Egypt to allow photography in public spaces

Personal snaps to be accepted without a permit, though reservations about negative depictions of the country remain

A woman takes a selfie at Egypt's first modern walkway overlooking the Nile in Cairo, Egypt. The country will allow photographs in public places without permits, under certain conditions. EPA
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Egypt’s residents, tourists and amateur snappers will be allowed to take photographs in public places without permits, the country’s Cabinet said on Wednesday.

Photography on Egypt’s streets has long been prohibited without permits from the government, which were notoriously hard to acquire.

But early on Wednesday, the Cabinet approved an easing of restrictions on photography in public spaces — with some caveats.

Under the new regulations, three categories of photography in public spaces each has its own rules.

The first category, which requires no permit or payment of any kind, includes photos or videos intended for personal use, taken with a phone, camera or camcorder, though the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities stipulates that no equipment that requires a permit — such as heavy lighting units, shades or large objects that could prove obstructive to the street — should be used.

The new laws also prohibit the taking and sharing of photographs that depict the country in a negative manner.

Additionally, photographing children is prohibited and taking photos of adults is only permissible if the photographer has received written consent from the subjects.

During a phone-in on Egyptian talk show El Hekaya with Amr Adib, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled El Anany said: “We still have to discuss the finer points of what kind of photography will not be allowed under the new laws.

"What we don’t want is people filming areas of the country with a lot of garbage, for instance, and focus too much on that. But even that isn’t banned per se, it would just require prior approval during which we will ask why they want to take this footage.”

Simplified permit process

The second type of photography in the Cabinet's plan covers photos and videos taken by foreign correspondents or news channels in Egypt.

In this case, a permit will be required, but Mr El Anany said the process has been made much simpler and will only require one visit to Egypt’s State Information Service. This is in line with Egypt’s “one window” initiative, which aims to reduce the bureaucratic steps needed to issue state documents, he said.

The third and perhaps most complex category outlined by the ministry concerns cinematic productions and the issuing of permits for foreign film studios to shoot in Egypt.

Though filming inside archaeological sites has been permitted for decades, foreign studios had not been allowed to film on Egypt's streets.

Mr Adib said on El Hekaya that films set in Egypt are often shot in Turkey or Morocco because of their similar terrain.

He said Egypt’s Cabinet was working on a new law to allow filmmakers access to public spaces for reasonable fees.

Until the new law is passed, a committee at the Egyptian Media and Production City, a state-owned complex of studios used for the majority of the country’s broadcasting, will oversee the issuance of permits for filmmakers who want to shoot in Egypt’s public spaces, Mr El Anany said.

Egyptian security officials are notoriously sensitive about photography in public spaces. Several arrests of Egyptians and foreigners have been made.

The authorities were criticised this year after US food vlogger Will Sonbuchner was detained for trying to film food reviews on the streets of Cairo. He reportedly had a permit but was arrested while filming a restaurant in a poor district of Cairo.

Mr El Anany said he expected the law to be passed soon.

Updated: July 20, 2022, 5:13 PM