Saturday, January 7, 2012

The revolution, tourism, and politics

There were not many tourists in Egypt, especially in Cairo. It didn't seem strange to us but when we walked right into the Egyptian Museum without waiting, and strolled through the six empty turnstiles at the entrance to the Citadel, we knew it wasn't normal. Our Nile cruise ship was out on the water for the first time in a month, and our tour guide Wael had not worked since October.

This is, of course, due to the revolution in January 2011. Tourists don't feel safe coming to Egypt and the country's economy is suffering because of it.

We got Wael talking about politics a couple of times during the trip. His opinion is that the ideals of the revolution were good but that nothing has been achieved since. The Muslim Brotherhood will take a majority after the elections are final, and some people are afraid of what that means. Wael said that the Muslim Brotherhood doesn't have a platform on any issues, but they prey on poor and uneducated people, promising them favors and money in exchange for votes. This isn't unique to Egypt at all, I think it happens in most democracies, at least for a while. Wael is also a Coptic Christian and has some pretty strong opinions on the Brotherhood and how they discriminate against the Coptic minority. Wael is frustrated with the government and the economy - he's thinking of emigrating to Canada.

We had our own brush with Egyptian politics as we were leaving the Temple of Queen Hatshepsut in Luxor. An entourage of about 10 guys in suits was walking into the temple area, and they stopped to talk with Wael. The entourage was with a Muslim Brotherhood politician from the Luxor area, and he wanted a photo op with some tourists to show that he supports tourism. We told them it was ok, and when they found out we were midwestern Americans (except for Sonja, but that was too complicated to explain), it was even better. The politician had just returned from a trip to Minneapolis and Chicago to speak with Muslims there. He was a smooth talker who explained how he supports not only tourism but a good relationship between Egypt and the U.S., and he wants Americans to know that it is safe to visit Egypt. He also told us that we can contact him if we have any concerns or if anyone hassled us during our trip. I thought about telling him that we'd been hassled by hundreds of guys selling camel rides and postcards and papyrus bookmarks, and could he please ask them all to back off, but decided not to.

No one really knows what will happen when the Muslim Brotherhood takes control of the Egyptian government, and whether things will be better or worse than under Mubarak. Maybe Westerners will start returning to Egypt soon. The people who make a living in the tourism industry can't do much but wait to find out.

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About Me

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Thanks for coming to my blog. It started as a way to keep in touch with family and friends, and now has become an ongoing project. I'm an American living in Germany and trying to travel whenever I can. I write about my experiences as an expatriate (the interesting ones and the embarrassing ones), and about my travels. There are some recurring characters in this blog, particularly my husband Brian and several of our friends. The title comes from the idea that living in a foreign country means making a lot of mistakes. So the things you used to do easily you now have to try over and over again. Hopefully, like me, you can laugh at how idiotic it feels. If you have happened upon my blog, then welcome. Knowing that people are reading what I write makes me keep going. Feel free to write comments or suggestions for future posts.