Crime Targeted to Tourists in Egypt

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Crime Targeted to Tourists in Egypt Tourists face a world of dangers. But with the right advice, most hazards turn out to be manageable. A Financial planner from Phoenix, Ariz., was on a tour of the Middle East, but by the time his group arrived in Egypt, most of its members had opted out. ``We started in Israel with 320 people,'' he said during a visit to the Valley of the Kings, the stunning burial site outside Luxor. ``Only 62 people came to Cairo, and only 16 of us came down to Luxor. But touring Egypt is like the stock market,'' he added. ``When everybody bails out, you should come in.'' A great many U.S. tourists have bailed out on Egypt since 1997, when terrorists slaughtered 67 foreign visitors (none of them American) in two gory attacks. Since then, the government has tightened security considerably, but Egypt still ranks as a dangerous place. The State Department announced last month that ``extremist elements may be planning imminent unspecified attacks against U.S. interests in Egypt.'' Pinkerton Global Intelligence Services, one of the private companies entering the burgeoning travel-security field, rates Egypt as a ``high-risk'' country (map). Still, there's a payoff for those willing to run the risk: as a tourist venue, Egypt is uncrowded and cheap. ``Business is now about 70 percent of normal,'' says Karim Gharranah, a tour operator in Cairo, ``and prices are 40 percent less than they should be.'' Just be careful out there. Some of the most attractive tourist destinations can be bad for your health if you don't know what the risks are and how to avoid them. Terrorism, war, riots, crime, corruption and the occasional volcano (like the ones currently grumbling in Ecuador and on the Caribbean island of Montserrat) can quickly ruin a vacation, if not a life. The most extreme risks are so well known, and so rare, that tourists are unlikely to encounter them: kidnappings in Yemen, beheadings in Chechnya. Long-running civil wars have turned some interesting countries into no-go zones; Algeria's underground conflict is so vicious that even hardened journalists don't travel there. Although the risks are vastly lower in most of the world, vigilance is still needed. Mexico, for example, is generally a safe place for tourists, despite some well-publicized violence and corruption. Yet an unwary visitor strolling the streets late at night might fall victim to an ``express kidnapping,'' in which the victim is hustled from one ATM machine to another before and after midnight, in order to get two days' worth of maximum cash withdrawals.

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