Egypt is one place which is bound to be on everyone’s bucket list given that we all have read about Egypt since school.Long known for its pyramids, ancient civilization and years old monuments, Egypt is the largest Arab African country.
Facts about Egypt country
- Population 83.9 million
- Area 1 million sq km (386,874 sq miles)
- Main language Arabic
- Main religions Islam, Christianity
- Currency Egyptian Pound
Brief history of the revolution in Egypt and a few incidents
- It was in Jan 2011 when millions of protesters from a range of socio economic and religious backgrounds demanded the overthrow of Egyptian president Mr.Hosni Mubarak. “Arab Spring” the popular uprising toppled Mr Mubarak and the capital, Cairo, was literally described as “a war zone”. Curfew was imposed by the police and military.
- In June 2012, Egyptians elected Army leader Mohamed Morsi to the presidency however on 3 July 2013, Morsi was deposed by a coup d’etat led by the minister of defense,General Abdel Fattah El Sisi who eventually got himself elected as president in 2014 elections.
- Apart from this security forces in Egypt mistakenly killed 12 people, including Mexican tourists, during an anti-terror operation in 2015. The tourists were travelling in four vehicles that entered a restricted zone in the Wahat area of the Western Desert.
- On 31 October 2015, a flight from Sharm el Sheikh to St Petersburg crashed in North Sinai.
- On 9 December 2016 there was an explosion on Pyramid Road in Giza, killing at least 6 police officers.
- Again in 2016 December itself again a bomb blast killed at least 25 people during Sunday mass inside a Cairo church near the main Coptic Christian cathedral.
- The coup, which overthrew Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first democratically elected president has brought with it a dramatic increase in violence, particularly in the Sinai region.The Egyptian army, under General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, and its police forces continue to face attacks from several armed groups that have grown in recent years.
Returning to the original question.
Is it safe to travel to Egypt?
Our reply to this is “yes however with necessary caution”. Egypt has gone full circle in terms of political drama and is back to military dictatorship. In general, Egypt is a safe country to travel at present. We were in Egypt in December in 2016 and felt as safe as we do in our home country. However as stated above it is necessary to plan well and take necessary precautions.
Cairo, Alexandria, Sharm el-Sheikh (on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula) is colored in Green now on the FCO (Foreign and common wealth) website as well and are considered relatively safe compared to other regions although it is recommended to read the security advice.
How did we decide on traveling to Egypt despite the news
We read many reviews and experiences by people who had traveled to Egypt in 2016. In fact even though our guide told us that there were no tourist permissions available for Al Bahariya and further, we decided to go there after reading other Indian, American and English tourists. We didn’t face any issue anywhere in Egypt in terms of safety.
Secondly, we believe when it comes to risk, either it is every where and in everything or it only exists where you think and believe that it does. I mean Kashmir is dangerous, Egypt is dangerous but there are many tourists who have done it all in recent years.
In comparison to the risk of street muggings and gun violence in America, to the risk of the continuous earthquakes in many countries including Indonesia, Japan and China, or even the risk of the common floods in London, the risk in Egypt is not as much as we outsiders really assume.
Important thing is to use common sense and caution wherever you go in the world, be it a metropolis, a small town or even the quiet countryside.
Read here to know– Things to do in Egypt and Places to see
Dos and Don’ts in Egypt
What not to do in Egypt
- Clothing- Egypt is predominantly a Muslim country and Egyptian dress for both men and women covers their full body.Hence you should adhere to some clothing do’s and don’t’s. Don’t wear revealing clothes, dress modestly. Women should wear full pants /jeans or skirts below knees. Ideally anything that covers their body with minimal skin show. Inside mosques and other religious temples, it is advisable to cover heads as well. This will not be the case if you are visiting Sharm-El-Sheikh, Dahab, Marsa Allam and Hurghada. There shorts, sleeveless tops are allowed.
- Behavior in public -Public display of affection is not a norm. No kissing in public. Also, don’t go looking for excitement in the middle of a big crowd, irrespective of what is going on. Respect the country culture.Kissing or hugging persons of the opposite sex is not really acceptable. Shaking hands is ok in general, but strict Muslims don’t shake hands with people of the opposite sex in order to avoid any physical contact.
- Drinking – Don’t drink tap water and don’t drink alcohol in the street (it’s not socially acceptable, and in some areas, it’s forbidden by law).
- Tipping- Don’t overpay unless you really feel like. I felt Egyptians guides are more friendly than expected besides the fact that they keep saying how kind you are, how great your country is and how much they are doing to make you happy. This is all to somehow make you feel obligated to pay good tips.In fact, this is not just with guides but each and every person in Egypt doing even the most insignificant job for you in the name of service expects a tip.
Please do read the articles on trip advisor and other sites to check how much you should pay for each job/service. We had the article but somehow didn’t read it thoroughly and it just wasn’t a good experience because we paid huge tips for the services we take it for granted in India.
- Don’t expect drivers to know English. Most people can’t communicate in English. Hence it is advisable to hire a tour guide or book the complete tour with a reputed company. Company of tour guides can get intimidating at times but communication is important for a smooth travel.
- Traveling within Egypt- Don’t go walking along the Nile river at night. Don’t wander around darkened back streets at anytime. And don’t go off the beaten track alone looking for the ‘hidden Egypt’. May get risky at times.Also, attacks have mainly been aimed at the Egyptian security forces, their facilities and other government buildings in the recent past and hence you should take great care near these buildings.
- Rides- Don’t get befooled. Taxis, horses, camels, and donkeys whatever it is be careful when negotiating the price of a ride. Make sure you state how many people it’s for, whether it includes all parking fees, what stops you will be making, and how far and long you will be going. Also, most importantly don’t take taxis alone in the night. Use Uber app or yellow cab.
- Don’t eat anywhere and everywhere. Not a very clean country and so hygiene levels at all places can’t be trusted. Moreover, check what you are being served. KFC in Cairo serves beef also along with chicken patty in the chicken burger.
What to do when planning your Egypt trip
- First thing is to pre-plan. Do research in advance and Stay in good places, Egypt hotels are not as expensive as hotels in other countries. Read FAQs, entrance fees, tipping advice well.
- Book only trusted, recommended hotels and do it before you leave home. This will allow you to take their advice on what to do, what not to do, where to go and where not to go.
- Bargain well when buying anything in Egypt. Many things are made in China and prices could be 3-4 times higher. Most people in Egypt tell you the price they think you should be able to pay. However, pay what you are willing to pay for the chosen service or product. You can even leave the shop without buying unless you feel the product is correctly priced.
- Ask directions from at least three different people at least 30 plus in age. Sometimes people try to help even if they don’t know the place.
- Take permissions before taking a photo.
- Pay tips- It’s expected everywhere as salaries are not good.
- Spend time talking to Egyptian people, they are friendly and love to exchange stories.
Last but not the least, don’t just read about ancient Egyptian civilization.Go , visit and experience Egypt without fear.