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Catherine Monastery, Mount Moses, Sinai, Egypt. (Pavle Marjanovic/iStockPhoto)
Catherine Monastery, Mount Moses, Sinai, Egypt. (Pavle Marjanovic/iStockPhoto)

Why it's the right time to book a cruise in the Middle East Add to ...

Security is paramount

If there is cause for concern, ships can move to an alternative port. Some trips scheduled for the immediate future have already altered their routes, in light of last weekend's clashes in Egypt.

I had booked my cruise on Silversea Cruises' Silver Spirit last year, before anyone imagined that popular uprisings would sweep through so much of the Arab world. The violence that erupted in some of the protests heightened the need to keep tourists away from potential trouble. Meanwhile, most of the places we visited, like the Valley of the Kings near Luxor and a monastery in the Sinai Desert were far, far away from any sort of conflict.

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The crowds are elsewhere

On past travels, I've elbowed my way through hordes of visitors to examine the colourful hieroglyphs and have barely been able to get near the famed cliffside façades in Jordan's ancient city of Petra. But this May, I saw them the way a traveller in the days of Indiana Jones might have. I was still with a group, but the hordes were gone.

The good will is palpable

Everywhere, people not only waved, they cheered as we arrived. You could feel a sense of optimism and new beginning as everyone wanted to talk about their experiences during the protests and ask questions about how democracies work.

In Alexandria, Egypt, a group of us walking past the grand, ornate mosque near the harbour stopped to look at a memorial to those who had been killed or injured in protests. The imam unexpectedly greeted us with a pat of his right hand to his heart, which is a common gesture of friendship, and then gave us a guided tour of the mosque.

To keep the goodwill alive, locals need the money that visitors add to the economy.

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