Not so long ago (until 2010), Egypt was one of the most popular destinations in the world. The reasons, of course, are self explanatory - the world’s best known and incredibly well preserved ancient civilization as well as the paradise Red Sea resorts. Although some terrorist attacks on tourists had occurred prior to that year from time to time, the country hadn’t been considered too dangerous. Things changed after the Arab Spring in 2011 and the tourism industry suffered dramatically. Now, some years have passed and Egypt has been slowly regaining its shattered reputation despite the random disruptions of peace that are still rarely happening. What is visiting Egypt now like? Is it safe to travel to Egypt nowadays and enjoy it as a typical tourist destination?
Is Egypt Safe?
Most parts of Egypt, including those that are most visited by tourists are considered quite safe by most of the government websites. According to the UK government travel advice (see here), only the areas to the west (parts of Sahara and the Libyan border) and Sinai Peninsula are marked as higher risk areas (orange and red color). But that does not mean that you can be completely carefree in Egypt - although the rest of the country is green, the website still warns that attacks are likely to be carried out in the tourist spots too.
But the reality is a little bit better than it seems - many people still visit Egypt nowadays and most of the trips are completed without any disruptions. Despite some incidents involving the tourists, summing up, there were way more attacks in Western Europe than in Egypt in the recent years. Nevertheless, the risk must be taken into consideration.
Does Egypt Feel Safe?
As I mentioned above, traveling to Egypt, according to the government websites is not as unsafe as it used to be. But does Egypt feel safe? Feeling safe is slightly different than actually being safe. Nothing happened to us, nothing happened to any of the members of our tour. But did we feel safe?
Overall, the answer is not always. Egypt was one of the few places were we felt something is not right almost everywhere we went. Although it is pretty unlikely that you could be a victim of a terror attack in Egypt, traveling throughout the country, in general, I must admit, does not feel safe. There is this aura of uncertainty that seems to surround and follow your every step. The ubiquitous presence of so many armed men around the most visited sites, churches and even randomly appearing in the streets is good, you might think. There are military checkpoint every now and then on the roads. The country wants to focus on the security of the visitors - however, all this, does imply that something is hanging in the air.
That feeling accompanied us in most of the places - not only in some dodgy streets. Even on board our tour bus, we had a security guide carrying a huge machine gun and a police escort car travelling in front of us. The checkpoints, although were carried out by military, didn’t look too professional to be honest. Basically, a checkpoint is a shabby building, a concrete tower and a few guys with guns. At petrol station, you can also see multiple kind of pistols displayed in front of the till as it they were chewing gums. In case you wish to get some snacks - sometimes there are no prices displayed - don’t assume that you will be charged correctly (like the locals), of course. But it’s not a big deal as the stuff is cheap enough.
I understand that the presence of armed military is taken as a safety measure, but all this does create an unnerving and uncomfortable atmosphere.
Also, another point is the lack of feeling of freedom which is a bit depressing. What I mean here is that you, as a tourist, don’t feel too welcome. I am not saying everyone in Egypt wants to take an advantage of you - this is clearly not true - we met many amazing Egyptians - however, the constant premonition that someone is there to trick you (which is extremely common, especially at the ancient sites) and that you just can’t leave your hotel and walk normally without being troubled, creates the unnerving aura that makes you want to watch your back at every corner. That applies especially to female solo travelers, you might be bothered and even harassed constantly on the streets of Egypt.
Then, there are our own unique experiences - the pollution, unimaginable poverty, crazy ride in an Uber car, being locked in an unknown temple outside the tourist area with a village guide carrying a gun, taking a taxi which fell apart into pieces in the middle of the road, following Google Maps which led us to the worst slum areas and a balloon flight that were taken by the wind in the wrong direction. I wrote about all those things in the post “What Is Like To Travel In Egypt”, check it out if you wish to find out more.
If you’re planning to visit Egypt - bear in mind that you won’t be able to feel as free as anywhere else in the West and the independent travel is quite difficult. But is it worth visiting? If you want to know, check the “Is Egypt Worth Visiting” post.
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