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Never Felt Safer
February 23, 1998

What a seeming contradiction: I live in Egypt (the Middle East) and I have never felt safer. Even with the threat of a bombing attack on Iraq, I feel that I am living in a country of hospitable people whose concerns are the same as mine. Taking care of families, trying to live a spiritual life and wondering about the future are a few of the things we have in common. Since the terrible tourist attack in Luxor last November, my American friends have been worried and concerned about my safety and travelling in Egypt. Certainly it is important to be careful and investigate the information but for the most part living in Cairo, Egypt is safer than living in a large, urban American city.

The media was very quick to report the shootings and deaths of visitors to a temple in Luxor. That was important and tragic news. BUT what the media did not do is follow-up on the reactions and precautions of the Egyptian people after the tragedy. Within a day there was a national sense of mourning and grief. Throughout Egypt there was a personal, as well as, collective display of sadness and loss. There were many peaceful gatherings of Egyptians to show their concern for the families of the Luxor visitors and by gathering together peacefully, the Egyptian people were making an effort to remind us all that the terrible behaviors of 5 or 6 does not reflect the nature of millions. Shopkeepers were publicly apologizing, banners and signs were posted denouncing the violence and roses were gently given to visitors to show the compassion and understanding of suffering that the Egyptian people seem to naturally share with others.

When an Egyptian greets you with a friendly, "Welcome to Egypt" it is a very genuine invitation to share in the pride and history of their amazing country. It seems that most Egyptians are naturally hospitable, generous and wanting others to understand their culture and traditions. Within the first month of living in Egypt, we had been invited to two weddings - one a formal, gorgeous occasion at a large hotel and the other a Bedouin family wedding held in the streets of the neighborhood with dancing horses and belly dancing.

Because of this strong sense of family and religious values and a legal system that has very strict, rapid consequences, I feel safer in Cairo living alone while my husband travels than I did in Phoenix. I know that everyone in the neighborhood is looking out for anything unusual and will take action against anything strange they see going on. There is not a strong sense of materialism yet, so most people are not coveting designer products and all of the gadgets of the West. Therefore, there is a very low crime rate.

Recently we had two vistors from the U.S. stay with us for three weeks. They were two women travelling alone and they reported that they felt very safe and protected. The bittersweetness of the fear of travelling in this region is that as a tourist you almost have all of these amazing historical sites and natural wonders to yourself. The Egyptian government has taken extraordinary efforts to make sure people are safe - more security, more experience and more scrutiny. Wherever you go there are always several people to assist, to guard and to make sure you arrive home safely.

As I travelled home for the holidays, I was amazed at the concern of Americans about this region, while we as Americans seem to be increasingly numb to the regular acts of violence in our own country. While I was flying home I was reading a U.S. newspaper describing the tragic high school shoooting in a prayer group, the holding hostage of 60 kindergarten students and the trial of the Oklahoma bombing suspects. It seemed ironic that my seat-mate was asking me, "How I could live in such an unsafe place like Egypt?"

Thankfully the Egyptian people are doing everything they can to instill a renewed sense of trust and safety to their country. We continue to travel throughout the country and feel safe and protected. We took our guests to an Oasis on the Western Desert bordering Libya, on a cruise down the Nile from Aswan to Luxor and on a snorkeling trip in the Red Sea. Many times we were travelling as women alone and always felt safe and free to enjoy the people and history of Egypt. I hope you all will feel as I do, once you have looked at the hospitality and safety of travelling in Egypt, and consider visiting this beautiful country.

Ma Salaama,

Jon Lea


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