Monday, May 16, 2011

Letters from Egypt: Missing Tourists

Despise fanny packs? Hate brokers? Come on over to Egypt, the land of the missing tourists. USA Today reported that Egypt had seen a dramatic decrease in tourism from 75% to 90% based upon events during and after the so-called revolution and rightfully so.

On Friday, I went with a group of friends to the Sakkara pyramids – a first for me despite my nearly three years in Cairo. I want to clarify that the Pyramids in Giza (the Great Pyramids) are different from this set of pyramids, but on my visit to Sakkara, I was amazed at how desolate it was. While it was great for my friends and me as we got to venture into various chambers without fuss, long lines and very little money, I have to wonder how these guides who thrive off of the tourism industry (among many others) feel about the revolution now.

From a chamber at Sakkara usually filled with tourists
Even as my friends and I went for a cold one and some grub overlooking the Great Pyramids at Barry’s Oriental Restaurant, the usual vibrant tourists were almost nonexistent with various brokers for touring operations literally jumping on our car, in front of the car hindering us from moving, reaching through the windows (like that’s going to persuade us more) were nearly the only bunch out and about.

And as recently as yesterday, clashes erupted between the army and protestors outside the Israeli embassy (located in Giza, ambassador's residence in Maadi) resulted in over 350 injured and 150 arrested, according to the Daily NewsEgypt. State-run news agency MENA said the protesters managed to push aside barricades placed around the embassy building and attempted to storm the embassy itself to tear down the Israeli flag, which prompted the police action although several protestors denied this.

If my personal observation is any indicator, the protestors – while I’m sure not all of them – did attempt to storm the embassy and destroy property, Antiquities Museum anyone?

The Daily News Egypt also reported that Rana Sharabasy, a 21-year-old political science student at the American University in Cairo (AUC), said army officers were seen to be carrying cans of tear gas throughout the day and so there was always the possibility that they would be used. “There should have been more warning. … They [riot police] just started shooting. They just started the tear gas right away. I didn’t hear them say anything about the whole thing.”

Can someone please send the memo to AUC students and faculty that many of us have already received? It’s the same one from the military saying that protests will no longer be tolerated. Didn’t you get that? I believe it was sent out over a MONTH AGO. No offense Ms. Sharabasy, but I believe that was your warning.

Later in the article, a 19-year old student at Ain Shams University Islam Amin Ali was shocked over the use of force by Egyptian police. Apparently that “no protest tolerated” failed to reach Ali’s university either. “We are not declaring war on Israel; only the Ministry of Defense can declare war. … I don’t have a gun and I don’t want to shoot someone. We just want to cut the diplomatic relations between Egypt and Israel. … Israel is our enemy,” he said.

And thus that statement alone leads me to question the education that Ali is receiving. Excuse me Mr. Ali, it’s good that you don’t wish to declare war on Israel as a) the old school Soviet machinery that your country is currently using will not withstand a fight against the highly trained, specialized forces in Israel and b) it would require the Egyptian military to perhaps up their game and actually participate in the training exercises given by foreign forces (ie US company Raytheon and foreign military forces). Bravo.

Nevermind that, forget the foreign aid that you so enjoy from the US as that will be dropped immediately or substantially decreased after straining relations with Israel.

And finally, protestor Mohamed Effat said military officers told the detainees that the Israeli flag shall never be removed, cursed the youth of the revolution while saying “enjoy military prison.”

And this is shocking?

The beginning of the revolution was started by affluent Egyptians who knew what they wanted. Unfortunately, opportunists have come on board taking away from the very thing people like blogger Wael Abbas fought for. Instead as I’ve mentioned in previous blogs, the economy is suffering and the only thing that is changing is the instability as it continues to dwindle even more. Simply put: think before you speak and GET BACK TO WORK AND/OR SCHOOL PEOPLE!

A police officer told me, “Egyptians changed Egypt and Egyptians will destroy Egypt.”

For a more comprehensive view on the economic pitfalls of the revolution, please see this well-rounded article from Reuters: Post-Revolution, EgyptianTourism Remains in Disarray

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