In Jan 2011 a revolution happened in Egypt – where I live.  Overnight my life was turned upside down and my business disappeared.  My rosy future disappeared.  The same could be said for millions of Egyptians, especially those in the tourism industry.  Looking back on it now the last two and a half years have been a stupid and ridiculous waste of our time and therefore our lives.  Yes, hindsight is always easy.

LIVING UNDER A DELUSION

You see, up until Jan 2011 the level of crime as it is known and lived with in Europe, Asia, USA etc. was unknown in Egypt.  People don’t close their doors let alone lock them.  So ongoing protests in Tahrir; the international media coverage given to them combined with the shock of it all somehow got everyone in Egypt, from the Government to street level, believing in and resigned to the “fact” that tourism would not recover until all this was sorted and SECURITY was restored to pre-2011 levels.  Let me say here that I don’t believe security as we knew it pre-2011 will ever be the norm here again.  People have changed, people have evolved and people want more.  People wanting more without the means to attain it leads to depression and a rise in crime – get used to it, the rest of the world has.

For two and a half years Egypt stopped promoting Egypt.  We succumbed to the idea that there was no security.  We gave up.  People sold their jewellery, furniture, left homes and moved in with family, closed businesses – many lost everything.  People have suffered and died due to not being able to pay for medicines and operations.  Countless horses have died and most to those remaining are starving.  We lived in the daily hope that tomorrow, the day after or maybe next week, things would get better.  Things did not get better – in fact they deteriorated further between May 2012 to present day under the rule of Islamist President and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Daily life prior to June 30th 2013 was an unending cycle of queues for fuel, shortage of cooking gas, power cuts 2 – 5 times per day/night, shortage of foreign currency and the absence of foreign medicines etc. due to no foreign currency to buy them.

The main tourism locations in Egypt are Cairo, Red Sea, Luxor and Aswan.  Tourism in the Red Sea resorts has continued at a reduced rate regardless since 2011 – but it did continue.  Tourism in Luxor and Aswan stopped, started, stopped, started and now is completely DEAD.  Why have we been living in a delusion?  Simply because for the entire two and half years nothing of note has happened in Luxor. There was absolutely no concrete reason why tourism should not have been promoted, not continued in Luxor and Aswan as it did in the Red Sea resorts.  No reason except the delusion we have been living under that tourists will not feel safe here.

Truth is, travellers from around the world had no idea it was ok to come to Luxor or Aswan same as it was ok to go to the Red Sea.  In 2013 Egypt was dropped from the world’s top 25 destinations for holidays.  The only things prospective travellers from abroad saw on their TVs  from Egypt were stories of protests, molotov coctails, fire and death – few efforts were even made to point out that these incidents were confined to one or two areas in Cairo.   Because Upper Egypt is Upper Egypt we were forgotten – nobody paid any attention to the continued decline and mounting misery here.  Under the Morsi regime crackpots were periodically on foreign and local news stations spewing hatred and threats about Sharia Law, banning alcohol and bikinis – a concerted effort to undermine the cultural tourism.  These went unchecked, unchallenged and un-refuted by the President Morsi

Here are the global crime statistics:

Let’s put the crime rate in perspective.  According to the crime index Cairo has had less crime in 2013 than Auckland, London, Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, Perth, Washington, Moscow, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Naples, Rome, LA, Las Vegas, Rotterdam, Rio de Janeiro, Miami, Milan, Tucson, Turin, Atlanta, St. Petersburg, Bermingham, Galway, Chicago, Christchurch, Cleveland, Huston… WOW!

Luxor does not even make it onto the global crime list!

Egypt as a country, according to the crime index has a lower crime rate than USA, Russia, France, Italy, Greece, Argentina, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Puerto Rica, South Africa, Ukraine even Brazil where the world cup is being held!

LUXOR and ASWAN are not big cities – in fact I don’t know if their population level classifies them as cities or towns.  The areas within which the tourists stay and travel are not big, sprawling areas.  In fact the tourism areas in Luxor and Aswan are nothing in comparison to the areas of Hurghada and Sharm El Sheikh which are purpose -built holiday resorts coving a huge area of land.  I am at a total loss to understand why the Tourism Police are not back on the streets or why the Traffic Police seem to be here today and gone tomorrow.  I don’t believe anymore the excuse that they are afraid to return to the streets for fear of problems with the local populations.  Matter of fact after the solidarity shown on 30th June between the people, the army and the police I am furious that the police are not back at their posts.  Come to think of it there is no reason why the army could not be deployed in the streets as they were during 2011 – they would be a good photo op for tourists 🙂 an added tourist attraction!

Given the current situation in Egypt which is the subject of my next blog post, the truth is that if the Ministry for Tourism, the Tour Operators and Travel Agents – those whose job it is to promote and manage tourism in Egypt, – if they don’t get back to work promoting and managing tourism here in Luxor and Aswan the toll in terms of human misery and tragedy will spiral faster and faster out of control.  Some form of aid is needed for both humans and animals here at this stage but people don’t want charity they want work.  Like me, they want their pride and lives back!  There is absolutely no reason why our tourism industry should not be thriving, even without our normal security. But again, there is no reason now for the police and/or army not to take up their normal security positions here.

For the world to realise we are still here, we still show up for work every morning, we are waiting for your return on a daily basis – our government and security agencies need to wake up from our shared delusion about the level of crime and safety here.  Luxor and Aswan are still the safest places on earth for tourists.

 

Mara
 

2 Comments

  1. Jason Fierstein 07/08/2013 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks, Mara, for your insights. As a truth seeker by nature, I’ve been determined to get to the bottom of what’s really happening on the ground in Egypt, prior to our first trip to that country. It’s hard to machete through the jungle of media reports, political voices and degradation that seems to be how Egypt is characterized now. I’m finding myself eager to hear of people’s positive experiences of Egypt, like Margaret’s (thanks, Margaret), but I think that I’m working too hard to combat these negative messages. I would agree that Egypt’s tourism institutions need to work hard to combat the negative messages, and step it up to show the world, including the US, that Egypt is still valuable to come to, and worth it.

     
  2. Margaret Quinn 07/08/2013 at 4:51 pm

    Mara, I have been travelling to Egypt since 1997 and specifically Luxor since 2000. in 1997, I had visited Hatshepsut’s Temple just 3 days before the massacre; I have been in Cairo at the time of the Iraq War; I travelled to Luxor at the time of the Revolution in 2011 and my most recent visit to Luxor was for a month in March 2013. AT NO TIME did I feel uneasy or at risk! I have made many friends in Luxor – Egyptian and British, both Muslim and Christian and I consider them all as ‘my family’. They come from all walks of life – Egyptologists, guides, taxi drivers, private drivers and caleche drivers. Therefore, it saddens me to see how their lives and livliehoods have been so devastated.
    I have a holiday booked for November 2013 and I am desperate to return – the Foreign Office need to be made aware that Luxor is not an area that needs to be avoided, however normal care and attention needs to be taken (as with anywhere). Sadly, the other side of the coin that I have seen, is the young men being so rude and on occasions threatening to the few tourists that have been in Luxor. I understand their frustrations and desperation, but do not
    drive away the very people they need! Obviously the ‘hassle’ factor is very off putting – I would spend, if left alone. There is that fine between feeling of being ‘taken for a ride’ and paying a ‘going rate’, so that both parties are happy with the price. There is need for tourism education!
    In the main, Egyptian people are by nature, very friendly and welcoming.
    I WANT TO RETURN AND WILL BE VERY UNHAPPY IF I AM UNABLE TO SEE ‘MY FAMILY’!