Most visitors to Egypt tell of visiting the pyramids, the sphinx, the tombs and temples. We did all that, and they were all wonderful, but there isn’t much we can say about them that you haven’t already heard or seen.

The one thing that I didn’t know beforehand was just what the security would be like. Everywhere in Egypt, but particularly at the tourist spots, the police are quite a presence in their black uniforms, often carrying assault rifles. At one large roundabout in Cairo, we counted 10 police officers. To travel to some of the temples such as Abu Simbel, all vehicles have to meet early in the morning and convoy with a police escort.

Yet, despite the ever-present police (and army) protection, security seemed quite lax. The convoy didn’t stay closely packed together, and I’m not sure we had any police with us when we left Abu Simbel. We would pass checkpoints at gates to the tourist sights, only to see the guard fast asleep in his booth. We walked through metal detectors at each of the sights, and though every person set off the alarm, no one was stopped. Bags were placed on a belt and sent through an x-ray, but I was never sure if anyone was actually looking. The only exception to this pattern was at the Egyptian Museum, where they looked in every bag, and frisked those of us who set off the metal detector alarm (something I tend to do, since I still have the metal twist-ties in my sternum from my open heart surgery).

The biggest security surprise came when we flew on Egypt Air. When we arrived at the Cairo airport we were thirsty and stopped to buy a couple of bottles of water. Only after arriving at security to enter the gate for our flight to Luxor did we remember we now had large bottles of liquid. But as we were about to look for a trash can, a man waved us through with our bottles.

It seemed the mere presence of police and soldiers was meant to act as a deterrent to violence or damage to the monuments, and to provide a quick response should anything happen.