Before the revolution in Egypt, the work of private security firms was generally limited to providing the bodyguards who accompanied actors, singers and some leading businessmen. Other security roles were performed by the police. Since the revolution, there has been a dramatic increase in the activities of private security firms and security guards—from about 100 firms nationwide to over 500, with nearly half of those in Cairo alone. A number of companies are now also turning to women, to work in places that specifically require ‘lady guards’—such as in situations where women don’t wish to be searched or have their bags inspected by men. Training is tough. Many young men and women have taken to working out in the gym, in the hope of improving their chances of a job as a guard.
Part of the reason for this rapid expansion in private security firms has been the declining role of the police. An increase in lawlessness across the country is seen as another cause. There has been a rise in burglary, especially since some people have taken to investing in gold and valuables in preference to currency. Many feel that their homes and businesses need protection from violence that might erupt during the periods of political unrest, and there has been a rise in the number of gated residential communities. All this has meant not only an increase in demand for private security firms, but an expansion of their activities. Nowadays they are called on to guard companies, tourist villages, hotels, banks, universities, private schools, restaurants, gold stores and embassies.
The number of employees in each company varies, according to its size and activity, but on average each employs about 1,000 people. The increase in the activity of the companies has given young people, especially, an opportunity to escape unemployment. For many young people, the training that a security firm offers equips them with useful skills that they can further use in the job market.