Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Travel: Feeling safe in Cairo

New York Times (Jennifer Conlin)

An interesting article, and reassuringly positive. A family visiting Egypt were in the Cairo square where the bomb went off only days before. The writer's daughter had a photograph which showed the bench where the bomb is thought to have exploded. But in spite of that feeling of shock which always accompanies this sort of near-miss experience, the author's main point is that they felt safe in Egypt. What is more, they plan to go back in the future.

What is most disconcerting now, oddly, is how safe we felt while we were there. And not just in Hussein Square, but everywhere in Egypt. In Cairo, there seemed to be police carrying machine guns on nearly every corner. No one could enter a hotel without first walking through the kind of security machines found in airports. There were dogs sniffing cars for explosives, and in Luxor, where we visited numerous tombs and temples, bags had to go through X-ray machines before you could even reach the ticket booth.

I can’t pretend that concerns of a terrorist attack did not go through my mind, given the recent events in Gaza. That much security, everywhere, can’t help but make one wonder about the dangers that make it necessary.

And certainly, while walking through the Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor — the scene of a horrific terrorist attack in 1997 that left 58 tourists dead — it was impossible not to imagine the devastation of that day.

But the Egyptians we met were so accommodating to us, and so appreciative of our presence with the global economy in such disrepair, that we felt nothing but welcome in their country. Sure, we were hassled at times by guides and merchants desperate for us to part with our money, which we often complied with out of sympathy.

See the above page for the full story.

Jane was saying on her Luxor News blog that she had four bookings after the Cairo attack, which is more good news. In Jane's words:

people know that these incidents are minority acts of idiots and not the genuine loving attitude of the Egyptian through the ages who loves (and protects) his tourist.

Of course not everybody feels the same, as this Reuters article observes, but it does point out that the existing trouble in the area of tourism in Egypt is more about the economic downturn than fears of terrorism:

Tarek el-Sayyed had no customers at his gift shop in a 14th-century Cairo market where he sat contemplating a difficult future.

Instead of buses ferrying tourists to the Khan el-Khalili market, the plaza outside Sayyed's shop on Monday was filled with police officers, a day after a bomb attack in the area killed a French teenager and wounded at least 20 people.

"Of course it will affect us," he said in front of his shop that sells replicas of ancient Egyptian artefacts. "At this time of the day buses would be bringing tourists here ... but today things are as you can see."

Tourism in Egypt was already feeling the pinch of the global financial crisis as tourists have stayed home.

See the above pages for the complete stories.

1 comment:

Patricia in Texas said...

I always feel safe traveling in Egypt. Things can happen, but they also happen a lot here in the US. I've seen statistics that say Cairo is safer than several US cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.