News / Middle East

Concerns Over New Parliament Add to Egypt’s Tourism Woes

The balcony of the Cairo Inn in central Cairo overlooks busy Talat Harb Square, only a short walk from iconic Tahrir Square, December 14, 2011.
The balcony of the Cairo Inn in central Cairo overlooks busy Talat Harb Square, only a short walk from iconic Tahrir Square, December 14, 2011.
Noel King

Egyptians working in the tourism industry say they fear conservatives in the nation's next parliament may have a negative impact on their business. About one in eight Egyptians works in tourism and a blow to the sector would further damage the struggling Egyptian economy.

Hotel in Tahrir

Baha Salah has owned and operated the Cairo Inn in central Cairo for three years. Salah says his 10-room hotel has a few big selling points. It is clean and comfortable. And it is only a short walk to attractions like the Egyptian Museum.

But the Cairo Inn is also only a few hundred meters from Tahrir Square.

And that has made it less attractive to tourists.

"They focus on Tahrir, which is not Egypt. It’s very - it amazes me. In TV, in the media, when they show Tahrir, people get scared. But Tahrir is not Egypt," said Salah. "I am near Tahrir, like two blocks away and I know the news from the TV."

Tourism

Egypt's tourism sector has struggled since the massive street protests that shook major cities in January and February and forced the ouster of long-time President Hosni Mubarak. A senior tourism official told Reuters news agency this week that tourism revenue is down by about 30 percent in 2011 from the previous year.

Still, Baha Salah says he could adapt to problems cause by insecurity. He says his bigger worry is Egypt’s next parliament.

Egypt is in the midst of three rounds of parliamentary elections. Nine of Egypt's governorates vote in each round. In the first round, conservative parties did unexpectedly well.

Concerns after elections

Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood commanded around 37 percent of the vote. But what surprised many was the success of the more conservative Salafi parties, which took about 24 percent. Salafis want Egypt to adhere strictly to the principles of Islamic law.

For tourists this could mean a ban on alcohol and revealing swimwear on Egypt’s beaches. A spokesman with the Salafi Nour party recently told Egypt’s Dream TV that pharaonic monuments like the Sphinx are idolatrous and should be covered up.

Salafis

Baha Salah says he’s not certain that the Salafis know what’s best for Egypt.

"It’s crazy," said Salah. "I mean, they should get arrested for things like this. If it’s not coming from the head of the party, they should be investigated and not let it happen again, because it really scared people."

Tour guide Rami Aboud is also worried. He says the Salafi party appeared out of nowhere on the political scene - and he wonders if  they have the right experience to turn around the struggling economy.

"As for the Salafi, I can’t stand these people," said Aboud. "I can’t stand those people, they are just new people, appeared suddenly, called Salafi. They have a strong point against tourism, the method of tourists, dealing with the beaches, wearing bikinis.

"I think that’s not the problem. That’s not the big problem," he added. "The big problem in our country is to live. Most of the people is living from hand to mouth. So, you have to solve the basic problems."  

Egypt's Salafis say they don't want to hurt the tourism industry. They have put forth several suggestions for sin-free tourism, including gender-segregated beaches, and allowing tourists to drink alcohol - but only in their hotel rooms.

Conservatives and tourism

Maged Negm, Dean of Helwan University's Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Cairo, Egypt, December 14, 2011.
Maged Negm, Dean of Helwan University's Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management, Cairo, Egypt, December 14, 2011.

Maged Negm, the dean of the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management at Helwan University in Cairo, says some of the Salafi suggestions for sin-free tourism are not pragmatic.

"We need to adapt people, to orient people and to [be] aware [of] how important this sector [is] to the whole of the country, to the individual and to the image of the country," said Negm.

Egypt's conservative parties do not seem united in their plans for the tourism sector. Some candidates from Salafi parties and the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice party have disavowed statements that are viewed as harmful to the tourism industry.

Tour operators say they appreciate those statements, but they worry that for foreign tourists it only adds to the confusion over which direction Egypt is heading.

You May Like

For Lebanon-based Refugees, Desperation Fuels Perilous Passage

In a war that has caused an estimated three million people to flee Syria, efforts to make perilous sea journey in search of asylum expected to increase More

South African Brewer Tackles Climate Change

Mega-brewer SAB Miller sent delegates to climate summit in Peru, says it is one of many private companies taking their own steps to fight climate change More

Indonesia Reports Increase in Citizens Joining Islamic State

Officials say more than 350 of its citizens are now in Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State - 50 more than last month More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?i
X
Ayesha Tanzeem
December 17, 2014 11:54 AM
The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video Will Pakistan School Shooting Galvanize Pakistan Against Extremism?

The attack on a military school in Pakistan’s northwest city of Peshawar left 141 dead, including 132 children. Strong statements of condemnation poured in from across the world. The country announced three days of mourning, and the leadership, both political and military, promised retribution. VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem looks at how likely the Pakistani government is to clamp down on all extremist groups.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.
Video

Video Turkey's Authoritarianism Dismays Western Allies

The Turkish government has been defiant in the face of criticism at home and abroad for its raids targeting opposition media. The European Union on Monday expressed dismay after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lashed out at Brussels for criticizing his government's action. Turkey's bid to be considered for EU membership has been on hold while critics accuse the NATO ally of increasingly authoritarian rule. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video US-China Year in Review: Hong Kong to Climate Change

The United States is pushing for a code of conduct to resolve territorial disputes in the South China Sea as it works to improve commercial ties with Beijing. VOA State Department correspondent Scott Stearns reports on a year of U.S. policy toward China from Hong Kong to climate change.
Video

Video Japanese Leader’s Election Win Raises Potential for Conflict with Neighbors

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his allies easily won a two-thirds majority in parliament Sunday, even though the country has slipped into recession under his conservative policies. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Seoul, that the prime minister’s victory will empower him to continue economic reforms but also pursue a nationalist agenda that will likely increase tensions with Japan’s neighbors.
Video

Video Nuba Mountain Families Hide in Caves to Escape Aerial Bombings

Despite ongoing peace talks between Sudan's government and the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Movement-North, or SPLM-N, daily aerial attacks continue in South Kordofan province’s Nuba Mountains. Adam Bailes was there and reports for VOA that government forces are targeting civilian areas, rather than military positions, with their daily bombardments.

All About America

AppleAndroid