Tuesday, 30 October 2012

The difference is the security

When people ask me “what is Egypt like” I usually tell them “It is different.”
Different from Ireland, unlike your typical holiday destination, historic beyond comprehension, traditional yet modern, in upheaval yet relaxed.

What is so different? The Irish would argue our Newgrange is older than the pyramids so we can tick off history, Ireland has always been a traditionally religious country so we understand Egyptians passion for their religion, we understand borders too and the need to preserve our culture and we have also been known for our political upheavals.

The actual difference my friends is the level of security.

The amount of security around Cairo and Sharm El Sheikh is like none I have ever seen before. It is intense and it is everywhere. The reason for it is pretty obvious, but aside from the necessity it is there to make you and me and foreign diplomats feel at ease.
Except it does the opposite.

Mubarak party headquarters, Tahrir Square was burned out during the revolution in 2011
(c) fifiheavey

When I arrived at the Hilton, Cairo at 2am on our first night, I barely batted an eye to the security, well my eyes were barely open. But the next day the level and effort put into security around Cairo astounded me.

Airport security is something we have all come familiar with, we know the deal, the checks what is allowed, what is not. Now take that airport security, the metal detector, the bag xray machine, along with some serious looking armed men and their important and urgent questions and place that at every hotel in the country, every shopping mall, every cinema, every museum …. and you get an idea of the level of security in Egypt.

Security at hotel entrance of Marriott Sharm El Sheikh
(c) fifiheavey
If you take a taxi to your hotel, the taxi must stop and show identification before being let inside the 24 hour guarded gates. Also before the taxi can be admitted the boot must be popped open, and checked for explosives. Terrified passengers will also be given the once over with the guard's stern eye before you can be allowed to enter. You may have only left 20 mins before  but the same checks apply each and every time.

You may only want to step outside the hotel door for a cigarette or to check if your taxi is on time, but each time you enter you must pass the metal detector and your bag is scanned.
It is annoying, but is it too much?

For many it provides a safety blanket, a sure bet that your hotel will be safe from any suicide bombers and for a country that has a huge reliance on tourism that is a bet Egyptians want to win.

Sometimes it is the food, the people, the dress, the night-life, the social activities that divides one culture from another, for me it was the security.
Security is a loose term in Ireland, we don’t need it, so it gets little use. But even if we did need it, could we do it? I don’t think so not to that extent, we are too trusting and too lazy to be all the time on the watch out for terrorism activity.

The difference between Ireland and Egypt? The security.

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