News / Middle East

Egyptian Tourist Haunts Rejoice at Morsi's Downfall

A man waits tourists at a souvenirs shop at the Khan el-Khalili market in Old Cairo, March 17, 2013.
A man waits tourists at a souvenirs shop at the Khan el-Khalili market in Old Cairo, March 17, 2013.
These days there may be more mummies than tourists in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and few footprints in the sand around the Pyramids.

Visitors to Cairo's wonders are scarce, a little over a week after the military deposed the first freely elected leader and deadly street violence shook the capital, making life harder for the millions of Egyptians who depend on tourism.

But for those making a living from the visitors, there are signs of hope. They are glad to see the back of ousted president Mohammed Morsi, believing his Islamist rule would have killed tourism.

“I'm smiling from ear to ear, even though we haven't seen a disaster for our business this bad in all our lives,” said Mohammed Khodar in front of his perfume shop - one of the few businesses around the Pyramids that is not shuttered.

“Under Morsi prices rose, there was violence and the tourists went to beach resorts, not here. We want a democracy that can help with tourism, not religious rule,” he said.

Before the 2011 uprising that ousted Egypt's veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak, tourism was worth more than a tenth of Egypt's economic output. In 2010, 14.7 million visitors came and generated $12.5 billion in earnings.

Morsi's government raised taxes on alcohol in December but backed down after the move was criticized by the tourism sector and by liberals.

The appointment of a member of a hardline former militant group as the governor of Luxor - home to the country's greatest Pharaonic temples - led many to wonder whether the government was committed to its ideology at the expense of development.

“We felt this contempt for our archeological sites in their rhetoric, that they somehow represented paganism,” said Ahmed El-Khadem, a former chairman of the Egypt Tourism Authority and now shadow tourism minister for a liberal party.

El-Khadem says that while the current instability has scared off tourists from Cairo, the army was right to intervene in politics and oust the Islamists.

“How could you blame the doctor for saving the patient's life?” he asked. “It hurts now, but it will get better.”

For its part, Morsi and members of his Muslim Brotherhood's political wing said they were committed to maintaining a welcoming atmosphere for tourism and improving the industry.

In the first quarter of 2013, about three million tourists visited Egypt, a 14.6 percent rise from the same period last year, Hisham Zaazou, tourism minister appointed by the ousted government, said in May.

“Total desperation”

In happier times at Cairo's Egyptian Museum, hundreds would jostle to catch a glimpse of King Tut's golden burial mask or Ramses II's 3,000-year-old features.

Now, the occasional visitor snaps pictures of armored personnel carriers lined up outside.

“There were whole rooms empty, with just soldiers walking around in them.  It looks like they were bored and trying to get out of the heat,” said one recent U.S. college graduate, adding that she hadn't told her parents of her Egypt visit lest they worry.

At the Pyramids, horse and buggy drivers desperate for fares pound on the windows of taxis carrying tourists.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs