Thursday, November 7, 2013

Egypt: US Department of State Continues to Advise US Citizens Against All But Essential Travel

The US Department of State continues to warn US citizens of the risks of traveling to Egypt and strongly advises citizens to defer all but essential travel because of the continuing political and social unrest. This Travel Warning supersedes the Travel Warning issued on August 15, 2013. 

Based on an assessment of the current security situation in Egypt, the Department of State lifted the ordered departure status for US Embassy personnel on November 6, 2013. The Department has not lifted the ordered departure status for US Consulate General Alexandria personnel.   

On August 14, the Government of Egypt declared a State of Emergency that includes a curfew in select governates, including Cairo and Alexandria. The US Embassy urges US citizens who choose to remain in Egypt to comply with local regulations and follow local media for updates applicable to your specific location. The Embassy is aware of several foreigners, including US citizens, who have been detained for curfew violations and deported because they were subsequently found to be in violation of their immigration status. 

Political unrest, which intensified prior to the constitutional referendum in December 2012, the anniversary in 2013 of Egypt's 25th January Revolution, and the July 2013 change of government, shows little sign of abating. Demonstrations have, on numerous occasions, degenerated into violent clashes between security forces and protesters, and between protesters supporting different factions, resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage. Participants have thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails and security forces have used tear gas and other crowd control measures against demonstrators. There have been instances of the use of firearms as well. While most violent protests have occurred in major metropolitan areas, including downtown Cairo, Giza, Alexandria, and Port Said, there are recent reports of more widespread political and social violence, including armed attacks, in other areas of Egypt. Of continued concern is gender-based violence in and around protest areas where women have been the targets of sexual assault. 

The US Department of State strongly urges US citizens to avoid all demonstrations in Egypt, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent, and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. On June 28, a US citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. Because of the proximity of the US Embassy to Tahrir Square in Cairo, the US Embassy has sometimes been closed to the public on short notice due to violent protests. 

The US Embassy will notify US citizens as quickly as possible of any closing and the types of emergency consular services that will be available. Should security forces block off the area around the U.S. Embassy during demonstrations, US citizens should contact the American Citizens Services section before attempting to come to the US Embassy during that time. US citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to carry identification and, if moving about alone, a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt. 

US citizens seeking to depart Egypt are responsible for making their own travel arrangements. If you wish to depart Egypt, you should make plans and depart as soon as possible. The airport is open and commercial flights are operating, although cancellations may occur. Travelers should check with their airlines prior to their planned travel to verify the flight schedule. There are no plans for charter flights or other US government-sponsored evacuations. 

The US Embassy restricts its employees and their family members from traveling to specific areas listed in the Country-Specific Information Sheet for Egypt, and advises all US citizens to do the same. We continue to urge US citizens to stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. Remain alert to local security developments and be vigilant regarding your personal security; know the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and the US Embassy. 

For the full text of the Department of State's updated travel warning, see: 

COMMENT: The US Department of State often "sugar coats" many of its travel warnings, often for very delicate and obvious political and economic considerations (i.e., not to upset Egypt too much).

Candidly speaking, I remain to discourage ALL foreign travelers from traveling to Egypt until such time as the country's political and economic environment has returned to stability.

For tourists and business travelers, please note that violent protests and public demonstrations continue to disrupt normal commerce throughout many destinations within the country.

Clearly, the landscape in Egypt at this time may not give tourists the full value of their tourist experience, whereas in six months the forecast may be more conducive to tourist travel.

If the situation in Egypt is worse, potential visitors will have read the "tea leaves" correctly and if Egypt stabilizes in six months time, the tourist experience may derive an improved value of the tourist experience in waiting a bit longer.