I was saddened and reflecting this evening on the fact that news once again in the Middle East has highlighted an explosion in a popular suburb in Egypt with nine policemen killed by the blast after being asked to investigate suspicious activity in an apartment block near the Pyramids area. Curious about the timing of it all. Every year it is the same, every year there’s a buildup of ‘tension’ on the same date. You can adjust your watch by it.
With just days to go before the anniversary of the Revolution on the 25th of January, this I know is disheartening for Egyptians everywhere who would just prefer that this whole thing disappear. Most average Egyptians I know don’t even like to talk about the Revolution anymore, because it just brings on feelings of deep disappointment and sadness at the way in which the West just abandoned them, refusing to respond to what has gone on, and pretty much left the Egyptian people to hang in the breeze as they have watched tourism drop nearly 98% since 2011. To date, losses since 2011 total $50b – and counting. As one of Egypt’s most important economic sources, to observe the pain this causes is very difficult to watch each time I return. But Egyptians, overall, are bouyant and resilient. One of the gifts of the Revolution was a new direction for the country and most are focused on creating a better country with an even greater outlook. Everyone I speak to – from hotel owners to cab drivers say to me “wait until you see Egypt two years from now”. It’s exciting to hear their passion and determination come to the fore.
But is it safe? Lets look at this contextually. Every day in Egypt, more than 80 million Egyptians get about their every day lives focusing on surviving, getting through their busy lives, making ends meet, and providing for their loved ones. In Cairo, Egypt’s largest city by far, over 26m people call this home. That is the population of Australia – in one city. There can be an incident (much like this one) and more than 25m Egyptians and many millions of tourists who choose to ignore the sensationalist reports and political reprise won’t even know a thing about it unless they see it in the news. I know I never do when I go there and I am not interested in finding out. It is just not a part of the every day.
The thing is – incidents like these occur every day around the world! And while I never say nothing bad would happen because it always can, anywhere. It goes on every single day over every country with violence, shootings and attacks on nearly every continent on a daily basis – but no-one like ISIS is ‘claiming’ responsibility and none of it has the focus that Egypt seems to endure.
HOW DANGEROUS IS IT?
The whole point of terrorism is to harm a small number of people to make a much larger number of people who are basically safe to feel unsafe. It’s a tactic used by those whose resources of forced are limited. The reason it works is because there is always the chance at least one person might be harmed in the incident, even when that chance is immeasurably small. So while the sensational daily news coverage keeps this momentary threat in our psyche, greater threats like disease, car crashes, flooding, drownings, lightning strikes and earthquakes aren’t really in our thoughts. A terrorist attack is like a freak accident. They are often terribly timed and poorly created. In Egypt, there are more than 80m people unaffected by what goes on and with the added tourists, lets say around 3m a week the chanced are that there is less than 1 in 85m of being impacted. Those are fairly broad odds! in fact you are probably more likely to win a lottery than you are of being affected by this so called ‘Terror wave’. You are more likely to be bitten by a shark while swimming, killed on the highway, or hit by lightening than being affected by political activity. And that’s the honest truth.
Even with low tourism numbers, Egypt experiences roughly 9m tourists a year, and while it is nowhere near the 14m they are used to, that is still the vast majority of tourists who truly adore Egypt and really don’t regard what sensation is going on in the headlines. Thank goodness for sanity. 9m people who visit each year is the equivalent of the entire population of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne combined. There are still many people ignoring the nonsense of the media and engaging with the magic of Egypt that is still there.
I’ll be travelling back to Egypt again very soon in April, as I did in May last year with my 15 year old son (and he lived there for 3 months with dear friends while he worked through some emotional issues he was facing). While he had some trepidation about the stories he’d been bombarded with in the media, he came home with a new focus and a new perspective on the world at large. He saw just how insane the media circus is and the horror painted is not even close to the reality that occurs in the streets of Egypt. Where one can walk around and absolutely soak up the magnificent atmosphere without threat of harm by the beautiful Egyptian people.
The point of the matter is this – for any visitor to Egypt the risk of harm from any sort of political or military event is extremely low. One naturally avoids large gatherings of a political nature and you don’t go wandering in places where you don’t belong of course. And we don’t. There is a military presence that is visible to the tourists and they are there to protect us and the local people who are getting about doing their every day thing.
IT’S YOUR DECISION
The very best thing you can possibly be doing is not allowing the fear to paralyse you. That’s exactly what they are trying to achieve. At present 5m of those tourists are missing and in fear. So when there are scary news reports (understand this is the way they are designed!) people will turn to me and ask ‘is Egypt safe now?’ as if they are wanting me to guarantee their safety. Nothing is guaranteed but I will say this. You need to make the decision that is right for you. If you believe that an amount of uncertainty will spoil your trip just postpone it. I guarantee you Egypt will still be there. I’ll be returning in April and when I do I will continue to report on my experiences in Egypt and I expect to encounter zero problems – just as I have each time I have travelled there and have only ever been treated with nothing but immense love and respect by all the Egyptian people I am friends with.
Those headlines are sensational – violence that makes a strong photographic impression on the mind but they actually make very little difference to the average Egyptian going about their every day.
Most visitors will naturally find some nervousness about heading to Egypt and after I arrive I don’t think another thing about it while I am there because I am only ever experiencing daily life of the place – unless of course there is a headline and for obvious reasons I tend to avoid the news for its sensationalist distortion of facts.
I always recommend that people in Australia register with www.smarttraveller.gov.au and in the US the Safe Traveler Enrolment Program (STEP) where both Egyptian and your local authorities have a record of your personal, passport, contact and emergency information in an online database and reach you if needed which will allay any worries about travelling in this beautiful land.
In the meantime, we have no problem enjoying the magnificent gems of Egypt. Her natural beauty, the amazing weather, the incredible people, stunning Temples and the Pyramids with no crowds which is the upside of travel to Egypt. We head to the Museum, travel across Luxor in a Hot Air Balloon and experience a stunning Nile Cruise. We have a night in the Sahara Desert, camping under 5 billion stars with a true bedouin tea and explore an oasis. We are precious goods the entire time we are there and I am always treated as a true Queen, escorted every step of the way in a way that is discreet and effective. We have the wonderful protection of our beautiful Tour Manager Abdo Ashour who works to ensure that we always travel enroute to all destinations safely. We get to experience quality time with our Guides and there are no queues. The people of course with their beautiful open hearts and minds are always willing and ready to greet us and show us the hospitality that Egyptians are renown for!
Before my tour starts, I will be connecting with my beautiful friends in Egypt who I cherish and adore. We will hang out together, have some tea, and enjoy laughs, and fun together as we always have. I will spend time with their children, walk in the village, sit down and have tea, enjoy one of probably 30-40 magnificent sunsets. I’ll eat mango and bananas and peaches that are out of this world, and be taught how to make flat bread and smoke Shisha and eat the most incredible BBQ food that you can possibly imagine.
Should you go? Well you might be hit by a bus tomorrow, so I say come and enjoy it while you can! But keep your head out of the media nonsense.