I just went on a trip to Egypt together with my family. The country is totally amazing and exceeded all my expectations, but what I didn’t expect was to see that much poverty.
We went to Hurghada, one of the biggest tourist centres on the red sea coast, where tourists normally live in big holiday resorts, which they only leave to get back to the airport at the end of their vacation. We didn’t do so, but booked a hotel close to the so called “centre” of the city.
I have to admit that this description and my opinion are probably very personal and unilateral, as I have never been to Egypt before so that I can’t give any profound comparisons. But it seemed like as if the revolution, which started with the ‘National Day of Wrath’ in 2011 as a part of the rampant Arab Spring, had clearly left its marks.
About 80% of the buildings in the city are not finished and many hotels are closed. Walking along the marina or through the main shopping streets gave us the feeling of being the only guests in Hurghada at all. Every single shop owner came out at us to offer her/ his goods or food.
When on a trip to Luxor one of the other tourists complained about the intrusive vendors, the only answer our tour guide could give was: “They want to live”.
Tourism is, besides agriculture, fossil oil and the Suez Canal, one of the main sources of revenue of the country, but since the beginning of the revolution this branch has suffered big losses.
Many people we talked to asked us: “Where have the tourists gone?” Especially people working in Hurghada seemed uncomprehending when this problem came for discussion: “Here in Hurghada there is no chaos, there never was. It’s safe, you see”, our receptionist said and we could only agree. Yet some other guests told us that last year their trips to Cairo and Luxor had been cancelled, because of safety issues. This year they could catch up on their visits, but the situation still seems to be not stable. On our way to Luxor every ten kilometres we saw armed men watching the street. Not a very reassuring sight.
The current president and former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi which had overthrown the freshly elected Islamist Mohammed Mursi in 2013 has built up a stable military dictatorship. Since then hundreds of Islamists have been arrested and sentenced to death, civil rights and democracy activists and journalists are being persecuted. The revolution seems to have failed.
On our last day in Egypt we asked a taxi driver about his opinion on the weakening tourism and he found the guilty ones in other countries:”It’s because of the media in your country. They say that it is dangerous in Egypt, but that’s not true. They lie!”
That might be true for Hurghada and maybe also Cairo, Luxor and other cities at the moment, but the pictures we’ve seen and the stories we’ve heard from the Tahrir Square didn’t lie either.
I really hope that the country will not sink in its reasonable require for normality and that the revolution will not be fruitless. Still at the moment it seems like as if Al- Sisi doesn’t have to fear another uprising. Most Egyptians wish for stability.
My family and I left the country with one request given to us:”Tell everyone that it’s safe and good in our country and that they should come to see it with their own eyes.” I’m not sure if I can fulfill that promise I’ve made.
By: Carolin Grüning