Front facace of Winter Palace Hotel in Luxor with striking workers in foreground
Winter Palace Workers on strike!

When speaking of Egypt’s 2011 Revolution and the Arab Spring many like to say that Egypt revolted for bread, dignity and social justice.  But which Egypt revolted?  And against whom did Egypt revolt?  Let’s play along with what may appear obvious here – but it is no harm to keep at the back of your mind that things are not always what they seem – anywhere.

So, the romantics like to say that the grassroots of society went to the streets to demand the downfall of the one person responsible for the woes of the entire country – and I am not saying he isn’t, but let’s be honest here…he wasn’t in it alone.  Now that he is gone, not much has changed.  The same people are still hanging around in the same government positions or maybe have moved sideways in the socio-economic hierarchy.  But that is not the full problem.  The real problem in Egypt is starting to emerge slowly but surely.  The real problem is that the Egyptian business system is a dog eat dog system – a survival system.  Thing is… much money, property and possessions does a man have to own before he recognises he is no longer in the survival strata but has moved into the well-to-do strata?

The situation at the Winter Palace is an example.  As I was passing by yesterday I noticed all the people standing outside so I stopped to enquire what the story was.  Apparently there is a new manager in the Winter Palace – from Lebanon.  An extra piece of information I was given was that the German manager – two managers ago, was the best manager ever at the Winter Palace 🙂  So this new manager wants to cut the wages of the staff – resulting in this mass walkout and strike currently ensuing at the Luxor Winter Palace.  Now, I am sure that like everyone else in Luxor the Winter Palace has suffered due to lack of tourists but surely that grand establishment has made enough profit over the many good years it hosted the rich and famous that it should now be able to survive a little bit longer without turning the screws on the lower level staff?

But, the cutting of the staff wages is only a whiff of the nasty smell of ? wafting through the elegant halls of the Winter these days.  A few months ago there was a problem with the taxi drivers whose official taxi rank is outside the Winter Palace.  Commission is a common word of daily life in Egypt.  It is common knowledge that if you get a taxi through a hotel it costs more than you would normally pay – that is because of the backhander that goes to the staff member who called the car for you.  In good times people were prepared to overlook this, there was plenty work to go around.  But these days at the Winter Palace there is so little business that every customer the guys who sit and wait all day in the taxi rank manage to get is like gold.

So, a few months ago when a wealthy local business man tried to muscle in and take the Winter Palace guests from under the noses of the taxi drivers – even by using the back entrance of the hotel, it did not take the taxi drivers long to figure it out and block the entrances to the hotel until the situation was resolved.  But it hasn’t ended there and questions are being asked about the personal transport now being used by certain staff members at the Winter….could the free transport possibly be an enticement or payment for channeling the transport requirements of the hotel’s guests in the direction of that wealthy business man?  Surely not!

So, at the end of the day – the questions are “Will the new Egypt be able to rid itself of the corruption which it supposedly revolted against?  OR will the same system of bribery and corruption continue?  After all, isn’t everyone part of the same system?  Is it so ingrained that despite the obvious – which is that if the lower strands of Egyptian society do not get a fair share this time around….will they really revolt next time?  And who will be in the firing line?  The government?  The President? Or will it be a mass revolt of those who have not against those who have – regardless?  Questions that might benefit those doing business in Egypt.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *