Safety in Egypt: Expectations vs. Reality

A guy walking the streets of Islamic Cairo by Alejandro Garcia via Unsplash
How safety in Egypt is like? Is Egypt safe? Is it safe to travel to Egypt in 2019, 2018,…, 2011? Is Egypt safe to visit? Is Cairo, Alexandria, Hurghada, Marsa Alam, Dahab, Sharm El-Sheikh, Abu Simbel safe? Is it safe to walk around Cairo? Is Egypt safe for women, families, toddlers, kids? You name it!
A recurrent question asked by almost everyone who considers a trip to the Land of Pharos, and the Middle-East in general, that is suffering a big deal to attract tourists due to misleading media, and the lack of reliable up-to-date information.
It’d be too cliché for an Egyptian like myself to keep telling you that Egypt is safe, you’d think that I am biased, and all I wish for is to see our economy flourish, therefore I have compiled the opinions of 12 of our Facebook Community members, not only but also the insights of Wendy Werneth, creator of the Nomadic Vegan who happily shared her experience in Egypt, and these are her insights about vegan food in the Middle East.
Wendy viewing Cairo from the CitadelWendy viewing Cairo from the Citadel
Like most American backpackers, my first big trip was in Western Europe. At that point, I’d never really considered traveling anywhere else. But once I started traveling, I began hearing stories from fellow travelers about far-off destinations in other parts of the world, such as Egypt.
In Rome, I met an Australian guy named Nick, who is now my husband. Nick was planning a solo trip through the Middle East, starting in Cairo and ending in Istanbul. I was very curious about that part of the world, but I was afraid to travel there alone. My impression was that Egypt (as well as the other countries on this proposed route) was not safe for women, and especially American women.
So, I made the bold move of inviting myself to join Nick on his trip. We spent four months traveling overland from Cairo to Istanbul, and about five weeks of that time in Egypt. When we arrived in Cairo, I was overwhelmed by the traffic and noise, but also by the incredible friendliness and hospitality of the local people. I quickly realized that I’d had nothing to worry about.
We saw incredible sights of historical importance and natural beauty practically every single day in Egypt. Even coming from Rome, with its many layers of history, it was almost impossible to believe that what we were seeing in Egypt was real. Many of the historical sites there were thousands of years older than Rome’s sites and were incredibly well preserved. We’ve traveled to many other places since then, but Egypt is still one of the most amazing countries we’ve ever seen.
A guy walking the streets of Islamic Cairo by Alejandro Garcia via UnsplashA guy walking the streets of Islamic Cairo by Alejandro Garcia via Unsplash

Here is a compilation of the responses received from 12 visitors to Egypt, who shared their feedback, after I asked 4 questions as follows;

  • Nationality;
  • Their expectation vs. reality;
  • What was their biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be?;
  • Where did they go in Egypt?;

Megan Morris

Nationality: Australian

Your expectation vs. reality: I didn’t expect people to be very approachable in Egypt and I thought I may feel unsafe, it was the total opposite, Egyptians are so welcoming and not once did I feel unsafe in Egypt.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? My biggest peeve about Egypt was how dirty most places were, there seems to be a lot of littering and grotty places, especially the bigger cities like Cairo and Luxor. The government really should do something about it.

Where did you go in Egypt? I went to Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Valley of the King’s and really loved my experience overall, if you get a chance to go, don’t miss it!

Patrick Hoffmann

Nationality: German.

Your expectation vs. reality: I came to Cairo as a student in 2009, so my expectations may have been different from the expectations of a tourist. I expected Cairo to be chaotic, loud, challenging – and it turned out that I was completely right. 🙂But once you find out how the wind blows in Cairo, you will fall in love with that vibrant city: there is so much to explore, so much to see, so much to do! Not only in Cairo, but in the whole country. To keep it short: Visit Egypt, you will not regret it! But do not mistake the tourist hotspots like Hurghada or Sharm El-Sheikh for Egypt!

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? My biggest concern was that I would get lost in Cairo – because I did not speak Arabic at that time and I had never lived in a big city like Cairo before. Luckily, many Egyptians speak English, and even if they do not understand what you say, they always try to help you. Try to learn at least a few words in Arabic (like: How are you?/Thank you/How much does it cost?), and you’ll receive a huge amount of appreciation from locals.

Where did you go in Egypt? Cairo, Alexandria, Fayoum, Luxor, Aswan, Saqqara, Dashur, Sharm el Sheikh, Hurghada, El Gouna, Soma Bay.

Marianne Konvalinka

Nationality: American

Your expectation vs. reality: I expected to see amazing things and the reality was even better. The people we met were all wonderful as well, just as I’d read.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? Nothing really. I was prepared for people asking for money and our guides did a wonderful job of managing things for us.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? Cairo, Luxor to Aswan cruise including Abu Simbel

Amy Wittber

Nationality: Australian x 2 (Couple Travelling)

Expectation vs Reality: Having wanted to visit Egypt since we were kids (fascinated by Ancient Egypt) we had really high expectations for the sights we were planning to see. I can safely say now we were blown away, everything exceeded our expectations and we’ve had some of the coolest travel experiences to date whilst here in Egypt.
I was also expecting very little English to be spoken and people to be a bit intimidating. However, reality is that everyone you’re likely to deal with speaks English and everyone is very friendly and welcoming and not once did we feel unsafe.

Pet peeves: unfortunately things started to grind our gears a little bit towards the end. A few pet peeves:

  • the amount of rubbish and lack of care at some of the sites (particularly pyramids) – we were saddened to see this considering how monumental to the world’s history these are and the lack of care taken
  • whilst everyone is friendly and kind and not aggressive, the constant inflation of prices just got too much, it was doing our head in. From shopping for souvenirs, taxis, boats – sometimes asking for 10x the price of what it should be. We get we are tourists and we expect a slightly inflated price but saying something is 3500EGP to then sell for 300 EGP 2 minutes later is just annoying, reality is we’re more likely to pay more if they started with a more reasonable price. The line of “no hassle shop” made us laugh, because I don’t think shop owners know the meaning of the word. Nor the meaning of “no”.

Where did you go in Egypt? We went to Cairo (Islamic Cairo, Pyramids, Museum) Luxor (Luxor Museum & Temple, Karnak, VOTK, Medinat Habu, Hatshepsut Temple) and Aswan (Abu Simbel, Nubian Village Gharb Soheil & Souks).

We are SO happy we came to Egypt and LOVE what we saw and thankful for the hospitality of some beautiful people. We will definitely tell people to come, these sights need to be seen but I’d probably tell people to take a tour as I feel like the hassle would be less. Constantly arguing prices with people became exhausting in the end.

Jessica Garcia

Nationality: Mexican/American

Expectation: I was very nervous and thought that I would feel unsafe. Expected a lot of haggling, hot weather, locals annoyed with tourism

Reality: Not once did I feel unsafe. Even after we had an accident with one of our taxi drivers. His hood unlatched and shattered his windshield – we were 2 hours away and he still got us back safely. Every single person we meet was so friendly and welcoming. Everybody would tell us “welcome to Egypt”. The taxi haggling was a bit intense, as expected. They were extremely persistent.

My biggest concern: was safety, and I almost feel bad for being as nervous as I was. I think I let my friends and family get to my head because they were nervous for me. It turned out to be one of the safest places I’ve traveled to. Aside from the security in all the public places and our hotel, Egyptians were so nice to us and never gave us a reason to feel unsafe.

What we did: Egyptian museum, Luxor (Kings Valley, Hatshepsut, Karnak, & Luxor temple), Pyramids, Dahshur & Alexandria

Nicole Robert

Nationality: Canadian

It was an amazing month. Go to Egypt! it is fantastic. if the only way you feel safe travelling is with a group do so but independent travel is perfectly safe and fun.

my husband and I are retired so we have the luxury of time. We do not enjoy rushing. We do not enjoy being told when to go and how long to stay somewhere.

We only had our first week of hotels booked and we made up the rest as we went along.

Get an Egypt sim card, they are very cheap. Do your research. We knew what we wanted to see but didn’t know how long we wanted to be in any one place. We booked hotels with just a couple of days notice. We bought flights with just a few days notice. We even got on a cruise for a couple of days at a ridiculously low price last minute. We got the hotel manager in Luxor to get us day train tickets to Cairo for $10 US each instead of $110 for the sleeper train. We stayed in fun, quirky hotels. we hired car and drivers to take us where we needed to go. We camped in the White desert. We spent the night in Abu Simbel and got to be at the tombs just the two of us before tour buses got there.

You do not need to bring US cash. There are ATMs everywhere. We only used EGP. you can use credit card sometimes.

Egypt is not for everyone. It is chaotic, dirty, dusty, noisy, smelly. The touts are very annoying and hard to get around. But it has oasis’ of calm and beauty among all that. It is full of incredible history and the sights are breathtaking. We met amazing people, heard funny or heartbreaking stories. We shared delicious meals and I must repeat; ALWAYS FELT TOTALLY SAFE!

I do not know why the media and our government is discouraging travel to Egypt.

Ovais Khan

Nationality: Pakistani

Your expectation vs. reality: Expected worse before coming to Cairo, but it turned out to be the exact opposite of it, LOVELY PEOPLE <3 so helpful in EVERYTHING, in fact when they got to know that I am from Pakistan I felt as if I got some extra love from them 😀 don’t know if its because of the same Religion that we share or what, but Cairo is AMAZING !!! Words or pictures don’t do justice to Cairo, I am telling you everything is amazing about the place, people hardly talked English over there but I am telling you all you need is LOVE to communicate and that’s it. I was wary about the scams and touts that exist in EVERY tourist place in the world, and being a seasoned traveler I knew very well how to navigate through them. I only had 2 days so the trip was cut short but next time I am planning a trip to Luxor- Sharm- Aswan inshaAllah probably next year <3

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? That has to be the touts and scams around the Pyramids, but with a little diligence and research you can stay safe from them.

Where did you go in Egypt? Cairo: Pyramids, Museum, Khan El Khalil, Citadel of Saladin, Koshari Abou Tarek

Read Ovais’ insights about his 2 days and a half in Cairo

Ovais Khan's Contribution

Kay Frost

Nationality: Australian

Expectation: that Temples would all be spectacular but the same, hassled by market vendors. Pyramids would be amazing

Reality: Temples were spectacular but not the same to see the difference depending on who built them. Greek, Italian etc.market vendor hassled, but not too bad. just keep walking and they give up. pyramids amazing but did not allow myself enough time to really explore.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? concern was language. So hard to understand. And traffic.

Where did you go in Egypt? Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, the high dam, Hurghada. cruise Luxor to Aswan, Valley of the Kings
The people were so friendly and welcoming.everywhere

Dawn Gonzalez

Nationality: American

Your expectation vs. reality: My expectation was that the sights of poverty would make me feel uncomfortable and unsafe and that the people would be harsh. I expected to feel as though the people lacked resources (food, clothes, and everyday living necessities, including toilet paper to name a few). Turns out, the food was plentiful and delicious and fresh from restaurants to fast food. There were blocks for miles of clothing, food, tech and more kind of stores everywhere. People and children were dressed in current fashion styles (outside of those dressed in traditional or religious garb). And, there was even toilet paper at every facility. YES!

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? My biggest concern was that the people would be harsh and that the peddlers would be aggressive in their solicitations ultimately making me feel nervous and uncomfortable. Turned out the people were friendly and welcoming, peddlers included. They were assertive but with a few “La, Shukraans and No Thank Yous “, it was easy to not feel any forceful hands and not be bothered by any of the solicitor approaches. Most of the time they were accepting of a simple No, but would engage with light conversation and kind words often with a sense of humor. The overall vibe of the people everywhere (staff at hotels and facilities, to common folk on the streets) was warm and welcoming. Lots of the locals spoke English or any language others spoke so communicating and connecting was consistently pleasant and added to the comfort of being there and experience. I also imagined there would be no variety in cuisine and there would only be Middle Eastern style food. I thought I would be sick of the same food and flavors and would be turned off by too much of seasonings in my food I’m not used to. Boy was I wrong. I ate the most delicious Egyptian style food, I enjoyed amazing pastas, salads, juices and deserts and even fast foods twice. I mean it was a very long trip so the combination of foods helped me enjoy the same comforts of home. As for any peeves, well it was the upcharges on any sale of a tour and products. However, it did not negatively impact the experience because I was expecting it, so it really didn’t happen and I did not over indulge on purchasing anything, even at the street bazaar.

Where did you go in Egypt? As a group travel leader and travel agency owner of 9to5 Travels in the U.S., I set out for a diverse and eventful itinerary. It was to include historical sites, luxury accommodations and traditional relaxation seaside despite the common interest to visit Egypt for only the history. We started and ended in Cairo, and stayed at the world renowned Marriott Mena House. It had meticulous lush grounds and stunning pyramid views. We visited the pyramids of Giza. Took a flight and a beautiful 3 day full board Nile River cruise from Aswan to Luxor. The cruise we stayed on was newly refurbished and the food was delicious. We visited several temples there which included a lovely horse and carriage ride, site visits to several temples and a visit to the colorful Nubian Village. After the river cruise portion, it was a flight to Sharm el Sheikh for a 3-day stay at an all-inclusive resort to see and enjoy the Red Sea. We had sea front rooms that were lined with palm trees, sand and beach huts. It was a lovely way to enjoy some chill time. We enjoyed spa treatments, lots of drinks and yummy food, resort activities and conversations with the locals and guests. Everyone knew we were American and everyone we encountered educated us how they never see Americans there. Seeing us was exciting for them (staff and guests) as well. I was most surprised to see the water along the Nile River and the beaches was crystal clear and clean. And I was even more surprised to learn that we are so rare and welcomed all at the same time. After 3 relaxing days at the resort, it was back to Cairo and enjoyed the day after with a full day of a visit to the Egyptian Museum, then Old Cairo for the Coptic Christian village and church followed by a fun shopping spree at the Khan el-Khalili bazaar. The museum was interesting and educational with lots to see, the church and Coptic Christian religion felt holy and shopping at the bazaar was FUN. Being from New York, haggling was right up my alley. Got some great deals and definitely wasn’t uncomfortable with any amount I paid for anything and it was exciting to feel the spirit of the locals at each booth. They have energetic personalities and a great sense of humor. This was a perfect itinerary for us.

Deborah Mattson

Nationality: Australian

Your expectation vs. reality: I thought I might get bored of one temple after another. I didn’t, instead, I was more amazed at each new place. I was worried the locals would be intimidating and I wouldn’t feel welcome, I’ve never put so much thought into what to wear on a trip , worried I’d be judged! I needn’t have worried, everyone was so welcoming, even wanting selfies with us and giving us peace signs as we drove through Cairo. I thought the Nile would have a lot of rubbish and the banks would be mostly either dry or built up, I assumed the pretty pictures were all of the same areas. Reality is the Nile had very little rubbish compared to other countries I’ve visited and it was absolutely beautiful, peaceful and pretty so much greenery.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? The rubbish around Cairo is disgusting, and even more so when you see how clean Luxor and other areas are. We were with a tour company and were very much discouraged from visiting markets and local areas, so glad we ignored them, the markets in Aswan was one of the best, most colorful and friendly I’ve been to, and in Cairo, we had a taxi drop us at a long road at Khan Khalili, the buildings were amazing.I need to update my blog then I’ll share it with you. I can’t believe how much I loved Egypt

Where did you go in Egypt? Cairo, Luxor, and 7-night cruise to Aswan.

Read this complete guide to what to wear in Egypt

Tricia Bowling

Nationality: American

Your expectation vs. reality: I expected to to be amazed by everything, and I was, but the people were fabulous. I wish I could have spent more time getting to know them. As a former teacher some of my best memories was talking to children- school children and “business “ children.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? I was surprised at how many empty buildings and how much trash in non-tourist areas.

Where did you go in Egypt? I went to Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan. A typical first time trip.

Heather Shields

Nationality: Australian

Your expectation vs. reality: After touring all over Egypt I can say my expectations were fully met. I thought it would be amazing and it was. The Pyramids and the temples are breathtaking. I am pleased I chose to go with a tour company, having the same experienced and knowledgeable Egyptologist the entire trip was brilliant.

What was your biggest concern/pet peeve and how did it turn to be? My biggest concern was the aggressive and rude market vendors, I sustained bruising to my arm on one occasion when a man tried to drag me into his stall. This is not acceptable anywhere in the world. They need to realize we would spend money with them if they were respectful and polite and allowed people to shop without harassment. This is a big lesson they need to learn as it gives the wrong impression of the Egyptian people. I also struggled with the fact that removing rubbish is not something widely practiced in Egypt, it is not hard to put your litter in the bin .The amount of rubbish blowing around the Pyramids was heartbreaking.

Heather Shields' Contribution

Special thanks goes to everyone who contributed to this post, and made it possible to show the world how their misleading media is badly affecting some people’s travel decisions, hindering them from uncovering a one of a kind destination, home to unique sites, friendly people, and some of the world’s best beaches & dive sites, which has a direct negative impact on the locals, and the economy as a whole.

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Egyptian. Ex-Lawyer. Former Corporate Slave. Travel Blogger & Photographer. Proud Kilimanjaro Summiteer. Budget Traveler. Thrill Seeker. Foodie.
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Comments

    • Dee
    • June 25, 2019
    Reply

    Wonderful post! I get this question about safety all the time as well, and it’s fascinating to watch sometimes how the media spins this place – from the perspective of someone who lives here and sees a completely different picture! 😀

    1. Reply

      Thank you so much, I am glad that you like it..
      And totally agree with you, it’s like watching and hearing things that belong to a totally different world, haha

  1. Reply

    Thanks for sharing this amazing post.

    1. Reply

      Glad you enjoyed it 😉

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