Post Revolution Egypt – Am I Safe?


It seems like Egypt has for the most part fallen out of the news.  Is it safe?

tanks in egypt

A couple of quotes from an article on Egypt welcomes tourists and affirms safety.

Travel warning lifted

“Ambassador Scobey met with the heads of U.S.-based travel associations NTA, USTOA, ATTA and ASTA, along with tour operators and journalists, at the American embassy in Cairo.

The group was on a six-day, fact-finding trip to investigate travel safety in Egypt and Jordan. I traveled with the delegation as they met Egyptian officials and toured Tahrir Square, the Egyptian Museum and other cultural attractions.

“Our recent visit to Cairo confirmed that Egypt is safe and ready for tourists,” said Lisa Simon, president of the NTA, in an email. “The Egyptian people welcomed us with a renewed spirit and pride resulting from the revolution – they’re ready and anxious to show off the ‘new Egypt.’”

British tourists “never stopped” coming to the resort areas and were motivated by great deals, according to Egyptian tour guide Mina Mamdouh Edwar.

Before the revolution about 270,000 Americans visited Egypt each year, compared to nearly 3 million Russian and 1.5 million British visitors, said the Egypt Tourism Authority’s Samy Mahmoud.

“Foreigners have been coming back steadily [and] there have been very few problems,” noted Ambassador Scobey.”

While the elections press on, Egypt itself is definitely on sale.  Tourism is such a huge part of Egypt’s GDP.  Egypt has had to borrow money to sustain the governing that is going on.

I personally toured Tahrir square, Egyptian Museum, about a dozen Pyriamids, Kahili Market from the north into Alexandria to the far south in Abu Simbel.  The people are very welcoming, and they want to share their “New Egypt!”

I was there over a year ago, so it’s only gotten better in the last year. This picture was a rare one of a couple of tanks.  Life is back to normal.

As a traveller looking for the place without the crowds I think you’d find there are tons of reasons why you’d want to go while it’s still fresh in others minds, and would consider somewhere else.

If I told you there were no police or the police was the army, but you are in one of the safest places… you might not believe me.  I visited Egypt following the Jan 24 Arab spring.  In fact I visited in Spring 2011, in April.  The taxi driver we were working with was picking up people at the Libyan border and providing transport.  Now you’ve got resolution in Libya and Tunisia.  Syria is having issues, but that’s north of Israel.  Look at a map, it’s not that close.

If you are considering a trip, I’ve got a few twitter friends who live in Cairo that could give us the on the streets update.  You can ping me on twitter @joeloleson or just add it to the comments.

My kids got into the spirit of it.  In fact, Jared pictured on the right is wearing the shirt of the revolution.

Happy New Egypt

In Arabic #Jan24 and New Egypt.  You can see the guard here is pretty excited about his choice of clothes.  Another worker same day asked if it was ok to take a picture and post it to facebook!

Luxor, a city which has a very high concentration of Christians for Egypt, maybe as high as 40%? Was as incredible as ever to be visiting.  Our Muslim taxi driver who drove us between Luxor and Aswan told us about his three wives, and filled us in on why the revolution was necessary with all the corruption going on.

Karnak  Karnak is one of the most amazing temples in the world.  It’s definitely the largest religious complex.  Those columns are unmatched.  They are sooooo huge!!!  Reminds me of the width of the huge redwoods in northern California.  A lot of what people think is that you’d find old hierogliphics, but did you know you’d see so much color.  The reds, blues.  I was talking to one older lady who said… You should have seen it in the 60’s.  Apparently before the Aswan dam there was still annual flooding that continued to wash away the colors in Aswan.

bright hierogliphics

My initial plan was to fly to London, then fly on easyjet to Cairo, and then fly to Luxor, spend a few days and work our way down to Aswan and on to Abu Simbel, which was my ultimate destination.  What actually happened was easyjet cancelled the flight.  I mentioned to my wife that Egypt was off, because our flight was cancelled.  She went on to say, “What! You put so much effort in selling me Egypt, the pyramids, and the temples.  Didn’t you say your Friends in Egypt said it was safe?”  I was a bit dumb founded.  I was ready to switch the trip to Greece or Turkey.  For a family trip to Egypt a few people thought we were crazy, but I was staying in close contact with my friends in Cairo.  They had began carrying on with their lives and had said it had been essentially more safe than it was prior to the revolution… already.  I was personally, ok with the idea, and reached out to my friends and let them know what our plans were.  We were going to fly in… spend 3-4 days across Cairo

obelisk

and Alexandria, then fly down to Luxor figure out a good way to Aswan… a personal driver, and join a group on down to Abu Simbel and the dam.  We’d then take the train back from Aswan all the way back to Cairo on a night train.  The plan worked well.  We ended up seeing soooo much of Egypt and essentially stuck to the Nile.  The only group tour we did was the Abu Simbel tour.

My boys 14, 12, 2 were up for the adventure.  They enjoyed the horse drawn wagons, the archeology and mummies.  We as well got pools in a couple of hotels and in between some of the touring we’d chill at the pool.  April was a great time of year to visit Egypt.  It hadn’t gotten too hot yet, but it was funny how the locals kept telling us to make sure we went early to avoid the heat of the day.

Edfu

One thing you’ll find is there are just tons of places to explore.  Temple after temple, there are more and more.  Between Luxor and Aswan on our drive we saw another half dozen places.  Many of them were spectacular.  I was told 70% of the worlds archaeology is done out of Luxor.  There is just so much to discover about the old world.  There is continual digging in the valley of the kings, there is translation and image capture of the various temples and monuments, and there is so much to dig up that is thousands of years old.  Each of these places is extremely rich in history, treasure, and adventure.

Nile tombs in Aswan

When we arrived in Aswan, we were taking a felucca out on the Nile to go check out some beautiful gardens.  Across the river I saw dozens of tombs with long steps.  I asked my boys if they wanted to explore.  They were already burnt out.  Neither my 12 nor 14 year old was interested.

The one pound note has an incredible design.  It’s Abu Simbel, or Ramses II’s temple.  His tomb in the valley of the kings is one of my favorite.  The last time I was in Egypt I visited Ramses II and this time we went in King Tut’s tomb.  Again no pictures, but wow!  I got talked out of going to his tomb last time because of the added expense.  It was like an extra $10 and only 5 to see Ramses.  While Ramses II tomb is the most ornate, King Tut’s tomb is not as well decorated, but his mummy is inside as is the first layer of the mask.   The best collection in the Cairo Museum is the Tut collection and while you can see the mummy collection in the museum, seeing King Tut lying there like we just found him… It was more like a funeral.  Very different from any of the other tombs in a big way.  I highly recommend it, don’t get talked out of seeing Tut.  Many tourists are talked out of it because of the additional cost.  You’re half way around the world, in the valley of the kings, and seeing 4-8 tombs, and these tombs do rotate year over year.

Abu Simbel is simply fantastic.  The pain it took to this extremely remote location was worth it.  We left at 4am in the morning out of Aswan, and in a caravan of everyone who was going to go.  Very unique situation that I’ve never seen happen elsewhere.  This group of a variety of different tour companies gathering together to drive the 4-5 or so hours south nearly to the Sudan border.  Inside, which isn’t allowed for photos is amazing.  Very well preserved hierogliphics.  Looking at the scale here, imagine this entire structure being moved up the mountain.  With the Dam added they first moved this temple of Ramses II up the mountain.

The Philae temple as well was moved in whole to an island.  That was one place where I felt like I was forced to pay the prices of the boat mafia.  I had do some hard core negotiating, and walk away multiple times to get the price to a level that was acceptable.  I couldn’t play the boats against each other because they all had one owner or so it appeared.

I know you’re looking at my 2 year old and thinking… What?!! A 2 year old in Egypt right after the revolution… or pretty much during the revolution.  You’ve got to be crazy or bad parents, or maybe we are the best parents and he’s going to grow up loving travel and seeing himself as a citizen of the world with no boundaries.

While we were there the upside was really being able to get great prices on whatever we decided to do.  They weren’t rock bottom prices, but I’m sure I got tons greater prices than I would have otherwise.  Around the pyramids we nearly had the place to ourselves.  There were definitely more tourists in Luxor.  We saw groups of locals, but hardly any international tourists.

A very key decision in New Egypt is how well the Muslims connect with their orthodox Coptic Christian brothers.  10% of Egyptians are Coptic Christians.  There is a unique symbiosis.  As long as the people help recognize that and moderation of the people reigns, things will work out.  The passion that went into turning over this new leaf will not be lost in one quick decision.  A new egypt of choice, with hope for the future is what is the focus of the youth and they will be the checks on how things develop.

Christian and Muslim must respect each other.  Despite what you hear in the news these two groups do look out for each other and recognize each other.  Egypt is Muslim AND Christian.

Finding signs of the revolution and of new Egypt are visible.  People are a little skeptical at first, but when you say.  Happy New Egypt they light up.  I was following the “revolution” very closely from an Egypt perspective and really wasn’t particular to the US News perspective.  It felt liberating, it was scary at times, but it felt like We/They were doing the right thing.  Yes, I helped spread the messages of hope and standing up against the regime.  I really did feel like I was part of the movement.  Twitter, Facebook, and word of mouth helped spread the words like wild fire.

Egypt Revolution - I Love Eypt

I did have friends through the revolution that were really worried what would happen, but other friends would reassure me and them, that it would work out. I still have very high hopes for Egypt.  I do love Egypt.

In the U.S. News I would get frustrated by debate of stability vs. a democracy that we in the US might not approve.  The Muslim Brotherhood became a scary proposition for those worried about the Christians, but for me it’s reassuring to see that it won’t be majority rule, it will also be representative.  That’s important.  Moderation is key to peace.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and while the pyramid may not look exactly straight and may not seem right to those from the outside, there is a structure that will work out… it just might look a little bent to those working in western democracies.  It won’t be the same.  I think Turkey moderation plus good leaders is a good example.  I’m anxious to see Egypt be the example for working it out on their own without outside meddling that can provide a pattern for greatness.

Left: Climbing out of a tomb in the great pyramid.

Alexandria is know for 2 things.  The library of Alexandria, and the lighthouse, one of the 7 ancient wonders of the world.  You can still see the blocks from the lighthouse in the building that took it’s place.  The library is new… very new and modern, but the value it brings to the people is the education they seek.  It represents a new hope for the new Egypt.

I reserve all the rights to all of these pictures.  These pictures are mine, and may be used with permission only.  Don’t be afraid to ask though…

11 thoughts on “Post Revolution Egypt – Am I Safe?

    • Totally agree. Egyptians have always been very welcoming. Great people. Even those who were a bit desparate, I still felt in control. Would love to see more of Egypt and do some diving in the Red Sea next time!

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    • I feel for the people of Egypt. So much of their economy is based on tourism. They are sitting on the worlds treasure, and they want to be our hosts. Amazing place.

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