in the streets late at night. However, it seems most accounts from solo female travelers is that if they adhere to the common dress code for Muslim countries (cover arms, legs, chest), Egypt was not exceptionally dangerous. AllTheRooms advises taking more caution than seems necessary, especially when alone and at night. Unfortunately, for gay travelers, the hazards are higher as Egypt has taken a turn towards regression in this area. Since 2017, there has been a crackdown on the gay community. Homosexuality is not a crime in Egypt, and there are small communities in Cairo and Alexandria, but for foreigners, it is highly advisable not to attempt to find these communities. This is because the police and others hoping to harass gay men to get money will target things like gay dating apps. Lesbians are very rarely confronted with issues, partially due to female homosexuality being intently dismissed in the country.
Is Egypt Safe?
At AllTheRooms, we like to believe in the best of most countries and Egypt is no different. The country has issues and is a part of a region in the midst of change, but many places sought by tourists are safe and are full of welcoming people. As mentioned before Cairo, Luxor, and beach resorts (when flown to directly), among other popular destinations are safe to visit. So long as travelers take heightened precautions, are aware of their surroundings, and are culturally sensitive, there won’t be problems. Avoid the majority of the Sinai, the western deserts, and borders. Those eager to gaze upon the majesty of the pyramids should start packing their bags.