Return to Egypt part 6 – What Now?

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By Dennis Bunnik

I’ve been in Egypt for just over 2 weeks. During that time I’ve travelled with 2 of our Egypt in Depth groups and a Cairo to Zanzibar group. I’ve also met up with an Egypt, Israel & Jordan group, a Treasures of the Ancient World group and a couple travelling with their 11 year old daughter.

Speaking to all these Bunnik Tours travellers there are 2 things that stand out. The first is that they have fallen in love with Egypt and are glad they came. The second is that before they came everybody from their family to their neighbours, work colleagues and taxi drivers were telling them they were stupid to go to Egypt because it is dangerous.

I call this the ‘family, neighbour and taxi driver affect’ and quite frankly I think it is absolute crap. (sorry for the language but this is a blog , not our official website and I feel very passionate about this).

It is brought about by naïve people who think that because there are protests on the TV that all of Egypt is burning. This is just rubbish. It’s like the time my aunty rang me from Holland to see if I was okay because she heard about the Victorian bushfires – that were 800km away from me in Adelaide.

Unfortunately these attitudes are hurting the very people that can least afford it. Take Emad, I met him this week in Aswan as he and his brother were delivering fresh vegetables to some cruise ships. They don’t pick the tomatoes until they’re red here – they are locally grown by farmers like Emad and the income they produce ensures he can feed and educate his children.

They are just some of an estimated (conservatively) 10 million Egyptians who are indirectly supported by the tourism industry. This is in addition to the 7 million directly employed by the industry. It is by far the nation’s biggest employer.

Egypt has a fleet of 400 Nile cruise ships. Currently around 50% of them are lying idle. And this is the high season. So Emad is selling fewer tomatoes and the chefs, waiters and crew who work on these idle ships sit at home waiting for the tourists to return.

So how dangerous is Egypt? I was here during the revolution – during the absolute worst time according to CNN. I, together with our clients in Egypt at the time were staying at a luxury hotel close to the pyramids – a good hours drive away from the dramas of Tahrir Square. All these clients chose to go to Jordan to do their sightseeing there with the hope they could return to Egypt a week later. Do you think they would have done that if they felt they were in danger? Of course not! And they were the ones here in the middle of the revolution.

Why did they feel safe? For two reasons. One, the revolution and subsequent elections are purely a domestic issue, tourists have never been affected or targeted. Secondly, Egypt has arguably the most sophisticated tourism industry in the world – the pyramids have been attracting visitors for over 2,000 years so the Egyptians know how to look after people. I’ve seen and heard of countless examples of ordinary Egyptians helping foreign tourists caught up in the revolution.

Consider this comment that was made today in response to Part 3 of my Return to Egypt blog:

Oh Dennis, we left wonderful Egypt this morning after 2 weeks (& here in Jerusalem have our first free wifi YAY!). We were all smiles reading your blog as that was exactly our reactions to each of the places you commented on. Our last free day in Cairo was spent revisiting the awe inspiring Museum & esp King Tut’s rooms (sigh) and then just walking the streets in Downtown for 2 hours. We felt so safe and, as you said, so lucky to have experienced it all with such wonderful guides (Medhat & Hussein) and without the crowds. Returning to Cairo felt like coming home. Rosemary Gower

We recommenced tours to Egypt on the 15th of March 2011, 6 weeks after the start of the revolution. Since then every Bunnik Tours client that has travelled to Egypt has come back raving about the place. They’ve loved the welcome they’ve received and they loved the fact that they’ve been able to see the sights without the usual crowds. Have any of them felt in danger? No.

The main reason for this is that the revolution, elections and protests are a purely domestic issue. Tourism operates in a parallel world and rarely do the two meet – certainly none of our clients have been anywhere near the protests or rallies that accompanied the election. And none of our clients go to soccer matches – just like we don’t encourage them to go to soccer matches in Europe.

What about the new government isn’t it full of Islamists? Yes a large number of Islamist politicians were elected and will form part of the new government. Egyptians by their nature are very religious people – whether they be Muslim or Christian. But religion doesn’t automatically mean extremism. There is not a politician in Egypt that will do anything to damage an industry that 20% of the population depends on for their livelihood. This was confirmed at the recent first meeting of the tourism committee of the new parliament – they see tourism as the key to creating economic growth and remain 100% committed to tourism.

So what’s it like on the ground? In addition to Emad in Aswan I’ve been speaking to Egyptians up and down the Nile to seek their views. All are optimistic about the future and look forward to less corruption, better government and more democracy. Many are dismayed at the slowness in the recovery of tourism and can’t understand why westerners are scared to travel to Luxor, Aswan and the pyramids.

But I have also found glimmers of hope. Haggag runs a horse and carriage business in Luxor. As we rode around the old town of Luxor he told us that in the past few weeks business has started to improve. We’ve also started to notice an increase in enquiries whilst the Europeans are starting to return in numbers.

On the Nile too the ships that are operating are now seeing their occupancy reaching 60-80% where a few months ago it was 30%. This will soon encourage other boats to recommence operations.

In his office in Cairo, Amr Al Ezabi, the Chairman of the Egyptian Tourism Authority is also confident. Buoyed by the support of the new parliament Egypt is doubling its participation at the world’s largest travel trade fair – ITB in Berlin. Plans are also underway to launch new marketing campaigns in major markets – including Australia.

All this points to a very bright future. Which means only one thing – within 12 months Egypt is going to be very very busy. My advice therefore is to ignore your neighbours and your taxi driver and visit Egypt now whilst the crowds are low and you’ll have a much better Egyptian experience. People like Emad, Haggag and their families will be grateful that you’re coming.

PS I saw this advert at Cairo Aiport – I think it sums up the events in Egypt very well.

Click here to read parts 1,2,3,4 & 5 of this Blog post.

For more information, explore our Egypt & Middle East small group tours or watch our YouTube tour videos.

15 thoughts on “Return to Egypt part 6 – What Now?”

  1. Yvonne King says:

    I have to agree that I always felt very safe in Egypt. We did a Bunniks tour in 2006 and had the same comments from many people before we left home about the dangers. We fell in love with the place and the people and have every desire to return. It is now No 1 on my list of favourite places in the world.

  2. Ali Hill (nee Banks) says:

    Hi Dennis,

    Great to be reading some factual information from someone on the ground in Egypt… thought I would add the following comments from an old friend who is a Canadian that is also an ex- European Tour Director like myself. We were well trained to spot any problems or hazzards for our clients whilst on the road with groups so she would certainly know what to look for. Her comments most definitely support your’s!

    Cheers and happy travels,

    Ali Hill

    20 February at 15:28 ·

    We have just returned from a week in Egypt on the Red Sea. Now I know the news is full of horror stories about the situation there but what is happening on the ground is that there are very few tourists and tourism is one of their main sources of income. Our hotel had 35% occupancy which was great for us but not so great for all the employees who have been laid off. So if you are considering a trip to Egypt then go now! Prices have been reduced, sites and hotels are more than half empty and the Egyptians are over-joyed to see anyone. Plus it was 26C and sunny which should be enough of an incentive for most people.

    Forgot to mention safety-although Cairo and a couple of other large cities are still seeing demonstrations with some violence, the tourist sites have been peaceful. One of the reasons is because the local people rely on the tourists so they are maintaining the peace. Luxor, Aswan, Abu Simbel, Sharmal Sheik, Hurghada and the pyramids which are on the outskirts of Cairo etc have reported no problems and no tourists.

  3. Peter Janmaat says:

    Dennis, How true your words ring, i had the greatest pleasure back in 2008 of spending two wonderful weeks on tour in this historic country, Sadly not with Bunniks tours but with a competitor and this was well before any of the troubles. But since the awe inspiring two weeks i had there i have stayed in touch with many Friends i made whilst in Egypt and they all say exactly the same the tourists are saver then ever with all the unrest, they country strives on this industry and would not ever think of hurting this in any way shape or form.Having had Two weeks in history i am saving like mad to go back and spend longer there the second time around, hopefully with your tour company this time as i am also a South Aussie.
    Thank you for the words on your blog and i look forward to hearing more from you

    Regads Peter

  4. Vicki says:

    Hi Dennis, we are booked to go to Egypt 14th May on the Royal Egypt tour & the add on, climbing Mt Sinai.. The area that concerns us is the Sinai region where there has been several kidnappings in Feb. Do you have information on the Sinai area??

    1. Bunnik Tours says:

      Hi Vicki Thanks for your comment – I am having a meeting tomorrow to discuss these extensions to St Catherines/Mt Sinai in particular. I will be back in the office on Monday and will be in touch to give you the most up to date info – obviously if we think there is likely to be any trouble in the region we will suspend this add-on.

  5. Vicki says:

    Hi Dennis thanks for your reply..
    We would love to meet with you before we finalise our trip.
    Will wait
    for you to make contact, thanks again
    Kind Regards

  6. Julie Halde says:

    Hi Dennis, my sister and I went to Egypt in November 2010 on an escorted tour not with Bunnik Tours but another tour company. We had the most amazing time, visiting the Pyramids, the Egyptian Musuem, sailing down the Nile etc. We always felt quite safe although this was before the unrest started, We still had people asking us when we got back did we feel safe. We have plans to go again not sure when, but I think we might try Bunnik Tours next time.



  7. Bunnik Tours says:

    Hi Julie, Great to hear that you had an amazing time in Egypt. It is such a special place and we’d love to have you on one of our small group tours! Visit our website or contact us on 1300 664 170 when you are ready to start planning your next adventure 🙂

  8. Sue says:

    Just read Return to Egypt Part 6. There’s no date on the blog entry. When did Dennis write it? All the comments relate to 2012. Wonder if anything has changed there in 2 1/2 years?

    1. Bunnik Tours says:

      Hi Sue,
      Thank you for your comments.
      Dennis visited Egypt and wrote these blogs in February 2012. The Bunnik’s have been to Egypt since then, in fact, Marion is going to be there next month to see how things are going on the ground.
      In the meantime, we are still operating our tours to Egypt & the Middle East, if you are interested in travelling there, please contact us or your local travel agent.

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