|A beach that's usually cramped lies desolate.|
Because of the ongoing Egyptian campaign to get the tourists to come back to the country, I've recieved several questions wether the country is safe or not. Since I made my way to Hurghada after Cairo I thought it might be a good idea to explain the overall situation in the city from my point of view. I'll do my very best to stay impartial so that any reader can judge for themselves if it's a good idea or not to travel to Hurghada.
When I first arrived, on February 8th, the city was pretty desolate. All, except for an insignificant numer of mostly British and Russians, had been evacuated and those that were still around mostly stayed at home or in their hotels. Businesses closed and all restaurants, cafés and clubs gaped empty of customers. People started to run out of cash as the banks were closed and the ATM:s were emptied.
There have been small protests in Hurghada during the revolution. The first one was reported to have taken place on January 29th. As in other places across the country, locals have been forced to create vigilante groups to protect their homes and businesses from looters as the police disappeared from the streets.
The day Mubarak stepped down I witnessed the relief and hope that many locals in Hurghada had kept to themselves up until that moment. The people took to the streets in celebration and street parties gathered around the city with music, dancing, cheering and fireworks. A month after the protests in Cairo started there was an event in Mashrabia Village in the touristic part of Hurghada to remember and praise the martyrs. Poetry and live music were mixed with emotional speaches and a general atmosphere of happiness and respect. Both locals and internationals participated that evening and I'm sure it is one to be remembered for a long time.
Although the instability and security issues present in Cairo and other large cities around the country didn't reach touristic towns like Hurghada and Sharm al-Sheikh, the spirit of the New Egypt reached it after Mubarak stepped down. As the pro-democracy protesters in Tahrir Square arranged a clean-up day, the people in Hurghada followed. Streets were cleaned from rubbish and huge piles of gathering trash were sorted and put in recycling stations. The Hurghada Environmental Protection and Conservation Association (HEPCA) has taken huge responsibilities in keeping the Red Sea clean and the project manager Ahmed Droubi said to Egyptian newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that:
Important changes in people’s attitude towards the environment and the protection of their living areas. It seems that people have rediscovered a sense of ownership of the country, and they are more ready than ever to protect it.
This attitude has spread to different areas of the Egyptian lives. People are being more responsible and cosequent as many see that they themselves are crucial in building up the New Egypt. It's true that shop workers and businessmen continue with their at times aggressive methods to get the tourists to buy their products, but I genuinely feel that the overall attitude towards foreigners have changed in a dramatic way. They/we are still money personalized in many people's eyes, but I feel that I'm now being met with more respect and gratitude than anything else.
On March 6th an Egyptian reporter was assaulted and recieved death threats by the Hurghada State Security after he had witnessed and photographed officers burning documents. The reporter were broght to the hospital and was unconscious from the beatings. The public prosecutor has ordered an investigation about the incident.
At the time of my own arrival in Hurghada, the city was a ghost town and although most tourism is still largely absent, life is slowly but steadily returning to normal. If anyone wants to see what this once small fishing town was like before it developed into a tourist paradise, now is definitely the time to visit. The police are back in the streets and Hurghada is still the paradise that have been drawing tourists for years. It's without a doubt that the situation in Egypt is still unstable and that events can develop, but my guess is that Hurghada as well as other main tourist towns around the Red Sea will continue to be safe for foreigners. If I myself wouldn't already be living here but always wanted to visit Egypt, then I'd definitely chose this time. Not only because of the calm, beautiful weather and wonderful sea, but also to support the Egyptians that have been (and still are) working so hard to accomplish their freedom from oppression.
I will continue to report about the situation in Hurghada and upload pictures as I go.