News / Middle East

Egyptian Pyramids Reopen for Tourism

Mahmoud Adal and his camel await tourists in Giza, Egypt.
Mahmoud Adal and his camel await tourists in Giza, Egypt.

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Egypt's most famous tourism sites, including the great pyramids and the antiquities museum in Cairo, have reopened after being closed during the popular uprising and political tumult.  Egypt's key industry - tourism -  returns after weeks of protests and celebrations, while other countries in the region deal with unrest.

The sound of hooves as horses pull jostling carts of people within the Giza pyramids' complex is the sound of money to the men who make their livings from tourism - a dominant industry in Egypt.

On this first afternoon the pyramids are open to tourists this month, Mahmoud Adal stands with his camels awaiting people who want rides or typical tourist snapshots.  Adal said after more than three weeks without any work, he is glad people are back, but it is far from normal.  "Today is about 10 people we saw.  Normally, thousands of people.  A thousand people. Like, you couldn't walk in his place," he said.

Patriotism is on full display, as the pyramids reopen.
Patriotism is on full display, as the pyramids reopen.

He trails off, gesturing toward the conspicuous absence of people to bump into on this windy afternoon. There is a lone tour bus in the parking lot, and Adal says it is the first one he has seen.  There are a number of Egyptians visiting the pyramids, waving national flags in celebration more than a week after the president's ouster. But camels, horses and their owners outnumber tourists.

Adal said it has been very hard to feed his family, and his animals, without the tourism dollars. As a businessman, he had to make sacrifices. "I had 15 camels, but right now, I have six camels," he said. "I have sold them, you know, because when I had 15 camels, how could I buy this food to feed them?"

The director of the International Monetary Fund's Middle East and Central Asia Department, Masood Ahmed, said last week that a decrease in tourism is a given.

"The recent popular protests in Egypt will definitely have a short-term economic cost.  In particular, we will see tourism and investment going down and certainly the 5.5-percent growth rate that we saw in the last two quarters of 2010 will likely be considerably lower in the next six months or so while the situation stabilizes," he said.

Visitors enjoy the view from the back of a cart.
Visitors enjoy the view from the back of a cart.

But Ahmed also says the recent popular protests in Egypt and a number of countries in the Middle East could unleash greater long-term growth potential in the region.

Camel-owner Adal is optimistic. He said he thinks things will be better for him and for Egypt.

But the situation appears to be growing more tense elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa.

It is difficult to get an accurate picture of what is going on in Libya. Foreign reporters have been banned, the nation's media is tightly controlled and the Internet has been shut down.  But reports getting out of the country say Libyan security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators Saturday and Sunday. Human Rights Watch says more than 170 people have been killed in Libya during five days of unrest and crackdown.

Journalists in Morocco report several thousand people marched in the capital Rabat, calling for a new constitution, more economic opportunities, a crackdown on corruption, and for King Mohammed to cede some of his powers. News services report Moroccan police kept a low profile.

In Yemen's capital Sana'a, Yemeni students demonstrated again to demand the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

In Bahrain, pro-democracy activists have re-established a tent camp in a main square of the capital as they consider an offer of dialogue from the minority Sunni rulers of the small Gulf kingdom.  

On ABC’s This Week  program, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States will continue to advocate freedom and democracy and called for governments to be responsive to the people.

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