Safety & Health - North Africa

Safety and health is a major issue for all people visiting North Africa. This principally because there are so great differences from region to region.

Very safe: Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, most of Egypt. There are people staying away from North Africa because they are afraid what could happen to them during a trip to North Africa. This is for these countries simply ridiculous, even if it is not difficult to understand why people think so, with the image sometimes presented in Western media, and the problems that exists with North Africans in some Western countries.

Crime rates are very low, and the chances of being the victim of violence is insignificant compared with Europe and America. Among travellers in this region there are very seldom any stories on physical attacks inflicted on foreigners. Theft is more common, and this applies especially to Tunisia, where the indolence of the police hardly will change the situation in the coming years.

Nature offers relatively few hazards to your safety, though driving can sometimes be a bit on the wild side, so that narrow and winding roads often will offer dangerous situations. However, it is the traffic in cities that are most dangerous, Egypt being the worst, as well as medium cities where children and young boys are playing in the streets and driving on bicycles and mopeds in a way which will make you ask yourself if they don't really deserve to be knocked off the road.

Egypt's centre is to be avoided, and travelling with crowds of other tourists in Cairo has been targeted by militant Islamists. Assyut is reported to still be an absolute no-no! of a place. Unfortunately, Assyut is a junction in almost any kind of travelling in central Egypt. Minya region has recently (this is written March 7) seen killings from militant Islamists. One should remember however, that a clear majority of Egyptians disdain any kind of attacks on visitors, and will actually try to help you so that your journey becomes as safe as possible. Careful travelling could therefore be as safe as you could expect from any other place in Egypt, even in Cairo, Minya and Assyut.

Relatively safe: Spain, most of Algeria, northern Sudan. Spain has seen recent attacks on tourism, even in the south, despite the fact that the delinquents are fighting for Basque independence in northern Spain. But one should remember that the number of tourists victim to attacks is only a fraction of the total number of tourists in this region. And Spanish police is fairly effective.

Except the region around the capital of Algiers and some mountainous regions south of Constantine, there have not been much violence taking place in Algeria in recent years. Saharan Algeria has seen uprisings from Tuareg rebels, but at the present there is extremely little information to obtain on just this. Saharan Algeria appears to be safe, though.

Northern Sudan is relatively safe, even if the ongoing war is not losing any strength. In the little populated northwest, one should note that gangs are raiding anyone trying to pass through the region.

Unsafe and dangerous: Area around Algiers, Algeria; mountains south of Constantine, Algeria; Assyut, Egypt. All these areas are out of control of central governments. At the present there seem not to be much development in favour of any of the parties. STAY AWAY!

Often problematic in North Africa is women travelling. The problem stems from a misunderstanding among both North African men and women: They often perceive Western women as of low moral standards. Sometimes this view is based upon real experiences,- there are a large number of Western women going to this part of the world to get laid. But most of the time, it is based upon a two dimensional view upon Western women's sexual self determination.

Just as the Western perception of North Africa often is erroneous, so is the North African view of Europe and America. As a matter of fact, ideas among North Africans on Europe and America can surpass what is found in Europe, much due to little attention to social sciences in school and newspapers (though many universities offer courses that are not inferior in any field to the best in the Western world). The result is sad: Much of the assumed knowledge is no more than a large collections of prejudices. Western women are among the one's suffering most from this.

But things vary immensely from country to country. Tunisia is in a process of social disintegration at the present. Many young Tunisian men won't think twice on putting their hands in between the legs of a Western woman, but at the same time, Tunisian women are emancipating themselves in a way unprecedented in modern Islamic history. Therefore, anyone visiting Tunisia should be aware of the social change taking place here, men or women. Yet this applies to coastal Tunisia only, where cities like Tunis and Sousse are leading the development.

Moroccan and Egyptian men are too modest to make serious and aggressive attempts on Western women,- that is outside Agadir, Morocco, and bathing resorts in Egypt. And even here, men pay much attention to signals from women. Women wanting to get laid, should get their needs satisfied in relatively short time, while women wanting to be left in peace, need not to worry.

What applies to most of Morocco and Egypt, is a good guideline to other North African countries too.

Women travelling alone, should dress modestly, but need not worry about small details in their dress code. There is little need to feel obliged to put on conservative clothes, either. Attitude is central, and being friendly, will invite locals around you, be it in the bus, taxi, or train, to protect you. North Africans know that women sometimes travel without the company of men, and will be ready to protect you in the same way as they are ready to protect their own women.

The best summary would be that women with normal social intelligence and a bit of knowledge of North Africa, need not worry too much on travelling down here. But as always, if you can go in the company of a man (best is your husband or a close relative), that would be the very best.

Few of the countries of North Africa are particularly dangerous in a health context, and except from diseases coming from bacterias in food, most of North Africa is not suffering strongly from any kind of diseases.

The Sudan being the most southern country, and also deeply weakened from one of the least effective governments of the world, as well as from an ongoing civil war, is a country where to take serious precautions. Malaria, tuberculosis are two diseases from which you very well could experience exposure. And you should not expect much medical aid while inside The Sudan.

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