Thursday, September 25, 2008

Kidnappers seize foreign Tourists in Egypt.

This news is 3 days old. It happened on Monday.

You can read more about it on CNN, BBC or Yahoo News

A lot of blame has been apportioned on Egyptian authorities by the media for not preventing this from happening.

An Egyptian friend who is an avid off-roader helped explain why the government isn't necessarily to blame.

To help illustrate the reasons, take a look at this map.

The kidnapping took place here (in the little red box)

1. Gilf Al Kebeir where the group was kidnapped is in a remote area of South West Egypt and practically in a no mans land between Sudan, Libya and Egypt's borders.
2. As you can see in the map, this is in the middle of the deep desert many days tough ride away from Aswan (the closest city).
3. People who do make this trip are well aware of the dangers of making such a journey where every drop of water and fuel and every grain of food has to be carried with them for all the days journey from Aswan and the return journey and some extra to spare. Often one 4x4 is required just to carry the fuel and another to carry the food and water. Even if just 1 or 2 tourists wish to visit this area, they need to travel together with at least THREE 4x4's for a relatively safe journey.
4. If you look at a map of Africa, there are plenty of straight lines diving the countries (unlike say Europe) and a lot of this continent is arid desert where habitation is impossible. These borders are evident only on a map, but being in the middle of the desert it is easier to cross national borders without even realising it, unlike trying to cross a busy street in Cairo.
5. Given points 2 and 3, it is ridiculous to expect a security presence at these borders.
6. Given point number 5, it is easy for smugglers, outlaws and gangs to cross borders and operate with relative freedom exploiting the vulnerability of tourists to the area. (although they too have to do this in extremely tough conditions)
7. The army/tourist protection sometimes sends an officer with such groups (as anyone who has driven in an official convoy in Egypt from Aswan to Abu Simbel or Sharm to Luxor would know) armed with a basic gun, who would be helpless when faced with gangs with advanced weaponry from Sudan or Libya (where it is relatively easy to come across arms and ammunition)

The government of Egypt cannot practically do anything to patrol the middle of the desert. The only thing they can do is prevent permission and access to these areas, which unfortunatley may be the result of this tragedy as the media keeps hyping up how ineffective the government is. For heavens sake media members (I refuse to call them professionals, as most of their ilk, doesn't qualify to be called that), stop trying to hype up the situation (and increase readership or eyeballs) and try to think of practical solutions instead!

And for those of you who are planning to visit Egypt, don't let this incident scare you off. A large part of this country is much safer than a lot of other places in the world and the government is doing its best to keep most tourist locations safe for tourists.

1 comment:

Greetekees said...

It was interesting to see how Egypt dealt with the news. Egypt 's foreign minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, announced on Monday at the United Nations on Monday that the tourists had been freed and were safe and sound, but officials later denied that account. The kidnappers have now asked for the German government for paying the six-million-euro ransom as the condition for releasing the hostages, an AFP official told.

According to Egyptian and foreign newspapers, this is the first kidnapping ever.

In my opinion, since tourism is expanding in the more adventurous area, there is always a risk in any country.

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