The city of Cairo
Photo taken by Kylie Barton
I first visited the country ten years ago, as a young girl in love. At the end of last year, I returned, and other than the coral reefs, it was not the frightful and disappointing experience the scare mongering public and media would have you believe.
'Walk like an Egyptian' may conjure up different imagery to a few years ago nowadays, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring. With the supposed rise in extreme Islamists across the globe, a less educated person may envisage more of a run than a walk, with something explosive strapped to said runner. But in a recent trip to Egypt, the country's inhabitants were as welcoming, joyful, and cheeky as I recall from my first visit 10 years ago. It did transpire however upon our return that the hotel next door to ours suffered an attack of a gunman and a man brandishing a knife, which made me think twice about writing this article, but I believe our experience of the country should be highlighted more than ever.
Throughout our visit, we walked the streets of Hurghada at daytime, and at night-time, and other than the usual hustling from shop keepers and street sellers, we felt completely safe at all times. There were tourist police everywhere, checkpoints when travelling outside of the city, with armoured vehicles for the protection of tourists. Even at the airport, security was much tighter than that of the UK- taking hours to get through. Yet, it has become apparent that atrocities still can occur. Even Luxor felt considerably safer than ten years past, with improved infrastructure, and stricter rules about hassling tourists, as the people now are clear that we are their lifeline - their source of income. Same for Cairo, we felt needed and appreciated, not threatened.
Cheeky selfie on Hurghada's main street at 11pm. Perfectly Safe!
Photo taken by Kylie Barton.
What baffles me, is that there must have been hundreds of incidents around the world relating to guns on the day there was a 'siege' on the hotel next to ours, probably even in our beloved UK. Yet the media chose to focus again on a Middle Eastern country, where we as the west do have some significant interests - the Suez Canal being one of them. It is the chicken and egg situation here, what came first - our perpetually negative representation of this beautiful ancient country resulting in instability, or the supposed inherent troubled nature that permeates.
If you go to Dubai, you can get locked up in a horrific prison for kissing someone on the beach, in South America you can get accosted by drug lords wanting to ship their product to your homeland, and in the UK we are subject to hateful right wing rhetoric through our media regarding immigration. Who is to say which of these is more harmful in real terms? The world is a dangerous place wherever you are, and fear should never be the motivation for not doing something. Just as it should not be for doing something, or not visiting a place, as for all the bad stories we are told there are always hundreds more positive ones.
What I cannot get my head around though is how the Egyptians were arguable one of the first 'civilised' communities on this planet over 7000 years ago, but yet they have found themselves near the bottom of the pile today. Did the smartest among them go off travelling and never come back? Did we colonise the shit out of them as per? We know that latter is true, and so could we ask, is its current state our fault? Did we disrupt this majestic land's true path?
This is very much a case of do not judge a book by its cover, instead delve deeper and look at multiple sources from which to glean your information. I lost count of the number of times we were asked "Hey England, why do your people not come anymore", to which I finally decided the accurate response was "because we are ignorant".