NOTE: THIS ARTICLE ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE HUFFINGTON POST TRAVEL SECTION. A LINK TO THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND HERE.
Egypt has had its share of problems over the past two years and the country continues to work to get its political house in order. During that time Egypt has remained safe for foreign tourists. With the exception of a short period of time in 2011 — as the old regime was collapsing — and and for another short period of time before law and order could be restored, the country has not been dangerous.
The issues that brought about the Revolution and its iconic mass protests and demonstrations were largely domestic political issues and we did not see foreign tourists targeted even during this period.
Some foreign journalists who refused to heed advice and headed out into rowdy crowds with cameras were attacked in isolated incidents during the Revolution, and a few Western students in Egypt who foolishly decided to participate in some of the protests and who themselves engaged in illegal behavior (like throwing rocks and bottles from rooftops) ran afoul of the law and wound up in trouble with the local police. Although these incidents got widespread coverage back home, they were certainly not the norm for Westerners even during the height of the Revolution.
After the Egyptian Revolution ran its course, tourist operations in Egypt picked back up and continued, although with far fewer tourists visiting throughout the rest of 2011. Our company, Middle Eastern Adventures, returned to Egypt in early 2012, and we have had nothing but great experiences with our groups of American guests ever since. We coincidentally had groups in Egypt during the parliamentary elections and during both rounds of presidential elections in 2012 – periods during which the media back home often portrayed the rallies for new presidential candidates and parties as the same revolution-style mass protests seen the year prior – but everything with our groups went smoothly and our clients enthusiastically attested in their unedited, end-of-trip video reviews that they felt completely safe traveling to and around Egypt with us.
There were a couple of unusual – and again isolated – incidents out in the largely ungoverned Sinai region in which local bedouin held up or detoured tourists for up to 24 hours to get the attention of the central government back in Cairo, but they occurred in areas that are not currently recommended for unaccompanied tourism, and in all cases the tourists had ignored the warnings and ventured out anyway without proper accompaniment and security. Our groups always travel with government-provided security within Egypt, even in areas where it is perfectly safe to travel alone.
But disregarding the authorities’ advice as well as the common wisdom is the quickest way to find yourself in a sticky situation no matter where you’re traveling. The Egyptian government does an excellent job of securing the popular tourist areas, and travel and tour companies are partial to avoiding risks. Hence, it’s always best to follow sage advice, and the crowds, when traveling in the developing world.
More recently, the incident in which a few rogue protestors climbed the U.S. Embassy wall in Cairo and took down the American flag in the compound’s courtyard was a legitimate cause for concern. This type of activity is highly symbolic, and it was quickly condemned on all sides of the political spectrum. But even then, tourism in Egypt continued uninterrupted. In fact, clients on our recent women’s group trip that visited Egypt from mid- to late-October reported that they felt completely safe, welcome, and warmly received as they traveled around in style with Middle Eastern Adventures and our highly attentive American staff on the ground in Egypt.
The truth about Egypt is that its recent restlessness is more about internal domestic issues and about a proud and awakened people yearning for freedom and dignity. That’s what the Egyptian Revolution in January 2011 was all about, and the country continues to make its way toward this goal. Ordinary Egyptians all over the country warmly welcome foreign tourists, especially Americans, and they are always incredibly happy to see us returning.
Our media back home continue to perpetuate the myth that Egypt is unsafe for foreign tourists, and they love to play old clips of rallies and demonstrations in one tiny square in one city of Egypt from specific days every time a story on Egypt is reported. The funny thing to those of us actually on the ground in Egypt every month is that we see these same news reports and stories on TV from our hotel rooms, then we look out the window and see life on the streets of Cairo going on as normal – calmly and peacefully. Then we look back at the TV screen and see clips being played from months or even years ago now and we can’t help but laugh.
Those who can see past the facade and who are willing to come visit Egypt are always surprised to find out how amazing the experience is, even now, and the fact that tourism is depressed generally across the region means that it’s the perfect time to come see this country without the congestion and crowds that you normally see at Egypt’s world-famous sites and monuments.