When Egyptians rose up against their government three years ago, it wasn’t just dictator Hosni Mubarak’s reign that crumbled. The mass protests, political instability, and now, increasingly frequent terrorist attacks, have devastated Egypt’s once-thriving tourism sector.
For many Egyptians still working in the industry today, there is only one answer to their problems: Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is gearing up for a likely presidential bid and is seen as a leader who will bring back security to businesses.
“Sissi is the only man who can solve Egypt’s problems,” said Emad Nour, a third-generation shopkeeper in Cairo’s sprawling Khan el-Khalili bazaar, where tourists used to flock before the unrest began. “He can fix the security problem here.”
Nour once made a decent living making intricate tables, traditional lamps and other handmade items that often attract tourists. But nowadays he, like many other vendors, has barely anyone coming to his shop.
“We depend on tourism,” he said with dismay. “If there are no tourists, our lives are not good.” Lots of stores around him have closed down, he said, adding that many shop owners have given up and changed professions entirely.
At Cairo’s ancient Giza Pyramids, which used to be swarming with foreigners, desperate vendors and guides with skinny horses now harass the occasional straggling tourists. Buses carrying tourists from the capital to resort towns along the Red Sea now travel in armed convoys through the restive Sinai, where hardline militants have launched a campaign against security forces. Once bustling hotels and youth hostels are eerily quiet.