The safety of international travel is a continuing concern, and some travelers are avid readers of the vacation warnings from our State Department and the foreign offices of Great Britain and Australia.
But the headlines in our newspapers may provide advice that is just as valid. In fact, recent publicized events in the Middle East and Turkey provide guidance that is, perhaps, more up-to-date about the safety of travel than the official "advisories".
For months, a number of well-meaning commentators have claimed that Egypt has achieved relative calm and stability; that there is no longer a reason to pass up the enthralling sights and experiences of that awesome and ancient land.
Two terrorist attacks aimed precisely at the persons visiting the touristic highlights of Egypt have made those optimistic claims no longer viable.
In the space of one week, opposition forces in Egypt have murdered two security guards posted at the entrance to the Pyramids of Giza, and short days later another group, this time three armed men, one wearing explosives (which he later detonated), have killed and injured similar guards posted near the Temple of Karnak in Luxor, Egypt.
The Pyramids of Egypt, on the outskirts of Cairo, a twenty-minute taxi ride from the city's center, are perhaps the outstanding sightseeing attraction of that nation, and one hundred percent of all visitors to Cairo go to those pyramids--and the nearby, equally-famous Sphinx--at some point of their stay. The Temple of Karnak, a vast complex of stone religious structures erected by thirty pharaohs over aeons of time, is the second most heavily-visited attraction in Egypt, a stupendous religious area almost as large as Angkor Wat in Cambodia. The fact that these two sites were chosen for coordinated attacks is proof that the opposition in Egypt, probably members of the now-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, have made a definite decision to attack Egypt's touristic industry, in retaliation--among other reasons--for the death sentence recently imposed on Mohamma Morsi, the former elected president of Egypt.
As long as both sides turn to such extreme measures, and as long as one tactic is to destroy Egypt's tourism, the underpinning of its economy, no tourist in Egypt is free from danger. Despite all the assurances from Egypt's Ministry of Tourism, a tourist of any nationality would be foolish to visit that country during this unsettled time. What was a close decision before, no longer is.
There's better news from nearby Turkey. When that country's President, the aggressive, ambitious and egotistical Mr. Erdogan, was riding high politically, his extreme statements, his persecution of Kurds and other opponents and prosecution of journalists disagreeing with him, all combined to sour the atmosphere of Turkey and to raise the possibility that the opposition to him--especially the long-persecuted Kurds--might turn to violence to bring him down. Now, the people of Turkey seem to have done just that at the ballot box, voting heavily in a just-concluded election to deprive Erdogan's political party of a majority in the country's parliament. His power severely weakened, it is possible that Erdogan's opponents will henceforth use democratic means, not violence, to oppose him, and things will have calmed down considerably in Turkey.
Though I recently wrote that Turkey was a tinder-box that might explode, and that cautious tourists might stay away for a time, that no longer seems the case. And it's possible that increased tourism to Turkey may actually assist the democratic forces of that nation in restoring a peaceful atmosphere and environment. I, myself, will no longer hesitate to visit Turkey.
Wherever we go, we tourists must remain sensitive to the beliefs and lifestyles of the nations we visit. Recently, two Canadian tourists stripped bare at the top of a mountain in Malaysia regarded as sacred by the indigenous people who live around it. The two Canucks have now been arrested and prevented from returning to Canada, and may have serious charges pressed against them. Though they seem merely foolish, it is hard to sympathze with their plight.