Don’t tell my mother I’m going to Egypt: thoughts on travelling to an unstable country

Is it safe to travel to Egypt? Isn’t it dangerous?!

I have been asked these questions quite a lot recently and the fact is that I have no idea what to answer. How could I know? I haven’t yet set foot in the country, so can’t vouch for its safety, or its overall ambiance.

All I know is tourism has been down ever since the revolution and protests of January 2011 as the Arab Spring started in full force. Egyptians are still desperate for jobs, with a catastrophic 13% unemployment rate, and tourism being down 40% since 2011. With 1 out of 9 jobs in this industry, it’s only understandable that tensions are rising and that tourists are, now more than ever, being incessantly hassled. It is a reality of travelling to Egypt (and, I must say, to North Africa in general) and I have this in mind as I trouble-shoot my way through my itinerary.

is it safe to travel to Egypt

In light of the recent findings on the Metrojet 9268 crash on October 31st, likely to have been a terrorism act, times are now more unstable than they were a few weeks ago, when tour companies were slowly starting to resume their operations in the region. With Russia ceasing all its flights to the country, it is a staggering 3 million tourists a year the Egyptian Tourism Authority is losing.


Photo by

So in the midst of all this turmoil, what are two doofus Canadians doing travelling to such an unstable country?! Well, for my part, I have a knack for the roads less-traveled and don’t fear travels in riskier countries. We’ve travelled to Jordan, El Salvador, Turkey and Morocco in times that were often shaky (and almost made it to Israel in 2012 until our government insisted on pulling us out as they deemed it too dangerous). I have an immense fascination for the Arab world and seek travels to Muslim countries for the warmth, kindness and generosity of its people and for the tremendously rich culture. Egypt is, for us, a dream come true, as we’ve both been enthralled by its ancient history and its millennial heritage for as long as we can remember.

I am fully aware that there are no waste bins in the Cairo metro to prevent a terrorist from hiding a bomb. That the only way to go to Abu Simbel, on the Sudanese border, is by way of police convoy, and that to travel from Cairo to Aswan by train has to be done at night time, on a 13-hour sleeper train, as foreigners are still not allowed day travel on the railways.

I know perfectly well which areas to avoid, especially since I had to let go of a dream of mine to visit the Siwa Oasis near the Libyan border. Now a very uncertain militarized zone where armed groups roam, Siwa is a no-go and I am not one to argue with that. I might be a bit reckless when I travel, but I am not stupid. However, I’m also not a psychic and cannot predict what could happen in a country that is deemed unstable. This could convince me not to leave the country, or even not to leave my house.

Walls of Freedom

Am I scared? Of course, I always am. But I tend to want to focus on my excitement for the marvels I’ll be discovering and trying hard not to be distracted from the magic that is a trip to Egypt, especially one that I’ve dreamed for so long.


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My title was inspired by reporter and war correspondent Diego Buñuel and his great series created for Canal+ titled “Ne dites pas à ma mère…” in which he travels to war zones and countries deemed dangerous.

Images courtesy of Getty Images and


  • Reply November 16, 2015


    Wonderful post! I try not to let media narratives shape my idea of whether an area is considered dangerous; the most important thing for me to keep in mind is that people living in these areas keep on going about their lives! They do all the same things we do, such as go to work, school, decide what noodles to get at the grocery store…so that’s a bit of a perspective we’d do well to keep in mind. Of course, as a foreigner we may have to be more cautious, but not so paranoid that we end up missing out on such a rich diversity of experiences.

    • Reply January 5, 2016


      You are absolutely right, Mary! Thank you very much for your comment. I feel the same way 🙂

  • Reply November 17, 2015


    You said it perfectly well. I’ll be going back to Egypt soon and everyone ask me the same questions and I too have the same fears. I spent 7 months there during the revolution and wouldn’t change a thing. I think it’s times like this when its best to visit countries like this to see what’s really happening and also because less tourist. I remember visiting the other pyramids outside of Cairo and I literally had it all to myself. Was amazing. Anyway if you need any tips let me know. I visited all over Egypt and lived in Cairo 5 months. I’ll be going back very soon and can’t wait!!!

    On a side note. Where did you get the image of Nefertiti with the gas mask? I ask because it looks 100% like a photo of mine on an article I wrote about the evolution of street art in Cairo. Wondering if another site took it.

    • Reply November 20, 2015


      Hi Jaime! Thank you so much for your comment! I’m touching down in Cairo as I write this and can’t wait to experience Egypt! Even if I hope tourism picks up, I know I won’t complain if there are fewer tourists at some sites so I can feel like I have them all to myself! I’m being selfish, of course I’d prefer if people would overcome their fears and travel to countries like Egypt.

      As for the image, I think you’re right, I checked your post and I’m also sure it’s your pic I used. I will give you credit right away, or do you prefer I take it off? I must have found it on Google images through my walls of freedom search (which i credited). Let me know what you prefer!

      • Reply November 21, 2015


        OMG beyond jealous you’re landing and there now! Ahh it’s gonna be tough but it’s beyond amazing. Egypt has a way of living ya back if you give it a chance cus most people don’t. If you don’t want a guide but want someone who speaks English and Arabic with you to do any of the sites. Check out My ex runs the site along with friend from Canada. Think you will love it. Enjoy Egypt tons and be safe. If you need anything let me know.

        Anyway as for the photos yeah would love it if you gave me credit. I had never heard of that book but it looks like an amazing book. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Reply November 18, 2015

    Svetoslav Dimitrov

    Catherine, a great post. I loved reading it. Fear is inside of our heads and we have to constantly suppress it in order to fully tame it.

    I wish you the best of luck in exploring this surely interesting country! My mother was in Luxor in 2011 when the turmoils happened, but she was lucky as they were in far-away Cairo.

    Bonne chance et bon voyage!


  • Reply November 18, 2015


    I’ve been here in Egypt for the last two months and have yet to meet anyone unpleasant at all. The collapse of the tourist industry means that attacks against tourists are much less likely, just avoid the crowds. Of course there are places to avoid but the idea of not coming here is absurd if you use your common sense and keep up with the news.

    • Reply December 10, 2015


      Hi Graham, indeed, there was absolutely nothing to worry about and our trip was without incidents.

  • Reply November 18, 2015


    If you are going to be worried about anything here it’s the men, bring a husband (real or otherwise) to deter the sex pests. Even my well covered Egyptian female friends despair at the men.

  • Reply November 18, 2015

    Sarah Gold

    Catherine, interesting take on travel and I wish you well! There was a great article in The Times that summed things up for me…if tourists stop going to visit, it is an incentive for Egypt to actually sort it’s country out.
    Such is the reliance on tourism to support the economy. Also you’re a travel blogger not a war reporter …and Egypt is not at war – some perspective is needed.

    I totally get your excitement and wanderlust to visit new places but tens of thousands of people visit Egypt – there is nothing remarkable on your visit. Only now a plane of westerners has been blown up likely. And a previous attack on plane carrying western tourists was foiled. Westerners are a target there.

    I can’t work out if the reason you seem to be going now is fueled with andrelin – because the added element of terrorist danger rather than your actual desire to visit.

    I hope you stafe safe and your want of adventure and interesting blog material doesn’t result in Canadian Government Services risking lives to save you. I remember listening to some British tourists defiantly saying they’d be back to Tunisia following the mass beach shooting a few months back. Now the Tunisian government have foiled yet another terrorist attack on a western beach.

    I really get your need to travel and I love your blog but the world is big. Stay safe.

    Bon courage, Bon journèe

    • Reply November 19, 2015


      Hi Sarah! My trip was planned a while ago as it was a dream of mine to visit Egypt since I was a little girl, so no my trip was not fuelled by adrenalin! This article was mostly intended for friends who were a bit concerned about my safety after the plane crash news. The Canadian Government will certainly not have to risk lives to get me out!! (and they’ve never done so)
      Cheers, and thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply November 18, 2015

    Jamie Italiane-DeCubellis

    Very interesting article. It is a place I would like to travel as well.

    • Reply December 9, 2015


      Thank you Jamie, I hope you do, it was amazing!

  • Reply November 19, 2015

    The Educational Tourist

    Excellent topic to bring up. We traveled to Turkey last summer as the ISIS cowards were acting like idiots in Syria, but we stayed to the west of the country and had a marvelous time. Many questioned our going, but the information we were receiving here in the US was not the entire picture. I guess your mom knows now. 😉

  • Reply November 20, 2015


    Proud of you Catherine! Very inspirational post and I’m glad you’ve done enough research before hand to avoid any potential bad areas. Wish you the best and excited to hear how everything went, I’d like to do the same very soon.


    • Reply December 9, 2015


      Hi Greig! Thanks a lot for your kind comment 🙂 I’ve been back for a week now and my head is filled with images and memories. I have a lot to write about, so stay tuned here!

  • Reply December 22, 2015


    Very well said. I just recently got back from Egypt, and I too had these same reservations prior to taking the trip. But one you are there? You forget all about it and just enjoy everything! Wish I could go back soon now that Tut’s Mask is back on view!

    • Reply January 4, 2016


      You are absolutely right 🙂

  • Reply December 24, 2015

    Dara Denney

    I live in Cairo full-time. I am always surprised when people say that Egypt is unstable or dangerous. (Obviously, I watch the news, I keep up on what Western media outlets are saying, as well as Arab ones, etc.) But it always surprises me because even though I am an outsider here, have experienced protests, and small-scale bombings, I feel safe here. I think a lot of it has to do with the predictability of violence. We (Egyptian and foreigners alike) know when there will be protests and when to stay away. We know how to take certain measures to keep ourselves safe, even during random small-scale bomb attacks. Right now I am visiting my parents in the Midwestern USA and I feel far less safe going to a large shopping mall in a small city. I feel like in the West violence has become extremely random and on a large scale; I feel many people have been lulled into a fall sense of security. But in Egypt, we are always vigilant. Hope that makes sense. Also, I loved your article on Abu Simel! I can’t wait to visit there myself when I get down South.

  • Reply December 25, 2015


    Incidentally I’ve just been to Siwa (forgot that you mentioned it when I first read your piece) and there was so much security in the region that I didn’t see much cause for concern, certainly my egyptian friends weren’t worried. The police insisted on giving us an escort back as well. Personally I feel much safer on local public transport is these situations as there is little reason to be a target. So, for anyone else thinking of going I wouldn’t write it off as a destination but obviously stay informed.

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