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

Dan Rosenthal swatjester at gmail.com
Sat Apr 19 00:36:29 UTC 2008

No, I expect an adequate security assessment that goes beyond asking  
people with a vested interest in seeing the event happen smoothly.   
The local team has a humongous conflict of interest here. Their "say  
so" on whether something is safe is inherently unacceptable.


On Apr 18, 2008, at 8:28 PM, Brian wrote:

> What do you expect, a security detail for all attendees?
> On Fri, Apr 18, 2008 at 6:07 PM, Dan Rosenthal  
> <swatjester at gmail.com> wrote:
>> So this is mostly based on the assurances of the local team? Frankly
>> that's weak. Very weak, especially given the local team's reports
>> don't jive with certain reports from the international news media.
>> -Dan
>> On Apr 18, 2008, at 7:34 PM, Mike Godwin wrote:
>>> (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
>>> website.)
>>> --
>>> 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
>>> Alexandria?
>>> 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
>>> elsewhere.
>>> 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
>>> conference?
>>> 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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