Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

December 26, 2012

New turmoil hits Egypt's tourism

CAIRO (AP) — At Egypt's Pyramids, the desperation of vendors to sell can be a little frightening for some tourists.

Young men descend on any car with foreigners in it blocks before it reaches the more than 4,500 year-old Wonder of the World. They bang on car doors and hoods, some waving the sticks and whips they use for driving camels, demanding the tourists come to their shop or ride their camel or just give money.

In the southern city of Aswan, tour operator Ashraf Ibrahim was recently taking a group to a historic mosque when a mob of angry horse carriage drivers trapped them inside, trying to force them to take rides. The drivers told Ibrahim to steer business their way in the future or else they'd burn his tourist buses, he said.

Egypt's touts have always been aggressive — but they're more desperate than ever after nearly two years of devastation in the tourism industry, a pillar of the economy.

December, traditionally the start of Egypt's peak season, has brought new pain. Many foreigners stayed away because of the televised scenes of protests and clashes on the streets of Cairo in the battle over a controversial constitution.

Arrivals this month were down 40 percent from November, according to airport officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information.

Tourism workers have little hope that things will get better now that the constitution came into effect this week after a nationwide referendum. The power struggle between Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and the opposition threatens to erupt at any time into more unrest in the streets.

More long term, many in the industry worry ruling Islamists will start making changes like banning alcohol or swimsuits on beaches that they fear will drive tourists away.

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