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Dark Skies Over Egypt

 Dark Skies Over Egypt

 

  Egypt’s chances of returning to normalcy and growing its tourism industry have been severely thwarted by recent events.
 
 
Almasalla Travel News – Egypt. Land of the Pyramids of Giza, the great Sphinx, the mysterious Nile, the Valley of the Kings, the ancient temples of Abu Simbel, Luxor and Karnak and, of course King Tut. If you haven’t seen any of those wonders, better not plan to cross Egypt off of your bucket list just yet.
 
 
Hughada, an Egyptian city on the shores of the Red Sea, has been growing in popularity with tourists, especially divers wanting to explore the area’s spectacular coral reefs and crystal-clear waters. At the end of June this year, the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority (ETPA) had high hopes for growing the country’s tourism industry, when the First International Festival for Tourism and Cultural Exchange was held in Hurghada.
 
 
The focus of the festival was, of course, to promote and rejuvenate Egyptian tourism, and a number of countries participated in the festivities. “The festival is based on the idea that culture and tourism go hand in hand as they complement each other,” said Hossam Abdullah, the president of the festival, according to Demotix.com. In an ironic and dark foreshadowing of coming events, Abdullah was also quoted as saying, “We want to give a message to the world that Egypt is still safe.”
 
 
In less than a month, those none-too-timely words would echo emptily, as political unrest percolating within warring sectors of the Egyptian population erupted into violence. The country’s vital tourism industry—which had suffered a major decrease by as much as 85 percent in 2011, according to some reports—had just begun a slow but steady improvement in the first half of 2013, only to be nearly wiped out by the tragic events of the summer.
 
 
The continuing news from Egypt is not cheering. The New York Times related the frightening story of two Canadians—an esteemed doctor and a respected filmmaker—being detained without charges and receiving horrific treatment while in lock-up, as well as the tragic tale of a French teacher who was locked up for violating a curfew, then died as a result of beatings he sustained in jail. The stories paint a picture of turmoil and violence that is likely to keep the majority of tourists away from the country for the foreseeable future.
 
 
On September 22, Juergen Steinmetz, a travel industry journalist and publisher of eTurboNews.com, conducted an interview with an unnamed U.S. tour operator on the topic of the devastation of the Egyptian tourism industry. According to the operator, Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and Upper Egypt are very popular with American tourists.
 
 
 
 
But he warned that Sinai was very dangerous, and totally out of the question, in terms of travel. Although he and his company suspended tours during July and August, when “all hell broke loose,” their tours have been resumed. With rates frozen since 2011, there are deals to be had, he insisted, but he urged travelers heading to Egypt to be informed about exactly where they were going and to follow all instructions of tour operators and guides.
 
 
Egypt’s tourism website remains undeniably closed-mouthed on the political upheaval. The announcement of the Tourism Festival in Hurghada (which ended on July 1) was followed by silence until the news broke that a few countries—the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden—have lifted travel bans to the Red Sea resort area (just this past week), although apparently the bans are still in place for the rest of the uneasy country.
 
 
Britain and the U.S., however, remain steadfast in their positions of advising their citizens to steer clear of the troubled area. For the U.S., the Bureau of Consular Affairs stated: “The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens to defer travel to Egypt and U.S. citizens living in Egypt to depart at this time because of the continuing political and social unrest.” 
 
 
In essence: If you’re headed toward Egypt, maybe it’s time to rethink that destination. If you’re living there—time for a vacation elsewhere. If, however, you must head into the belly of the beast, avoid all street demonstrations, gatherings and protests; obey all official orders (including curfews); and, above all, keep your fingers on the pulse of the constantly developing news.
 
 
The Bureau of Consular Affairs website offers numerous suggestions for your travel safety, including enrolling in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, or STEP, which will not only keep you on top of important safety and security announcements, but will make it easier for friends and family to get in touch with you in any emergency.
 
 
 
Egypt’s fascinating ancient history dates from at least 3100 BCE—but history is an ongoing, ever-evolving thing. As the current tumultuous history is being written in the streets of the modern Egyptian metropolis, it just might be best viewed from afar.
 
Source : premier traveler news

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