Egypt – Update (Re security concerns) – 22/08/13

Update 20/1/2014

We are spending the winter here in the South Sinai mountains to continue our climbing guidebook project so are now able to comment on the situation here as we see it. The FCO travel advice to the resort areas in the South Sinai, including St. Katherine’s village, remains green, as it has been for a long time. There are no curfews and there have not been any since August. All is calm and personally the only difference we can see here to how it used to be is the lack of tourists. If you have any questions concerning the security situation, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Many of you are asking questions about the security situation within The South Sinai. We do not want this update to try to paint a picture that everything is fine, as it could be better. But what we would like to do is to give you more information, some of which has been sourced at a very local level, so that you are in a better position to perceive a more realistic level of risk

The Media

The media and press reports coming out from The Sinai and Egypt can often make the area seem more dangerous then it actually is. It is human nature to perceive risk on what we know. So if we only hear bad reports, our perceived risk of Egypt will be much higher then it actually is. The following information may help to adjust this perception of risk back towards where it should be.

Recent BBC reports of the murders of Egyptian police in The North Sinai have been described to take place in The Sinai. The North Sinai is a long way from the resorts of The South Sinai. The troubled border town of Rafah and the capital city of Cairo are over 400km by road from St Katherine’s Village.

The FCO

The difference between the north and the south Sinai is reflected in The FCO’s advice. They have been updating their advice almost on a daily basis. They mention that:

“In the governorate of South Sinai the FCO advise against all but essential travel, with the exception of (i) the Red Sea Resorts including those in the entire region of Sharm el Sheikh, Taba, Nuweiba and Dahab; (ii) the St Catherine’s Monastery World Heritage Site; (iii) road travel between the Red Sea resorts; (iv) road travel from the Red Sea resorts to St Catherine’s Monastery approaching from the east; and (v) transfers between the resorts and the airports of Taba and Sharm el Sheikh.”

The FCO currently advise against all travel to The North Sinai. But this has been the case for the last 12 months. During that time the number of tourists traveling to The South Sinai can be estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands.

Local Feedback

Local companies within the town of Dahab are reporting that there is little change to the way of life:

While the TV continues to display horrific and frightening news coming out of Cairo, life in Dahab really does feel the same as it ever has. The streets are peaceful, divers are diving, shops and restaurants are open as usual and people are unaffected by the events unfolding 100s of km away. While we certainly don’t take the current situation lightly, I can assure all of our future guests that it really is business as usual here in the South Sinai.”

We have contacted Bedouin friends and Sheikhs within the Tarabin and Jebeliya Bedouin tribes of the South Sinai. They are all unanimous in what they say that there has been no sight or sound of the troubles of mainland Egypt and the North Sinai in the South Sinai.

The Monastery of St Katherine has closed their doors to the public. This is a reflection to their perception of risk. It is one that the local Bedouin deem as unnecessary.

Factors affecting air travel

There are curfews in place in The South Sinai (Excluding Sharm el Sheikh) between 19:00 and 06:00 local time. A local trusted taxi driver we often use has commented that he is able to do airport pick ups as long as he is able to leave Sharm El Sheikh area by 18:00, so aim to land no later then 17:00.

It is very important to leave ample time to get to the airport. In recent years police have been making vehicles drive in convoys between St Katherine’s and the junction with the Taba / Sharm road. We have heard of people being made to wait for a couple of hours and have thus missed their flights. The security presence has also been elevated in the South Sinai. The army has now control of the police checkpoints that hold the entrances to Sharm El Sheikh and Dahab.  So you may expect more delay when passing through these checkpoints. In total there are seven checkpoints between St Katherine’s and Sharm El Sheikh.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions regarding this update.

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