Safety and Security
Political protests occur often throughout Egypt. We remind U.S. citizens that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. Demonstrations have led to frequent violent clashes between police and protesters, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. In some areas, protesters have blocked major streets and bridges, burned tires and debris, established unofficial checkpoints, and thrown rocks and Molotov cocktails. Security forces have responded with tear gas, crowd-control measures, and firearms to disperse demonstrations. Protests can occur with little to no warning in any area, but Cairo's Tahrir Square; Nasr City near Rabaa Aladawiya; Dokki near Cairo University; and Salah Salem Road, as well as the AlQaed Ibrahim, Sidi Gaber and Sidi Beshr areas of Alexandria have been favored locations for rallies and demonstrations, particularly on Fridays. Protests and incidents of political violence have occurred with greater frequency at universities. Although the state of emergency and curfew imposed in August 2013 were rescinded in November, armed security forces remain heavily deployed in many areas.
On June 28, 2013, a U.S. citizen was killed during a demonstration in Alexandria. Women in particular are advised to avoid demonstrations as there have been multiple reports of gender-based violence and sexual assaults against both foreign and Egyptian women. U.S. citizens are advised that it is illegal to photograph certain facilities in Egypt, and enforcement of this law is particularly strict at demonstrations. U.S. citizens have been detained, questioned and in some cases deported for taking pictures or videos of protests or military and police personnel, facilities and equipment.
Protests and public disorder are not confined to Cairo and Alexandria. Sohag, Suez, Port Said, Fayoum, Minya, Qena, Asyut, and the Sinai Peninsula have also witnessed incidents of political violence. U.S. Embassy personnel traveling to these areas require advance approval. Egyptian authorities also restrict the travel of foreigners to certain locales. U.S. citizens planning to travel beyond Cairo and Alexandria should contact the Embassy prior to travel. Large gatherings in Egypt, including sporting events such as soccer matches, can cause major traffic disruptions and sometimes turn violent. U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution if attending soccer matches in Egypt, be aware of the potential for snarled traffic and agitated crowds after sporting events, and avoid venues--such as bars and coffee houses--where large numbers of people gather to watch sporting events on television. We strongly urge you to avoid crowds, to exercise extreme caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings, and to stay well away from demonstrations.
U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security by knowing the locations of police and fire stations, hospitals, and other places to relocate to feel secure. If you are concerned for your security, you should exercise personal responsibility, remove yourself from the situation, and relocate to an area where you feel secure. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid urban areas after dark. U.S. citizens should also carry identification and a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt. U.S. citizens are encouraged to make common sense plans to deal with security situations and to investigate alternate means of communication in country, evacuation insurance, and alternative destinations both within and outside the country in case of emergency.
Terrorism: Egypt witnessed several terrorist incidents in 2013. A large number of these incidents specifically targeted Egyptian security forces and infrastructure, including the attempted assassination of the Minister of Interior, attacks on police stations, and the discoveries of explosive devices in Cairo and elsewhere. The authorities have made several arrests and responded with heavy police and military presence throughout the country. Responsibility for these attacks has been attributed primarily to jihadist elements operating out of the Sinai Peninsula, which remains a particularly restive region. Foreign tourists, including U.S. citizens, were kidnapped in the Sinai in 2012 and 2013. U.S. citizens who plan to visit there in spite of the persistent threat of kidnapping and terrorist attacks should exercise extreme caution. U.S. citizens should be especially vigilant in crowded tourist areas, practice good personal security measures, and be alert to their surroundings. Travelers should avoid resorts and hotels that lack significant physical setback from roads and adequate security procedures. U.S. citizens are encouraged to visit the U.S. Embassy in Cairo website for the most up-to-date security information.
Alexandria: The State Department lifted ordered departure status for employees of the U.S. Consulate General Alexandria and their family members on December 16, 2013. Even though ordered departure status has been lifted, security upgrades required for U.S. government facilities in Alexandria mean that U.S. Consulate General personnel will be based out of the U.S. Embassy in Cairo while these upgrades are made.
Restricted Areas: The U.S. Embassy restricts its employees and their family members from traveling to specific areas and advises all U.S. citizens to do the same. U.S. Embassy personnel in Egypt are currently prohibited from traveling to the Sinai, except by air to Sharm El Sheikh. Overland personal travel by U.S. government employees anywhere in the Sinai outside of Sharm El Sheikh is prohibited. In addition, travel by road by U.S. government employees west of Marsa Matruh on the north coast is prohibited. Travel between Fayoum, Asyut, Sohag, and Qena is only approved on a case-by-case basis. Reports indicate that the security situation in the northern Sinai area, which is generally defined as the area north of the Cairo-Nekhl-Taba and Sheikh Zeid road, remains difficult due to the continuing potential for violence. Travelers should be aware of the possible dangers of overland travel.
Safari travelers must obtain permission and a travel route from the Egyptian Military Intelligence and the Tourist Police Headquarters via a local or overseas travel agency to access Egypt's frontiers, including the borders with Libya, Sudan, Israel, and parts of the Sinai off paved roads. Police escorts are assigned to accompany foreigners during their tour.
Travelers should be aware that landmines have caused many casualties in Egypt, including deaths of U.S. citizens. All travelers should check with local authorities before embarking on off-road travel. Known minefields are not reliably marked by signs, but are sometimes enclosed by barbed wire. Heavy rains can cause flooding and move landmines, and travelers should be exercise caution when encountering sand drifts on roadways. Though mines are found in other parts of Egypt, the highest concentrations are in World War II battlefields along the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, the Eastern Desert between Cairo and the Suez Canal, and much of the Sinai Peninsula. Travelers are urged to be especially prudent in these areas.