News / Middle East

Islamist Governor Promises Safety for Luxor Tourists

Tourism workers and activists in Luxor protest newly appointed Islamist governor Adel Mohamed al-Khayat and block his office, June 18, 2013.Tourism workers and activists in Luxor protest newly appointed Islamist governor Adel Mohamed al-Khayat and block his office, June 18, 2013.
x
Tourism workers and activists in Luxor protest newly appointed Islamist governor Adel Mohamed al-Khayat and block his office, June 18, 2013.
Tourism workers and activists in Luxor protest newly appointed Islamist governor Adel Mohamed al-Khayat and block his office, June 18, 2013.
Reuters
Sixteen years ago, Adel Mohamed al-Khayat was a member of the militant group, al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, blamed for slaughtering 58 tourists in Egypt's Valley of the Queens; today he's promising to keep visitors safe.

Khayat's appointment by President Mohamed Morsi as governor of the city of Luxor has triggered howls of protest, with demonstrators protesting for a second day on Tuesday and one critic calling it 'the last nail in the coffin of tourism.'

In a telephone interview with Reuters, however, the 60-year-old governor declared, “Luxor is open to all tourists from all over the world. They are my main concern and are looked after by the state, which is responsible for their security and their wellbeing.”

Khayat was a member of al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, the movement whose gunmen carried out the 1997 massacre at the Temple of Hatshepsut in Luxor. Sixty-two people died, all but four of them foreigners, in an attack designed to cut off tourist revenue to the government of then-President Hosni Mubarak.

Khayat said he had joined the group in 1975, when it first emerged on university campuses, but denied any role in its militant past. He said his activism was restricted to taking part in university seminars, and he had worked as a civil servant at the housing ministry since 1986.

Khayat's appointment points to deepening ties between the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and al-Gamaa al-Islamiya, one of several hardline Salafi parties that have moved into the mainstream since Mubarak was toppled in 2011.

'Best image'

The dominance of Islamists has raised concerns among their opponents about the fate of Egypt's pharaonic temples, deemed un-Islamic by hardliners. But Khayat said he was proud of the country's ancient heritage.

“God willing, the temples will remain as they are and we will work on cleaning them, protecting them and lighting them so that they are in the best image and no one will be able to harm them,” he said. “They are great monuments.”

Asked about his views on alcohol consumption, an important issue for the local economy as it seeks to draw in visitors, he said: “I have no intentions that would harm tourism.”

Tourism workers, remembering the heavy blow to their livelihood from the Luxor massacre, protested outside the governor's office for a second day, though Khayat has yet to arrive there. The industry has been hit by falling visitor numbers in the two years since the revolution.

“His extremist background will surely affect tourism,” said Wael Ibrahim, head of the Luxor tour guide association, told Reuters by phone. “International newspapers wrote about this... For sure this will lower tourism levels significantly.”

Sarwat Agami, head of another Luxor industry association, said the appointment had “hammered the last nail in the coffin of tourism in the historic tourist city”.

Al-Gamaa al-Islamiya was implicated in the 1981 assassination of President Anwar Sadat and waged an armed insurrection against the state in the 1990s. It had ties to al-Qaida, and its spiritual leader is jailed in the United States over a plot to blow up the World Trade Center.

It renounced violence more than a decade ago, and set up a political party after the fall of Mubarak. Khayat said he had resigned from the party after his appointment this week.

The Muslim Brotherhood has described him as an “excellent choice,” saying al-Gamaa al-Islamiya's community ties will help improve law and order in the area.

You May Like

Sydney Hostage-taker Failed to Manipulate Social Media

Gunman forced captives to use personal Facebook, YouTube accounts to issue his demands; online community helped flag messages, urged others not to share them More

UN Seeks $8.4 Billion to Help War-Hit Syrians

Effort aimed at helping Syrians displaced within their own country and those who've fled to neighboring ones More

Who Are the Pakistani Taliban?

It's an umbrella group of militant organizations whose objective is enforcement of Sharia in Pakistan 'whether through peace or war' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Yearsi
X
December 18, 2014 5:13 PM
Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Putin: Russian Economy to Rebound in 2 Years

Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual end-of-the-year news conference Thursday, tackling questions on the Russian economy, the crisis in Ukraine and Russian relations with the west. VOA's Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
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.

All About America

AppleAndroid