Egypt is in a state-of-flux, so where does the pace of change in the North African country leave its biggest money-spinner – tourism. For now the situation is OK, but here are some facts any potential visitor should be aware of.
The Political Situation – Early 2012.
The cancellation of decades-old state of emergency was a goal of the January 2011 revolution in Egypt that toppled the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak. That goal was partially reached on the eve of the first anniversary of the January 25 revolution. This change led to Muslim parties coming to power that can turn life in Egypt towards strict Islamic Sharia law – potentially striking tourism in the country.
The state of emergency was introduced after the third President of Egypt Anwar El Sadat was killed in 1981. In the decades since his death, life in Egypt was governed by strict rules including prohibition on political rights, freedom and mass-media with strong censorship.
Hence, a key goal of the revolution was to overthrow Mubarak’s regime including the cancellation of the state of emergency. Thousands of people took to the streets to defend their basic rights and freedom. After one year of ongoing protest, the authority ceded: ”We decided to cancel a state of emergency in the morning of January 25, 2012”, said Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, field marshal and de-facto head of state since Mubarak’s overthrow.
With the country’s newly inaugurated Government taking office in the same week, Egypt seemed poised for more change. The Muslim majority is already insisting on the Islamization of everyday life in Egypt. The first advocate of radical change was Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, a lawyer and spokesman who launched a campaign against alcohol, gambling, bikinis and mixed sex swimming.
Does This Change The Tourism Industry And Strip Visitors Of The Freedom They Have Enjoyed?
For now, no. Clamping down on vices such as alcohol and gambling would be too costly for the Egyptian economy – especially its lifeblood – tourism. The economy has already been impacted by a year of radical revolution and changes led to a $4 billion loss being stripped from the country’s budget. “Tourism is a main source of income with over 10 million people engaged in this business…this is a fact the government can’t be ignorant about,”’ said Mohamed Kamel Amr, Egypt’s foreign minister.
However, if moves toward Sharia law gain traction the restriction it puts in place threatens to turn Egyptian resorts into a prison for non-Muslims and would prove to be a costly mistake for the country’s economy.
The Egyptian government intends to develop tourism and increase the number of incoming tourists up to 20 million annually. Those plans are threatened by today’s unstable political situation, which prevents many tourists from leaving for Egypt. This is despite resorts, hotels and tourist agencies offering a great choice of affordable packages.
So, to go? Or, not to go? International experts describe the situation in Egypt as “tourist-friendly”, so you can pack your suitcases to sunny beaches of Pyramid Country. Small tourist cities such as Sharm El Sheikh or Hurghada are away from political upheaval, completely safe and ready to welcome tourists with sun-baked beaches. Above all, Egypt awaits a surge of tourists starting from February – especially Europeans keen to escape the coldest winter temperatures.
Beach resorts continue to hum with tourists, but pyramid tours and visits to Luxor, Cairo and Taba, should be taken at your own risk considering recent disturbances in Egypt. Booked.net offers many great hotel deals as political instability in Egypt has led to accommodation prices dropping 30 – 40 percent compared with last season.