[Foundation-l] (Flashback) A short (and revised) FAQ about Wikimania in Alexandria

Mike Godwin mgodwin at wikimedia.org
Fri Apr 18 23:34:45 UTC 2008

(Note from Mike this is a resent, slightly revised version of the FAQ   
that I circulated a few weeks ago. It's also posted at the Wikimania  


Dear folks,

With the valuable assistance of Delphine and the local Wikimania team  
in Alexandria, I have attempted to assemble a security FAQ for  
Wikimania attendees at Wikimania 2008 at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina,.  
In particular, what follows is an attempt to give general answers to  
most of the security questions that were asked on foundation-l  
regarding security issues at the site.

1) Will all Wikimania events take place inside the Library of  

The short answer to this question is no. There will be at least two  
other events -- parties -- that will take place elsewhere. One party  
will be held for regular attendees to gather the community and that  
most probably will be in a private club in open air beside the  
Alexandria airport on the highway. The other party will be for "VIP"  
people and sponsors, and will be in one of two places -- one downtown  
and one on the seaside. Both places are known to be safe for tourists  
and receive such visitors all over the year. Note from Mike: The  
message we consistently got from the Egyptian consulate is that  
Alexandria is very tourist-friendly and that many local citizens will  
seize the opportunity to come up and speak with Wikimanians to try out  
their English (or other languages).

2) What percentage of events will take place elsewhere?

The local team estimates 20 to 30 percent of events will take place  

3) Where will attendees be staying?

Either in 3 hotels [Windsor, Metropol, Delta] in downtown Alexandria,  
15 minutes walk from the Library, or in in Saint Marc dormitories, 5  
minutes walking from BA (in the other direction). There useful map  
available at <http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/meta/c/c3/Hotels-Alex.jpg 
 >. Attendees who do not wish to stay at one of the three conference  
hotels or in the dorms will be able to book alternatives online.

4) Will there be transportation between housing and events?

No, walking around this area is pretty safe (walked every day by lots  
of tourists) and they can shop, watch some attractions of Alexandria,  
like Raml station, mosques, beautiful old buildings on the way.

5) How will security needs be addressed?

Our advice from the consulate was that, so long as an event has a  
local sponsor (as we have with the Library), the sponsor and local  
police will coordinate security needs. So it remains important to work  
closely with the Library to inform them if special arrangements need  
to be made (if, for example, there's an event with a large number of  
VIPs attending).

6) What kind of security arrangements will be made with regard to  
transportation to and from Wikimania events?

In cases where transportation is required, the local partner will  
normally arrange with local police to have a police car accompanying  
moving shuttles with tourists. If told in advance, police will provide  
this for any buses at any time.

7) Are there kinds of public behavior, otherwise acceptable in many  
other cultures, that ought to be avoided in Alexandria?

  The short answer from the local team is this: "Kissing in public,  
regardless of sex, is the only taboo around here."

8) Is there any need for attendees to travel in groups?

No, says the local team.

9) Are there religious issues or expressions that should be avoided?

One report from the local team: "wearing [a yarmulke] or a large [Star  
of David], considering the current circumstances, will make Jews stand  
out, which may not be very good. This said, Jews have been moving  
safely and freely around Egypt. However, considering the current  
escalation of the situation in Israel/Palestine, flaunting such  
religious symbols may result (at worst) in harassment, I don't know if  
this situation will continue till the conference or not."

10) Are there any issues with how members of religious minorities,  
sexual-orientation minorities (e.g., lesbians, gays, bisexuals), or  
racial minorities present themselves? Should female attendees be alert  
to any issues of self-presentation that might disturb Egyptians?

  From the local team: "For Females, Just to not be overly liberal in  
dress code, shorts are ok, bikinis are not." Note from Mike: We got  
essentially the same advice from the consulate. Typical Western  
clothing is understood to be acceptable for women, just so long as it  
is not overly revealing or provocative. The INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS  
HANDBOOK has lots of photos of students, men and women, in western  
dress. There is also advice about what to pack (travel light or you'll  
be spending time in the customs office). 11) Has there been contact  
with the Egyptian government regarding security issues for an  
international conference?

(There definitely has now! ;) The folks at the consulate in SF are big  
Wikipedia fans, it turns out.

12) Apart from notifying one's own country's embassy about travel in  
the region, what notifications should be made (in advance or  
otherwise) to the Egyptian government regarding one's travel to the  

Get a tourist visa. You can get one by mail, but it takes weeks -- you  
should think about getting one now. If there is a Egyptian consulate  
where you are, however, you may be able to get a tourist visa in as  
little as a day. . 13) What am forgetting?

Lots of stuff, but it's mainly well-detailed in the INTERNATIONAL  
STUDENTS HANDBOOK (see link below). Read carefully the section on  
getting health insurance for your travel -- that's pretty much a  
standard requirement. I hope this short FAQ goes a long way in  
answering basic security questions about upcoming Wikimania. Please  
feel free to recirculate, repost, wikify, or whatever.

Final note from Mike:  In the course of my research about Wikimania  
2008 security concerns, I've found an excellent resource that I want  
to share with all of you. When Kul Wadhwa and I met with the Egyptian  
consulate in San Francisco, the consul recommended to us the American  
University in Cairo website as an introduction for foreign travelers,  
and it is in fact a great website <http://www.aucegypt.edu/intstudents/Pages/default.aspx 
 > . But of particular interest to Wikimanians (who presumably won't  
be taking courses and worried about the class schedule) is a PDF  
publication, INTERNATIONAL STUDENT HANDBOOK, which can be found and  
downloaded here: <http://www.aucegypt.edu/StudentLife/StudentServices/isso/Pages/InternationalStudent Handbook.aspx 
 > .
Of course, Alexandria is a different city from Cairo, but the issues  
for a foreign national trying to get a quick understanding of urban  
Egyptian culture are the essentially the same. The handbook covers  
most issues in detail, from what kind of clothing to bring to the  
obtaining of health insurance and tourist visas. Even if you think you  
know all you need to know about traveling in Egypt, a pass through  
this relatively short handbook will likely answer some questions you  
haven't thought to ask yet. I highly recommend it.

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