Whether you're heading east, west, north or south, here's what you need to know about travelling over the next week, as told by tourism experts.
Following the killing of 12 tourists in the Western desert, including eight Mexican nationals, and the injuring of 10 others by Egyptian armed forces last Sunday, CairoScene consulted expert tourism guides to find out security warnings for the upcoming Eid holidays starting on Wednesday.
Egyptian and expat tourists are not allowed to travel to the Bahariya Oasis and the areas around the White and Black Desert, according to Hany Amr, a Desert Adventures Egypt guide. Police and military authorities are not giving permits from Cairo to Bahariya on both asphalt and the desert; as tours are only allowed to travel to Bahariya through the Dakhla and Kharga oases road.
“Baharia is a big ‘No-No’ for foreigner visitors now,” tour guide Mahmoud Ezzeldin tells CairoScene. “I don’t advice going to the Western Desert for camping and off-roading for the time being, until further affirmation that the situation is safe and open for visitors and tourists. I say this with a heavy heart since I am active in this field.”
The Western Desert refers to the all areas stretching West of the Nile river, including Baharia, Farafra, Dakhla Kharga, Siwa and Fayoum. Although Siwa and Fayoum are open, there have recently been cases where the Tourism Police has prevented visitors from entering.
“It might be possible and spend to visit some of these oasis and stay in a hotel or eco-lodge but inquiring about you destination from locals is always helpful,” says Ezzeldin, a member of Vintage Wheels Egypt, and the organiser of the 2012 World Cup Rally and the London to Cape Town. Last week, he adds, a group of visitors going to Minya, in Upper Egypt, were denied entrance by the Tourism Police.
According to Amr, some areas in the Eastern Desert, a new destination unexplored by many, are safe to travel to. “It's considered to be a great place for bird watching and desert lovers,” he says.
However, those venturing into the Eastern Desert should do so with guides from local tribes from the area, says Ezzeldin. “Unlike the Western Desert, the Eastern one is divided and well defined in the Bedouin minds. There are different tribes in each area, and these zones and their borders are sometimes only known by the locals.” Not knowing internal borders could pose other dangers. Local guides are usually paid between 150 LE to 300 LE a day, depending on tasks, length and type of journey.
For those interested in camping and off-roading, it is possible to do so in some areas of the Eastern Desert, after consulting with the nearest Tourist Police Station or Army Intelligence Unit. These areas refer to surroundings of El Gouna, Hurghada, Quisseir and Marsa Allam. “Please do not travel to the desert with less than three cars,” Amr adds.
“Camping and off-roading in South Sinai is completely forbidden for the time being and until further notice,” says Ezzeldin, as he points out that 4x4 cars are not permitted to enter Sinai, even those not doing on safari, with the exception of local Sinai 4x4 vehicles.
All roads to Sinai are open for travel; however, the roads which pass by Nekhl are not allowed for tourists. If you are going to Nuweiba or Dahab it's safer to travel on the road which passes by St. Catherine.
Roads connecting Cairo to Ras Sudr, Sharm El Sheikh, Dahab and Nweiba in South Sinai are open to tourists, but most off-road areas surrounding the main tourism centers in South Sinai, such as Dahab’s Colour Canyon, have been closed to visitors as well.
According to Egypt’s Tourism Police, Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel are open to visitors. There are currently flights to Abu Simbel, and “for those travelling by car or shuttle bus, all foreigners drive in a convoy that leaves from Aswan to Abu Simbel at 5am every day,” says Ezzeldin.
Special Precautions for Expats
“Please be aware that expats and tourists are prohibited from leaving the asphalt without an official permit from the military and the police,” says Amr.
Police will not allow foreigners to drive on Wadi Feiran, leading to St. Catherine road in South Sinai; but they permit people driving to St. Catherine via the Dahab side of the same road.
“If going to the desert, make sure that you ask one of the professional leaders who has a travel agency before you go to for the road and the destinations' safety. Please do not travel to the desert with less than three cars,” he adds.
According to the Egyptian Tourism Police, the only places open for tourists are Alexandria, El Alamein, Cairo, Hurghada, Sharm, Luxor, Aswan, and those along the Red Sea coast.