Egypt’s tourism today is a shadow of what it once was


It’s one of the greatest tourist attractions on earth.
Fantastic shades of multi-colour illuminate the awesome pyramids dominating the Egyptian night sky to the delight of tourists.

Yet this awe-inspiring spectacle remains virtually deserted every night as holidaymakers shun the ‘jewel of the Middle East’.

Somber pictures taken this week show the rows of empty seats at the Light and Sound Show, below the historic pyramids in Cairo.

Only a handful of sightseers and a few despondent tour guides can be seen at the iconic landmark, which includes the Great Sphinx and the Valley of the Kings.

Only a year earlier the show had been fully-booked every night. Dozens of tourists cooed as they watched the landmarks change to shades of purple, green, red and blue among others. Vast beams of light were shot into the air by high-tech lasers.

Egypt had been on the verge of its own economic revolution, with booming tourism and impressive developments of apartments, offices and flats around the country.

But this revolution went no further. In its place were the scenes of violence and mass protest in Tahrir Square in February which became known as the ‘Arab Spring’.

Nine months later and a new country has been born. But as the empty seats at Cairo show, tourism today is a shadow of what it once was.

Holidaymakers have shunned the troubled region for fear of being caught up in the terrifying scenes sweeping North Africa. Travel agents unwilling to risk sending tourists to a potential warzone have pulled out of region.

And their cautiousness has been proven right, as recent violent demonstrations against military rule have shown.

At least 40 people have been killed in fierce clashes in the past week alone as protesters have demanded the resignation of the army commanders. Egypt’s military ruler warned of ‘extremely grave’ consequences if the turbulent nation did not pull through its current crisis.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said: ‘We will not allow troublemakers to meddle in the elections. Egypt is at a crossroads – either we succeed politically, economically and socially or the consequences will be extremely grave and we will not allow that.

‘None of this would have happened if there were no foreign hands.

We will not allow a small minority of people who don’t understand to harm Egypt’s stability.’

Protesters, who have once again camped out in Tahrir Square, said that they had come under fire from a police sniper.

The violence has proved how fragile the region is. Even after elections in the coming weeks, Islamic parties are expected to take control.

The elections are likely to be dominated by the once-banned Muslim Brotherhood. Analysts think they could win roughly a third of votes, likely to be far greater than the hundreds of small parties who will each get only a fraction of the vote.

The tourism industry has also so far been one of the main losers since violence began in the country, which saw the former president Hosni Mubarak ousted.

It is estimated that the unrest has cost the Egyptian economy some $310million a day, or at least $30 billion over the course of the year.

One of the indirect victims has been travel agents Thomas Cook. The firm saw a 70 per cent fall in its share price this week.

The group has suffered from the impact of the ‘Arab spring’, which has hit bookings to Tunisia and Egypt, destinations popular with France and Russia respectively, as well as UK holidaymakers.

Despite the drop in visitor numbers, the country’s tourism board is trying to lure back holidaymakers with a string of advertising campaigns.

Egypt’s promotional push portrays the region’s potential as a safe and attractive holiday destinations.
‘Welcome to the country of peaceful revolution’ is the slogan that Egypt has settled on.