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Safety in Egypt has been an ongoing concern for expats since the events of the Arab Spring in 2011. Egypt was severely affected by anti-government and pro-reform protests and violent unrest that left hundreds of people dead. At the height of the instability, streams of expats and tourists fled the country, fearing a collapse of the state.
The political situation has since stabilised despite periodic surges in politically-motivated unrest. The regime has responded with a severe security crackdown. This has served to stabilise the political system and security environment, but has laid the platform for further instability over the longer term. The military crackdown has also stoked anti-government sentiment and further motivated non-state extremist armed groups to carry out acts of terrorism in the country. The violence has largely been focused on the North Sinai governorate.
Underlying socio-economic concerns, including poverty and unemployment among the youth, high commodity prices, shortfalls in certain basic goods and tensions between Christians and Muslims that periodically flare into communal violence, are also drivers of instability.
Crime in Egypt
Crime rates in Egyptian cities are moderate. Expats should take sensible precautions with their personal security and possessions.
Petty crimes, such as opportunistic theft, pickpocketing, bag snatching and street scams, remain a concern. As with violent crime, the issue has been exacerbated by recent political developments and high levels of poverty and unemployment. The threat of being impacted by these crimes is elevated in crowded and busy areas, such as markets, transport hubs and areas frequented by foreigners.
Sexual harassment remains a pressing social grievance in Egypt. The verbal and, at times, physical harassment, of women by large groups of men has generated considerable debate and concern in Egyptian society. Female expats should travel in a group and avoid walking alone at night.
Protests in Egypt
Egypt has experienced high levels of civil unrest since 2011. The primary drivers of protests in Egypt include economic concerns, political developments and religious tensions. Areas in the vicinity of public squares, universities, city centres, courts and government buildings are considered potential protest hotspots.
Many gatherings are well publicised and expats should monitor local press closely for updates on planned events. The security impact on expats is largely incidental, but it’s best to avoid all street gatherings as a precaution. In addition, expats should note that Egypt continues to experience elevated levels of labour-related strikes, which have sometimes severely impacted on business and state operations.
Road safety in Egypt
Road traffic fatalities are among the leading causes of death in Egypt. Poor driving standards, disregard for basic traffic laws, insufficient street lighting and poor law enforcement are cited as the main contributing factors. The threat extends to pedestrians, particularly in the larger urban areas. Caution is advised when crossing streets. When driving, it’s best to adopt a defensive driving style.
Safety in the Sinai Peninsula
The overall security situation in the Sinai Peninsula is poor. While the region’s major resort areas, such as Sharm el-Sheikh, are relatively secure thanks to a heavy security force presence, travel outside of tourist areas is not advised, particularly in the North Sinai governorate.
The situation in this part of the country remains tense and violence is ongoing. Expats are advised to avoid travelling outside of tourist resort areas in the South Sinai governorate and against all travel to the North Sinai governorate.
►For information on some cultural differences that expats in Egypt might encounter see Culture Shock in Egypt
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