Why I Hate Being Asked If I Felt Safe in Egypt

Safe in Egypt

This summer, my friend Jessica and I planned a huge adventure. She was already abroad on a long trip and I would meet her to travel in three amazing countries there were sure to be unforgettable: Jordan, Egypt, and Greece. I booked my tickets. I arranged our hostels. I studied my Lonely Planet books religiously.

The trip was just as epic as we had hoped. Never will I forget the night we spent out in the desert of Wadi Rum in Jordan after a long day of camel trekking. Sitting in the ruins of Lawrence of Arabia’s house and staring off into the orange sand, I had to convince myself that I wasn’t on Mars. Trekking eight hours through the ruins of Petra, “The Rose City” was one of the best and most exhausting days of my life. I could go on and on.

Egypt was equally unforgettable. What kid doesn’t dream of seeing the Pyramids of Giza, of strolling through temples older than our minds can fathom, of running your fingers over ancient hieroglyphics that had been carved into the smooth stone? We did all of this, and with a gusto that only two wanderlust maniacs can manage. We meandered through ancient crypts of Pharaohs, saw Tutankhamun’s gold inlaid sarcophagus, and marveled at the riches and opulent jewelry that had remained intact all of these thousands of years, laid before us like a feast for the eyes.

By this point, you probably have a question—or several, burning within you. Let me guess…you want to shake me and ask me if I’m crazy. At the very least, you want to ask: “But did you feel safe?”

What kid doesn’t dream of seeing the Pyramids of Giza, of strolling through temples older than our minds can fathom, of running your fingers over ancient hieroglyphics that had been carved into the smooth stone?

This question, “did you feel safe”, is what I was greeted with upon returning home. Instead of “How were the pyramids?” or “How big was the Sphinx?” I was consistently and incessantly asked if I was afraid. And it began to bother me. With so many other questions to ask about two amazing countries and adventures, I was dismayed—and a bit exasperated, that this was the question friends, family, and society as a whole felt compelled to ask me. And I couldn’t help but ask myself…. has our fear of the unknown eclipsed our sense of curiosity and wonder about our own world?

Before I write more, let me answer your burning question. Did I always feel safe while in Jordan and Egypt? The answer is, no. I didn’t. Would I go back and experience it all over again? Absolutely. Now, before you dismiss me as a careless and wild traveler, let me say a few words. It is my belief that nearly any country can be safely explored if you are smart, vigilant and you do your research (there are definitely exceptions—you won’t find me in Syria right now). The majority of people we encountered and interacted with while abroad were nice and very willing to help us.

I have become tired of the first and often only question upon my return being “But weren’t you afraid?” This is a pervading theme in American society that is beginning to not only irritate, but also frighten me.

We had enlightening conversations with Egyptians about their thoughts on the revolution. I met a Syrian refugee in Jordan who was an engineer in his own country, now working as a reluctant restaurant owner in the Wadi Rum desert. However, we certainly made sure that we were properly covered, stayed in areas that were well populated and safe, and never ventured anywhere at night alone. There is such a thing as “tempting fate”, and many travelers who find themselves in bad situations do just that. We made it our prerogative to avoid any situation that would fall under that category. Being prepared and knowing the culture you’re stepping into is not only an interesting learning experience, it’s necessary if you want to be a smart and safe traveler.

As a female traveler who has explored much of Southeast Asia and now parts of the Middle East and Africa I have become tired of the first and often only question upon my return being “But weren’t you afraid?” This is a pervading theme in American society that is beginning to not only irritate, but also frighten me. Are we so dependent on the media, and so stuck in our bubble, that the only experience we have with outside cultures and countries are the tragedy stories we read about and watch on the news? I want to challenge our society—every single one of you–to ask when the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone was.

There is a beautiful and intriguing world out there—and YES, you can go and explore it. Drop the fear, do your research, and step out of your bubble. I promise, it will be the most rewarding and exhilarating experience of your life.

 

 

Did you feel safe in Egypt during your travels? We want to hear about your experience. Email [email protected] for details. 

About Julia Gordon

Julia left the United States one month after graduating college to teach English in Thailand. She was there for a total of a year and never got sick of soaking in the colorful culture of Southeast and Central Asia. She caught the travel bug during a two month camping stint in the Utah desert, and since then has lived abroad in 3 countries and visited over 18……with no plans to stop!

12 thoughts on “Why I Hate Being Asked If I Felt Safe in Egypt

  1. Grace
    November 1, 2016
    Reply

    As someone who has grown up and lived in Uganda (Africa) all my life, it’s rather absurd how when you meet people from either Western Europe or North America, they are quite surprised that you actually have a normal life and know all these things that usually they do not know. The media has done a lot to paint a certain picture of Africa, Asia and South America. It’s people who are willing to travel there who will change this.

  2. Tia Mitsis
    Tia Mitsis
    October 25, 2016
    Reply

    Great article, loved it! I would love to see Egypt myself. It is on my list.

  3. Carol El Hawary
    October 23, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you for such a wonderful article. I live in Egypt and I get asked this question frequently by friends/family/casual acquaintances/random strangers all the time when I’m back in the UK. Honestly, my tolerance is getting thin. Now I say “do you think I would LIVE here if I didn’t feel safe?” Obviously there are dodgy parts of Cairo, but there are dodgy parts of Manchester too. I think Egypt is the best tourist destination in the world (I admit I’m slightly biased) and it really upsets me that people won’t come. Not a single one of my friends or family has visited me since I moved here over a year ago. So thank you for your article, which I’m going to share, in the hope it might help.

    • Elen Turner
      October 23, 2016
      Reply

      Hi Carol, I feel the same way about India (although I live in Nepal these days!) People who have never been there tell me (not ask me, TELL ME!) that India is dangerous. Such a huge overstatement, and born out of a combination of fear, racism and ignorance.

  4. Sabine Schwandt
    October 22, 2016
    Reply

    I visit Egypt at least twice a year for more than 31 years, I live in privat places, I eat egyptian food and I’m always dressed well. I love this country and I love the so very warmhearted people there. Since almost 3 years I live with a Bedouin family, in a little house which I did rent from them and I’m as happy as I never was before in my life, as now I have a family.
    I never was afraid and never anything bad happened to me.
    People stopped asking me if I’m not afraid of visiting Egypt because they know that they the will just get a stupid answer.

  5. Susan Ryan
    October 22, 2016
    Reply

    Thank you Julia.
    I have lived in Egypt for 6 years and visited regularly since 1993. I have always felt safe. Only place in the world I have been mugged? my home city of Sydney, because I walked down a dark street late at night which I really knew I should not do.
    Traveling in Egypt as a woman is easier if you show some respect for the modest dressing traditions (which are both religious and tribal), if you do this then you will definitely feel welcomed here. Choosing a qualified and recommended guide can help make your experience so much more rewarding not only as a source of information but by giving you a buffer from people who (naturally, they make their living from it) try to sell you things, especially if you are not comfortable with bargaining.
    I suggest anyone with fear of travelling anywhere to read http://uncorneredmarket.com/danger-map-world-fear-awareness/
    Please also read my articles on Pink Pangea for more on why you really must visit Egypt. Check out my instagram and see what you are missing if you don’t visit Egypt https://www.instagram.com/mindseyephotographyegypt/

  6. Susan Livingston
    October 21, 2016
    Reply

    We get asked the same question all the time when we talk about our travels in Mexico. You are right: you have to do what’s smart. You also have to trust your intuition. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. I guess there’s a fine line between facing your fears and paying attention to them. I was so afraid to go to Mexico about six years ago because we weren’t staying in an all-inclusive resort. It turned out to be the best thing we could have done. Now we rent in two different places and shop where all the locals shop… Well worth the leap of faith.

  7. judith
    judith
    October 21, 2016
    Reply

    Oh Yes, to being tired of this question from folks who live in a bubble. I usually answer it by “I lived near washington DC and there are plenty of places in the US where I felt unsafe”
    I just returned from Nepal where I was alone and felt perfectly safe as an older woman. But also a wise woman who did not tempt fate.
    I live in costa rica and the opposite happens here. People see it as Paradise. They loose not only their inhibitions but their common sense. They leave things on the beach, in their cars etc with no idea that people are quite poor here as beautiful as it is.
    So travel outside your comfort zone for sure AND take your common sense along

  8. Linda
    October 17, 2016
    Reply

    Is it any comfort to know that many Europeans think of the US as being too dangerous to visit?

    • Lucia
      October 23, 2016
      Reply

      *thumbs up* 🙂

  9. Laila
    October 13, 2016
    Reply

    God, that’s so true! I went to russia this year alone and everyone just can’t stop talking about how I’m brave and all… c’mon, I live in Brasil! I’m pretry sure my home is much more dangerous then Moscow… I can’t walk here alone at night without the risk of getting mugged…
    People simply believe what the media says about the places and assume it’s the true… It’s disapointing…

  10. Dani Bailey
    Dani Bailey
    October 11, 2016
    Reply

    I feel your pain. I’ve noticed in the past few years that I not only get asked this question when I return from somewhere like Egypt or South Africa, but even Iceland and Norway! I get the distinct feeling that a lot of us are being so inundated with news stories that those who don’t leave home sincerely think that the entire rest of the world is dangerous for women. I always respond to this sentiment with “actually, the safest I’ve ever felt was in the Scandinavian countries!” It’s totally true, too.

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