Russian Airplane Crash: Should You Travel to Egypt? Is it Safe?

“E gypt is secure, stable and safe and welcomes your people,” Abdel Fattah Sisi — the president of Egypt — said during his visit to Sharm el-Sheikh, according to this article written by Ahmed Aboulenein for Reuters. “They will come to Egypt peacefully and leave peacefully and we will do all we can to protect and look after them.”

The visit by Sisi comes eleven days after the crash of an Airbus A321-200 airplane which operated as Metrojet flight 9268 from Sharm el-Sheikh on its way to Saint Petersburg in Russia on Saturday, October 31, 2015 where all 224 people — comprised of 217 passengers and seven members of the flight crew — aboard the aircraft were killed. The cause of the incident is still unknown at this time; and an investigation by the Accident Investigation Commission of Egypt is currently underway — including reports that a “noise” was heard in the final second of the flight data recording.

Airplanes operated by Lufthansa and Air France are reportedly avoiding flying over the Sinai peninsula of Egypt until the cause of the crash has been determined and confirmed; flights to and from Russia were suspended; and flights between the United Kingdom and the airport in Sharm el-Sheikh had been temporarily suspended on Wednesday, November 4, 2015, according to this official press release from the government of the United Kingdom. Flights had since resumed two days later — but not without a warning of a high threat of terrorism.

Revenue from tourism is a vital source of foreign currency in Egypt; and that industry has suffered significantly as a result of years of political instability following the 2011 uprising which overthrew Hosni Mubarak. I offered six reasons why you should visit Egypt now — and my opinion has not changed since I first posted that article despite the recent tragedy, which occurred at the start of the peak season for holiday travel to resorts along the Red Sea.

A surfeit of rhetoric, hysteria, speculation and supposition have flooded the media in attempts to assume an explanation of the cause of the crash of a Russian airplane which killed. All of this attention has people asking questions — and even resulting in lame articles such as this one — of whether or not it is safe to fly. I will address this topic once again in a future article — but in the meantime…

Should you travel to Egypt? Is it safe?

I was in Egypt earlier this year; and I never felt like I was in danger — except, that is, when I was driving a rental car around Cairo and to and from Luxor and Hurghada. I certainly did not feel like I was in danger when I was unexpectedly trapped in the toilet of my hotel room.

I would have visited Sharm el-Sheikh myself if it was not on the opposite side of the Gulf of Suez. The problem is that — at approximately eight hours and 30 minutes to drive a distance of approximately 765 kilometers, or approximately 475 miles — getting there from Hurghada would have consumed an entire day if I drove using the car which I rented. Furthermore, the drive between Cairo and Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh is approximately five hours. Airfares were more expensive when I was in Egypt than they are now: you can secure return flights for as little as $99.00.

During my visit to Egypt, I noticed that most of the other visitors were not American no matter where I went. In Hurghada, for example, many of them were from Russia or Germany, usually on tours. In fact, many advertisements and store banners were in Russian in Hurghada. Because the airplane which crashed was operated by an airline based in Russia, I expect Russians to be hesitant to visit resort towns along the Red Sea such as Hurghada and Sharm el-Sheikh, which depend on their tourism and could be significantly be hurt financially as a result.

I would like to someday visit Sharm el-Sheikh; although having already visited Hurghada, it is not high on my list. If you asked me whether or not I would visit Sharm el-Sheikh now, my answer to you is “without hesitation.”

Alexander Bachuwa of The Points of Life recently visited Sharm el-Sheikh despite wondering if it was irresponsible to travel there due to the possibility and speculation that the crash was caused by a bomb as part of an attack by terrorists. I do not believe that it was irresponsible to travel there — just as I did not believe it was irresponsible to travel in the United States after the terror attacks of Tuesday, September 11, 2001. We need to show terrorists that their motives will fail; and we need to deal with them swiftly while giving them as little attention — which they crave, similar to the idiot who runs naked on the field of a crowded stadium during a sporting event for publicity — as possible. I would think differently about traveling to places such as Somalia or Syria at this time, where the risk of an incident occurring while visiting is significantly greater than in Egypt — but even those options are not out of the question for me, depending on the circumstances.

In fact, the media continually has a propensity to evoke fear and hatred based on pure speculation and rhetoric. Consider this article written by Maram Mazen of the Associated Press, which reports on how newspapers in Egypt are proclaiming that Egypt is facing a conspiracy from western countries — such as the United States and the United Kingdom who seek to “scare off tourists and destroy the country’s economy” through their intelligence reports — out of fury that those countries are speculating that terrorism is responsible for the crash of the airplane.

Give me a freakin’ break. Is what the newspapers in Egypt are supposedly reporting really necessary and productive?!?

Summary

The fear-mongering of media around the world tends to blow things out of proportion. The crash of that Russian airplane is indeed a tragedy — traumatic to those people who are relatives, friends or colleagues of the passengers and members of the flight crew who did not survive. My thoughts and prayers are with them…

…and although I do not have the numbers in front of me, I am confident that 224 people is a mere fraction of a percent of the people who visit Sharm el-Sheikh every year. There are countless things which we encounter in our daily routines about which we do not think that present more of a danger than being involved in an airplane crash or terrorist attack — such as simply driving a car, for example.

If you have wanted to visit Egypt, now is the time to do so for the six reasons I impart here. The biggest issue you may experience will most likely be dealing with the touts — who are also hurting financially and will tend to be more aggressive as a result — when you visit such legendary monuments as the Great Sphinx of Giza. Do also visit the resort towns of the Red Sea — including Hurghada, which I visited; and also Sharm el-Sheikh. If nothing else, Egypt offers a great value for your travel dollar or whatever other currency you use — something which Egypt really needs right now.

As you should anywhere you are — even in your neighborhood — stay alert and aware of your surroundings, and you should be fine.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

5 thoughts on “Russian Airplane Crash: Should You Travel to Egypt? Is it Safe?”

  1. Richard says:

    I think you are crazy to advocate visits to Egypt at this time .I was there in 9/09
    and there was still a elevated security mentality. I visited Giza, Luxor, Hurghada, Sharm El Sheikh, and the Nasser Dam. On the bus that we were on between flights, there was an armed guard. , he had a Uzi, a Walther 9 mm.,
    and a large knife. A pleasant enough man, but when questioned, he said it was a govt. mandate. It may be possible to “make it” but I would not do it again!

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Are you talking about a trip taken six years ago, Richard?

      Remember, tensions were building in Egypt at that time, which led to the revolution in 2011, when Hosni Mubarak was deposed as the president of Egypt. I would argue that Egypt is safer today than it was six years ago.

      When I was in Panama, I saw armed military patrolling the streets. Was I crazy to visit there?

      I was in Lebanon in 2006 and saw shells of buildings after they had been bombed juxtapose with brand new buildings being constructed; and not once did I not feel safe. Was I crazy to visit there?

      Would someone be considered crazy for visiting the United States in September of 2001 after the terror attacks occurred?

      No travel is without risk; but my recent experience in Egypt suggests to me that visiting there is relatively safe…

      …and one can argue that with a police and military presence, tourists are actually safer — although I prefer not to be in a police state.

      Thank you, Richard — but I respectfully disagree with you.

  2. wt says:

    Hi Brian,
    Thanks for the article. I have an upcoming trip for 6 days to Egypt in January. Landing in Cairo (end of first week of January), staying for 3 days then flying to Luxor (Egypt Air). 3 days later flying Luxor – Cairo – Nairobi.

    I will be traveling with my wife and my parents. So far none of them have thought of cancelling any plans yet. I was however not happy to see the Russian plane news. Still like you said, things can happen while driving a car here from home to work in the US.

    However, to minimize the risk while visiting Egypt, here are 3 things I would be doing. Please advise of any other tips if you can think of it.
    1) Even though cabs will be cheaper, I am thinking of booking hotel transportation from Airport – Hotel – Airport in both Cairo and Luxor. We will be arriving in Cairo as well as Luxor late at night close to midnight so am thinking this might be a wise idea to take hotel transportation.

    2) Am also thinking of using a car + guide through the hotel with help from the concierge in both Cairo and Luxor. I am staying at the Ramses Hilton (Cairo) and Hilton Luxor (Luxor). Rates might be higher but just for some peace of mind maybe!

    3) No driving across the country at all. Strictly staying within the confines of the tourist areas like pyramids/bazaar/museum in Cairo and temples beside Nile in Luxor.

    Any other tips or tricks that you can think of to minimize risk would be very helpful and very much appreciated.

    Regards.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      I have received fantastic service from both the Ramses Hilton — I have yet to impart why; but it involves a flat tire — and the Hilton Luxor Resort & Spa…

      http://thegate.boardingarea.com/arguably-the-best-service-i-ever-received-from-a-hotel/

      …so even though I never used it because I had a car, hotel transportation probably is the best option for you — especially with those two hotel properties. I also never used any taxi cabs either; so I cannot comment on those.

      The concierge at both hotels are outstanding as well. I really do not believe you can go wrong with them — and that is saying a lot for me.

      I spent two days with one night in Luxor — I wish I could have stayed an extra night because the hotel was great; and it is right on the Nile River — so three days will be plenty of time for you. There are many tourist areas in Luxor and Cairo to keep you occupied, so you should be okay.

      Please note that I found out that two people were killed in the parking lot at the Karnak Temple not long after I was there; but that still would not have fazed me. One of them was reportedly a suicide bomber:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/11/world/middleeast/karnak-temple-luxor-egypt-attack.html?_r=0

      Just be aware of your surroundings and simply enjoy yourself. I had absolutely no issues in Egypt. You will find that most of them will do whatever they can to help you; and because you will not be driving, you should have no problems at all.

      By the way: if you are staying at the Hilton Nairobi, you have made a good choice there as well. I stayed there earlier this year.

      Enjoy and have fun, wt — and please feel free to post your experiences when you return!

      1. wt says:

        Hi Brian,
        Thank you so much for your advice. I am going to be re-reading all your previous posts regarding Egypt again before leaving.

        I was thinking about the Hilton Nairobi but I have two Club Carlson e-certificates that I would like to use before US Bank changes their mind :).

        I look forward to reading more about your trips. Thanks again for taking the time for your detailed reply.

        Safe Travels !!

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