The Egyptian balancing act: How an unstable country is trying to revive a pillar of its economy (tourism) amidst security concerns
Egypt (Kinana or al-Misr) hasn’t been the hot tourist destination for almost half a decade now, following its own Arab Spring revolutions, which resulted in four presidents within three years (Mubarak, Morsi, Mansour and now Sisi). Despite the demonstrations, unrest, terror attacks, presidential roulette, etc, Egypt is seeing the initial trickle of brave backpackers, willing to again set foot in the the land of Nile Valley.
New alliances, new disturbances – FCO recommends staying out of the Sinai Peninsula altogether, to include tourist sites on the Red Sea or Nile Valley. Recently, local extremist group Ansar Beit al Maqdis hitched their wagon to ISIS and pulled off a raid on a local military outpost; filming the whole time for some added terror propaganda oomph.
What to see:
So many things to see and do, you could spend a week visiting nothing but UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- Pyramids (acropolis) of Giza… one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
- The Sphinx: Also in Giza… Seriously, tell me you haven’t heard of these…
- Luxor temple: Thebes (City of the God Amon).
- Karnak: Largest ancient religious site in the world. This temple complex is just north of Luxor.
- Nile river cruise: It’s a cruise… along the Nile. It’s awesome… okay, I’ve heard good things.
- Abu Simbel: Temple built by Ramesses II in ancient Nubia – also UNESCO site.
- Egyptian Museum in Cairo: Egypt’s history brought to you in Cairo! The historic center of Cairo itself is a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Mosque of Ibn Tulun: Built between 876 and 879 AD, the Mosque of Ibn Tulun is one of the oldest mosques in Cairo. Scenes from James Bond, The Spy Who Loved me were also shot here.
Financial Times has a great article, interviewing the Egyptian minister of tourism, Hisham Zazou who says people are taking note of Egypt’s efforts at stability, and tourism is on the rise.
Why you need to be careful – Security situation is unstable:
- Local Cairo universities have undergone protests, terrorist attacks, and increased police and military presence lately.
- Public transportation has been the target of terrorist attacks recently, be extremely vigilant if using metro and rail, public or mini buses.
- Expect demonstrations. Often. Tahir square will often be the site of demonstrations. Take a gander at my article for more on demonstrations, how to avoid them and survive a demonstration turned riot. It’s worth your time. Promise.
More info on security:
Things to know:
- Visa requirements: Visas are required for US cits. A 30-day tourist visa or multiple entry visa can be purchased upon entry for $25 or $35, respectively.
- If you are a dual citizen you may be required to complete your compulsory military service upon entry.
- Sexual harassment is a serious issue here.
- Even protesters against sexual harassment were sexually harassed (June 2014).
As always – when traveling:
- Let State know you’ll be in country, enroll in STEP to make it easier for them to contact you should there be an emergency.
- Take U.S. Embassy contact info.
- Emergency switchboard #: (20-2) 2797-3300
- Non-emergency email: ConsularCairoACS@state.gov.
- Let your friends and family in on your travel plans. TripIt offers a great app.
- Travel insurance: In case of emergency, trip cancellation or lost luggage. The concierge service alone is worth it. I’ve had great success with TravelGuard.
- Follow alerts via the State Dept Twitter feed or click here: Follow @TravelGov