News / Middle East

Booze, Bikinis are Welcome in Egypt, Says Tourism Minister

A woman wearing a bikini walks past a woman wearing a niqab on a beach in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, about 220 km northwest of Cairo,Egypt, Aug. 7, 2009.
A woman wearing a bikini walks past a woman wearing a niqab on a beach in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, about 220 km northwest of Cairo,Egypt, Aug. 7, 2009.
Reuters
Islamist-ruled Egypt is open to visitors who drink alcohol and wear bikinis as it sets out to boost numbers by at least a fifth this year, the tourism minister said on Sunday.
    
Tourism is a pillar of the Egyptian economy but has suffered since a popular uprising toppled President Hosni Mubarak in 2011 and set off two years of periodic rioting and instability.
    
The minister, Hisham Zaazou, said the government had "optimistic goals" for the sector, and played down comments from radical Salafi Muslim groups who have called for a ban on alcohol and women wearing swimsuits.
    
"Bikinis are welcome in Egypt and booze is still being served," Zaazou, speaking in English, told a news conference during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
    
"We had talks with these Salafi groups and now they understand the importance of the tourism sector, but still you have some individuals that are not from the leadership saying these things," added the minister, an independent who is not a member of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
    
Islamist President Mohamed Morsi's government increased taxes on alcohol in December but backed down after the move was criticized by the tourism sector and by liberals.
    
Decline and rebound

    
Before the uprising, tourism was worth more than a tenth of Egypt's economic output. In 2010, 14.7 million visitors came, generating $12.5 billion in earnings, but arrivals slowed to 9.8 million the following year and income to $8.8 billion.
    
According to Zaazou, 2012 saw a recovery as 11.5 million tourists came and revenues rebounded to about $10 billion. In the first quarter of 2013 about 3 million tourists visited, a 14.6 percent rise from the same period last year, he said.
    
Egypt's long term target was to reach 30 million tourists and revenues of $25 billion by 2022.
    
Zaazou said rebuilding tourism was a national priority. To help meet the goal of increasing visitor numbers by 20 percent this year, his ministry has installed cameras in major resorts which feed live video onto its website.
    
"We want to show people that Egypt is safe, and the best way to show this is by live streaming," he said. "The next step will be to have these images shown on big screens in public squares in Paris or New York."
    
Seeking a way into new markets, Egypt tried to open its doors to Iranian tourists this year after 34 years of frozen diplomatic relations. But the move ran into protests from hardline Sunni Islamists in Cairo who accused Iran of trying to spread the Shi'ite faith, leading to the halting of all commercial flights from Iran in April.
    
"This is just a temporary halt, tourism will resume again and we are currently in talks with these groups who objected," said Zaazou, who said he hoped the issue would be resolved within two weeks.

You May Like

US States Where Women Work for Free

Women earn less than men in all 50 states More

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

At a recent even in Seoul, border communities promoted benefits of increased cooperation and North Korean defectors shared stories of life since the war More

Video VOA EXCLUSIVE: Iraq President Vows Fight to Death Against IS

In wide-ranging interview, Fuad Masum describes new type of fight that will take time to win More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardshipi
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
May 28, 2015 6:48 PM
Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Floodwaters Recede in Houston, but Rain Continues

Many parts of Texas are recovering from one of the worst natural disasters to hit the southwestern state. Heavy rains on Monday and early Tuesday caused rivers to swell in eastern and central Texas, washing away homes and killing at least 13 people. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, floodwaters are receding slowly in the country's fourth-largest city, and there likely is to be more rain in the coming days.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.

VOA Blogs