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Egypt's Tourism In Distress

Egypt desperate to lure back western visitors

May 25, 2011

Egypt's tourism ministry, desperate to lure back western visitors to the land of the Pharaohs, recently launched a marketing campaign using Cairo's Tahrir Square as its theme.

Slogans such as "Tahrir: The Square that Rocked the World", have helped to turn the site from which the revolution against President Hosni Mubarak was launched into a tourist attraction in its own right.

While the campaign is intended to signal the birth of a new, democratic Egypt, it has had, at best, mixed success.

The number of foreign visitors to Egypt in the first quarter of this year fell by 46 per cent, bad news in a country where one in eight of the working adult population is employed in the tourism industry.

Western leaders may have hailed the courage of Egypt's people in overthrowing their latter-day pharaoh, but western tourists remain wary of returning to a country that is still suffering from instability and growing religious tension.

The discovery of previously unknown pyramids and up to 1,000 ancient tombs in a new satellite survey is unlikely to bring a rush of tourists into the country, diehard amateur archaeologists notwithstanding.

The pyramids, after all, lie buried beneath the ground and are unlikely to be excavated for years.

But they are a reminder of what visiting Egypt is really about. It is a country whose ancient heritage cannot be matched by any other nation on earth.

For Egypt's browbeaten people, Mr Mubarak's 30-year reign may have seemed like an eternity. But in the context of Egypt's 5,000-year old history, it is but a blip.

Just as they have loomed over the desert sands for thousands of years, the Pyramids will continue to attract and beguile for centuries to come ‚Äď by which time, Mr Mubarak's three decades of misrule will be little more than an Ozymandian historical footnote.

Egypt desperate to lure back western visitors
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