AL TAHRIR SQUARE, Egypt (eTN) – Thousand of Egyptians filled Cairo’s symbolic Al Tahrir Square after the last Friday prayers and the day after to celebrate the first month of their successful revolution and the second week since Mubarak’s forced step down from office. The peaceful gathering also launched slogans aimed at urging the military to overhaul the newly-appointed cabinet and install a fresh team of technocrats.
Among the prevailing crowd of youngsters, many students conversant in English expressed their pride for the contribution to the epochal political change. Their expectation is now for the system to recognize the significance of the change, which for them means jobs, economic opportunities, and social justice – the only conditions that will make them feel “free” in a peaceful new Egypt.
Cairo, a megalopolis of almost twenty million people, was seen as surprisingly calm. Life as usual was witnessed by the maddening traffic that, together with the pyramids, is an icon of the city. It is really hard to believe that a turmoil of such proportion, left no traces except for the sad loss of 13 young lives, whose plasticized group image is saved in memory. Unconscious children, accompanied by their parents, pose joyfully in front of the military tanks parked opposite the re-opened museum building for a souvenir photo. History will remind them that their elder brothers contributed to their improved welfare.
The domestic industry has lost tourism revenues during the past six weeks to the tune of over a billion dollars.
Prior to this new revolution, the country aimed to accommodate this year about 16 million visitors vs. 14.5 in 2010. One million fled a few days before the end of January, leaving deserted hotels, restaurants, and shops – all areas of recall even in the Red Sea. Normality has now returned, but employment remains far below normal this season: in figures, about 8% in Sharm, against a historic 70% in January.
The country, back to business now, expects the return of international tourism, one of their major sources of income. This is a difficult task that the new Minister for Tourism, Mr. Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, is called to face.
At a press conference held at the Intercontinental Hotel Cairo, the minister said: “An emergency takes the reins of one of the most important source[s] of revenue for the Egyptian economy, which contributes about 11% of GDP, employing nearly 2 million people. According to data from government sources, this should also be the second source of income after remittances.” The minister also informed that a support scheme for tour operators will be available to facilitate their promotion of the destination.
Eng/Hussein Massoud, Chairman & CEO of Egyptair Holding Company, disclosed the immediate plan for the Italian market, which foresees the increase of weekly flights to the major Italian destinations and the availability of charter services to meet the increase in demand for Egyptian destinations and beyond Cairo, as well as on-demand and new cargo services.
Among the guests at the press conference, a delegation of Italian journalists and the president of Italian Tour Operators (ASTOI), Mr. R.Corbella, were invited to Cairo by Mr Mohamed Abdel Gabbar, director of Tourism in Egypt, and in collaboration with Mr. Wael Kadry, General Manager of Egypt Air, to support a campaign named “Egypt in Our Heart.” (Italy is one of the largest contributors in tourism to Egypt.) The campaign is aimed to return to normality the life status of the city in the aftermath of the known events and solicit the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to lift the advisory banning travel to Cairo. It is considered by most European countries that travel to the Red Sea destinations are safe.
A message behind the scenes by Mr. El Gabbar stated that the Egyptian destinations have not suffered any damage and are completely safe and all the archaeological sites are open. “We have already dealt with difficult situations in the past; we have always known how to react. Now we want to give a signal of confidence to the organizers of travel to Egypt, because the country will be even stronger and more competitive, up to its role as a major tourist destination,” he said.
Mr. Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Secretary of the liberal Wafd party and the opposition, became the first representative government in post-Mubarak times.
Born in 1945, Abdel Nour graduated in Economics from Cairo University, specializing in the local American university as an expert in finance and agribusiness. He is of ancient Coptic Christian family and is also the nephew of Fahkry Abdel Nour, one of the closest friends of Saad Zaghloul, the leader of the revolution of 1919 against British occupation.