Why I Feel Safe in Egypt

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A few weeks ago my friends and I were in my living room in Cairo discussing the insurgence of violence in the United States and the western world. We didn’t have to look far to cherry pick from recent events: the two Paris attacks, the shootings in California, and the Oregon school shootings. And all of these in places that are considered safe. After all, no one ever asked you if it was safe to move to Oregon.

However, since moving to Egypt a year ago a question I am frequently asked is: “Do you feel safe in Egypt?”

The short answer is “yes”. The long and complicated answer, full of possible nuances and pitfalls, is that actually I feel safer in Egypt than I do in the United States. I feel more strongly about this opinion now having just returned from a three week trip to the USA a few days ago.

It all boils down to one word: predictability.

Of course, Egypt is experiencing complicated times. No one can deny this. The country has been slowly regaining stability after the 2011 Revolution, but even now 5 years later, the tourism industry is almost nonexistent. We all know the statistics about sexual harassment in Egypt; they aren’t good. And it doesn’t help that every few weeks the country is in the headlines for something to perpetuate the idea that Egypt is unsafe. And it is not all unfounded. But a lot of it is, or at the very least, very poorly reported.

Since living here, I have experienced small-scale bombings. I have had to avoid certain areas due to protests, and there are some areas that as an obvious foreigner, I avoid going to all together. Everyday when I step out the door, I have to keep my wits about me. I dress differently here than I do in the USA. And I am prepared to handle and defend myself from sexual harassment, armed with enough Arabic to keep the rare unruly man in line should it ever come to that. Despite all that, I still feel safer in Egypt.


My friends in my living room that day all agreed. (All of us are American women living in Cairo.) We agreed that there is a certain “predictability of violence” in Egypt that isn’t as apparent in the USA. In fact the major issue in the western world now is randomized mass violence, with almost zero predictability.

First, I want to explore this idea of predictable violence in Egypt. Some of it has to do with just the simple idea (and the proper corresponding actions) that Egypt is not the United States, and thus you cannot act/talk/dress in the same way. Other methods of predictability are as follows:

1. Schools and offices shut down on certain days when protests are anticipated. We know where they are so we can avoid those areas. (When you really think about it, it is kind of like a snow day.)

2. We know to not discuss politics on public transport. (Or with anyone, really).

3. We have bomb alerts on our phone. And Twitter. (Nope wrong, hardly for the bombs. It’s for the traffic that will be backed up FOR HOURS after the bombs.)

4. The bombs themselves, which are blown out of proportion by western media, are in actuality not unlike gang shootings in the USA. But this is a military state. Which means, everywhere, the military is there. And once you get used to seeing men with guns EVERYWHERE, there is a certain comfort in that.

The worst thing that has ever happened to me in Egypt was an altercation with a taxi driver. My story isn’t unusual or special, and it is even not that shocking. The cab driver and I agreed to a destination and a price, and he took me to the wrong place. So I stiffed him part of the cash. He got upset and tried to hold me back from exiting his car by grabbing onto my legs. I screamed at him and cursed him in Arabic. Someone walked by and didn’t stop. When the cab driver saw how scared I was, he became scared, because I don’t think he was actually wanted to hurt or scare me. When he let me go, I got out of the car and he drove away.

I take a taxi every school day, twice a day. And I take taxis on the weekend. I have taken over 200 taxis rides by myself in Cairo, and only one that one was kind of scary. (Besides the driving. The driving is always scary). This is a less than 1% “failure rate”. In fact, at least several times a week I have chatty drivers who are completely kind and want to welcome me to their city and country. My anxiety while entering a taxi by myself in Cairo is less than 10%. (Mostly because my Arabic is abysmal and PLEASE ALLAH LET THERE BE NO TRAFFIC PLEASE.)

The unfortunate thing about life in the United States now, as many are waking up to, is there is a false sense of security. And increasingly, due to the random outbursts of violence, that false security is being replaced with anxiety and paranoia of possible attacks in public spaces.

My best friend lives in Westchester, New York and travels a lot for her job. She admitted to me that within the past year her company has even changed certain policies for employees traveling for work:

“When I am traveling in Europe, I am not allowed to take public trains. They actually hire me a cab, costing over 500 Euros, to pick me up from the airport in France to take me from Paris to the city I actually work in, which is several hours away. Because of ISIS.”

Additionally she confided in me that she even experiences anxiety on her everyday round-trip into Manhattan: “The worst part of my commute is when I get to Grand Central. I try to get out as fast as I can. All those people and all those trains: it is the perfect place for an attack.”

On New Years Eve we all travelled to the city to see a show in Brooklyn. We got dinner in Grand Central before we made our way to Williamsburg. And despite seeing everyone dressed up to celebrate, girls wearing short dresses and too-high heals, and men wearing full suits with stylish scarves, it was hard to not wonder: “What-if?”. New York City is the go-to destination for New Years Eve, with over 6 million people that night in Times Square alone. To recognize how ideal it would be for an attack was unnerving.

But still we travelled by subway, snaking around in the 6 and L trains to go see Deertick at the Brooklyn Bowl. We got to the show and one of us said: “Let’s stand beside the doors by the edge of the stage”. And I knew why. And I even felt better for it. Maybe I would be wrong to say it, but I would have never thought that in Cairo.

Want to know how I do it everyday? READ: Solo Girl’s Guide to Cairo

Do you feel safe in Egypt? Do you feel safe in the United States?


why i feel safe in egypt


  1. A very interesting read. I was in Egypt way back in 2007, when it was considered to be a relatively ‘safe’ destination, so perhaps me saying that I didn’t feel in danger once is irrelevant. But you’re right, it can happen anywhere and you can’t 100% guarantee safety anywhere in the world.

    It’s a shame tourism is still down as it is a great place to visit. Hopefully blogs like this will entice more travellers back there. Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  2. At a time when Egypt needs it, this is an important post for people to read.

    I can totally relate to everything here: especially for the fact that yes the petty annoyances can be frustrating but Egypt has so much to offer underneath this minor frustration and rewards the traveller who seeks it out.

    Thing is, many people don’t give it a chance – they allows the small frustrations to cloud their judgement of this fascinating place !

  3. Good post! Never actually really thought about this but it makes total sense and the system in place seems to work very well 🙂

  4. I’ve recently come back from my first ever trip to Egypt – Hurghada – and I felt safe the whole time. It’s a great place with some amazing people. Give it a chance! 🙂

  5. Very interesting opinion! I actually never thought about it this way! I am living in Berlin and don’t feel unsafe here, but I do, when I am in US to travel or visit my boyfriend. However I don’t exactly think about attacks at all. I am aware of my surroundings as a natural behavior and if something seems strange, I would just leave the place.

  6. I went to the States last summer by myself and I have to say that I felt incredibly safe there. I traveled around New York, D.C. and Philadelphia and those things you mentioned actually never really crossed my mind.
    However, I’ve made a personal choice not to go to Egypt – at least not in the near future.
    I think your article was very interesting to read and you made some really good points that makes you stop and think 🙂

    1. Hi Zascha, thanks for your comment! When I lived in the USA I also felt safe there. But recently I feel like the anxiety has escalated into something far surpassing typical American paranoia. And maybe even slightly more justified 🙂 If you ever decide to give Egypt a chance let me know! Would love to show you around. Love, Dara

  7. I live in India. And there is a certain way to life here. Much like you describe about Egypt although we do not have men with gun walking all around. So there is a ‘what if’ at the back of the mind somewhere. And we have learnt how to live with that. And you are right o hate people asking if it is safe to love here. Just as much as anywhere in the world I say ?

    1. Hi Charu 🙂 I used to live in Hyderabad! Where do you live? I loved living in India so much. I loved especially “that certain way to life”. Love, Dara

  8. The traffic in Cairo scared me to death! I was terrified whenever I needed to cross one of those huge boulevards. Besides, those men with guns everywhere made me afraid, as we don’t see such things here, where I live. However, I was safe for the entire duration of my trip (and I discovered how to use my eyes to negotiate with drivers to let me cross)

  9. Different perspective. It is all in the mind and many a times the media overplays things. An entire country cannot be unsafe, after all there are normal men and women leading normal lives there. Nice insightful post.

  10. This is a very interesting blog. I never went to Egypt before but I think the recent situations wouldn’t stop me from going. Bad things can happen everywhere!

  11. This post makes my heart so happy! I recently spent a week in Egypt touring around with an amazing tour guide who was so passionate about his country and made me feel incredibly safe! The first day there we were wondering around downtown Cairo and so many people ran up to us asking where we were from and yelling “Welcome to Egypt” from across the street, it was an amazing and beautiful experience. I just so happened to be at Abu Simbel the day the Mexican Tourists and their guide had been killed a short drive away; even through here the facts of this event I felt nothing but security. Egypt is a beautiful and welcoming country that I hope everyone gets to experience one day. So many mind blowing memories from my short week there.

    1. Im so glad to hear that you had a great experience here! I have been here a year and Egyptians have welcomed me so much that I feel it is my home too. Thanks so much for stopping by 🙂 Love, Dara

  12. Hi Dara.
    Very interesting facts you have shared on Egypt.
    Also, love the look of your blog.
    Thanks for sharing.

  13. Thanks for this, Egypts biggest enemy after terrorism is overseas press, especially the BBC the Independant, fox CNN Washington post New York Times and Al Jezeera, it is not a case of them lying but the way they report blowing things out of proportion and giving such a negative slant. Added to this the health and safety culture of the west where their is the slightest risk they put up barriers and close down. Here I am having a pop and governments who are so scared of leaving themselves open to being sued, and airlines taking arbitory decisions mainly on the misinformation of the press and cancelling flights. Without taking into account the negative knock on effect of their actions which don’t hurt their pockets just the poor locals trying to earn a living. People need to get a life and maybe a faith. Like taxes death is a certainty accept it and make the most of life chances.
    Before moving to Egypt or should I say returning to the country I loved so much as a child a mancunion friend said I was very brave or mad. I told him having served as a PC in the UK for twenty years, I had yet to find anywhere in Cairo where I would not walk in the early hours of the day. Where as I would not visit certain places in Manchester, London Bristol Brighton or Glasgow at anytime of the day. I believe the same can be said for various parts of the major cities in the USA and Europe.
    Since the beginning of this century Unless you are talking about parts of Syria, Iran and Yemen, it has been shown with bomb attacks on Paris London New York and Madrid. Your chances of being blown up by a bomb is equally as likely in any part of the world. Your chances of being shot mugged or stabbed by gangs is certainly a lot in the British cities above and cities accross Euroope and USA. Your chances of Bengal hit by a motor vehicle are probably even higher.
    Providing you use your brains and are sensible, this goes for crossing the road, to how you treat people or how you answer their question, Egypt is probably a lot safer than a lot of places accross the world.
    So yes please answer the plea, Visit Egypt, it is a beautiful country full of character and very hospitable people. This country so needs to rebuild its tourist industry and so deserves all the help it can get.

  14. My wife and I were in Egypt earlier this year. I think the only time we ever felt unsafe was driving down to Abu Simbel, and then it was only because our driver treated the convoy like a racing game. Traffic in Cairo can be scary at first, but you learn to manage it. There were are few attacks when we were there, but nothing that affect us. We even got lost in some fairly back parts of Islamic Cairo late at night, but still felt safe (though we made sure to be especially respectful there, including head coverings for my wife.) We’ve actually considered what it would be like to live in Egypt for a while, but I’m not sure it would work with three young children!

    1. The traffic in Egypt is…horrifying. I am glad you enjoyed your stay! I am here for the long-term and will likely raise my children here. (My partner is Egyptian). It is definitely a different way of life!

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