Tourist safety: Egypt

Most tourists think it dangerous to even leave the hotel premises, to say nothing about independent trips to the other cities of the country. On one hand, there are unfortunately some rather strong reasons for such fears, but on the other hand, it prevents tourists from quietly enjoying historical sites of ancient Egyptian civilization.

In 1997 Islamic terrorists gunned a group of German tourists near the temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor. Since then all official tours of Luxor, Abu Simbel and Cairo have been guarded by soldiers. But such measures were rather conditional, as convoy of 50-60 buses going from Hurgada to Luxor generally stretches for many kilometers, and so it can hardly be adequately guarded by a small group of soldiers going at its head. Similar terrorist actions could have happened in Spain, Russia, and England, as well as in some other countries, but nowhere tourists have ever been restricted in their movements.

Frankly speaking, all those involved in Egyptian tourist industry are interested in maintaining the convoys. And those who have ever been to such excursions would understand what we are speaking about.

You just imagine dozens of buses going from Hurgada to Luxor. Each bus has at least 70 tourists. Having arrived in Luxor all these tourists are dispersed in different directions until the return time. And then how should numerous «businessmen» sell their souvenirs or services? The most logic way to attract tourists is to force tourists to visit their shops.

Here is just what's happening. When you go on a Luxor tour from Hurgada, you are generally accompanied by a guide. You are allotted only about half an hour to get acquainted with the huge temple complex of Karnak. The rest of time is spent on tours of various shops, which have made appropriate deals with the guides. And you can not go to these shops. You'll just have no other choice.

Even when you are in the immediate vicinity of some other temple, not included in the program, you can not go there. Why? Just because you must then be escorted by your guide to some shop.

Can you avoid it? Surely, you can do it. And the first step must be your understanding that you can easily go about the country without any armed guards. Of course, as any other Arabic country, Egypt has its specifics. Thus, a young girl shouldn’t go alone in remote parts of the city, but it is highly unlikely that anything would happen with her (such calls as «Hey, madam» excluding).

And don’t forget that the Egyptians are rather afraid of tourist police. The crime, such as hooliganism and robbery, has almost completely been eliminated in most tourist cities. Considering the importance of tourism, the authorities are ready to take any, even most cruel measures against the natives in order to provide the real and not dubious (as in the case of convoys) security of foreign tourists.

If any Egyptian did something really bad to a European girl, he would likely be sentenced to death. So, only a madman could have dared for such actions. And how could a group of three soldiers prevent a terrorist action prepared by some well trained terrorists? Certainly, they couldn’t do it.
After the incident with German tourists in Luxor there were several other similar actions in resort areas of Sharm el-Sheikh, Dahab and Taba. And besides in all these cases terrorists tried to explode hotels. So, everything is dependable on your luck. And again it isn’t the reason for restricting your movements outside the hotel.

So, if you have overcome your fears go to the bus station of Hurgada and buy a ticket for a regular bus going to Luxor. They are as comfortable as those of convoy, and the only difference is that your neighbours may be Egyptians. And it takes the same time to get to your destination. Having come to Luxor you can choose the sights you'd like to visit, for example, temple complexes of Karnak or Luxor, the Temple of Hatshepsut, the Valleys of Tsars, Queens and Nobles, Medinet-Abu, or Ramsesum.

It generally takes a day to visit all the main sights of Luxor, so you can easily return to Hurgada in the evening, but you'd better stay for a night in Luxor. The city has a huge number (!) of comfortable hotels (almost all famous hotel networks have their subsidiaries there), and it would be nice to have a stroll along the embankment of the Nile, or enjoy the view of temples in the night. Moreover, every night the «Sound & Light» show is given in Karnak.

Home air flights. If you spend you vacation, say, in Hurgada and want to see the pyramids of Cairo or the temples of Abu Simbel, you may go there by plane. And if you rest in Sharm el-Sheikh you'll just have no other choice.

Egypt Air, the national air company of Egypt, connects all the main cities of the country. The price of ticket is fairly low, so air flights can be considered the best way of going about the country, especially to its remote parts, where bus or train trips would be rather tiring and time-consuming. The planes of Egypt Air are quite comfortable. They are mainly Boeings, so home flights can also be considered absolutely safe.

Every day many planes start from Hurgada and Sharm el-Sheikh to Luxor and Cairo. Also, there are flights to Abu Simbel, directly to the temples of Ramses. You should stay overnight there to see the famous «Sound & Light» show and come back on the next day.

Trains. In case of Cairo-Luxor-Aswan itinerary, you may also consider taking a train. It is a bit cheaper than plane, but the main advantage is that you could save your time on night trips. Surely, there will be some Egyptians, but most passengers of such trains are generally foreign tourists, making tours of the most interesting sights of Egypt.

Non-hotel-based tours. You are often warned against buying tours outside the hotel. Surely, hotels don’t want to loose their potential customers.

But all the same we'd recommend you to drop in some local tourist agencies. Surely, you mustn’t buy tours in the street. Then you are likely to be deceived! But in case of a real travel agency there can not be any fraud. It will be just the same tour only twice as cheaper.

Just for reference: a tour operator creates an itinerary and distribute tickets to all hotels and travel agencies of the city. And then one and the same tourist buses collect all the travelers, those who bought the ticket in the hotel and those who bought the ticket in some travel agency. And they will go on the same tourist paths and be escorted by the same guide. The only difference is the price. If you buy it at your local travel agency, the price may be even higher than in the hotel.
Travel tips:
You shouldn’t go alone at night, especially in remote quarters of the city inhabited by the natives. There is no tourist police there, so, no one can help you in case of some emergency.

If some native is too insistent, say loudly «tourist police» and make it clear that you are going to take him there. This must scare him off.

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