no Pyramids trips, for now

May 30, 2013

I’m on the mailing list for the US Embassy in Cairo, and sometimes their warnings seem exaggerated. But not this one, which I can verify from recent personal experience:

“In recent weeks, the U.S. Embassy has become aware of an increasing number of incidents at or near the Giza Pyramids.  The majority of these incidents are attributed to over-aggressive vendors, though the degree of aggressiveness in some cases is closer to criminal conduct.  Other more serious incidents have been reported involving vehicles nearing the Pyramids, with angry groups of individuals surrounding and pounding on the vehicles – and in some cases attempting to open the vehicle’s doors.  While the motive is less clear (possibly related to carriage operators wanting fares), it has severely frightened several visitors.  A common theme from many of these reports is the lack of visible security or police in the vicinity of the Pyramids.  U.S. citizens should elevate their situational awareness when traveling to the Pyramids, avoid any late evening or night travel, utilize a recommended or trusted guide, and closely guard valuables.  Though other tourist locations have not been brought to Embassy attention, these measures are also recommended at all crowded or popular tourist sites.

It’s getting really bad out there. I’ve been going off and on for 13 years, whenever a visitor is in town. So I’m pretty tough when it comes to dealing with the normal scams to which my tourist friends are subjected at the Pyramids. I’ve dealt with corrupt police, and I’ve dealt with a jerk Bedouin pretending to become very angry when I told him $100 for my friend to ride a camel for 15 minutes was ridiculous (he grabbed my shirt and screamed theatrically in my face as a police officer laughed nearby).

So, it’s not like I’m easily scared by anything that happens at the Pyramids, that repository for all of Egypt’s most villainous swindlers (every nation has some). But in recent months it has become almost unbearable. It feels almost like an openly criminal environment now. The problem is not only “lack of visible security,” but in some cases the security are either working with the vendors on their scams, or are sexually harassing female foreigners quite openly, even those who are obviously accompanied by their husbands.

In short, if you visit Egypt in the near future, don’t even think of going to the Pyramids unless you’re on a large organized bus tour. Anything else is a big risk, for now.

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