Armenia’s government on Monday advised citizens not to travel to Egypt and Tunisia for the moment but had no immediate plans to evacuate Armenians remaining in the two unrest-stricken countries.
In its travel warning, the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan cited the continuing turmoil there. According to ministry estimates, some 200 Armenian nationals, most of them tourists, are currently in Egypt.
“There is no necessity to evacuate them at the moment,” Hrachya Poladian, an official at the Armenian Embassy in Cairo, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.
Poladian said about a hundred Armenians have already used a telephone hotline opened by the Embassy following the outbreak of anti-government protests across the country. More than one-third of the callers were dual citizens also holding Egyptian passports, he said.
“People are simply worried about what will happen next,” added the diplomat. “The situation here is more stable and calmer today than it was in the last few days.”
Poladian also said five Armenian university students studying in Cairo on exchange programs have vacated their rented apartments and been given temporary shelter in the Embassy compound for security reasons.
Over the past decade, Egypt has been an increasingly popular destination for Armenian holidaymakers mainly attracted by its Red Sea coast.
More than 160 such tourists flew to the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on a charter flight from Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport as recently as on January 25. An airport spokesman said there have been no more flights to Egypt since then.
“None of the tourists has expressed a desire to return home earlier. Their return flight is scheduled for February 5,” said Narine Davtian, head of the Yerevan branch of Russia’s Tez Tour operator, which organized the trip.
“We advise tourists against leaving the hotel compounds for excursions or other purposes,” Davtian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “I think that if they heed our advice, there will hardly be any problems.”
Davtian said that despite the government warning, Tez Tour has not cancelled plans to take another batch of Armenian tourists to Sharm el-Sheikh on February 5. She was confident that many of them will not have reconsidered their holiday plans by then.
“I think that there will be people who won’t be affected by this situation. Some Armenians could on the contrary find the trip more interesting,” the tour manager said, grinning.