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Egypt’s islamists try to calm fears over tourism

Last year, some 15 million foreigners visited Egypt, but with the political and social situation tumultuous, fears are growing in the country that the tourism sector, a major foreign currency gainer, could face a downturn

Egypt’s Islamic groups are battling against fears that the tourism industry could suffer as they gain power in the country. The Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said they would hold a “Let’s encourage tourism” conference in Cairo to boost efforts to ensure the tourism sector continues to boom under their tutelage.

Still, the fears remain, with worries women could be barred from beaches in bikinis. Much of the worries come from firebrand ultra-conservative presidential hopeful Hazem Saleh Abu Ismail, who said recently that he would bar women in bikinis from beaches, and they could face arrest, if he were elected as the country’s next president.

The Salafist al-Nour party, also announced it was launching a tourism conference in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan to promote the industry.

The conferences come on the heels of both parties earning the lion’s share of votes in the first round of elections for Egypt’s new parliament.

Last year, some 15 million foreigners visited Egypt, but with the political and social situation tumultuous, fears are growing in the country that the tourism sector, a major foreign currency gainer, could face a downturn. more info click here: Egypt holidays


In line with Abu Ismail’s statements, a number of candidates and religious scholars have called for covering ancient monuments, banning alcohol, mixed gender beaches and gambling.

“Certainly, I am worried because my friends and I like to go to the beach on the weekend and my female friends where bikinis, so it is frustrating to see this happening,” said Abeer Yussif, a Jordanian-Egyptian university student. She told Bikyamasr.com that going to the beach “is one of our outlets from Cairo and we don’t like to be told what we can and can’t do.”

On the Muslim Brotherhood’s Facebook page on Saturday, images were posted of the group’s Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie shaking hands with foreigners in the historic city of Luxor.

FJP members also visited the ancient Pyramids of Giza on Saturday to show the “Brotherhood’s support for tourism,” read the Facebook page.

The Nour Party, which garnered some 20 percent of the voting thus far, hopes their conference will join forces with representatives of the tourism sector, including operators and hotel officials “in a bid to support the industry.”

“We do not want to ban tourism. On the contrary, we want revenue from tourism to multiply,” spokesman Nader Bakkar told the Egyptian satellite channel CBC on Saturday.

However, Bakkar did allude to the idea of segrgated beaches, which Yussif and her friends believe would spark outrage among much of the youth.

“It is wrong and I know that many of us will not stand for turning Egypt into another Saudi Arabia or Iran,” she argued.

“The Nour party does not want to ban beach tourism. But we do want to see a type of Halal tourism … such as segregation of beaches,” Bakkar was quoted as saying.

Since the 18 days of protests ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, the tourism industry and the economic situation facing Egypt has been hit hard, with fewer foreign visitors arriving to the country and business in Egypt becoming stagnant.

In the coming months, as parliament is finalized and a clear vision of Egypt’s future is developed, a better understanding of how tourism will be affected is likely to come to light. Yussif and her friends hope little changes in terms of their ability to enjoy a day in the sun, or take visitors to the ancient sites across the Nile River Valley.

“It is all really speculation right now and we wonder how many Egyptians would support segregation on beaches and the idea that ancient monuments should be covered,” she added.

by S. C.
02 july 2012, World News > Africa

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