Egyptian tourist haunts rejoice at Islamist's downfall

Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:27am EDT
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By Noah Browning

GIZA, Egypt (Reuters) - These days there may be more mummies than tourists in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, and few footprints in the sand around the Pyramids.

Visitors to Cairo's wonders are scarce, a little over a week after the military deposed the first freely elected leader and deadly street violence shook the capital, making life harder for the millions of Egyptians who depend on tourism.

But for those making a living from the visitors, there are signs of hope. They are glad to see the back of ousted president Mohammed Mursi, believing his Islamist rule would have killed tourism.

"I'm smiling from ear to ear, even though we haven't seen a disaster for our business this bad in all our lives," said Mohammed Khodar in front of his perfume shop - one of the few businesses around the Pyramids that is not shuttered.

"Under Mursi prices rose, there was violence and the tourists went to beach resorts, not here. We want a democracy that can help with tourism, not religious rule," he said.

Before the 2011 uprising that ousted Egypt's veteran autocrat Hosni Mubarak, tourism was worth more than a tenth of Egypt's economic output. In 2010, 14.7 million visitors came and generated $12.5 billion in earnings.

Mursi's government raised taxes on alcohol in December but backed down after the move was criticized by the tourism sector and by liberals.

The appointment of a member of a hardline former militant group as the governor of Luxor - home to the country's greatest Pharaonic temples - led many to wonder whether the government was committed to its ideology at the expense of development.   Continued...

The Egyptian Museum is seen near Tahrir Square in Cairo December 18, 2012. REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh