A Hitchhiker on Egypt

A few days ago I went on a mom-cation to a nearby city where the silence was deafening and it was glorious. Unfortunately not enough TV channels in my book, but what can you do? On the way home I picked up a hitchhiker. She stood on the side of the highway with a full backpackers toolkit and a cardboard sign that said Edmonton. I pulled over. I am not in the habit of picking up hitchers but she was smaller than me, so I could sit on her in a struggle. She also had a legitimate looking traveller persona, so I felt like that would be too much effort for a small serial killer.

Her name was Caroline and she was French, but on vacation from her job as a teacher in Egypt. I have always wanted to go to Egypt, but in my adult life it has never been “safe.” In a coincidence I had recently asked a British friend about it, because I knew it had at one time been a popular vacation spot for the English,and his take was “No way!” Caroline said “Go!” (She’s always been a free spirit, that Caroline!)

I don’t know if any of you have seen the recent travel ads for the country, but you can watch one here.

egypt

Inspiring, no? Egypt had a “revolution” in 2011. This was Caroline’s word, in Western society I think it was viewed more as a failed uprising. As a westerner I was not very educated about the whole situation, but I did some reading and as of 2014 it did still seem unresolved, although some articles will say the revolution was from 2011-2014. For the politically minded you can read about it here. **Disclaimer – I am no expert on reliable media sources, but this seems like an unbiased & factual timeline.

Caroline said that Egypt has had virtually no tourism since the revolution. Temples, museums, and other sites are empty. “You can go to a temple and be the only one there. This may never happen again.” That’s all very well and good that the sites are empty, but what of personal safety? She told me that as a tourist you would have to be extremely unlucky to find yourself in personal danger. As a foreigner living in Egypt, and because some of her friends were involved in the rebellion, she knows she is on a watch list and potentially at risk. She told me that the clashes now are typically attacks aimed at the Egyptian military and these do not happen in tourist areas, they happen in parts of the country that “a tourist would never go to.”

There is a travel advisory issued for Egypt by the Canadian government. I typically take these with a grain of salt, because very few countries don’t have an advisory of some kind, including many popular destinations in Asia. However, this is a higher level of advisory so its worth taking seriously. There is a handy page of tips on their website about dates to avoid and general precautions. You can read it hereĀ (under “Safety & Security.”)

If you do your research I think Egypt could be pretty safe. I don’t think I would chance taking kids, and I would probably book more tours than I would elsewhere. This website, run by Irish expat Mara, alleviated some fears and offers experiences and accommodation. Under her blog there are actually several posts about Egypt’s safety that are a good read. The price for the tours also seemed reasonable to me, so I was happy to stumble upon it and file it for later. Rick Steves also seems to think that the TV coverage has overblown the situation, and he visited in 2013! You can read about his trip here. So what do you think? To Egypt or not to Egypt?

I dropped Caroline off in downtown Edmonton to couch surf and carried on. She is making her way over the next year from the Arctic circle down through South America, “until the money runs out.” I asked if she would go back to Egypt, knowing that she is on a watch list, and she said she didn’t know. She is just seeing where the next year takes her. I so admire that attitude!


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