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February 2012    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 27, No. 2   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Yes, But Is Egypt Safe?

from the February, 2012 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

Safety when traveling in Egypt is on everyone's minds, and after living here six months, this is my take.

As a foreigner, you are precious to most Egyptians, and you will be protected. On the other hand, if you opt to join protests (like the Tahrir Square protest nearly every Friday), your fate rests in your own hands. Carry your passport or a copy of it with you. The police and military are legally obligated to protect foreigners, and your average Egyptian will go out of his way to help you. Avoid downtown Cairo on Fridays and whenever a demonstration is announced, but otherwise, areas like Giza and Saqqara, and vacation cities like Luxor, Aswan, Sharm el-Sheikh and Marsa Alam are safe and welcoming. Women should remember to wear sleeves, at least covering the shoulders, and it's prudent to wrap a cotton scarf around your neck in case you need to cover up (not to mention protect you from breezes and sun). Some Egyptian men have the idea that western women are by definition loose and easy targets.

Sign up for the U.S. State Department's travel alerts, and register with its Smart Traveler Enrollment Program ( https://travelregistration.state.gov ). Its alerts are more paranoid than I think necessary, but ever since it was caught with its pants down when it didn't see the Arab Spring coming, the State Department has been super-cautious. I read the English language version of Egyptian papers like Al-Ahram and Al Masry-Al Youm online to see which way the wind is blowing.

I just finished hosting my family here at Christmas, and have more family on the way - - which should tell you whether I think it's safe here.

- - A.E.L.

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