I’ve been to Egypt nearly twenty times by now – my most recent visit was last November, when Greg and I co-led a tour of 30 people, and then stayed on through Thanksgiving to celebrate Greg’s birthday. Our beloved friend and Egyptian travel partner, Mohamed Nazmy, loaned us a gorgeous apartment on the Giza Plateau. In fact, we joke that his guest bathroom has the best view in all of Egypt, with the Great Pyramid filling the picture window. Daily, I enjoyed seeing the few tourist buses pull up in front of the Pyramids as I spoke with my father back in the States. He was listening to the news and begging us to come home. On the next plane, if possible. Before they closed the airport. My dad has been to Egypt on one of Spirit Quest’s tours – he knows first-hand how beautiful the country and the people are. Yet to him, this was the fall of Saigon. But we couldn’t leave early. Mohamed had gifted Greg with a night in the Aga Khan suite at the Mena House hotel, which we also had a view of from the apartment. It was a wonderful experience, during which time we were in far less danger than we would have been in LA or Vegas. For one thing, the statistics of accidents in your own home (just one example: approx. every 2200 of us will die from falling in the shower or bath) far outweigh the chances of you being carjacked or murdered — combined!
I’m not saying that the news is being inaccurately reported in Egypt. I am saying that it’s being unrealistically skewed, and that the fear it’s engendering is demolishing tourism at a time when local Egyptians most need our tourist dollars. Egypt says there was a 30% drop in tourism in 2011, but according to the same eTurbo News article, the figures should be much higher – at least 45%. My informal questions and my own observations on our last trip tell me the number might be as high as 80%. Many tour operators locally, as well as hotel and cruise staff, have had sheer cliff drops in their business, though everyone I spoke with was optimistic about the future.
Our personal experience is that Egypt is safe, the people are warm and friendly, and they need us like never before. Go to Egypt now and you can experience fewer tourists than have been there in years, along with a grateful appreciation for your visit. If you’re afraid of being killed, just stay out of your own home and don’t drive to the airport. That’s where the real danger lies.
In celebration of Halle’s new book, Red Goddess Rising, you could win a free trip to Egypt in the Red Goddess Rising sweepstakes! Enter by April 30th!