As I understand it, Egyptian president Mubarak — a relatively mild ruler — fell from power because many Egyptians could not afford to buy bread. It was as simple as that.
But the unrest has been very bad for the tourism industry, which is a major part of the money flowing into Egypt. That income dropped 30% last year. The possibility of an Islamist government will not precisely encourage the US government to keep up its donations, which form another huge part of Egyptian national income.
The tourist industry is vital. In Luxor, when the tourists stopped coming after the Islamist massacres of a few years ago, it provoked street demonstrations in support of Mubarak! So closely are the incomes of local people connected with the dollars-on-legs arriving at the airport.
I have not felt any special urge to travel there at the moment, but I didn’t feel that trips to Luxor, or Sharm el Sheikh, or the Red Sea Resorts were particularly dangerous. Until today.
Today I read in the Daily Mail a story that crosses Egypt off the list of places that I would feel safe in visiting.
Security officials secured the release of two female American tourists and their guide, hours after they were kidnapped at gunpoint while vacationing in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula yesterday. …
Three other tourists in the convoy were robbed of their cell phones and wallets as the kidnappers took the guns away from their police escort.
The kidnappers demanded the release or retrial of several of their tribesmen being detained by the Egyptian government. The demands are similar to those of the Bedouins who kidnapped 25 Chinese workers earlier this week.
The tourist group that was attacked was traveling back to the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh after visiting St Catherine’s Monastery in the southern part of the region.
I think that’s pretty much “game over” for Egypt’s tourism industry. Sharm el Sheikh is a tourist farm, where tourists are farmed for money in return for sunshine and day excursions. I’d always thought of it as entirely safe.
The consequence of this must be yet further unrest. The reason Mubarak was ousted was poverty — and now the poverty must be getting worse, as the supply of money is cut off.
This is sad, sad news for Egypt.