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

    Saudi Arabia’s New Female Politicians in the Other Room 

    Many in Saudi Arabia say elected representatives should share unsegregated spaces; according to a recent survey, more than half the Saudi population, both men and women, prefer to work in a segregated place

    Russia Not ‘Apologetic’ for Syria Airstrikes

    With Moscow criticized for targeting armed opponents of President Assad, Russia’s UN envoy says his country ‘acting in a very transparent manner’

    Pakistan Warns of Islamic State's Growing Reach

    Aftab Sultan, General Director General of Intelligence Bureau (IB), briefed Senate Committee in closed hearing, saying that IS-linked groups have been expanding in Pakistan

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growthi
    X
    February 10, 2016 5:54 AM
    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Civil Rights Pioneer Remembers Struggle for Voting Rights

    February is Black History Month in the United States. The annual, month-long national observance pays tribute to important people and events that shaped the history of African Americans. VOA's Chris Simkins reports how one man fought against discrimination to help millions of blacks obtain the right to vote
    Video

    Video Jordanian Theater Group Stages Anti-Terrorism Message

    The lure of the self-styled “Islamic State” has many parents worried about their children who may be susceptible to the organization’s online propaganda. Dozens of Muslim communities in the Middle East are fighting back -- giving young adults alternatives to violence. One group in Jordan is using dramatic expression a send a family message. Mideast Broadcasting Network correspondent Haider Al Abdali shared this report with VOA. It’s narrated by Bronwyn Benito
    Video

    Video Migrant Crisis Fuels Debate Over Britain’s Future in EU

    The migrant crisis in Europe is fueling the debate in Britain ahead of a referendum on staying in the European Union that may be held this year. Prime Minister David Cameron warns that leaving the EU could lead to thousands more migrants arriving in the country. Meanwhile, tension is rising in Calais, France, where thousands of migrants are living in squalid camps. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Families Flee Aleppo for Kurdish Regions in Syria

    Not all who flee the fighting in Aleppo are trying to cross the border into Turkey. A VOA reporter caught up with several families heading for Kurdish-held areas of northern Syria.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.