Disclaimer: This post is meant purely to provide a real account of what South Sinai is currently like. It is a personal blog post of my own opinions, which are based on my specific experience in Egypt.
Back in June when I became a certified Open Water diver, I asked my instructor where his favorite diving spot had been. His answer? The Red Sea. I added it to my future to-do list, but didn’t plan on going anytime soon, as I’d need all my money for my Eurotrip. Then in early July, I met a girl who had been diving in Egypt a few months prior, and she told me how unbelievably cheap it’d been. I checked Skyscanner and found a cheap flight from Istanbul to Sharm El- Sheikh (which is only about an hour from Dahab, where I wanted to dive), and I booked it on the spot.
I immediately started receiving excited comments from friends who were stoked about the spontaneous addition to my itinerary. These were along the lines of “cooooool” and “that’s so awesome!” and also included suggestions on where to dive, since apparently I have many Facebook friends who have been there recently.
Then I started to hear the opposite from others, many of which were family members, who worried about my safety in Egypt. Here’s part of a message that made me truly consider canceling my trip:
Sharm is a perfect target for insurgency… One of the terrorist organizations attacked there in 2005 and again threatened in 2014. Two of their prime targets are “infidels” and “non-believers” and what better epitomizes both of those than westerners in skimpy bikinis? It is THE most popular resort in the Middle East, and has been the site for many “peace conferences” and top-level meetings between nations… Would you say that if an attack doesn’t happen that you should have gone? Probably you would, but you are 25 and have a lifetime to visit Egypt if and when things are less volatile. Yes, they have guards there, but they can’t be everywhere and are just not trained to fight something like this… Keep your trip going, but use a little caution and avoid Middle East right now is my best advice.”
And a second one:
The recent attack in Tunisia is an example of what extremists are aiming for: financially hurt governments they disagree with by targeting vacationers (Westerners) and disrupting tourism. That does not mean something like that will happen at the exact spot you happen to be in Egypt and the exact time you happen to be there. In fact, the odds are probably good you’ll be safe. Still, I worry. I’d feel a lot better knowing you were avoiding the Middle East; there’s too much craziness going on in that part of the world right now.”
These very valid points made my decision extremely tough (and also made me realize how lucky I am to have a family that cares so much!) But after taking everyone’s advice into consideration and weighing out my options, I decided to continue my trip. On my list of countries for the next few months (Egypt plus a variety of European countries), Egypt was actually the place I was most looking forward to, and the thought of canceling my diving trip was absolutely heart-breaking. Though I hated that my family would worry about me the whole time, I went to Egypt anyways, and I have to admit I’m so glad I did. Aside from many checkpoints between towns, I saw nothing out of the ordinary, and Egypt was simply a dream!
Let me clarify that I only visited South Sinai (Sharm El-Sheikh and Dahab), and I steered clear of North Sinai. But even Dahab, a town one hour north of Sharm that some countries have travel warnings against (and many travel insurance providers will not even cover), was as peaceful as could be. Sipping tea in little beachside cafes, relaxing by the pool reading a book, and lying on the sand gazing at the starry night sky listening to the rhythmic lapping of the sea, I always felt a world away from any danger. I can honestly say I felt safer there than I used to feel everyday walking around the streets of downtown Los Angeles.
My two weeks in Egypt made me realize how much influence the media actually has on our society. At least in America, it seems that all the news ever focuses on are the bad things happening in the Middle East… images of terrorists, religious extremists, bombs, guns, and war are frequent, and these are distorting the vision many people have of the Middle East. It’s true that certain areas are violent, but I think that Western media sensationalism is an entirely new problem on its own. Without images to counter all the negative ones, the media can create a false perception of the area.
So how about I show you my version of the Egypt? The version you probably won’t see on TV…
So, is Egypt safe? I’ll let you be the judge of that yourself. Egypt has had its fair share of turmoil and civil unrest in the past, and there’s no denying its proximity to certain other Middle Eastern countries that are considered dangerous, so please take that into account. But just know that after my recent visit, I’d go back again in a heartbeat. ♥
Note: If you do go to Egypt, please use a little common sense and respect the culture & religion of others. If you’re a solo female traveler, dress more conservatively than you normally would, and try to avoid walking alone at night.
As always, keep on livin’ pura vida ✌