11/02/2011, or to understand it better, Friday 11:02:2011 is a date that the people of Egypt will always remember. It was on that day that President Hosni Sayyid Mubarak relinquished control of the country and fled to "exile" in Sharm El-Sheikh. As he was fleeing from Cairo the world's media decided that Egypt's problems were now over and 18 days of peaceful protests had come to an end. They packed up their gear and moved on.
Over the following week, the reports from Egypt started to fade into history as Yemen, Libya, and many other countries in MENA (the Middle East and North Africa) started their own protests in the Arab Spring erupting into violence and major chaos. Camera crews were relocated, journalists moved to new warzones, and almost as quick as they arrived, they departed, leaving behind the usual collection of "local" reporters and fixers who would largely be marginalized by major networks. Herein lies the problem with the way that the world's media reports events: it is only good news when it is bad news; bad news sells, and good news is boring!
However, on that Friday evening when the Western world rose to congratulate Egypt on achieving its goal things seemed to be improving. Many of the world's leaders, or their representatives, made their way to Cairo. UK Prime Minister David Cameron was the first to arrive and he promised that Britain would help in Egypt's rebirth. He was followed by many others, including the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and US Senator John Kerry. However, why they came here must be questioned, especially when it comes to the impact on travelers to Egypt and their safety and security.
Mr. Cameron stated he would help, and within hours the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth office travel warning was lifted, yet it took until towards the end of March for the USA to even partially lift their warning. Were Clinton and Mr. Kerry just here for the photo opportunities and media spotlight? So much for President Obama's speech on Friday night when he said: "The United States will continue to be a friend and partner to Egypt. We stand ready to provide whatever assistance is necessary and asked for to pursue a credible transition to democracy. Egyptians have inspired us". Lovely rhetoric, but in Egypt we actually needed that help the week after Mubarak's resignation. We needed that help at the same time as David Cameron, and the rest of Europe lifted their travel warnings allowing tourists to return. By the way, this is not anti-USA as Canada and Australia have only very recently slightly lifted their travel warnings as well.
Why are these travel warnings important to us in Egypt? Well, many people look to their governments for help when traveling abroad and it is through their Foreign Office/State Departments that they get this advice. When a foreign country says they are going to help a country in the aftermath of a protest or revolution, if that country depends on tourism for its lifeblood, the lifting of travel restrictions is one of the best things it can do. It allows the people to know it is safe to travel there. By not doing this the country will start to slowly implode itself as Egyptians who depend on tourism for their income have to turn to other measures, and when a country is full of priceless artifacts it is not hard to see what will happen. Again Egypt came under the spotlight of the media once the thefts started, even though they were just as quickly stopped. The vast majority of the looted artifacts are now back in Egypt's possession or en route to Egypt, but this is one more thing mostly not reported by the media.
The Bottom Line: Egypt Is Safe!
First of all, Egypt is safe to visit right now and has been for years now. Many people have done so since the week following the resignation of President Mubarak. The hotels are all ready to receive guests, the cruises are ready for their passengers, and the most important thing for you is that all of the sites are open. Your safety, which is paramount to us, as well assured as the Egyptian police force; the tourist police; and the army are all obvious throughout the country. The army leaders have appointed an interim government until elections are held later in the year, so we are not under martial law, as many people still think. Dr. Essam Sharaf is the Prime Minister and has a full cabinet below him to run the country; the army is now back looking after its own duties again as well as assisting the government; when needed.
Secondly what is happening elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa does not affect us here. As you will see from the map below, only Libya borders Egypt and the distance between Tripoli and Cairo is large enough to fit the main island of the UK … with miles of space to spare.
It sometimes beggars belief the way that journalists report the Middle East and it is fully understandable why so many people are confused. The one country that Egypt does have a history with is Israel, and it has had conflicts since 1948, yet this ongoing problem has never stopped tourists from visiting and as you will see on the map, it is a lot closer to Egypt than any other countries involved.
Egypt is safe to visit right now and is looking forward to welcoming visitors to the many sites and resorts throughout the land: be it the Red Sea or the Mediterranean coast; be it the deserts and oases or the Nile Valley. You may not know this due to the lack of positive news coming from your televisions or newspapers, but it is 100% true. Since the end of the protests, we have been having a slow, but steady, trickle of travelers returning and they have all been extremely happy with what they have found. I will finish this newsletter with some (genuine) quotes that we have received from some of these customers:
"We once again thank you for a wonderful and safe experience in Egypt. At no point in time did we feel the least threatened or unsafe? Even passing through Tahrir Square on one occasion we felt completely safe and not in the least threatened. Our experience of the Egyptian people is that they seem to be a very relaxed and docile nation. The situation that led to the short period of unrest seems to have been caused by a very long period of miss management".
"The guides you employ are all very competent and we can only recommend your service to whoever wants to listen".
"The service we had from your organization throughout was excellent and can be recommended to anybody who might be interested".
"It is a shame that the Egyptian tourist industry is being hurt by such bad publicity. All of your tour guides were very professional and very helpful".
"Yes indeed, the U.S. media groups the Middle East as one small area and one unit. According to my tour guides, many tourists to Egypt had come from the U.S. before the revolution. I am truly surprised at this".
"Your excellent service during the initial period of inquiry and booking, meeting us at the airport, daily tours accompanied by very competent tour guides in Cairo and during the cruise and even the drivers of your vehicles made our trip something to remember and to recommend to everybody".
"We hope things improve for the better pretty soon".
We thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and hope to welcome you to Egypt in the near future.