Are Egyptians really Arabs?
"Fortunately there are still Egyptians and Arabs here"
For many young Egyptians, Sharm al-Sheikh on the Red Sea is the springboard to a better life. But the stream of western tourists has dried up. The Egyptians cling to the hope that these will return soon.
"If I could afford it, I would stay here until the end of the year," says Layla on the almost deserted promenade on the Corniche in Sharm al-Sheikh. The tour guide from Cairo left for the Red Sea the day after the bloody dissolution of the Pro-Mursi protest camps. The planes from the capital to Sharm al-Sheikh are all fully booked these days. There are Egyptian families who want to escape the violence for a few days. "At least a change of scenery, and maybe the situation will calm down again in a few days," her friend hopes.
Dreary evening hours
“Fortunately there are still Egyptians and Arabs here. Tourists from western countries make up no more than 10 percent of my business, ”confirms Islam, who has leased a public beach. This is why the occupancy rate varies greatly from hotel to hotel. The concierge of the "Helnan Marina" is happy about a room occupancy of 80 percent. His clientele are Egyptians, Arabs and some Russians. In other houses there is a yawning emptiness. But that will change in a few days. Schools will start again in Egypt and the Gulf countries at the beginning of September. Then the exodus of these guests is inevitable. In any case, they were only able to compensate for the hole that western tourists were tearing to a small extent.
The evenings in the nightlife and entertainment district of the “Pearl of the Red Sea” are particularly dreary. The loud music doesn't create a good mood either. The Egyptian version of table dance can be seen in several coffees. Four young men in floor-length, white galabiyas contort themselves on a small stage to the beat of techno sounds. Despite their sweaty efforts, hardly anyone gets lost on their sofa cushions. Where in good times the guests scramble for every free chair, every guest is now being advertised. Dozens of waiters pass the time with their smartphones, bored.
Fight for every guest
Karim describes the situation in his diving equipment shop for hours. Since the revolution in January 2011, the trend has been negative, interrupted only by short, better phases. The hotels have drastically reduced their prices, with the result that the "quality of tourists" has also deteriorated. Most would spend a lot less money now. So far, Karim has not fired any of his employees. He is responsible for them. They have families to support them. Every guest is fought for. Shops and restaurants outbid each other with discounts and special offers. Dozens of shops, especially in side streets, have already closed. The demand for excursions into the hinterland or out to sea is particularly weak. Several foreign tourism companies have asked their guests to stay in the hotel complexes if possible. In addition, the information about what is still possible - such as a visit to the St. Catherine's Monastery - is contradictory.
The ousted President Hosni Mubarak Sharm al-Sheikh once named "City of Peace" because it was the venue for numerous international conferences. He had spent many months of the year here. Now the conference centers also remain empty. As everywhere in the city, no political slogans can be found on the Road of Peace, which leads from the airport to the center of Namaa Bay. Without television, you would not have heard the revolution or the events surrounding the overthrow of Morsi, says Karim, who definitely does not want to talk about current politics. As an art world, Sharm al-Sheikh cannot be compared to a normal Egyptian city. A picture of the first hotel in this bay hangs in the lobby of the Hotel Helnan. The last copies of the Peugeot taxi shown in the black and white photo can still be seen today. The Helnan was the first hotel to be built here in the 1970s. Otherwise there was only pristine beach and desert back then. Today the number of hotels is around 250 and new ones are always being built.
Money for study
«Young Egyptians come to Sharm to earn money here and maybe to find a foreigner they can marry. They ignore everything else, ”says Islam, as does Montasser, the student from the Upper Egyptian city of Minya, who earns money for his studies in natural sciences in his cousin's kiosk. Mohammed also comes from Upper Egypt. The family man from Sohag has been working in a supermarket here for four years. Tourism is slowly dying, he notes. Those who are still here still have work. But nobody can put a figure on how many thousands of employees have already lost their jobs in the past two years. Before the 2011 revolution, one in eight Egyptians was in the tourism sector. At that time, 14.7 million tourists traveled to the Nile country, including 2.8 million Russians, 1.5 million British and 1.3 million Germans.
The police had tightened security in Sharm al-Sheikh in recent years. Since the outbreak of the most recent bloody events, controls have become even more rigorous. But the best guarantee for safety is the people themselves, because their financial livelihood depends on the stability here, emphasizes the tour guide. In 2005 there was already a series of deadly terrorist attacks. And memories of it are being awakened for many Egyptians in Sharm al-Sheikh these days. He hopes that the security forces have the effects of the current spiral of violence under control, says Islam, without sounding really convinced.
After the travel warnings of some governments for the Red Sea as well, several foreign tourism companies have reduced their flights to Sharm al-Sheikh for the time being until mid-September or even completely stopped. The Egyptians here know there isn't much they can do about it. They cling to the fact that there were break-ins and the tourists kept coming back.
The winter sun so close to Europe is an unbeatable selling point. "I'll survive, you can sleep on the beach all year round here," says Karim from the diving equipment shop defiantly. Of the few aircraft from European countries that still land on the southern tip of Sinai, some are bringing new guests. But the electricity is sparse. Everything is good here, there are no problems for the tourists, is the dry statement of an official.
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