Is Egypt safe? This is a good question and one we receive a lot when talking about our travels. While some people just shake their heads, trying to figure out why we would ever want to set foot in Egypt with the current ‘situation’, others are genuinely curious about the state of travel in this historical country.
Egypt has been dealt one of the biggest blows due to the recent terrorist situation, having gone from an insanely booming tourist economy that just disappeared shortly after the uprising that circled around the Arab spring a few years back.
The country was deemed unstable, the tourists stopped coming, ISIL took up a stronghold in the Sinai Peninsula causing the country to take up residence on the FCO red list and today you have a country deprived of the once-lucrative tourist dollar.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet Egypt (Travel Guide)
Is Egypt Safe?
As you can imagine, this has changed the face of tourism in Egypt. We don’t know what it was like to travel in Egypt before all this happened, although we have had heard many stories about the difficulty involved, our month in Egypt was surprisingly wonderful.
With so much to offer a traveler, I can’t imagine why so many people are holding back from visiting the country right now. The numbers are at an all-time low and security is more stringent than it ever was in the past.
The best part of travel to Egypt right now? The sites are virtually empty. Temples that once saw thousands of people in a day are now lucky to reach 100 visitors in a day.
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Is Egypt Safe for Westerners?
Based on our recent travels in Egypt, the short answer is yes. Egypt is desperate for tourist dollars and has changed the tune in which they address westerners. Our time in Egypt was split between being part of an organized trip, with our overland truck and traveling independently.
Of course, group travel offers more securities for a traveler but we found traveling around and arranging things on our own incredibly easy. The Egyptians were helpful, friendly and eager to help. Yes, you need to watch out for scams but that can really be said for just about anywhere you travel to, not just Egypt.
At one point, we were shopping in Hurghada one night and wandered into a small trinket shop where we engaged with a friendly local. Curious about where we were from, he assumed we were British.
When I told him we were American, first he didn’t believe me, then he became overwhelmed with gratitude. He had tears in his eyes as he knelt to the ground a professed his love for the USA and welcomed us to his shop.
I was a bit shocked, to be honest, but it was a crude reality for me of the impact the Middle East situation is having on the everyday lives of the locals.
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What are the Local People Like in Egypt?
Welcome to Alaska! Not something you would expect to hear in the Middle East, but the most common greeting among the older locals upon greeting you.
The general scene involved older men sitting around a storefront, smoking shisha pipes, eating Falafel and shouting ‘Welcome to Alaska’ at the passing tourists. I cracked a smile every single time.
The number of times curious locals stepped in to help us when we encountered language barriers or wanted to try local cuisine on the streets was countless, each time brimming with a smile. Neither of us can really say anything bad about our encounters with the locals.
One thing to note is that random people will come to talk to you on the streets. I think most of the time it is out of blatant curiosity. However, be warned that they likely will know someone from your state (if our American) and maybe even your hometown. It is a tactic used to make you feel more comfortable.
These people are harmless, however, don’t oblige if they try to take you somewhere for a good deal or authentic something or other. They may even try to hard-sell you a tour. Just say no, while they are nice, you’ll likely end up paying really high prices.
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Will I Be Harassed While Traveling in Egypt?
To be on the safe side, I am going to say yes, unfortunately. However, I will follow that up with the fact that we dealt with little to none of it during our month traveling in Egypt. I think a lot of it comes down to how you dress and present yourself.
Before traveling to Egypt, I read horror stories upon horror stories about harassment of fellow travelers during their travels in Egypt. Granted, most of these stories were pre-revolution and personally, the tourist culture in Egypt has been dramatically altered since that event.
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Edfu temple felt a strong sense of appreciation and respect coming from the locals that we encountered. While there was some sleaze still wandering the streets, we never had a bad encounter.
Nobody tried to touch me, talk dirty to me or scream catcalls in the streets. I even had men step out of my way and graciously let me pass them on the streets. This was not behavior I was prepared for.
Did I get stared at? Sure I did. Did young men wink at me? Of course, they did. Did it bother me? No. It was extremely tame compared to my experiences in India and Morocco. To be honest, I spent a lot of our time in Egypt quite shocked at how little I was noticed and bothered.
Tips for Dressing Appropriately in Egypt
Egypt is a very conservative, Muslim country. Most of the things you hear about come down to the way people are presenting themselves and dressing when they visit.
This is not the first world. This is not the west. I don’t care who you are or what your views are on religion. If you are going to travel to a Muslim country, show some respect.
Women, I know Egypt is a hot country, but you have to put some clothes on. No shorts, no tanks, and no tight-fitting clothes. I always made sure I had my hair tied back and contained so it wasn’t flowing in the wind.
Sometimes I even covered my head with a scarf, not because I was told to but because I wanted to get out of the sun and be respectful.
Sticking to these clothing rules saved me from awkward moments and harassment. While I can’t guarantee you won’t get attention, some people are very enamored by western women, dressing correctly will go a long ways toward having an enjoyable time in Egypt.
Don’t leave home without Lonely Planet Egypt (Travel Guide)
Is Egypt Safe Amid all the stereotypes of the Middle East?
Absolutely and now is the time to go. We walked up to the Abu Simbel temple at sunrise and the place looked deserted. One of the most iconic and well-preserved temples in the world used to see thousands of visitors every day. The day before we visited they saw a whopping 70 people.
There were times we showed up at famous, well-known temples and had the place to ourselves for hours. Leaving each temple you were shuffled to what we deemed the gauntlet, the row of shops with over eager, aggressive and desperate shop owners.
My heart went out to them, as they stood a few men among a shocking number of shops that have been abandoned and closed down due to the lack of tourism.
Check out this book: Egyptian Art in the Age of the Pyramids
Egypt is desperate for tourism right now. I won’t deny that it is part of the high-risk areas and there is a small, very small chance that you might get wrapped up in something unfortunate.
However, I can tell you that the military presence is obnoxiously strong and they are everywhere; on every street corner, at every temple, and alongside every highway. They are monitoring movement and keeping the country stable.
We took a bus from Cairo to Dahab, despite everything online saying we shouldn’t. The military checkpoints were many, sometimes we even got off the bus and unloaded our luggage so bomb dogs could sniff it.
I am not saying the state of Egypt isn’t serious, but I am saying it shouldn’t deter you from traveling to this amazing country.
The day after we arrived in Dahab, we woke up in our hotel room to the news about the Russian airliner that was bombed after flying from Sharm el Sheik. We flew out of that airport 5 days later. Did that scare us? Sure it did, but it doesn’t affect how we feel about Egypt.
Is Egypt Safe?
Let’s be realistic, the chances of you going to Egypt and getting wrapped up in any of the media bred fear events are slim to none. Could it happen? Sure, it could.
Will it happen while you are enjoying the wonders of Egypt? You have a better chance of getting hit by a bus in your hometown. Seriously. Don’t let fear dictate how you live your life.
If you want to see Egypt, go! See Egypt, it has so many wonders to show you. We wandered around the sites in awe at the history on display. We rode camels in the desert around the Great Pyramids of Giza.
We climbed inside tombs at the Valley of the Kings. We sailed on the Nile River and shopped in the busy souks of Aswan. We visited the Luxor temple at night and got lost in the National Museum in Cairo. We went scuba diving in the Red Sea and touched the walls of Abu Simbel.
Despite the negative press, we’d hop on a plane tomorrow and return to Egypt. It’s that good.
|Best of Egypt|
Cairo to Cairo
Trip Type: Small Group
Cairo to Cairo
Trip Type: Small Group
|Highlights of Egypt
Cairo to Cairo
Trip Type: Small Group
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More on Egypt:
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- Multi-Day Nile River Feluca Trip
- The pyramids of Egypt: Giza, Saqqara, and Dahshur