Safety and security
There is a heightened threat of terrorist incidents in Egypt at this time and these normally happen without warning. Although the majority of attacks are targeted at the security services in specific areas, especially North Sinai, they have involved civilian casualties. Alliances between local extremist groups and Da'esh and Al Qaida have increased the risk of attacks against Westerners and Western interests in Egypt.
Although there are additional security measures in place to protect the country's major tourist resorts and sites, there is a risk that tourist areas and other places frequented by foreigners may be specifically targeted by terrorists planning future attacks.
On 4th August 2019 a car bomb exploded in central Cairo killing at least 20 civilians and injuring about 50 more. All the casualties were Egyptian.
On 19th May 2019 a small road-side bomb in the vicinity of the Giza pyramids was detonated as a bus carrying South African tourists was passing by, causing some injuries, none fatal.
On 28th December 2018, a remote explosive device killed three Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian guide, and wounded 12 other people on a bus near the Giza pyramids.
Coptic Egyptians are the frequent target of attacks in Egypt. These include significant terrorist attacks with multiple casualties and more localised inter faith community disputes which escalate quickly into more extreme violence. While most Coptic sites are well guarded by the security services, extreme caution should be observed when visiting them.
Irish citizens are strongly advised to avoid security installations (police stations, road checkpoints, military bases) and significant Government buildings to the extent possible. People who take photographs and videos of security installations or security vehicles and equipment or Government buildings have been arrested and had their cameras confiscated.
In general, Irish citizens should be vigilant, follow the instructions of local authorities, respect restrictions on movement (including in and around religious sites and during religious festivals) and monitor local media (including social media) for up to date information.
There is a heightened and countrywide threat of kidnapping in Egypt at the present time. In view of this and the overall security situation in the country, Irish citizens already in Egypt are advised to take sensible precautions with regard to their personal safety and travel within the country. Long journeys by road should be undertaken only if absolutely necessary and should be planned with the utmost care and precaution. All travel to desert areas (including roads leading to them) should be strictly avoided.
Irish citizens should avoid all travel to Northern Sinai, including the Taba-Suez road, where the security situation is extremely dangerous. The Egyptian army is engaged in ongoing military operations against militant groups in North Sinai and there has been a serious escalation in the number of security incidents and attacks. In addition to the general state of Emergency which exists in Egypt, there are additional restrictions on movement in Sinai, including a strictly enforced curfew.
The movement and presence of all foreign nationals in areas adjacent to the Libyan, Sudanese and Israeli borders is now restricted under the terms of a Presidential decree which mandates the armed forces to take measures to safeguard the security of these areas. Border areas are now classified as either “forbidden” or “restricted” and travel to them will only be allowed if a special permit is obtained from the armed forces.
Irish citizens are strongly advised not to seek to travel to or from Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. The vicinity of the border crossing is particularly dangerous with frequent attacks on security forces. The border crossing is closed most of the time.
The security situation in the desert areas close to the Libyan and Sudanese borders is dangerous. Irish citizens are strongly advised to avoid all travel to these areas of the country.
Protests and demonstrations
Although protests and demonstrations in Egypt are now relatively rare compared to the period of political turmoil between 2011 and 2013, they sometimes happen with little or no prior warning. There is no official tolerance for such demonstrations and the police response can be harsh. They can also very quickly turn violent, and in the past this violence has resulted in large numbers of deaths and injuries. Under Egyptian law anyone participating in an unauthorized protest or demonstrations can expect to be detained for an extended period.
Irish citizens are strongly advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations. If you’re caught up in a demonstration, leave the area immediately. Don’t attempt to take photographs or video of demonstrations.
You should closely monitor the local media (including social media) for updates on the situation.
Crime remains relatively low in Egypt but there has been an increase in violent crime including armed robbery and car-jackings in recent years. You should therefore take sensible precautions:
• Don’t carry your credit card, travel tickets and money together - leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place.
• Don’t carry your passport unless absolutely necessary and leave a copy of your passport (and travel and insurance documents) with family or friends at home.
• Avoid showing large sums of money in public and don’t use ATMs after dark, especially if you’re alone. Check no one has followed you after conducting your business.
• Avoid dark and unlit streets and stairways, and arrange to be picked up or dropped off as close to your hotel or apartment entrance as possible.
• Keep a close eye on your personal belongings and hold on to them in public places such as internet cafés, train and bus stations.
If you’re a victim of a crime while on holiday in Egypt, report it to the tourist police immediately. You won’t be able to pursue the matter once you’ve left Egypt if you fail to do so. You can contact us at the Irish Embassy in Cairo if you need help.
Women face particular challenges in Egypt. Cairo is reckoned to be the most dangerous megacity in the world for women. Sexual harassment is common on the street and in taxis. This can quickly escalate into sexual assaults and rape. What in Ireland is regarded as ordinary social interaction, for example eye contact and smiling, may be regarded in Egypt as flirtation. While it may be safer to travel in an Uber or the women-only carriages of the metro, vigilance must be maintained. Where possible women should not travel alone and if travelling in a car alone with a male driver should sit in the back seat behind the driver. It is advisable to cover your legs and arms when travelling outside of resorts, particularly during Ramadan or if you are visiting more religiously pious areas.
Driving conditions in Egypt are often hazardous, particularly at night outside major cities. Accidents are common and drivers often pay little heed to the rules of the road. Most sign posts outside major cities are in Arabic only.
If you want to drive:
• Bring your international driving licence and make sure you have adequate and appropriate insurance
• Exercise extreme caution at all times.
• Avoid driving at night outside main urban areas.
• Know your routes.
• Be aware that driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is against the law and you risk being detained, fined or banned from driving if caught
• Keep your vehicle doors locked and your bags kept out of sight to prevent opportunistic bag-snatching if you’re stopped at traffic lights.
If you’re hiring a vehicle, we advise you not to hand over your passport as a form of security. If you’re allowing your passport to be photocopied, keep it in your sight at all times.
Check that you have adequate insurance and read the small print of the vehicle hire contract (particularly any waiver that will come into effect if the vehicle is damaged).
Public transport in Egypt has a poor safety record. There have been numerous accidents in recent years involving buses, micro-buses, trains and metro services which have resulted in a considerable number of deaths including foreign tourists. The train and metro network has also been the target of terrorist attacks. Where they are available, women should use the women only carriages of trains.
Thu, 08 Aug 2019 09:49:35 BST