Luxor blames Cairo chaos, not balloon crash, for tourism woes

Thu Feb 28, 2013 10:23am EST
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By Marwa Awad

LUXOR, Egypt (Reuters) - Tour guide Abu Ali has seen Luxor come to a halt before. The last time Islamist militants drove foreign visitors away, and now the historic Egyptian city must come to grips with a local tragedy and the fall-out from chaos in far-away Cairo.

Few tourists stroll through the corridors of Queen Hatshepsut's temple - a 3,500-year-old archaeological wonder and once Luxor's busiest tourist site - occasionally intercepted by a handful of vendors trying to sell trinkets at a discount.

Luxor is in shock after 19 people, mostly Asian and European visitors, were killed on Tuesday when a hot-air balloon crashed.

But Abu Ali, like many in Luxor, believes the greatest threat to local livelihoods comes from power struggles 500 km (300 miles) away in Cairo, which he says only provoke street violence while the vital tourist trade is neglected.

Some even long for the relative stability that Egypt enjoyed before the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

"Back in 2010, temples were packed and tomb visits were sold out in a matter of hours. Now the place is near-empty," said the 43-year-old tour guide, whose full name is Al-Jahlan al-Azab Abu Ali.

Luxor, home to the Valley of the Kings and Tutankhamun's tomb, recovered from the blow 15 years ago when militants armed with guns and knives descended on Queen Hatshepsut's temple and slaughtered more than 60 people, mostly tourists.

"I watched Luxor come to a halt in 1997 after the terrible terrorist attack and now I see it struggling again because politicians in Cairo are busy bickering with each other and neglecting one of Egypt's main revenue providers," he said.   Continued...

A Nile Cruise boat sails along the Nile River, a day after a hot air balloon crash left 19 foreigners dead, in Luxor February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany