Thursday, October 20, 2011
Is it safe to attend the Nile Group Festival in Cairo this November?
I just recieved an email from a dancer in Europe asking me whether Cairo was safe just now?
She was trying to decide whether to attend the up coming Nile Group festival (http://www.nilegroup.net/home.htm ) in November and said that the organisers said it was safe, but "they wouldn't, wouldn't they", she said. She asked me for my independant opinion.
I dont' know how independent my opinion can actually be. I live here. I work here. My work depends on tourism to a huge extent. I am biased to that extent. But i will try to explain how things are here just now....
There were recent problems when the copts (christians) demonstrated about the unfair laws concerning the building of new churches in Egypt. Tempers were sparked by a horrible recent attack on a church in Aswan where people died. The army dealt with the demonstration in a very heavy handed way which was very upsetting for us all, and in which people who were demonstrating died. Thats a very brief summary of the events, by no means meant to belittle what happened. This was 2 weeks ago now.
Since those events... Cairo has continued to have some demonstrations.... although they are usually small and very localised, nothing compared to what we see from wall street and other world financial centres at the moment!
There has been no more violence or rioting since then. Yes there are elections coming up, and once the campaigning starts perhaps there will be a different atmosphere, who knows? Put it this way, i wouldn't recommend you stay in a hotel next to Tahrir...
There are still less police on the streets than would be ideal for a city of this size... so opportunist petty crimes are still occuring. In the streets you have to be careful of your bag (and of your backside!) However, within the last month, I had a dancer from Italy staying with me and hotel Bellylorna, and at the end of her month trip here, when asked what she thought of Cairo. She had loved her time here. A lot of which she spent on her own often wandering around areas just soaking in the atmosphere. She said she liked that she felt very safe to do so. In fact, she said she was much more concerned for her person and belongings while walking around Rome than she was in Cairo.
I avoid Tahrir on Fridays. I have done since January. I promised my family back home in Scotland that I would keep myself safe and that's how to manage that. If there are protests, whether these stay peaceful or escalate, they are almost all centered in Tahrir and you can be a 15 minute walk from Tahrir and not be aware of them.
I have changed my behaviour since January, in that I wouldn't walk in the streets alone at night anymore, and I wouldn't carry large sums of cash around with me. I also try to put distance between me and any men or boys in the street... just in case a hand reaches out. But, this is the worst of it, in my experience as a foreigner living here, and happens in many large cities all over the world.
I still work on the Pharoah boat on the Nile, and most dancers are still also performing. I still go out to cafes, bars, clubs. I still get taxi's everywhere. I still live a 'normal' life here. The only 'stressful' thing is the imagining how the elections might go and how Egypt will change in the upcoming years. Which isn't something which really would affect most dance tourists coming for a week or two to Cairo.
Is it safe to come to Cairo- I would say YES.
Can i guarentee that? No, of course not.
Would I 'risk' it to attend a dance festival - absolutely YES!
In fact i would go as far as to say, if you always dreamed of going to a festival in cairo but haven't yet, now is the PERFECT TIME to come. Some people are scared to come, so there are a lot less students in every class which means you get to see the teacher more! In fact, even if you came before and were put off due to high number in each class, i would encourage you to try again now. You get a lot more for your money!
I look forward to' welcoming you 'in' Egypt' soon!!!