How Safe is Egypt?

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Wading the Nile: considerably less chancy thanks to the Uzi sticking out from under our guard’s vest.

I gulped at Mom’s suggested trip to Egypt.  The Middle East?  But many reputable companies were offering tours.  Also, the U.S. travel advisory site noted just a couple areas to avoid, which naturally weren’t on the tours.  Obviously, Egypt and the tour companies are highly motivated to protect us golden geese.  They’d be crazy to encourage visitors if they didn’t believe they could keep us safe.  And who would know better than they whether the situation was safe?

“Safe” being a relative term, of course.

So how safe was Egypt?  I was surprised at how welcoming the people were.  people in touristy areas everywhere tend to get irritated with the constant crush, but when our big bus eased along a narrow street in Alexandria, locals waved enthusiastically.  We were the first flock of big spenders returning after their country managed to stifle the Muslim Brotherhood.  A guide summed Egyptian thinking up this way: “The Muslim Brotherhood is not Muslim and not brothers. They’re a gang. ”

Guard behind shield next to military vehicle

The terrorism threat is still serious, and Egypt works security for all they’re worth.  We saw many  guards with machine guns, some behind metal shields.  Our tour bus was usually accompanied by an armed guard—a really nice guy who helped Mom with steps.  Another bus guard followed me on a shopping excursion in the bazaar.  I never thought I’d walk out of a shop, look around and announce: “I lost my body-guard.”  …a Paris Hilton moment.

Most entries to attractions required that we pass through metal detectors.  Sometimes the guards were lax.  Some waved our group through apparently assuming that if we were with a guide, we  weren’t trouble.  Security men sitting in a botanic garden coffee shop were so relaxed that my free spirit friend said, “I bet I could get that gun away from him.”  The one time on the trip my red flags shot up.

Small section of the Cairo market–great place to take a body-guard.

Two weeks after we returned to the States, a bomb near the pyramids killed three tourists and a guide as a bus unloaded.  Officials stated that the bus had  taken an unsecured route.  Aside from those killings, it bothers me that we’d never been told about secured routes.  Shouldn’t we have known to where the secured areas were when we had free time to wander?

A few days later I read that the Egyptian government dealt with the situation by killing 40 “terrorists.”   Whoa!  Maybe the question isn’t whether we should keep ourselves safe by staying out of Egypt, but whether we should stay out of Egypt to keep terrorist suspects safe from trigger-happy enforcers.

On the other hand, who am I to judge friendly folks fighting for their lives and livelihood?

About breathtakebyways

Ann Williams’ travel articles have appeared in publications all over the country including The Washington Post, Roads to Adventure, and Jack and Jill. Between researching and writing books, she specializes in creative lectures.