We might be learning about the modern history of the Middle East, and Egypt is certainly within direct focus of those studies, but I will never think of Egypt in the same sense as other countries in the region. When I think of Egypt the first things that pop into my mind are images of the huge pyramids and giant monuments built thousands of years ago by the ancient Egyptians. While the ancient Egyptians certainly had little to do with what we are studying, these remnants still have a large impact on Egypt today.
Major tourist attractions are not limited to just the Great Pyramid of Giza, which is the oldest of the seven wonders of the ancient world or even the well-known Great Sphinx. There are many other wonders that draw in tourism, things not having anything to do with the ancient world such as boat tours of the Nile and the many Mosques, which highlight Egypt’s rich Islamic history. Every year 10+ million tourists flood Egypt for the purpose of catching a glimpse of the great pyramids or to walk through the valley of kings. In fact, tourism alone is responsible for more than 10% of the entire Egyptian economy. It also employs around 12% of the Egyptian workforce.
From those numbers it is easy to see that tourism is a major resource for Egypt and something that cannot afford to suffer as it has in recent years of political unrest. In the years before, during a stable regime, Egypt saw tourist numbers exceed 14 million. However, in 2011 Egypt saw just over 10 million tourists. That means that tourism dropped roughly 30% since the collapse of the Mubarak regime. There is a good reason too, as safety is a primary concern for those who travel abroad and especially in the hot bed Middle East. The recent Egyptian revolution has taken its toll on the soundness of the tourist economy with security being put out of sight out of mind amidst the political turmoil.
Egypt was found to be among the most unsafe places to travel in a 2013 safety index. It ranked at the bottom in terms of safety and security, putting it below countries like Pakistan and Yemen in the overall rankings. Yikes! These numbers are definitely having a negative impact on the tourism economy. Without even considering the number of travelers, nearly all contracts with foreign tourism companies have been canceled. Even more recently, unhappy bazaar owners have shut down the routs to the tourist heavy Valley of Kings along with many other notable monuments in the region of Luxor, Egypt. With the inept and preoccupied government in place, there’s no telling when the sites will reopen.
In closing, I think it is a travesty that so many amazing landmarks and so much history is caught up in the political strife surrounding Egypt today. It is my sincere hope that they can get their acts together and come to some peaceful resolution on the direction of their government so that one day I might be able to see the fascinating monuments and ancient treasures for myself without worrying about stepping into somebodies line of fire.