Travel to Egypt: totally insane right now?

A very close friend of mine works for a major U.S.-based international service organization, and has been invited to speak at their regional conference in Egypt in May by one of the organization’s local chapters there. Ordinarily, he would jump at the chance (and who knows, he may be crazy enough to do so anyway; after all, he’s a half-Croatian, half-Bosnian, born in the U.S., who decided 1992 was the optimal moment to make his first trip to his parents’ homeland; how many of us think the ideal vacation spot would involve U.S. peacekeepers?)

However, the latent Jewish mother streak in me is worried. He’s quite visibly American, and although he’s done a decent amount of international travel, he’s not very good at blending in (and well, his Midwestern English and kitchen Croatian probably aren’t going to be much help).

So to those of you who have traveled in the region, how dangerous do you think such a trip would be, really? If he does get the opportunity to go (and his boss still has to approve the idea), what can he do to minimize risk?

Two friends of mine are travelling in Morocco right now, and having a great time. They are not with a tour or anything, just wandering around.

To minimize the risk? Display the Canadian flag prominently. :slight_smile:

Friends of ours just bought tickets to Rome for over spring break. I’m already worried about them. And that’s not even the Middle east.

If the U.S. does invade Iraq, I’d imagine there will be travel warnings issued for various places with high Muslim populations because of the anti-American sentiment. I wouldn’t underestimate it. Of course, I’m a mother hen.

I went to Egypt in October, 2000, when the Palestinian Intifada was just getting cranked up. I found that the Egyptian people are very good at differentiating between the American people, whom they seem to love, and the American government, of which they’re not too fond. (Contrast this with some of our less-enlightened brethren, who think that Jacques Chirac is personally responsible for French fries.)

I didn’t run into an unfriendly Egyptian anywhere in and around Cairo, Luxor, and Aswan, and the group of folks I was with were very obviously Americans. On top of that, I could wander around Cairo at three o’clock in the morning without fear, something I can’t say for Washington, DC.

There are some hotbeds of Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt (towns like El Assyut) that should be avoided, but tourists generally have no occasion to venture into places like that, anyway.

So, if I had the opportunity to go back, even in the current situation, I’d go without much concern. If your friend is worried at all, he should at least stay out of large crowds of tourists, not go barging into mosques with his flash camera blazing away, and avoid getting into political or religious arguments with the characters who hang around in the little coffee and hookah bars at night (though one should spend some time in those places - lots of fun!).

I agree with what Early Out says, but I disagree with his conclusions. The Egyptian people as a whole may be able to distinguish between “the American people” and “the American government,” but there are LOTS of “hotbeds of Islamic Fundamentalism in Egypt.”

Early, you were in Egypt during the beginning of the second intifada. America may have sided with Israel, but wasn’t a principle Enemy. In the expected current situation, America will be The Enemy. American tourists in the region will be targeted, I have no doubts, by the extremists. I’d say, stay away for a while.

I agree with Haven,

I am a Westerner and live in the Middle East, eventhough the local population, for the most part, is apolitcal there is always the extremist who targets Western people or what is perceived as Western interests. We are told to keep a low profile and many are doing just that. In Yemen two Westerners were killed by a co worker Yemeni. You can’t pick out who is going to do you harm.

I was in Egypt one year ago, I had a guide, but everyone seemed very nice. I guess if you saw a big demonstration going on you should stay away from it, but that would just be common sense. The Egyptian economy is very dependent on tourism, and the business has been suffering severely sincfe 9/11. I think for the most part, people would be overjoyed to see you.