State Department Issues Broad Travel Alert, Embassies in Middle East Closed Sunday

August 3, 2013
(8:36 a.m. EDT) -- The U.S. State Department has issued a terrorism-based global travel alert in the Middle East and north Africa, and will close 21 embassies and consulates Sunday.

The alert, issued Friday, says that Al Qaeda and affiliated terrorist organizations may be focusing attack efforts throughout August. CNN quoted sources as saying that the threat extends to various Western targets, not just those in the US.

While most of Sunday's embassy closures are in countries that don't affect cruise ships, United Arab Emirates – home to the transit hub Dubai, as well as Abu Dhabi – Jordan and Egypt are among the countries listed. Although Israel is not on the list, the US embassy in Tel Aviv posted on its website that it would be closed Sunday, along with the American Center in Jerusalem and the Haifa Consular Agency.

The workweek in the Middle East typically starts on Sunday. According to CNN, the rising threat seems to have increased with the approaching end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month. “In particular, Sunday is Laylet al-Qadr, or the Night of Power, which is one of the holiest moments on the Muslim calendar,” the article says.

Many lines, including Princess Cruises, Seabourn Cruise Line, Holland America Line, MSC Cruises and AIDA, have already canceled port stops in Egypt.

-- by Chris Gray Faust, Destinations Editor