Sunday, October 13, 2013

But Is It Safe? by Doug Baum (copied from Facebook)

But Is It Safe? by Doug Baum (a great post by a great American)

13 October 2013 at 02:47
I’m going to try and convince you to come to Egypt with me in January.

During my recent trip to Egypt and Jordan I posted dozens of pictures on Facebook, as did my travel companion, Lori Waters. These pictures showed us enjoying the Western Desert of Egypt, everyday life in Cairo, visiting Petra, Wadi Rum, the Dead Sea, and more in the country of Jordan.  Still, folks ask, “But is it safe?”

This was my third trip to Egypt this year.

Lori and I both heard “But is it safe?” a bazillion times (actual numbers might've varied) in the month leading up to our trip. To this I say: The day I came home from my March/April trip to Egypt a fertilizer plant exploded in my wife’s hometown of West, Texas. Two days earlier was the Boston Marathon bombing. This time, eight days before I left Egypt the US Navy Shipyard shooting occurred.


I understand these types of things don’t happen everyday in D.C., West, or Boston, but the truth is, I’ve never, not once, not ever, been the victim of a shooting, bombing, or explosion in the Middle East. Nope, not once.  (Full disclosure: There was an attempted explosives attack on an interior minister in an area of Cairo Lori and I visited just one day earlier.) Statistically speaking, I am far more at risk eating a meal (odds of choking to death are 3,842:1) than I am in traveling to Egypt guiding a cultural immersion trip. And I eat three meals a day!  Simply put: These types of things don’t happen everyday in Egypt either, I don’t care how much 24-hour news you watch. It’s just not the case.

20 million:1, by the way, are the odds of dying in a terrorist attack, however you define that.

So, as the well wishes, prayers, groovy vibes and whatever else came in I said, “Thank you for your concern,” but I assure you, at every turn Lori and I were in the hands of people who are not just friends, but family to me. Adel and his sons Sayed, Mohamed and Magdy, Dr. Khalid El Bahrawy, my partners Malek, Johanne, Khaled, Abeeda, Eliwa, Ali, and my best pal Dr. Mohammed are all people who live in Egypt or Jordan, know their country, and I don’t give a moment’s thought to the possibility of some sort of incident harming us. Am I foolhardy? I don’t think so, but I’ll never be able to convince those of you who are worried about me being “over there” as long as you characterize it as “over there”, particularly if you’ve not lived among Egyptians as I have for the last twelve years.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to share with you images of other tourists coming and going to bolster my argument. Lori and I were almost the only visitors to Petra. But Cairo (Egypt’s capital) is a very cosmopolitan city with hundreds of thousands of foreigners living there. I know many Americans and Europeans who live in Egypt and haven’t left throughout the entire revolution (many Egyptians don’t like this word). There are trouble spots in a couple of the big cities. We didn’t visit those areas. There are also parts of Waco, Texas I won’t visit. The focus of this trip was desert, desert, and more desert. We saw parts of the country many Egyptians have never visited.

I will say, Syria’s recent alleged chemical attack on its own people created a bit of an interesting situation for Lori and me. Jordan neighbors Syria to the south, for those who are geographically challenged, and if we had only been in Egypt the situation in Syria would’ve truly been a world away, but we did visit Jordan from north to south and east to west. Jordan has received more Syrian refugees than its already-stressed system can handle, but tourism in Jordan isn’t tied to any links with Syria. Folks haven’t visited Syria in any great numbers for quite some time. It’s the perception of Egypt’s instability that has hurt tourism in the region.

There are some hopeful things going on in Egypt. The curfew in some parts of some cities has been shortened, part of emergency law, which is something I experienced during the beginning of the revolution two-and-a-half years ago, and all tourist sites are reopened. Some never closed. The airport has remained open and internet and cell phones, cut off during the early days of the revolution in 2011, have not been affected. In fact just this summer, before being deposed, president Mohamed Morsi used twitter to get his messages out to supporters. Times have definitely changed.

So ask me, “But is it safe?” when I climb a ladder.  Odds are 8,689:1 I could die doing that.

I’m planning my January trip(s) now. Email, call, or send a Facebook message if you’re interested. You can even ask, “But is it safe?” I’ll answer honestly.

No comments: