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Egypt: American food vlogger has cameras seized on arrival at Cairo airport

YouTube filmmaker with eight million subscribers films on iPhone, after he was interrogated and had his gear seized
Will Sonbuchner, host of the 'Best Ever Food Review Show', filmed his series in Egypt on an iPhone after authorities confiscated filming equipment (Screengrab/Youtube)
Will Sonbuchner, host of the Best Ever Food Review Show, described Egypt as 'the worst place to shoot in Africa' (Screengrab/YouTube)

A prominent food vlogger had his filming equipment confiscated by Egyptian authorities and was ordered by police to delete footage filmed in the country, according to a new video on YouTube.

Will Sonbuchner, who uses the alias Sonny Side, is the creator and host of Best Ever Food Review Show, a culinary travel channel with eight million subscribers and over 1.5bn total views. 

On Wednesday, the channel uploaded a 24-minute video titled NIGHTMARE Egypt Food Tour!! POLICE Shut Us Down!!. The video has clocked nearly 2m views, and sparked strong online reactions. 

“Within hours of arriving in Cairo, my team and I were interrogated and searched. And finally, all of our equipment was confiscated,” Sonbuchner explains at the outset.

“Egypt’s slogan should be ‘Leave your camera at home, but bring your money’. They don’t want you to shoot here,” he said, adding that it was one of the worst countries in the world for both tourists and filmmakers. 

The vlogger said that he was interrogated for over four hours upon arrival in Cairo, and his gear was confiscated despite the fact he had a valid permit to shoot. With his lights, batteries and cameras seized, Sonbuchner filmed his show on an iPhone instead. He went on to take viewers around the streets of Cairo, where he visited bakeries and local vendors selling traditional food, such as hawawshi and koshari. 

But halfway into the video, there was another run-in with the authorities. 

“The police stopped us and made our production van drive to the nearby police station. They caught us in the sinful act of filming bread on the sidewalk,” Sonbuchner says. 

He went on to explain that his team was ordered to delete the footage he had shot of street food. 

“What they told us is that the footage of the bakery we shot wasn’t beautiful, it wasn’t pretty enough, it didn’t meet their standard. They told us to delete it.”

The filmmaker said he had already sent the footage to a different phone, so all of it remained intact. 

“They don’t even know how the phones work; all the footage is in my delete bin right now, I can just restore it any time.” 

'This breaks my heart'

The video has drawn over 8,000 comments since being uploaded on Tuesday, with many from Egyptian users, apologising for and criticising Sonbuchner's treatment at the hands of authorities. 

“Being an Egyptian watching this breaks my heart to pieces, I really don't know what to say but from the bottom of my heart, my apology to every tourist who ever came to visit Egypt and had some unpleasant experience,” one user wrote. 

“We are people who definitely know how to eat but [are] led by a government that definitely doesn't represent us. Thank you for visiting my country and hopefully your next visit is when we are free,” another commented.

“This was a tough pill to swallow. Egyptians are hands down the most hospitable people, and to see this dude get shaken down by police is just miserable,” tweeted US-based journalist Aymann Ismail. 

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In a preview video posted a day earlier, Sonbuchner said that his experience at the hands of Cairo authorities had prompted him to research the Egyptian revolution, which saw the overthrow of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in 2011. 

He described Cairo as being enveloped by “paranoia”, especially since he was filming in the days leading up to the 25 January anniversary of the revolution. 

Three more episodes of the Best Ever Food Review Show filmed in Egypt are set to be released in the coming days, with the preview suggesting they reveal more problems with officialdom. 

Tourism contributed 11.9 percent to Egypt's gross domestic product and employed 9.5 percent of its workforce in 2018. 

The sector has experienced a number of setbacks in recent years, including the downing in late 2015 of a Russian passenger plane over Sinai, killing all 224 passengers and crew on board. This led many countries to suspend flights to Egypt.

Tourism also suffered from the Covid-19 pandemic, and in recent weeks the Russia-Ukraine war. Tourists from Russia and Ukraine make up almost a third of the 12 million tourists who visit Egypt in peak years.