A hardline Islamist appointed governor of Luxor stayed away from his new office on Wednesday as protesters barred access and demanded Egypt's president revoke a nomination they fear will hurt local tourism.
Adel Mohamed al-Khayat, appointed by President Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, is a member of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, the movement accused of killing 58 foreign tourists at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor's Valley of the Queens in 1997.
Determined to stop Khayat from entering his office, up to 100 protesters blocked a road leading to the building with burning tires. Locals employed in Luxor's tourism industry, already suffering from more than two years of unrest, fear visitors will be scared away from the city on the Nile.
Nearby, a similar number of Islamist supporters of the governor, many of them Gamaa al-Islamiya members, gathered in a square beside one of Luxor's most prominent pharaonic temples. They chanted: “Welcome, new governor! Welcome, tourists!”
Khayat, 60, told Reuters on Tuesday he had never had any role in militant activities. He promised to welcome tourists and keep them safe, together with Luxor's temples. Some Islamist hardliners have called for destroying pre-Islamic shrines.
But the tourism minister, an independent technocrat, described his appointment as a move with “dire consequences” for a sector vital to Egypt's economy. He tendered his resignation in protest late on Tuesday, adding to the pressure on Morsi to rethink - though the minister is staying in his post for now.
Mohamed Bakr, an official in the Luxor branch of Gamaa al-Islamiya's political, said he was unsure when Khayat might arrive in the town to take up his post.
“There is an agreement to postpone his arrival to avoid clashes,” he said.
Khayat could not immediately be reached for comment.
He joined Gamaa al-Islamiya in 1975 as a student. The movement, which fought an armed insurrection against the state in the 1990s, renounced violence more than a decade ago. It has moved into public life since Hosni Mubarak was toppled in 2011.