Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

December 26, 2012

New turmoil hits Egypt's tourism


Morsi has promised to expand tourism, but hotel owners and tour operators say he has yet to make clear any plans.

Their biggest fear is new violence causing shocks like December's. Ibrahim, of the Eagle Travels tourism company, said that because of this month's protests, two German operators he works with cancelled tours. They weren't even heading to Cairo, but to the Red Sea, Luxor and Aswan, far from the unrest.

But some in the industry fear that, with the constitution's provisions strengthening implementation of Shariah, Islamists will ban alcohol or restrict dress on Egypt's beaches, which rival antiquities sites as draws for tourism. Officials from the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails, are vague about any plans.

Ultraconservative Salafis, who are key allies of Morsi, have been more direct.

Nader Bakkar, spokesman for the Salafi Nour Party, told a conference of tour guides in Aswan earlier this month that tourists should not be allowed to buy alcohol but could bring it with them and drink it in their rooms. Tourists should also be encouraged to wear conservative dress, he said.

"We welcome all tourists but we tell them ... there are traditions and beliefs in the country, so respect them," he said. "Most tourists will have no problem if you tell them" to bring their own alcohol.

One Salafi sheik earlier this year said the Pyramids and Sphinx should be demolished as anti-Islamic — like Afghanistan's then-Taliban rulers destroyed monumental Buddha statues in 2001. Bakkar dismissed the comments as the opinion of one cleric.

But tour guide Gladys Haddad sees the Salafis' attitude as a threat, saying the constitution should have said more to protect Egypt's pharaonic heritage. "We are talking about a civilization that they do not acknowledge. They see it as idolatrous."

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