Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sad times

My friends at home keep on asking me, if Egypt is still safe for tourists (and for me).

Hurghada is safe. Most probably it’s the safest place all over Egypt – besides Sharm El-Sheik (and the police academy in Cairo, where the trials against the representatives of the old regime are held). But no one wants to go to Sinai, as a friend who is living over there recently told me. Hurghada is full of tourists; Sheraton Street – the main shopping street downtown – coffee shops in El Memsha and in the Marina are crowded to overflow. Downtown, on bypass and arterial roads, the police is on duty. Usually, electricity, water and petrol are available, there are hardly any walkouts and HEPCA’s employees scavenge the streets and empty the trash cans. There’s now security around my neighbourhood: at each entrance, a gate has been installed and the one who wants to pass through it, either needs to be a resident or has to hand over his ID card to the security.

Outside of Hurghada’s safe world, it looks quite different. Across Egypt, employees are on strike: teachers, post office employees, scavengers, police men, doctors, lawyers, bus drivers… continue to badly affect Egypt’s economy with their walkouts. Their demands are: higher wages, long-term employment agreements (which include social insurance), replacement of bosses, dismissing foreigners, better working conditions, out of revenge and many others.

At the same time, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is strengthening censorship. The one who speaks out against the SCAF better resigns from his job or has to face judgment before the military tribunal without the right to defend oneself and soon after might find oneself behind bars. One has better shut up since the emergency law has recently been reactivated. Under the emergency law, anybody can be detained without “any reason whatsoever” (in quotation marks, since one of the two parties always puts a reason forward). The SCAF struggles to show strength. However, power lies in the hands of those thousands who broke out of prisons (respectively who have been freed by the police and criminals that are interested in creating chaos). Armed robberies in broad daylight, on busy roads, break-ins in residential areas und kidnappings are meanwhile a daily occurrence. Clans make the best out of the lawless situation and settle old scores among themselves whether for religious reasons or just for so-called inadmissible statements…

Egypt has become unguided.

The foreigner who wishes to visit all those amazing historical sites between Alexandria and Abu Simbel better travels with a well organised group, preferably accompanied by security. This is my very personal recommendation and I am anything else than a coward and not really very careful. Stay away from travelling individually as a foreigner. Better wait one or two months and meanwhile enjoy the beauties of sun and sea in Sharm El Sheik or Hurghada and surroundings. The next couple of months will show which way Egypt will choose. Actually, I can’t imagine more chaos, although there are people who predict a scenario even worse than the one the country is going through at present. I personally plan to travel not before October, provided the security situation has improved. I’ve still got some plans in my mind…

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