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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs