Egypt has been a very popular tourist destination for a long time. And that is not surprising since it houses some of the most fascinating historic spots in the world, including two of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. But things haven’t been going very well for the Egyptians lately. The tourism industry has taken a big hit, not just because of several terrorist attacks, but also because of other tourist-related incidents. The number of tourists visiting Egypt went from 14.7 million to 5.4 million in 2016. It is safe to say that Egypt has seen better days. Whether terrorist groups are to be blamed, or the government or the curse of the pharaohs, one thing is for sure, you need to proceed with caution and awareness of the many possible dangers you might encounter.
15. Mysterious death
The story of a 27-year-old Polish woman made the news around the world earlier this year when she died in strange circumstances in Marsa Alam, an Egyptian beach resort. The woman was supposed to be on vacation with her boyfriend, but visa issues kept him back, so she decided to travel by herself. As soon as she arrived there, her friends and family started worrying about her safety. Magdalena was behaving very weird: telling her friends she was hearing voices, yelling on the phone in the hotel lobby, and a hotel camera recorded her lying by her door, half-conscious.
The “official” story says the hotel became worried and contacted her family, who decided to bring her home. Due to her disturbing behavior, she wasn’t allowed to board the plane and was taken to a private hospital, where a friend was supposed to pick her up the next day. Unfortunately, that never happened, because Magdalena (after being violent towards the staff and being tied to bed) managed to escape and jumped from the second floor. She was taken to another hospital to be taken care of but died a few hours later.
The rumors, however, depict a totally different story. She was supposedly drugged and raped by locals, which is what even one of the hotel employees, a Ukrainian woman, suspected. A recording of her calling her boyfriend, shows her very distressed and crying, asking for help and telling him “I can’t speak”, “I won’t come back”, “They have their tricks here”. There are several other crazy stories circulating around the Internet, but her death still remains a mystery.
14. Mistaken identity
You never hear any good stories of mistaken identity, it seems like. They always have some kind of bad ending. And unfortunately, so does this story, which might as well be a scene of an action movie.
A group of Mexican tourists was on a safari with an Egyptian tour group in 2015. They decided to take a detour so they could get something to eat and that’s when hell broke loose. Military forces were on a hunt for terrorists in the Western Desert. Overzealous? Confused? Unprofessional? Possibly all three? The point is the tourists trying to enjoy a peaceful picnic suddenly found themselves under attack by military planes and helicopters. Survivors recalled being bombed about five times with the attack lasting no less than three hours! Eight of the Mexican tourists died, along with four Egyptians.
The authorities never apologized publicly for the incident. Instead, they blamed the tour agents for not having permits for the trip and traveling in unauthorized cars, but the representative of the tour group denied the accusations.
13. Sexual harassment
“I was walking down the street with my wife and a local approached me in broken English: I give you three camels for your woman”. There’s one story I heard more than once from people who traveled to Egypt. I always thought it was a joke until I did some research. One survey conducted in 22 Arab states found that Egypt ranks at the bottom when it comes to treatment of women and specifically sexual harassment. And according to another survey, 98 percent of foreign female tourists and 83 percent of Egyptian women have experienced it. Now I know there are many guys out there who wouldn’t think twice about punching a man who would hit on their wife or worse, try to purchase her. Probably not a good idea, if you don’t want to find yourself in some deep-deep trouble. Wearing clothes that reveal as little as possible is probably the best thing a woman can do to draw less attention. And while you’re at it, throw a baseball cap on, too. Apparently, blonde women are targeted more than any other women.
The good news is sexual harassment was criminalized in 2014 for the first time and offenders can now spend up to five years in jail and receive a fine of up to 50,000 Egyptian pounds. The not-so-good news is that 43 percent of men in Egypt still believe women enjoy their “attention” and being sexually harassed.
American reporter Julia Simon, who lived in Cairo for two years, said she was harassed every day. One day she decided to interview one of her “admirers”, a man who told her “you’re like sugar” (other offenders can be way more disturbing). He was very nonchalant about it, claiming it was just innocent flirtation and it was all very normal among local men.
12. Gastrointestinal diseases
As if there weren’t already enough things to worry about when traveling to Egypt, severe food poisoning has been added to the list. Research found Egypt has the most reported food poisoning cases in the world. And the popular destinations Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada are quickly becoming very unpopular for this very reason. Contaminated water and lack of hygiene when preparing food are just some of the factors causing trouble. But if you think a tourist with severe stomach discomfort would just stay in their room, you should know it’s not always the case. Many tourists go scuba diving in spite of their recently upset stomach. The body’s reaction, immediately after being sick, is to take a deep breath. But when you do that in the sea, you’ll fill up your lungs with salt water and drown.
And it’s not just tourists that have been through unpleasant experiences, but locals as well. Just because you’ve lived there for years, it doesn’t mean your stomach will be able to handle anything. In March 2017, more than 3,300 children ended up in the hospital after an outbreak of food poisoning at several state-run schools, in a very poor province.
11. Egyptian hospitals
So what exactly happens if you get a severe case of food poisoning? If you are very unfortunate, you will probably end up in a public hospital. And they are not a pleasant sight in many poor countries.
The cats in the picture are not there as a therapeutic means, to provide comfort to patients in distress. They are simply stray cats, who like to hang out in the hospitals and can even be found napping on hospital beds. And this is not the only problem with government-run hospitals. Messy rooms, clogged toilets, old (and probably not sanitized properly) utensils, tap water infested with bacteria and so on.
10. Car accidents
Egypt might have many dangers, but the main cause of death for Americans traveling in Egypt is car accidents. As a matter of fact, Egypt is on the list of 10 most dangerous countries to drive in, with the capital, Cairo, being one of the most difficult cities for a driver in the world. Animals on the road, pedestrians crossing the street wherever they feel like it, unlit vehicles at night, and many basic driving rules being broken on a regular basis are just a few of Egypt’s issues. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise if you already know anything about their driving tests. It is one of the easiest in the world and until a few years ago, candidates were only required to drive 20 feet forward and then go in reverse 20 feet.
If you are crazy enough to drive through Egypt, you need to go by their rules. Always be prepared to hit the brakes. With so many things going on in traffic, you might not be going very fast anyway. On top of that, cabs sometimes stop in the middle of the street to pick up customers. Always pick the middle lane, even though, technically, their roads only have two lanes. Egyptians are very ingenious and not only managed to squeeze in an extra lane, but that is the fastest of all, too. Don’t be afraid to honk. Everyone else is doing it. And whatever you do, don’t mess with big cars. The rule of the road is the bigger the car, the more rights they have. Don’t try to mess with buses and trucks. They always win.
9. Knife attacks
In July 2017, two German women were stabbed to death and four other tourists were hurt in an attack at a beach hotel in Hurghada. The attack took place just a few hours after five police officers were killed in a shooting outside Cairo near a pyramid.
In 2016, two attackers entered the outdoor restaurant of a hotel in Hurghada and attacked several tourists with knives. Two Austrians and a Swedish tourist were wounded and were transported to a hospital.
Unfortunately, it is not only Egypt where such unfortunate things take place. We hear more and more such stories coming from the most unexpected places. It seems that knife attacks have happened in quite a few European countries: France, Belgium, Finland, England, and Germany, just to name a few. And many of these are considered terrorist attacks.
While sandstorms are not exactly a common occurrence in Egypt, if you are unlucky enough to be there during a big one like the storm that took place in 2015, it will definitely disrupt your vacation. These storms make the sky look yellow-brown and lead to reduced visibility. Flights can be delayed, cars get quickly covered in sand and it will even find its way inside buildings.
The worst sandstorm in Egypt took place in 1997 when 12 people were killed, mostly due to the strong winds that knocked down trees and buildings.
Sandstorms are not foreign to the North American continent, either. In 1935, Amarillo, Texas area experienced a devastating sandstorm that lasted for no less than 38 days.
7. Arrested for PDA
As is the case with many other Islamic countries, there are certain (strict) rules about public behavior. Public displays of affection, to be more specific. You can’t hug and kiss in public, however, being sexually harassed on the street by local men is perfectly normal and to be expected.
We’ve all heard stories of tourists getting arrested in Dubai for showing a little too much affection to their partner and you can expect that to happen in Egypt as well. Gay people have to be even more cautious since according to a 2013 survey, 95% of Egyptians believe that society shouldn’t tolerate homosexuality. So two people of the same sex can’t display any affection in public if they are a couple but check this out, straight men can kiss on the cheeks, hug each other or show their affection in very unusual and intimate ways. A local was recalling how a cab driver repeatedly reached over and squeezed his thigh during a conversation.
6. Shady, cheap alcohol
Islam is the dominant religion in Egypt, so alcohol consumption is not exactly permitted. In spite of that, there are many people who drink, either in fancy bars in the capital, where you don’t even have to hide and it’s perfectly acceptable or in shady bars in poor neighborhoods, where purchasing alcohol is as dangerous as buying drugs.
So what are your booze options in Egyptian establishments? Local beer, imported liquor, and a third option, for those on a very low-budget: alcoholic drinks with labels that replicate famous brands, such as J&B whiskey, for example. The problem with these inexpensive drinks is the quality of the mysterious ingredients. Some of them may contain methanol, which unlike ethanol (commonly found in alcohol), is poisonous. One sip is enough to cause loss of sight and consuming less than 4 ounces can be fatal.
According to Wikipedia, four out of 30 people on the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation “most wanted” terrorist list are Egyptian. This can only mean one thing: something is rotten in Egypt. A new warning has been issued by the U.S. Department of State in July 2017, advising Americans to consider the risks of traveling to Egypt due to threats from terrorist and violent political opposition groups.
The 2005 attack in Sharm el-Sheikh is one of the worst in Egypt’s history. Numerous bombs were planted very close to bars, restaurants, and a hotel, killing 88 people and injuring 150, some of which were tourists. In 2004 and 2006, two more attacks targeted areas with tourist resorts.
In spite of this, there are still many who choose Egypt as a travel destination and come back safe and sound, with plenty of amazing stories to tell.
4. Russian plane crash
In 2015, a Russian passenger plane was taken down by a bomb in the Sinai peninsula, resulting in the death of the 224 people on board. The crash was the worst aviation disaster in Russian history. Investigators suspected that someone who had access to the baggage compartment inserted an explosive device right before the plane took off. Immediately after the attack, an Egyptian faction of ISIS claimed responsibility, but authorities pretty much dismissed it, insisting that the accident was caused by technical issues. Trying to rescue whatever was left of their tourism industry, the government kept on saying it had nothing to do with terrorists. After the incident, several countries canceled their flights to Egypt, including the UK and as of this moment, the ban is still going on for an indefinite time, in spite of Egypt’s calls towards the British government. Egyptians are puzzled about the fact that the British have resumed flights to Tunisia, in spite of a terrorist incident that took place in the same year as the one in Egypt.
3. Thieves and beggars
When in the streets, you have to watch your pockets. Leave your expensive jewelry and your Louis Vuitton at home because you don’t want to draw too much attention.
Beggars are so common in Egypt that you will run into them at every step. Some will harass you and follow you around and even run after your car in traffic. With some of them, you might be already familiar, since they are found in many other countries. You know the type, the ones who carry around a dirty rag and start “cleaning” your windshield as soon as you stop at a traffic light. Unless you want to drive away with a dirty windshield, you better have some cash at hand.
Vendors in street markets can often be perceived as a little too aggressive. They are very determined to make a sale and if you show any interest in their products, there is a high chance they will succeed in their pursuit.
You might encounter hustlers and scam artists that will try to sell you something (most likely stuff you don’t need) and pretty much rob you of your money, using an incorrect exchange rate. This is a good rule to follow, no matter where you travel: always know the currency exchange rate.
2. Creatures of the Nile
The Nile River is the longest in the world (4,000 miles), even larger than the Amazon River, and it flows through Egypt and seven other countries. Just like the Amazon River, you shouldn’t be surprised to hear there are many dangerous creatures that live here.
20-feet long crocodiles can be found in large groups and they don’t really like to joke around. They see people, they attack. And about 200 people fall prey to them every year.
One of the biggest dangers of the river is, surprisingly, one of the smallest creatures found in the area: mosquitoes. Malaria and the West Nile Virus are just some of the diseases carried by these annoying insects. Female sand-flies are another category of insects that you don’t want to run into. They carry a disease that causes skin sores, as well as damage to the spleen and liver.
1. Deadly boat rides
Every day there are numerous luxury cruise boats sailing up and down the Nile dropping tourists off at popular attractions. But tourists aren’t the only ones enjoying the occasional boat rides. Riverboat tours are very popular among locals as well because they are very inexpensive and even the poor can afford them (about 50 cents per person). If you decide to be thrifty or maybe you want to experience authentic Egyptian lifestyle and embark on one of these boats, you should be aware of the possible dangers. Many of these boats operate without a license and do not meet all the safety requirements.
In 2010, 20 girls (between 8 and 18) embarked on a tour in a small boat. Somehow the people who organized the tour missed a very important detail: the boat’s maximum capacity was of six passengers. The outcome was pretty obvious; the boat capsized immediately after launching. The young captain didn’t think twice, jumped into the water and swam to the shore, leaving all the girls behind. Four of them died.
Sources: independent.co.uk, dailystar.co.uk, huffingtonpost.com, pri.org
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