Overall Crime and Safety Situation
U.S. Consulate Alexandria does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The ACS Unit cannot recommend a particular individual or location and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ALEXANDRIA AS BEING A MEDIUM-THREAT LOCATION FOR CRIME DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Please review OSAC’s Egypt-specific webpage for proprietary analytic reports, Consular Messages, and contact information.
The vast majority of criminal acts against foreigners tend to be crimes of opportunity (purse snatching, pickpocketing) and is often carried out by young males. There have been several instances where individuals passing on a motorbike grabbed women’s handbags, sometimes inadvertently injuring the victim in the process. Semi-professional thieves also target unaware visitors in popular restaurants and shops. There are a number of reports citing criminals using weapons in the course of their robberies, although such cases remain infrequent. Women have also reported attempted purse snatchings from drivers as they enter taxis.
There are growing reports of criminal ruses against foreign visitors often employing feigned concern over a stain or spill on an article of clothing; while helping to wipe the clothing, the criminal will lift a wallet.
One of the most important precautions is surveillance recognition. The importance of varying times such as arrival, departure, and normal routines cannot be stressed enough.
Other Areas of Concern
The Department of State issued a Travel Warning in late December 2016 for U.S. citizens considering travel to Egypt.
Travelers should be aware that the highest concentrations of World War II-era unexploded landmines along the Mediterranean coast west of Alexandria, the Eastern Desert between Cairo and the Suez Canal, and much of the Sinai peninsula.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Vehicle accidents remain a significant safety concern throughout Egypt. Egypt has one of the highest occurrences of road fatalities in the world. Driving Alexandria’s busy streets can be extremely challenging for foreigners, especially those used to a culture of structured rules and regulations. Even seasoned residents must use extreme care and situational awareness to navigate the hectic streets. Traffic rules are typically ignored by impatient drivers and are unpredictably enforced by police. Drivers should be prepared for vehicles without lighting at night, few if any road markings, vehicles traveling at high rates of speed, vehicles traveling the wrong way on one-way streets, divided highways, and connecting ramps, a high volume of pedestrians dodging traffic, and a variety of domesticated animals on the roadways. Pedestrians should also exercise extreme caution when traversing roadways, especially in high-volume/high-velocity streets like Alexandria’s Corniche, which follows the Mediterranean coastline.
Motorists should be especially cautious during rare winter rains, which can cause extremely slippery road surfaces and localized flooding.
Intercity roads are generally in fair condition, but unmarked surfaces, stray animals, sandstorms and fog, and disabled vehicles without lights or reflectors are among the many hazards present on highways, especially after dark. For more information on self-driving, please review OSAC’s Report “Driving Overseas: Best Practices.”
Public Transportation Conditions
Taxis and car-sharing services remain an efficient use of public transportation in large Egyptian cities. Consulate personnel are authorized to travel in taxis or other car services. Foreigners can often be targets for higher taxi fares, and some drivers often claim their meter is broken. Women should exercise caution on public transportation and always sit in the back seat of the taxi. Some women have found it helpful to refrain from engaging in conversation, beyond basic pleasantries, with the driver.
The use of public buses, microbuses, and tram system is prohibited by U.S. Embassy/Consulate personnel, and visitors are discouraged from using them. There are frequent train accidents that sometimes involve mass casualties. Alexandria’s tram system is a common form of public transportation for Egyptians. Overcrowded metro stations and trains can be a common area for opportunistic crime (pickpocketing, sexual harassment).
Aviation security remains a concern.
- On October 31, 2015, a Russian Metro Jet crashed shortly after takeoff from Sharm el Sheik, a popular tourist destination in the Sinai. Although Egypt has not officially announced the findings of its investigation, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, publishing a photo of what it says is the IED that brought the aircraft down.
International air carriers have enhanced security measures. Domestic flights have generally more relaxed security procedures, especially passenger screening. Since the Metro Jet incident, the international community and Egypt have made significant improvements in airport security. At Borg el Arab Airport (HBE), large crowds tend to gather outside terminals waiting for arriving passengers. At times, they can become unruly. Arriving Consulate personnel typically arrange for an expeditor and/or trusted transportation company to pick them up inside the terminal. Taxis are available at the terminals of all airports, but travelers should be aware of unauthorized chauffeurs and set-fare taxis.
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ALEXANDRIA AS BEING A CRITICAL-THREAT LOCATION FOR TERRORIST ACTIVITY DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
There are a number of extremist organizations, including ISIS, operating in Egypt. Terrorists have used explosive devices, car bombs, and drive-by shootings to target police, security, and government officials and government/diplomatic buildings, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. Responsibility for terrorist attacks has been attributed primarily, but not exclusively, to jihadists operating out of the Sinai peninsula, which remains a particularly restive area. In 2015-2016, terrorist attacks targeted Egyptian government and security forces, public venues, including tourist sites, civil aviation, and other modes of public transportation, and a diplomatic facility. While terrorists primarily target police, military and government officials, civilians have been killed and injured in attacks.
- On December 11, 2016, a suicide bomber struck Sunday Mass at the historic Saint Peter and Saint Paul’s Church in Cairo’s Abbasiya district, killing 29 people and injuring 47 others. On December 13, ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The expansion of attacks targeting civilian interests raises concerns about wrong-place, wrong-time violence leading to collateral damage, as well as the possibility that targeting preferences may continue to expand.
- Two roadside bombings targeted police officers on December 9, 2016: one killed six police officers on a major road that leads to the Giza Pyramids, and one killed a civilian and injured three policeman in the Kafr el-Sheik Governorate in the Nile Delta.
Terrorist incidents have also occurred in the Western Desert, the large, mostly isolated area southwest of Alexandria and the Nile Valley, including in the vicinity of various oasis towns visited by tourists. There are active military operations against terrorist elements in this region. There are also active military operations in Egypt’s border areas with Gaza and Libya. Terrorist organizations are active in the Sinai peninsula, particularly in the area bordering Gaza. The Egyptian government maintains a heavy security presence at major tourist sites, especially Sharm El-Sheikh and the many temples and archaeological sites in/around Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbal.
Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence
THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE HAS ASSESSED ALEXANDRIA AS BEING A HIGH-THREAT LOCATION FOR POLITICAL VIOLENCE DIRECTED AT OR AFFECTING OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT INTERESTS.
Political protests can occur without warning. In 2016, the size and frequency of demonstrations decreased markedly. Egypt’s law prohibits gatherings of more than 10 persons without advance notification to the Ministry of Interior. Peaceful demonstrations have also turned violent with no notice, making them unpredictable and potentially dangerous. Demonstrations have led to violent clashes between security forces and protestors, resulting in deaths, injuries, and property damage. Peaceful demonstrators and bystanders may be subject to questioning, detention, arrest, and conviction for participating in or being in proximity to unauthorized demonstrations. The Egyptian police often maintain a large presence in Alexandria during significant anniversaries to deter anti-government mobs from gathering and sporadically close access to vehicular traffic. While there may be periods when the crowds appear celebratory or non-threatening, criminal acts are routinely committed under the shroud of anonymity that a large crowd provides. In some cases, protestors have turned over alleged criminals to police or military units positioned near an event’s perimeter.
Travelers are advised to avoid areas where there is heavy police presence or crowds assembling, to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any large public gatherings, and to stay away from demonstrations.
Sectarian violence between Muslim and Christian communities remains a concern, most notably in the Nile Valley governorates of Asyut and Sohag, located between Cairo and Luxor. These governorates, along with the adjacent governorates of Minya and Qena, have long been considered areas prone to extremist activity and sectarian strife. This has not impacted Westerners.
The attack on the Coptic Church tracks closely with ISIS’s activity elsewhere, as it seeks to increase tensions between religious groups and undermine perceptions that host governments protect these communities. ISIS has conducted attacks against Christian communities in the Middle East and North Africa, including in the Levant and Libya.
- ISIS had claimed the targeted killing of a Coptic priest in Sinai during the summer of 2016 and the February 2015 execution of 19 Egyptian Copts in Libya.
Egypt is a geologically active region. Although earthquakes are rare, damage can be severe, especially to older buildings, due to lax building codes and shoddy construction.
Personal Identity Concerns
Laws do not explicitly criminalize same-sex sexual activity, but LGBT persons have been arrested (debauchery, prostitution, violating the teachings of religion) and imprisoned for up to 10 years. Reports of arrests have increased in recent years. There is also significant social stigma and discrimination in society.
Many women travel safely each year without incident. However, females regularly report sexual harassment. These incidents run the gamut from lewd comments and gestures to more explicit indecent exposures, inappropriate physical contact, and sexual assault. A number of women, including foreigners, have reported being sexually harassed/assaulted in taxis, isolated streets, and while transiting crowded protest areas. Women have been groped in taxis and while in public places. Women, especially those traveling alone, should exercise particular care in crowds, on public transportation, in rural areas, and in isolated sections of temple and pyramid complexes. At night, women and teenage girls may want to exercise additional caution and not travel alone. The majority of incidents occur on busy city streets but also inside a victim’s home by maintenance or delivery workers. Foreigners and Egyptian can both be subject to gender-based harassment. While dressing modestly does not inoculate one from harassment, foreign women are generally advised to dress conservatively when in public. The Embassy/Consulate continues to receive reports of U.S. citizen women subject to domestic violence, sexual harassment, verbal abuse, and rape.
Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from in the U.S. Businesses and institutions generally do not make special accommodations for persons with disabilities, and authorities do not enforce laws mandating access to transportation, communication, and public buildings by persons with disabilities. Accommodations on public transportation are not offered for elderly individuals or persons with disabilities. Pedestrian sidewalks and walkways are limited, uneven, high, and sometimes used by cars and motorcycles. Crosswalks exist, but motorists have the right-of-way, and pedestrians should exercise extreme caution.
The vast majority of kidnappings appears to be within the Egyptian community and are often carried out to settle a dispute among neighbors, rivals, or tribes, or they may target a person known to be affluent. Children are often targeted; these cases are generally settled quickly through the payment of a ransom. Perpetrators are likely hoping for a quick monetary payoff and intentionally avoid scrutiny likely to arise from kidnapping a high-profile businessperson or foreigner. While unnerving and not to be dismissed, there is nothing to suggest that the threat of kidnappings should be of great concern to the expatriate community.
Kidnappings do have the potential to be more prevalent in the Sinai or Western Desert regions.
- On July 22, 2015, Tomislav Salopek, a Croatian citizen, employed by a French energy company, was kidnapped near Cairo. On August 5, a video posted by ISIS Sinai’s Twitter account claimed responsibility for the abduction and demanded the release of all female Muslims in Egyptian prisons within 48-hours in exchange for Salopek. He was ultimately killed, and ISIS Sinai claimed responsibility.
Foreigners may experience a range of professionalism when dealing with Egyptian police. Police are generally responsive to visitors in need of assistance and will initiate investigations based on the report of a crime. Emergency response times and the ability to conduct in-depth criminal investigations on petty crimes generally fall short of Western standards. While misdemeanor crimes may not receive the attention a visitor would expect, police tend to pursue felonies more assertively.
Any item/souvenir that resembles an antiquity will be scrutinized closely by Egyptian Customs officials.
Police may detain a foreigner during a serious traffic accident until a statement is given.
It is illegal to photograph police stations, military barracks, and certain other sensitive public buildings. For more information, please review OSAC’s Report “Picture This: Dos and Don’ts for Photography.”
How to Handle Incidents of Police Detention or Harassment
If you are arrested, make sure that every effort is made to contact the U.S. Embassy/Consulate on your behalf. Although protocol requires the police services to notify the Embassy/Consulate t of an arrest of an American citizen, this may not always be the case depending on the time, place, and circumstances.
Crime Victim Assistance
The Consulate advises American citizens to contact American Citizen Services (ACS) at U.S. Embassy Cairo at 2797-3300 should they require assistance.
The Embassy Consular Section strongly encourages women who seek our assistance to take legal action against criminals in order to bring them to justice, as the Consulate does not provide Consular Services. Some Egyptian NGOs provide assistance to victimized women within the Egyptian community. Women victimized overseas may be entitled to receive compensation for counseling and/or other services such as relocating back to the U.S.
International Calls Services
Inter-Governorate Calls Services
International Telephone Directory
Public Traffic Admin. for Highway Accidents
General Security Services (criminal offenses)
Medical care generally falls short of U.S. standards, but there are many Western-trained medical professionals. While medical facilities are adequate for non-emergency matters, particularly in frequently visited tourist areas, emergency and intensive care facilities are limited.
Hospital facilities in Luxor and Aswan are inadequate, and they are nonexistent at most other ports-of-call.
Most Nile cruise boats do not have a ship's doctor, but some employ a medical practitioner of uncertain qualification.
Ambulance Hotline – 123
Contact Information for Available Medical Services
The U.S. Embassy Cairo Regional Medical Office can provide a complete list of local hospitals and English speaking physicians.
Alexandria: El Salama – 487-9999
OSAC Country Council Information
The Embassy and Consulate host OSAC Country Council meetings on a quarterly basis and ad-hoc meetings as necessary. Please contact the Consulate or OSAC’s Middle East and North Africa team with any questions or to join.
U.S. Consulate Location and Contact Information
U.S. Consulate Address and Hours of Operation
U.S. Consulate Alexandria
Montazah Gardens, Alexandria
Business hours: Sun-Thur 0830-1700
Consulate Contact Numbers
For after-hours emergencies involving U.S. citizens, call (20) 2-2797-3300.
Telephone: (20) 2-2797-2301
Fax: (20) 2-2797-2472
Regional Security Office, Alexandria
Telephone: (20) 2-2797-5802
Embassy Cairo: http://egypt.usembassy.gov/
U.S. citizens should also carry identification and a cell phone or other means of communication that works in Egypt, and it is advisable to pre-program the U.S. Consulate’s telephone number and email address into the device, as Consulate Alexandria does not have an operator.
The Department of State encourages all American travelers to sign up in the U.S. Embassy’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) when planning their travel or after arriving in Egypt. This program helps the Embassy to provide important services for American citizens residing or traveling in Egypt. While in Egypt, the Regional Medical Officer, American Citizen Services, the Regional Security Office, Political and Economic Section, Marine Post One and other offices can be reached through the embassy switchboard at 2 02-2797-3300.
Egypt Country Information Sheet