Women's Travel Safety Tips for Egypt

Egypt, like any other country can pose risks of sexual assault and other crimes against women travelers, but there are things you can do to keep yourself safe.

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Photo © GettyImages/Amei Ott/Eye Em

And it is always better to be more careful than less, especially when the culture is so different.

Arab culture has always been a bit of a mystery to people who grew up in Western countries like Australia, England or the United States. People don't know whether the rules that they've come to expect in their home nations will hold true in a place like Egypt. Are they ruled by Sharia law? Do I have to wear the veil? How will they react if I don't behave in a certain way? What do I have to look out for?

Sexual Assaults in Egypt

Unfortunately, Egypt has a reputation of sexual harassment and assaults against women, both local and travelers.

In a study done in 2013 by the UN's Enitity for Gender Equality, it's estimated that 99% of women in Egypt have been sexually harassed at some point; with most reporting groping followed by verbal abuse.

Since the resignation of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, women have gradually spoken out about this ever present issue in Egypt, with more reporting instances of physical and verbal abuse. Increasing media coverage has assisted in bringing this problem to the forefront of Egyptian society.

The Egyptian Centre for Womens Rights has been taking active steps with public education programs, encouraging local women to stand up for their rights including reporting these crimes against young and older women to the police. 

While the country still has a long way to go, thankfully sexual harassment was made a criminal offense in 2014.

While you may potentially get leered at, cat called or followed, there are ways you can combat the unwanted attention from the locals.

Tips to Avoid Harassment

While one of the most secular Arab countries in the region, Egypt is nevertheless Muslim by culture and religion. The call to prayer resounds five times per day from the minarets, and women tend to cover their heads, even if they don't wear the full veil.

In modern parts of Cairo, Alexandria and Luxor, young women will do their best to ensure that their shawls are trendy and attractive, and clothing will be conservatively cut, if still liberally styled and worn.

Try to do your best to fit in with the crowd if you want to avoid undue attention. In Egypt, particularly outside of the large cities, men aren't used to seeing women showing so much skin in public. Just remember: you aren't there to change the existing culture. You're there to experience a new one so dress modestly. It's always a good idea to carry a light scarf so you can cover your head, particularly if you enter any mosque or building which requires it.

If you are catching a taxi, try not to sit in the front seat if you are traveling alone. If traveling in Cairo, the metro has women only carriages and when using public transport in general, try to sit next to another women or families. Try also to travel outside peak hours where possible, the crowds can provide a prime time for sleazy types to go the grope on women.

Unwanted Attention in Egypt

Thankfully, it's not always that bad, but some Egyptian men are flirtatious. They'll tell you you're beautiful, they'll say they love your eyes, as long as they don't take it beyond that, they're quite harmless. Ninety nine percent of the time they'll leave it at that.

However, if someone seems to be hounding you or making you feel uncomfortable, don't feel bad about raising your voice. "Stop!" is a universal command, as is walking away quickly. Try to stay in public areas. Try and avoid going to bars alone or walking alone at night.

Statistically, Egypt is a very safe country. Egyptians are, by and large, very friendly and welcoming to travelers and will do anything to try and show you the best side of their nation. No time is this more apparent than in the wake of burgeoning Egyptian democracy and similar occurrences in neighboring countries. Just be aware that there may be some safety and crime concerns, and you'll be more than fine.

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