Staying Safe in Cairo
Egypt is a wonderful country with a very much lower crime rate when compared to other nations but crime rates may increase and you should not ignore the associated risks.
Recently we used to hear and read about a rising number of reports of muggings, unwanted sexual advances and assaults.
We never ignore the possibility of unpredictable, sometimes violent, protests that can flare up in any part of the city at any time.
Regardless of the threat, it is very important that we all remember that attacks do not appear out of thin air. In fact, exactly the opposite is true. Don't drop your guard!
If we all follow some simple rules, we can often spot a dangerous situation as it unfolds and take appropriate steps to avoid it or prevent it.
Important: Be Aware
Take note of your surroundings and identify potential threats and dangerous situations.
Take responsibility for your own security.
Learn to trust your 'gut' or intuition and listen to it. Even if a situation does not ensue this does not mean there was not a possible threat.
On the Street
· Ensure a trusted friend knows where you will be, who you will be with and what time you plan to return. Your friend will be able to raise an alarm if you may be at risk.
· Plan your route and/or mode of transport and tell your trusted friend. You can then give an estimated time of arrival, allowing friends to track your progress.
· Do not wear headphones and listen to music when walking in the street. It leaves you 'tuned out'. You will be vulnerable to robbery and/or assault. You will also be unable to hear approaching traffic.
· If you suspect that someone may be following you as you exit a vehicle, remain in it or walk towards a well lit and populated area.
· When on the street, walk facing oncoming traffic. Keep bags on the opposite side to vehicles.
· Maintain a low profile. If people don't notice you immediately, they are more likely to move onto a more obvious target.
· Vary your schedule and route. Setting patterns people can predict leave you more vulnerable to attack, assault or robbery.
· Modify your fashion style. Be aware of cultural and religious sensibilities and sensitivities. High heels or flip flops are difficult to run in if attempting to escape. Clothing with long straps such as scarves and handbags can be used to catch and restrain you.
· For women: Short hemlines or low necklines may be interpreted as an invitation to make sexual advances.
· Stay off the street alone if you are upset or under the influence of alcohol. You are 'tuned out' and not fully aware of your surroundings.
· Avoid using ATMs at night or in unfamiliar surroundings. This lowers your risk of becoming a victim of a financially motivated attack.
· Carry your keys and/or your phone separately from cash. In a pocket and not a bag if possible.
· For men: Never assume that bag snatching only happens to women. Almost all of us now carry a laptop at some time for example.
· Memorise the phone number of your trusted friend in case of an incident and your phone is lost.
In a Vehicle
· Check in and around your vehicle before entering to make sure no one is hiding inside or nearby.
· Once inside your vehicle, lock doors and ensure that windows are rolled up at all times.
· Keep hand bags and purses on the floor and out of general view.
· If a suspicious person approaches your vehicle when you are approaching or stopped at a traffic light or junction, run the light if you feel threatened and if traffic flow allows you to do so.
· Check rear view mirrors regularly and take note of other vehicles. Try to note model and colours of cars and if they take the same turn offs and routes as you.
· If one or more vehicles regularly catch your attention , stay calm. Stay in well lit areas and go to a safe place.
· When driving someone home, ensure they are safely inside before driving away and make them do the same for you.
· If possible, park only in well-lit, heavily travelled areas.
· Try not to park next to vans or trucks, as you can be easily pulled inside.
· Check your surroundings before getting out of your car.
· In taxis - always sit in the rear seat if travelling alone and ensure that doors can be opened from the inside.
· In taxis - have an idea of the route you want to take and make the driver stick to it. Note the number of the vehicle.
Crossing the Streets in Cairo
Crossing streets is probably the biggest challenge when it comes to staying safe in Cairo. Traffic lights, which only exist in a few locations, are routinely disregarded. In downtown Cairo, police officers may be controlling traffic at key intersections at busy times.
To cross the street, it’s like playing the video game “Frogger”, hurrying across the street one lane at a time, when there is a small break in traffic. One way to cross a street that proved to be effective is to find an Egyptian who wants to cross the street, place yourself next to him/her down traffic and shadow his/her moves.
Also, when riding in a taxi, the driver may go quite fast and drive erratically. If at any time you feel unsafe simply tell the driver to stop and get out.
The initial phase of an assault or attack provides the best opportunities to escape. If you are in a public area, make as much noise and commotion as possible. This will draw the attention of passersby to your situation.
Take note of the route you are taking. Take note of street noises and distinctive sounds.
Be aware of the impact you are making on your surroundings be it by your dress, your behaviour or you perceived vulnerability.
Keep track of time and stay on the schedule you have shared with your trusted friend.
Be careful out there!
Disclaimer: This information is provided as a general overview only.