Security Brief for Cairo prepared on: Apr 27, 2017 10:23:00 PM GMT

Security Assessment Rating

Security Rating(s) may be company-defined and do not necessarily reflect iJETís Rating(s).
Elevated Risk Locations are defined as those cities or countries assigned a CSAR of 4 or 5. Baseline Risk Locations defined as those cities or countries assigned a CSAR of 1, 2, or 3.

Security Rating for Cairo: 
Overall Rating:
Sub-Ratings   1    2    3    4    5  
Security Services4
Civil Unrest3
    Security Overview of Cairo

Cairo, a city of approximately 18 million people, is fairly safe compared to similarly sized cities throughout the world. Petty crime - especially theft - has increased since the January 2011 and July 2013 revolutions that ousted former Presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohammed Morsi, but violent crimes are generally rare and typically do not directly target foreigners.

In the wake of the July 2013 ouster of former-President Mohammed Morsi, jihadist groups have carried out several attacks in Cairo. These attacks have almost exclusively been against security forces and government targets, and the attackers have apparently tried to avoid civilian casualties. However, there are signs that some groups have expanded their campaign to include religious minorities, as evidenced by the 2016 bombing of the Botroseya Church in Cairo's Abbasiya district which left 25 people dead. Cairo has also experienced several low-level terrorist attacks by small, relatively amateurish cells and lone-wolf extremists since the mid-1990s, most of which have caused few (if any) casualties. Security measures surrounding airports, government buildings, five-star hotels, and major tourist attractions are generally adequate. Police may struggle to eliminate small, unknown groups, but are generally competent at deterring large-scale attacks.

All public protests, except those held on university campuses, were illegal in Egypt prior to the revolution of 2011. Protests have since targeted issues related to security conditions, the country's economic situation, and ongoing political tensions. Common rally locations in Cairo include Al-Azhar Mosque, the Presidential Palace, Tahrir Square, the Journalist Syndicate, and the Interior Ministry complex.

Westerners are likely to experience some harassment by Egyptians, usually aggressive begging or sales tactics. Women, particularly those with fair coloring, are almost certain to encounter sexual harassment by Egyptian men, regardless of how they dress. Covering arms and legs and walking with a male companion will help minimize, but will not eliminate, harassment. Verbal harassment is almost unavoidable, but physical assaults are rare.

The police, while numerous, are not well-trained or well-paid. The government maintains a Tourist Police force whose officers are generally deployed around major sites. Some Tourist Police officers may speak more English than their counterparts on the regular police force. Other security forces are only in the city to prevent civil unrest. Due to traffic conditions, police, fire, and ambulance response times are notoriously slow. The fire department lacks the equipment to put out fires in high-rise buildings.

The threat of kidnapping in Cairo is low.

Security Alerts & Advisories
    Warning Alerts
        Security: Expect tight security, major traffic disruptions in Cairo, Egypt, during April 28-29 papal visit. Militant attacks possible.
  • Event: Papal visit
  • Location: Cairo (map)
  • Time Frame: April 28-29
  • Impact: Tight security, traffic disruptions, possible violence

Pope Francis will travel to Egypt and meet with political and religious leaders and celebrate Mass in Cairo April 28-29. Expect tight security and major traffic disruptions near papal events and along motorcade routes. Up to 25,000 people could attend Mass at the June 30 (Air Defense) Stadium on April 29. Major commercial disruptions are unlikely since the visit will not coincide with the Egyptian workweek.

Papal Itinerary

April 28

  • 1400: Arrival at Cairo International Airport (CAI)
  • 1500: Welcome ceremony at Heliopolis (Al-Ittihadiya) Palace and meeting with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi
  • 1640: Visit with prominent political and religious figures, including the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar
  • 1700: Visit with Coptic Pope Tawadros II and prayers at St. Peter and St. Paul's (Botroseya) Church in the Abbassia district
  • 1900: Meeting with young people at the Apostolic Nunciature (Vatican embassy) in Zamalek

April 29

  • 1000: Mass at June 30 Stadium (Air Defense) Stadium
  • 1215: Lunch with Egyptian bishops
  • 1515: Prayer gathering with clergy and seminarians, farewell ceremony at St. Leo's Patriarchal Seminary in Maadi
  • 1700: Departure to Rome from Cairo International Airport

Background and Analysis
Pope Francis and the dignitaries he will meet are perceived targets for extremist violence, although robust security arrangements should help ensure their safety and thwart any direct attacks on the papal entourage. The pope's presence in Egypt is a high-profile event that will garner international media attention, and extremists could use the occasion to stage attacks in the capital and elsewhere ahead of and during the visit. Potential targets include churches, Coptic interests, and security personnel. The Egyptian branch of the Islamic State been responsible for several high-profile attacks on the Coptic Christian community in recent months, including bombings that left dozens of churchgoers dead in Tanta and Alexandria on April 9. The group also claimed the Botroseya Church bombing in Cairo on Dec. 11, 2016.

Stay away from sites on the papal itinerary unless observing religious obligations. Allow considerable extra time to reach destinations in Zamalek, Heliopolis, and Maadi on April 28-29. Use alternative routes to avoid the 26 July and 15 May bridges. Leave for CAI earlier than usual if booked on departing flights on the afternoon or evening of April 29 due to possible security-related delays on roads leading to the airport.

Alert begins: 04/23/2017
        Security: Security situation in Egypt remains somewhat unstable due to militant attacks, occasional violent protests. Avoid all demonstrations.

Key Points

  • While militant activity is possible nationwide, attacks remain concentrated in North Sinai.
  • Poor economic conditions have exacerbated political and social tensions, leading to the possibility of spontaneous unrest.
  • Travel to certain areas of the country is restricted due to military operations (map).

Militancy and unrest continue in Egypt following the deposal of former President Mohammed Morsi in 2013. Militants often target members of the military, police, and judicial officials in retribution for Morsi's deposal and subsequent crackdowns against the organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, with which the former president was affiliated. The Egyptian government designated the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization following Morsi's ouster. Sporadic civil unrest may also occur in response to socioeconomic issues; the country has faced an economic crisis as a result of a decline in tourism revenue and foreign investment. Although popular protests have dwindled in recent years, demonstrations remain possible around certain politically sensitive anniversaries. Many foreign governments warn against travel to North Sinai and the Western Desert as a result of ongoing military and security operations to counter militancy.

Militants in Egypt continue to conduct frequent shootings and bombings against military and police forces nationwide. Most militant attacks occur in the northern Sinai Peninsula, but occasional attacks also occur in the Greater Cairo and Nile Delta areas. The Islamic State (IS)-affiliated Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis) remains the most capable and effective group operating in Egypt, and maintains a stronghold in North Sinai and the cities of El Arish and Sheikh Zuweid, in particular. Smaller groups, such as Hasam Movement and Liwa al-Thawra, operate more in urban areas, including Greater Cairo.

There appears to be a certain level of disagreement among militants over the practice of targeting civilians and foreign nationals. Many local militant groups condemned a December 2016 suicide bombing of a Coptic Church in Cairo that was claimed by IS and killed 27 people. IS also claimed the October 2015 downing of a Russian passenger aircraft in Sharm El Sheikh, which killed 224 passengers and crewmembers, almost all of whom were Russian citizens. Apart from rare incidents such as these, the majority of militant attacks in Egypt continue to target military and security forces.

Civil Unrest
Popular anti-government unrest has decreased significantly in the years after 2013. Police forces typically cordon off popular protest sites ahead of politically sensitive anniversaries or planned demonstrations to limit participation. However, the possibility of spontaneous demonstrations cannot be ruled out. Egypt's flagging economy has led to increases in the cost of living and has forced the government to enact unpopular reforms as part of the conditions of a USD 12-billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Sharp price increases, shortages of goods, or announcements of drastic reforms create the potential for spontaneous unrest. In April 2016, the government announced a decision to cede Tiran and Sanafir islands to Saudi Arabia, as part of an agreement to secure aid and investments. The announcement sparked one of the largest anti-government demonstrations since President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi came to power. Smaller demonstrations have occurred as a result of shortages of basic goods and inflation. Incidents of suspected police brutality also frequently result in localized demonstrations.

Restricted Travel Areas
Areas of North Sinai - including Rafah, Al-Arish, and Sheikh Zuweid - remain under a State of Emergency and 0100-0500 curfew. Portions of the Western Desert near the border with Libya are a closed military zone. However, in 2014, a convoy of Mexican tourists near the popular tourist destination of Bahariya were accidentally targeted by military helicopters who mistook the group for militants. Several foreign governments more broadly advise citizens to restrict travel to the area west of the Nile Valley and Nile Delta regions, excluding the coastal resort cities between the Nile Delta and Marsa Matrouh.

To the extent possible, limit exposure to military and security installations, as they may be targeted by militant groups. Avoid demonstrations due to the potential for violence. Register and maintain contact with your diplomatic mission.

Alert begins: 02/01/2017

Security Intelligence
        Civil Unrest: Civil unrest in Cairo, Egypt.

Although strikes, protests, and accompanying clashes have largely decreased in Cairo and elsewhere as a result of the government's ongoing crackdown against Islamist and secular opposition groups, the possibility of additional violent civil unrest remains constant. Security forces usually have a strong presence at these events and have been known to quickly crack down with batons, tear gas, rubber bullets, birdshot, and increasingly, live ammunition to disperse protesters.

Sources of Unrest
Anti-government protests are increasingly uncommon due to strict enforcement of the November 2013 Protest Law, which places significant limitations on the conditions under which citizens are permitted to assemble or demonstrate. Consequently, protest activity is generally limited to times of high political or social polarization, or in close proximity to politically significant anniversary dates. Public demonstrations in favor of the Palestinian quest for statehood occasionally erupt. Anti-Western rallies also occur in Cairo and are usually timed to coincide with state visits by US officials. Sectarian conflict between the Coptic Christian minority and the Muslim majority may also be a source of civil unrest. Soccer matches involving Egypt's national team, the Al-Ahly team, or the Zamalek club may also lead to celebrations or riots depending on the result.

Common Protest Sites
Tahrir Square was one of the most common sites for civil unrest in Cairo; however, police are quick to block off access to the square and other established protest sites. Large demonstrations have also been held in front of the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis. The Raba'a al-Adawiyya Mosque, its adjacent square, and other locations in the Nasr City neighborhood have also experienced large and occasionally violent protests. Large demonstrations in these locations may result in a large security presence, violence, and severe traffic disruptions.

Islamic groups hold regular rallies outside the Al-Azhar Mosque complex in old Cairo, mostly after midday Friday prayers. Police will often close roads in the area and limit access to the mosque prior to midday prayer on Friday. Universities within the downtown area also experience protests somewhat frequently.

Visitors should strictly avoid all demonstrations. If caught in a potentially violent situation, leave the area immediately, and avoid any involvement. If necessary, seek shelter in a large hotel or restaurant. Do not enter government or military buildings, because those locations may become targets of hostile activity.

(Last updated October 27, 2015)

        Crime: Major crime issues in Cairo, Egypt.

The violent crime rate in Cairo is relatively low for a city of its size. However, petty theft is rampant, and has increased correspondingly with the political unrest that has continued since 2011. Crowded sidewalks and public transportation provide ideal conditions for petty theft. Pickpockets and purse-snatchers tend to operate in crowded tourist areas, such as the Great Pyramids of Giza, the Egyptian Museum, and Khan al-Khalili, a huge, maze-like open bazaar. Theft of unattended belongings is also fairly common in Cairo. Visitors should not leave belongings unattended on tour buses, in restaurants (while using the restroom or paying the bill, for example), or at any other location. Wallets, cameras, and mobile phones are among the most frequently stolen items. Car theft is also common, even midday.

Women are often targeted for sexual harassment. Visitors who become the object of aggressive sexual harassment - including being pursued or touched - should scream and create a scene. This generally will be sufficient to scare the harasser away or prompt passersby to intervene. Although most areas of Cairo are fairly safe for unaccompanied women, observe commonsense measures. Avoid walking alone at night or in secluded areas. Do not accept food or drink from strangers, and remain cool and aloof in public. Keep alert to surroundings, and carefully guard handbags and other possessions.

Foreigners are singled out for scams due to their perceived wealth. The most common scam involves making change. Taxi drivers, waiters, and other service personnel will often claim not to have change, hoping that the visitor will allow him to keep the difference rather than going to the trouble of finding someone with small bills. Always having small change on hand is the best way to avoid this difficulty. Carefully count all change, as short-changing is fairly common in crowded tourist areas.

Low-level civil servants occasionally expect to be bribed to do their jobs. Common practices include demanding on-the-spot fines for real or fabricated offenses, including speeding, not carrying proper identification, or parking in an "illegal" area. Police officers will occasionally demand bribes in exchange for filing reports or investigating crimes. Visitors should enlist the assistance of their embassy when reporting major crimes to Egyptian authorities.

Persons mailing souvenirs out of the country or taking them out in their luggage may be asked to provide proof that the items are not valuable antiquities. Usually, all officials are actually asking for is a small bribe, rather than proof that the items are not valuable antiques.

        Kidnapping/Hostage Situation: The kidnapping threat in Cairo, Egypt.

There is a low threat of kidnapping in Cairo. Organized crime groups may abduct individuals, but typical targets are limited to wealthy or prominent Egyptians or those who are also involved in criminal activities. More recently, Egyptian activists or political opponents have been abducted by government forces or supporters. Foreigners are generally at low risk of being kidnapped; there have been few reported incidents of expatriate kidnappings within Cairo itself. Avoiding political protests and taking commonsense precautions are the best ways to minimize any possible risk.

        Security: Emergency numbers and embassy contacts in Cairo.

Useful Numbers:

Ambulance 123
Tourist Police126
Country Code20

Contact information for select embassies and consulates in Cairo:

Australia - Embassy

World Trade Center-11th Fl.
1191 Corniche El-Nil
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 20-2-2770-6600
Brazil - Embassy

Nile City Towers
North Tower 2005 C Corniche El-Nil
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 202-2461-9837
Canada - Embassy

26 Kamel El Shanawy St.
Garden City
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 20-2-2791-8700
China - Embassy

14 Baghat Aly St.
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 00202-27361219
France - Embassy

28 Avenue de Charles de Gaulle
BP 1777
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 20-2-3-567-32-00
Germany - Embassy

2 Sharia Hassan Sabri
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 00202-739-9600
Japan - Embassy

81 Corniche El Nil Street, Maadi
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 20-2-2528 5910
United Kingdom - Embassy

7 Ahmed Ragheb St.
Garden City
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 002-02-27916000
United States - Embassy

5 Tawfik Diab Street
Garden City
Cairo, Egypt
Phone: 20-2-797-3300

Personnel should familiarize themselves with the location and contact details of other foreign embassies in case their country's embassy closes due to an emergency or some other unexpected circumstances. Another embassy can often provide assistance in such cases.

        Security Services: Security services in Cairo, Egypt.

Egyptian police are generally responsive and concerned for the welfare of foreigners, including tourists and business interests. In most cases, however, police are not well trained or well paid. Foreign victims of crime often receive more support from police than ordinary Egyptians. The government stations officers from the Tourism and Antiquities Police in hotels and tourist sites throughout the capital. They are recognizable by armbands that read "Tourist and Antiquities Police" in English. In case of emergency, dialing 126 from a local pay phone will connect you with an officer from the Tourist Police who speaks at least some English. You will need a local phone card for these calls.

Tourist Police126
        Terrorism: The terrorist threat in Cairo

The terrorism threat in Cairo is high; the threat exists primarily from Islamist militants opposed to the country's government, its peace treaty with Israel, and its close ties to the US.

In the wake of the July 2013 ouster of former President Mohammed Morsi, jihadist groups have carried out numerous attacks in Cairo. These attacks have almost exclusively been against security forces and government targets, and the attackers have apparently tried to avoid excessive civilian casualties. However, there are signs that some groups have expanded their campaign to include religious minorities, as evidenced by the 2016 bombing of the Botroseya Church in Cairo's Abbasiya district which left 25 people dead; the Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack. Security measures surrounding airports, government buildings, five-star hotels, and major tourist attractions are generally adequate. Police may struggle to eliminate small, unknown groups, but are generally competent at deterring large-scale attacks.

Egyptian security forces guard major tourist sites and post guards outside four- and five-star hotels throughout Cairo. Blast barriers surround some government buildings and a few major hotels. Persons entering major hotels are usually searched and their belongings inspected either by hand or with X-ray machines. Nevertheless, there is little to prevent terrorists from launching attacks with light weapons outside secured areas (for example, by lobbing grenades or opening fire on foreigners with machine guns).

        Terrorism: The terrorist threat in the Sinai Peninsula is very high. If possible, do not travel to Sinai.

The terrorism threat in the Sinai Peninsula, particularly in the northern and central areas, is high. Islamist militant groups have escalated attacks against Egyptian security forces. Militant groups likely aspire to carry out attacks against hotels, resorts, and individual travelers in the southern part of the Peninsula. The downing of a Russian passenger jet flying from Sharm El Sheikh to St. Petersburg in 2015, allegedly by Islamic State militants using an improvised bomb, was a stark reminder of the threat posed by Islamists in Sinai.

Due to persistent threats, authorities have restricted travel north of the Cairo-Nekhl-Taba road. Northern and Central Sinai should be avoided, particularly the area around El Arish. If travel to southern Sinai is unavoidable, stay in well-secured hotels. Avoid overland travel through the Sinai. Do not remain in isolated locations. Avoid night trips or hiking in the desert.

    Overview of Egypt
Map of Egypt

Location: Northeast Africa. Time Zone: GMT +2.

Egypt is bordered by Libya to the west, Sudan to the south, Israel and the Red Sea to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.

Except for the Mediterranean coast, Egypt's climate is subtropical desert, characterized by extremely high daytime temperatures in the summer and mild winters. The days are typically sunny and dry, with very little rainfall. The Mediterranean coast experiences some clouds and rain during winter, but is typically sunny, dry, and a little cooler than areas south. November to March is generally mild, with average lows of about 8-14 C (46-57 F) and highs of 18-26 C (64-79 F). April to October is very hot, with average temperatures in the south exceeding 43 C (110 F) in July. Dust and sand storms blow in from the Sahara in April and May. Known as khamsin, these storms may reduce visibility to less than 30 meters (100 feet) and pose health risks. Pack warm clothing at all times of year, as nights often turn cold.

Air pollution is a major problem, especially in Cairo. During the autumn months, smoke from fires, exhaust, and factory pollution combine and form an extremely dense smog cloud that can pose serious health problems, especially to those with respiratory difficulties.

Doing Business
Business Hours

Type of OperationDays of the WeekHours
GovernmentSaturday-Thursday800-1400 (Summer)
900-1300 and 1700-1900 (Winter)

Hours are subject to change during Ramadan.

Business Formalities
Make business appointments well in advance. Government and business visits are discouraged during the month of Ramadan, and appointments should not be scheduled on Thursdays or Fridays at any time during the year, as they are considered days of rest.

Meetings may be tough to schedule during July and August; these are popular vacation months. Having a local contact or agent is very useful for introductions and understanding the local business market. Arriving late to meetings or social engagements is common practice. Meetings usually progress very slowly; personal discussions and coffee will come first, followed by business discussions. Meetings will also frequently go longer than planned, so patience is advised.

English is widely spoken in Egyptian business culture, although a few words or phrases of Arabic are always well-received. Business cards are widely used, and it is helpful to have Arabic printed on the other side. If the person you are meeting has an official title, use it when addressing them as a sign of respect.

Do not cross your legs when sitting; showing the bottom of your foot is offensive.

Business Attire
When conducting business in Egypt, it is essential to observe the Muslim dress code. Men must wear long pants and long- or short-sleeved shirts that hide the shoulders. Women should wear skirts or dresses that cover the knees and long sleeves. Tie up long hair. Do not dress in local attire, as this may be seen as offensive.

Women play a smaller role in business in Egypt than they do in other parts of the world. That being said, do not be surprised to meet a female senior executive, especially in joint ventures, family businesses, or companies owned by Coptic Christians. Only shake a woman's hand if she offers it first.

Taxis run from Cairo International Airport (CAI) to downtown Cairo. There are several options for getting around the country. Rental cars are available, but driving conditions are frenetic, and driving is best left to the locals. Tour buses serve all tourist attractions. Trains, including overnight sleeper cars, are another option. Air travel is available to major spots throughout the country and riverboats ply the waters of the Nile from Cairo to Aswan.

Egypt's public telephone system went through extensive upgrades in the 1990s. However, landline monopoly Telecom Egypt has struggled to keep its extensive system up to Western standards. Calling to/from the country can be a challenge, with sometimes poor reception. Internet cafes can be found in the main cities in Egypt and in major tourist locations. Most major hotels also offer Internet access, including in-room wireless networks. Communications technology in Cairo and other major tourist sites is adequate.

Official Languages
Egypt's official language, used for education and official purposes is Arabic (Modern Standard). Egyptians, however, have a distinct dialect of Arabic that is used on the street and on the airwaves. English, German, and French are widely understood at tourist attractions, major hotels and in many professional circles. Other languages spoken in Egypt are Nobin, Kenuzi-Dongola, Greek, Domari, and Armenian.

Islam is the predominant religion; 90 percent of Egyptians are Sunni Muslim. All types of Christianity are represented, the most popular being the Orthodox Coptic Christian Church. There are also small numbers of Shia' Muslims, Protestants, Roman Catholics, Greek Orthodox, and Jews.

Egypt has undergone a significant religious revival in recent years. The majority of Muslim women wear a variant of the hijab, a simple headcovering that leaves the face visible. More conservative women often choose to wear the niqab, or the full facial veil. Non-Muslim visitors to Egypt should not feel compelled to adopt local styles of dress.

Muslims are called to prayer five times throughout the day. Friday is the holy day, with a noon gathering at the mosques being the main religious focus of the week. During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims do not eat, drink, smoke, or have sex from dawn to dusk, but they indulge heavily at night. Ramadan can be inconvenient for visitors because public transport halts or slows significantly and food stalls close from dawn to dusk.

Social Customs
Women should dress conservatively at all times and not wear shorts away from the beach or pool (although the dress code is more relaxed in Cairo and other urban centers, where shorts and sleeveless tops on tourists are common). Women should travel with other women or a male escort to avoid verbal sexual harassment. Men should not speak to or shake hands with an Egyptian woman unless she initiates the action.

The left hand, typically reserved for bodily hygiene, should not be used for eating, shaking hands, or presenting gifts or items to other people. The right hand held up with the palm away from the body and the fingers waving up and down means "Come here." It is also common for people to touch their heart with their right hand upon being introduced to someone or to express thanks after being offered something.

Never allow the bottoms of your feet to face someone (for example, when crossing your legs). This is considered an insult.

    Weather, Currency Exchange
Cairo Weather
Cairo Airport:
Apr 28
High: 92° F (33° C)
Low: 60° F (15° C)
Apr 29
High: 94° F (34° C)
Low: 61° F (16° C)
Apr 30
High: 94° F (34° C)
Low: 62° F (16° C)
May 01
High: 98° F (36° C)
Low: 68° F (20° C)
May 02
High: 94° F (34° C)
Low: 66° F (18° C)
Currency Exchange
CURRENCY NAMES1 Egyptian Pound =1 Euro =1 US Dollar =
Egyptian Pound1.000019.765518.1240
US Dollar0.05521.09061.0000

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