Travelers to the Middle East, wait and see

September 14, 2012

After recent violent events in the Middle East and North Africa, travelers booked on a Nile cruise or a grand tour of Morocco might experience a knee-jerk reaction: Cancel and go to Disney World instead.

Now, slowly lower that quick-trigger knee.

Despite the violence, sparked at least in part by an anti-Muslim movie, experts aren’t encouraging Americans to jettison their plans for travel to these areas. The consensus: Be patient while events unfold. (The one exception: Libya. The U.S. State Department flat-out says to skip it.)

“We aren’t telling people not to go,” said Ed Daly, director of intelligence operations for iJET International, which advises clients on international security issues. “Wait and see with an ounce of caution.”

Last week, a number of U.S. embassies in potentially volatile areas such as Tunisia, Egypt, Indonesia and Malaysia warned visitors to avoid large crowds and to be hyperaware of their surroundings. Daly also said to stay clear of bigger mosques and diplomatic compounds, which have become targets in such cities as Cairo and Sanaa, Yemen. “The violent reactions aren’t in places we were terribly surprised to see violent reactions,” Daly said.

Some travelers, however, might be unsettled by the protests in Casablanca, a popular tourist destination. But Kate Walters, a North Africa and Middle East expert with iJET, said that Moroccan demonstrations are typically more peaceful in nature. “Moroccans have a more vibrant public space,” she said. “They protest without becoming as violent as Cairo.”

In addition to the areas of immediate concern, Daly is also casting a watchful glance at Asian countries with large Muslim populations that might belatedly join the protests. “This is still pretty new,” he said. “The week could pass pretty quietly, but then something could happen next Friday.”

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