Tourists Accidentally Killed By Security Forces In Egypt

Filed Under: Travel

I’ve transited Egypt many times, largely motivated by the great premium cabin fares available from Cairo. It’s a great place to overnight, especially as I love staying at Le Meridien Cairo Airport, which is among my favorite airport hotels.

But even more than that, I’ve enjoyed being able to visit some of the sites near Cairo, including the Pyramids of Giza. Egypt is a beautiful country with great people, and it’s a bit surreal to see how much tourism has suffered in Egypt post-revolution. You used to have to line up in the morning to even get a ticket to be able to enter the Pyramids of Giza park, while now you’ll more or less be the only person there. It’s surreal.


Egypt is trying to double their number of tourists by 2020, which is a lofty goal, given the state of their tourism industry.

I suspect that might be set back even further, as news has just broken that 12 people were mistakenly killed by security forces in Egypt, including tourists from Mexico. Via BBC:

The statement (in Arabic) from Egypt’s interior ministry said the four vehicles the tourists were traveling in were “mistakenly dealt with” during a joint military police and armed forces operation.

It said the incident happened on Sunday in an area that “was off limits to foreign tourists”, but it did not give an exact location.

Egyptian officials say the tourists were in a no-go zone – and had not liaised with the authorities.

But a local tour guide has denied that, saying the group was in an unrestricted area, on top of sand dunes, trying to get a bird’s eye view.

Another local source – who claims to have spoken to a driver who survived the incident – told the BBC the tourists even had a police escort.

He said the safari was organized by a local hotel which co-ordinated with the security forces.

As much as I’ve enjoyed my visits to Egypt and have recommended others visit as well, seeing a story like this is sobering. There are risks no matter where in the world you travel to, and ultimately I’d still feel comfortable visiting Egypt. But it doesn’t change the fact that this is a pretty bad screw up, and clearly there’s still quite some instability in Egypt.

Do mistakes like this impact your willingness to travel to Egypt?

  1. While this wouldn’t impact me personally, I can only imagine that I’m in the minority. Anywhere with any kind of shooting always translates directly into a massive drop in tourist population, and in a politically turbulent country like Cairo…

  2. Tragic. I am reminded of the hostage crisis in Manilla back in 2010, where that whole tour bus was taken over by a disgruntled former police officer and the whole thing spun out of control, or even the recent temple bombing in Bangkok. You just never know if something might happen.

  3. I have been in harm’s way twice and for those of you ,including Ben, who are blithely dismissing the danger in Egypt I would think twice.The world has become a lot more dangerous in the last 15 yrs. I was in Europe during the Baader/Meinhof days and it didn’t feel like it does now. I have traveled all over the world in the last 30-40 yrs. I would think more than twice about going into the Mid East now. Unfortunately, it’s just is too dangerous.

  4. Mind boggling that with 7 billion people on planet, human life is treasured enough that death of 12 people is worthy of news reporting.

    But then again thousands die in Africa and no one gives a care. I think deaths expected are not news worthy. Deaths unexpected or in an unexpected manner are news worthy. Or maybe the news producer had been to this part of Egypt and it brought back memories and made it more personal.

  5. “The world has become a lot more dangerous in the last 15 yrs.”

    This might be true – but it’s not really an argument against travelling the world. Why? Because the United States has also gotten more dangerous. We didn’t used to have the levels of gun violence that we do now. You risk your life just by going to a movie theater or shopping mall just as much as the tourists in Egypt did.

  6. “You risk your life just by going to a movie theater or shopping mall just as much as the tourists in Egypt did.”

    Snic, I don’t think Rand said you shouldn’t travel internationally, but when there are safer destinations, I think it is wise to pick a place without any political turbulence or any active war zones. Middle East is just too dangerous right now. And Thailand is under military dictatorship, so that’s off my list.

    There are still plenty of places in the world to see and visit.

  7. Actually, statistically, the world is much more safe today than 15-20 years ago or longer. Also, violent crimes are way down in the US from 15 years ago (though they have spiked this year for some reason). Constant news stories make it seem like the world is less safe but the actual numbers don’t bear that out.

  8. This really does not change anything for me. Just as I would not have ventured out of the tourist areas deemed safe (Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, Sharm) before, I would not do it now either. These people were in an area near the Libyan border. While the tour company can argue that it is not technically off limits to tourists, they had to have known that they were in an unstable area that is not recommended for tourism. Using a local police escort is a pretty good indication that they knew they were going where it was not a good idea to go. And it is very unlikely that the military would have been advised that there were tourists in the area by the local police.
    In sum, would I refuse to visit Egypt, no. I would absolutely refuse to visit outside of the tourist areas already deemed safe and I would not be dissuaded from this by the sales pitch of anyone trying to make some money off of me by taking me out of the safe areas. We endured many sales pitches to go outside of the areas that we were allowed in going through the Valley of Kings and other areas in Luxor, but were well aware that if there was a problem, the Egyptian would not be the one in trouble, it would be the foreigners. It is just common travel sense.

  9. Not sure of the intent but here’s a thought for “credit”…read the article and the blog, it is easily figure why the article was written…As for billions of people, even one life matters to soneone . Whether to their parents, family or friends, anyone life is important. Even to you…unless your Japanese then there could be an exception.But seriously, if more than 12 on that tour, they may all be dead by now. Somehow, I had a feeling the local driver would be alive….hmmmm

  10. I just avoid all these ‘weird’ places what is weird you might ask… all of the arabic and remotely arabic speaking places… jew land… whole of africa…kosovo and serbia that sort of place… any place in russia close to the caucasus and well basically only safe place is western europe.. canada..I personally do not even think mexico is worth the risk.. some places are just not worth going enough for me to want to risk my safety….

  11. The world seem more unsafe these days probably because more people have access to news these day at their fingertip. But also it seem some secret society is trying to stir up the world using propaganda type tactics? All those little boys that grew up playing with guns needs to realized those were just plastic toys. Not for adult play. Remove those boys in men suites from the high up positions then the world will be safer.:D

  12. I wouldn’t travel to Egypt if you paid me. I think it’s reckless, dangerous and well, stupid to put yourself in a situation that dangerous. Lets face it the reason it’s empty and they have good airfares is because you are basically risking your life or some extra time spent in the Cairo prison by entering the country. I have a friend who was wrongfully prisoned for 6 months!!!!!!!! And he was just transiting. He is a film maker and was arrested on his way to the hotel trying to avoid a disruption/protest that had started while he was out for dinner. Stop the madness Ben really, we need you here blogging. Besides I think you’d find the amenities in prison lacking 😉

  13. You pretty much just summed up ‘murca’. Except you’re also likely to be ripped to shreds by a 9 year old’s Benelli M4. What a dump.

  14. My comment was logical and actually in awe of humanity. That people care about 12 people killed in some remote place. There was another article on BBC about how girls are disappearing and being murdered in state around Mexico City aND the government doesn’t care. I suppose it’s easier to show that you care when everyone is watching. POSERS.

    Alhitmi, talk is cheap!! what are you doing to give back to society. Will you be taking a few Syrian refugees?

  15. Terrible what happened.
    I have another question Ben.
    Did you hear about the “other travel blogger” who went to Turkey and lost his pre check and got the SSSS?
    What about travelers going to these places? Will we all get the same treatment when we return?
    That alone is enough for me not to go to these countries. Never mind them murdering tourists.

  16. @dana Stanley no, tens of thousands of Americans have visited Turkey and not been deemed a security risk. My family and I visited Turkey, Egypt, and Jordan this summer and we have not been flagged for special security.

  17. As tragically as this is, if you read the full articles you’ll find one very important fact: The tour company seems to have left the permitted road and tried to take a shortcut (because they had not been properly prepared for the needs of a diabetic they had in one of the cars). So maybe we should worry not so much about going to Cairo, but – as always – about carefully selecting which tour company to take and ALWAYS staying in marked save zones in unstable areas…

  18. @ Jay Jew Land? Really, you can’t bring yourself to say Israel? Think it might be best if you just stay at home as there are different cultures in major cities all over the world that may offend you.

  19. I was there in May 2001 (spur of the moment detour from Greece) with another single female traveler, and we felt weird the whole time, despite having local guides just for us. The locals in the tourist trade were still reeling from the 1997 massacre of tourists in Luxor (Hatshepsut temple) and felt that tourism was just beginning to recover. It was indeed an amazing trip, but I personally felt I couldn’t return without a man!

    After 9/11 things tanked there again, then Arab Spring, now this. It is such a poor country and still so reliant on tourism, so I really feel for them. At the same time, I don’t feel comfortable returning anytime soon, and you couldn’t pay my husband to go.

  20. @Jay – you sound like the perfect Mall of America customer. Enjoy your travels to the American Midwest. Maybe you can take a huge risk some time and take an adventure trip to Wyoming. It’s a scary prospect but really exciting!

  21. A trip to Egypt or a trip to Detroit? Which one are you more likely to be shot? I’d suspect the latter, sadly.

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