Thursday, May 31, 2012

Egypt: Two Americans Kidnapped by Bedouins in Sinai, Tourism Increasingly Unpredictable

Two American tourists, both men, were kidnapped last evening (May 30) in Egypt's increasingly dangerous Sinai Peninsula. They were reportedly driving north from the Red Sea resort town of Dahab when they were abducted by armed Bedouin tribesmen who are now demanding the release of another tribesman arrested Tuesday (May 29) with a large quantity of drugs. 

COMMENT: Both kidnap victims are reportedly in their thirties and their identities have been reported in local media. Out of respect for the wishes of one of the fathers of two young men, ABC News was asked not to identify the names of the young men kidnapped. Hence, we will honor this request.

The two men are being held in a mountainous area called Ras al-Shaytan. They were apparently driving from Dahab to Nuweiba when their minibus was stopped. They were later reportedly then transferred to two cars, according to the driver who said the tribesmen told them not to worry, that they had demands of the Egyptian government. The kidnappers are demanding the release of a man named Eid Suleiman Atiwai, arrested with a large quantity of drugs earlier in the week.

As most of our readers know, under former President Hosni Mubarak, who was deposed last year as a result of widespread student protests, Egypt previously had been a relatively safe country for tourists, apart from an infrequent terrorist incident over a period of three+ decades. 

My assessment is that traveling in Egypt has become much more unpredictable since Mubarak was overthrown. Additionally, I believe that in time, Islam and sharia law will become a dominant influence in Egypt. This could well include restrictions on the sale and availability of alcoholic beverages, segregated beaches and even proof of marriage required for men and women who share the same accommodations.

Unfortunately, kidnappings by Bedouins have been increasing; Egyptian security forces have not stepped up aggressive patrols of tourist sites in the Sinai to discourage continuing abductions, although rarely have kidnap victims been harmed.

My advice to tourists traveling in the Sinai is to not resist a kidnapping, as usually such abductions are designed to simply put pressure on Egyptian authorities for a multitude of reasons. That being said, these days it very hard to determine who is in charge in the New Egypt, which seems to be heavily influenced by the Islamic Brotherhood.