Is Egypt safe these days?!

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Sep 22nd, 2003, 02:10 PM
  #1
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Is Egypt safe these days?!

Considering a Grand Circle 15 day tour of Ancient Egypt & the Nile including Abu Simbel. Would probably go in January or February 2004. Would really like to go except am concerned about safety in this area. Have heard rumors of tourists being accompanied by armed guards and being rushed through sites for safety's sake. Also would January or February be the best time to go? Have heard of sandstorm season (whenever that is) and very hot weather. Comments? Thanks.
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Sep 22nd, 2003, 02:39 PM
  #2
sandi
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You go for it Phil -

Egypt is safe. Yes you will find armed guards at all tourist sites and even at the entrance to your hotel and on your Nile cruise boat. Also walking around sites, on camels above the hills at the Valley of Kings and Queens. Your bags will be searched before entering sites and in some places you might be "wanded". The tightest security we found was during a performance of Aida at the Pyramids (October) with dogs sniffing all vehicles and roads lined with armed soldiers - nobody allowed to leave once entering, until the conclusion of the performance. At no time did this make us uncomfortable, rather the opposite was true and it's all for your safety.

After the massacre at the Temple of Queen Hapshepsut (VofK/Q) in '97 or '98, the Egyptian government has tightened security everywhere. Tourism brings in lots of money and they couldn't let terrorism go unanswered.

But this in no ways takes away from Egypt - the people, the sites, the food, the culture, you name it.

The weather in January/February should be mild in Cairo, but as you travel to Upper Egypt (south to Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel) the closer you get to the Equator, the hotter it gets. But not so hot that it's unbearable as it would be in mid-summer. Your hotels and cruise boat are air conditioned.

There can be sandstorms at this time of year, and then again, there might not be any. Just pack a bandana in your bag and have plastic bag for your camera and you'll be fine. Doubt your tour operator will walk you thru a sandstorm - just travel prepared, just in case.

The security should not put you off. I sometimes wish there would be more in other places around the world. So again, you go - Egypt is not to be missed.
 
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Sep 22nd, 2003, 06:41 PM
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We encountered security similar to that mentioned by Sandi above - and that was 6 months before 9/11. Also armed guards on street - which I think were almost more for show and to make tourists feel secure as for anything else. They were very young, armed with big visible guns, smoked incessantly, and looked extremely bored. Our tour was accompanied by a guy - not the bus driver, not the tour guide, who it took us days to figure out was our guard, carrying a handgun. Not sure exactly what he was protecting us from. Our bus was sniffed for bombs and searched underneath at Aswan Dam.

"Security" issues to be concerned about in Egypt that are serious are, first, traffic in Cairo. Crossing the street is the most dangerous thing I have done in my life. Drivers have no fear and pedestrians are treated as annoyances at best, and targets at worst. Second, is the ever-present scam attempts. Rather than steal your wallet (statistically street crime is very low), they try to charm your money from you. Third, issue might be health from gastrointestinal ills. This can be avoided by being very careful about what you eat and drink.

Weather - we were there in mid-April 2001. It was the hottest place I have ever been (except perhaps Yuma, AZ in the summer). Jan/Feb is supposed to be the best weather time to go.

No one can, of course, guarantee your safety anywhere. But Egypt is not to be missed. Even before 9/11 friends and family thought we were going to some exotic but dangerous place - so I am sure friends will now tell you that you are crazy to go. Have a good trip.
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Sep 22nd, 2003, 06:56 PM
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Sandi, I teach music to 6th graders who also study ancient Egypt in their social studies...PLEASE...give us some details about the Aida at the Pyramids. What was it like? How is it staged? Do they use lots of extras and animals for the march? How does the audience sit? Is it similar to the light show? What ever else you care to tell..please do. I have told my students this kind of production is done and they just think it would be soo cool to see it. We also study the opera of Aida so they are familiar w/ the plot and music. Thanks!!
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Sep 23rd, 2003, 04:57 AM
  #5
sandi
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LEANNAT - AIDA - Amazing! An amphitheatre is setup on the property surrounding the Pyramids with the Cheops pyramid as backdrop. I do believe when they first started performing AIDA it was done at Luxor or Karnak temple, then it was relocated to the Pyramids.

It looks like statium seating 3/4 round with center and side sections and comfortable seating. Center seats more expensive and then lower towards the sides, but excellent sightline from anywhere. As your vehicle pulls up to the "reception" area, the grounds are covered with carpets (as you'd find in a Bedouin tent) mainly so women's (heels particularly) shoes don't sink into the sand - they certainly enhance the atmosphere.

Ushers show you to your seats and you're provided a program. The dress is anything from jeans to eveningwear. We wore "nice casual" and were glad we brought shawls, as the desert got quite cool as the evening wore on with breezes coming from around us and from under the seating stand.

Prices range from 100 Egyptian Pounds for Egyptians (about USD$25-30 based on exchange rate when we were there), USD$30 for non-resident Aliens (foreigners/students living in Egypt temporarily), USD$100 for foreigners (us). Comparable price one would pay for a theatre/opera performance in the US.

But this is not like the Met, performances do not start on time (8pm), rather once any dignitaries attending arrive; so our performance started about 20-minutes late. Also, unlike a performance at the Met, there was talking around us, and cellphones were ringing which did upset the audience. Don't believe the Egyptians were at the point of advising folks to turn of those cells, but the audience insisted they talk somewhere else. Maybe they've changed the rules since?

The peformance itself was absolutely amazing - music, costumes, sound, yes lots of extra and animals. There was an intermission for about 1/2-hr, then the conclusion.

And for security purposes, as mentioned above, once your driver brought you to the area, they had to remain in the parking area till the opera concluded.

We were very pleased to have been able to experience this extraveganza - which we were lucky enough to realize that our second nite in Cairo was the last performance of AIDA for that year, so we booked immediately. And during the performance, always in the background was the Cheops pyramid surrounded by lights and the night fog/mist rolling in.

Since we saw the Light and Sound Show at Karnak Temple (in Luxor), I can't comment on any comparison to the L&S at the Pyramids, but then AIDA was something special.
 
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Oct 11th, 2003, 01:27 PM
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We recently spent 4 weeks travelling around in Egypt. We landed in Cairo on the day the US invaded Iraq (17 March). People warned us not to go, and it would be unsafe. The reality was quite different. The Egyptians take security very seriously, and tourists are probably a little overprotected. We travelled by train to Aswan (the train had many troops and security personnel on it). we caught a mini bus to Abu Simbel, and yes, it was under military escort. Having said all that, you become accustomed to it and security is not intrusive. At no point did it hinder our enjoyment of Egypt. As to the Egyptian people, they were never less than friendly and welcoming. We were not on an organised tour, and stayed in cheap hotels, used public transport and walked a great deal, and apart from the normal hassle from vendors etc (which you MUST expect), we felt very comfortable throughout the country.
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Oct 11th, 2003, 06:15 PM
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Sandi...lord I just caught up w/ your reply. THANK YOU!!!! I've printed it out so I can read it to my kids...they will love the romance of it all. You were lucky and how smart you were to book it and go!!!! It must truly be something special!!! Again thanks!!!
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Nov 2nd, 2003, 06:33 AM
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Anubis
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People have been asking this question since at least 1996 (the first time I went) and the answer has always been the same. It's as safe as anyplace else. There are no guarantees that you won't run into a group of psychopaths with guns but, as a general rule, you will find Egypt safer than most places.

The Egyptian people are very friendly, and they also know what it is like living in what truly is a police state with limited freedoms so crime rates are very low.

The armed guards come and go according the degree of paranoia in the world at any given time. Generally, I've found them to be more of a nuisance than anything else.

I've usually gone in October or November and had great time although daytime temperatures can become really unpleasant as you head south. March and April temperatures a couple of years ago were ungodly (105F in Aswan). Sandstorms not uncommon at this time; as long as you're not caught outside in one they are an interesting one time only experience.
 
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Jan 3rd, 2004, 10:53 AM
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I have been researching Egypt for a month now, pulling in as much information as I possibly could to make my decision to travel to Egypt a safe one (so cheap right now!!!). Through this research and after educated thought, we will unfortunatley not be going to Egypt. It simply is not a safe. The following recaps my "unsafe" justification:

It is nice that the Egyptian government has provided military escorts when traveling across country on buses and are present in small numbers at all major sites and hotels. However, that should be the only thing you need to know to really understand that Egypt is unsafe. Any country that has to protect tourism through military force has a problem. What do you think the possibility that the sole or few military police will be able to stop a group of Muslim bandits bent on killing tourists at a major site out in the middle of the desert or even hotels in the many remote places outside of Cairo proper? They could be easily overrun in minutes.

Not all Egyptians are full of hate towards Americans. But as one writer most exactly stated after a Egypt warn of caution: "90% of Egyptians are kind and look forward to see Americans (primarily to purchase thier wares or services), 10% of Egyptians strongly dislike Americans, and of that 10%, 1% would like to see Americans dead." I believe this to be true. There are many small groups in Egypt currently plotting death to Americans. If you do not believe this you are simply being ignorant. And why the need to blow up a passenger jet, when "easy pickings" abound? It is diffiuclt to plan and execute a jet bombing, but in comparison, easy to plan the death of vulnerable tourists. Or at a minimum, they could very easily make you sick or purposely pass a disease to you via the food you will consume. This will go virtually undetected and unproved to be done purposely (average 70% of visitors are sick in bed for 3 days- see Fodors Egypt review) and the questions of by whom and where on your travels did you contract will go unanswered. Do you know who is preparing your food in the hotel kitchen? Could be part of the 10% that dislike you or would like to see you dead.

With the feelings of Islamic Extremists growing stronger and more frustrated, I feel that there will soon be more strikes to Egyptian tourists. My feelings were soldified today after the bombing of the EgyptAir passenger jet. Was it just coincidence that Tony Blair (Bush's best buddy) was visiting Sharm el-Sheik at the same time a jet had a mysterious "accident" that killed 148 over the Red Sea? Sounds like 1999 EgyptAir to New York that killed 217 to me... Egypt of course is claiming this just an accident (their economy can not afford another tourist killing). One may never know exactly what happened. I find the timing very suspicious given Blair's rare visit and the recent high volume of Islamic chatter regarding passenger jet(s) that raised security and grounded many flights to and from America. Remember: It was an Islamic Egyptian that flew the jet(s) into the World Trade Center- not an Iraqi, Iranian, Libyan, etc.

I was really looking forward to visiting Egypt with quite a few $1000 (and less) offers for flight AND 5-star acomodations. However, the 1% of radical Islamic Egyptians are very dangerous and make it impossible to visit Egypt at this time. Unless you enjoy taking risks or are ignorant. The low prices are simply a risk/return trade-off. High risk now, low prices. Lower risks hopefully in the future, somewhat higher prices. Why risk your life? You are suppose to be on VACATION, right? Hopefully, by posting my opinion I just might save one American someday. For now visit somewhere safer and give your money to people that do not wish you dead...
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Jan 3rd, 2004, 02:19 PM
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Ho-hum, another alarmist. Aside from extremely misleading statistics, there was no 'bombing of an EgyptAir jet' today. It was a Flash Airlines jet which crashed and there is no evidence (according to CNN) of bombing or terrorist involvement. You simply cannot make conclusions on your own without corroboration. (Admittedly Flash is an Egyptian charter carrier.)

These days, Egypt is worlds safer than most western countries such as the US, England, France or Germany. And that's generally true even if you eliminate the terrorism portion of the equation.

Heck, over 40,000 people a year die on the highways in the US. It that's not something to avoid I don't know what is!

My wife flew over just today, in fact, and emailed back that everything appears as normal as ever (if anything in Cairo can be considered normal!) and there are no fears there as you would have us believe. (I just wish we had more than 4 days notice of her trip, the airfare was ridiculous!)
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Jan 5th, 2004, 10:30 AM
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Aspen I am sorry that you feel the way you do and are going to miss the trip of a lifetime. I am leaving for Egypt (not cheaply I do not like to travel cheap) on January 16, 2004 and I will let you know what you missed when I return January 27, 2004.
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Jan 5th, 2004, 12:34 PM
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MauiMaui--
Hope you have a fabulous time! Just returned from 2 weeks in Cairo, Sharm and upper Egypt (via a Nile Cruise) - please post if you have any questions.
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Jan 6th, 2004, 12:25 PM
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Just returned from Egypt. Everything was peaceful and appeared very safe. However, I wouldn't recommend going with GCT. We were involved in the JFK closing due to snow on the 6th of Dec. GCT left many of us in the lurch and gave us zero help and support in getting to Cairo. Of the 136 people in our group, I believe more than half were ill on the river portion of the tour. Several, including my wife, needed a doctor. If you go, be extremely careful of what you eat and how you eat it.
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Jan 6th, 2004, 12:33 PM
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We felt pretty safe going to the regular tourist sites during our 10 day trip. Especially so since there were literally hundreds of Egyptian schoolchildren around us also touring the sites on school outings. We were never rushed through, although there were armed guards posted everywhere. We were not accompanied by any guards - I believe you only have them when traveling through certain areas such as the road between Cairo and Luxor (we didn't visit anything in this area and flew so did not require a guard). We were there late December and the weather was cool, requiring long pants and light jacket most days. Obtained an antibiotic for stomach problems which was used only once on the Nile cruise. I've been told that there's something around the Aswan area that makes most travelers sick, so you should get a prescription from your doctor before leaving. I came through okay, however.
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Jan 7th, 2004, 05:39 AM
  #15
sandi
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There is the usual 4dy/5nt or 3dy/4nt cruises on the Nile between Luxor and Aswan; then there is a 7dy cruise which takes you north of Luxor to the temples as Dendera and Abydos.

For those people who have some extra time in Luxor and choose to see the Dendera and Abydos sites, there is a land/drive tour and that trip is escorted by armed guards. Likewise for those who wish to visit Tel Armana where Akhanaten and Nefretiti had his city/temple, still further north of Abydos, is escorted by guards.

Unfortunately, most unrest in Egypt has taken place in areas between Cairo and Luxor, so armed security is necessary for those wishing to visit placed in-between.

As far as food, you are advised not to drink other than bottled water, as everyone does (and for brushing teeth as well) - not unlike other countries around the world); nor eat foods that contain lots of water - lettuce, watermelon, cucumbers. Well, we never saw a piece of lettuce leaf anywhere, so no issue. However, we ate watermelon and cucumbers to our hearts content, and we were fine.

If interested in beer, Egypt produces "Stella" beer which is excellent - their Export which is more to my liking, though the Local is less expensive, it is also rather bland. There is also wonderful juices - mango and guava - produced in Egypt (and we get them at our stores here in NYC) and are just what one needs after being out touring sites. Most refreshing!

We all have different digestive systems, so if in doubt, don't eat if unsure and definitely have meds for "tummy grippers." Otherwise, Egypt is as safe as anyplace else around the world these days.

MauiMaui - do report to us when you return.
 
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