Pyramid guides urge tourists to return to Egypt

Hundreds of Egyptian tour guides gathered in the shadow of the Great Pyramids on Monday to plead with tourists to return to the Land of the Pharaohs following the fall of Hosni Mubarak's regime.

The upheaval of recent weeks and media coverage of days of violent clashes have combined to scare off visitors and stifle Egypt's key tourism industry, threatening thousands of jobs.

Inspired by the success of political protests in bringing down the regime, workers in several public and private sector industries have launched a wave of strikes to demand pay rises.

But the message from tourism workers was simpler.

"Come back, reviens, komm wieder, vuelve!" they implored, against the postcard backdrop of the Great Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx.

The guides - whose business has been badly hit by the crisis - gathered at the plateau site, celebrating St Valentine's Day with banners in English, French, Russian and German reading: "Egypt loves you."

"Tourism is like a delicate bird, it flies off at the slightest sound. But there's nothing to fear here, quite the contrary," insisted 37-year-old guide Hazem Hashem.

Behind them a handful of Egyptian visitors were at the site, but there were no foreigners to be seen and Cairo's hotels and gift shops stand empty.

"We need to make tourism come back to Egypt. We want to send the message to tourists all over the world that they are welcome here," said 27-year-old Hossam Khairy.

Khairy was one of the tens of thousands of protesters who seized central Cairo's Tahrir Square and occupied it for two weeks as part of the nationwide demonstrations that bought down Mubarak.

He feels that rather than scaring off visitors, the revolution should act as a draw, showing the world that Egyptians share the values of freedom enjoyed elsewhere.

"They'll discover a new country, a new people," Khairy said. "Before, when tourists asked me questions about the president, I was ashamed when I had to pretend that we were a democracy."

Some of those working at the pyramids opposed the revolt, fearing it would harm their trade.

Workers from tourist stables charged the demonstration on horses and a camel during an attack by stone-throwing pro-regime thugs on February 2.

On Monday, however, politics was forgotten and the guides were simply concerned with persuading their foreign guests to return.

"The return of tourists is in our interest, but also in the interest of the entire country," said Hashem.

Some 16,000 unionised tourist guides work on Egypt's ancient sites, earning around 300 to 500 dollars per month in peak times, but most have been without pay now for three weeks, according to 34-year-old guide Oncy Khalil.

"We lost our income to win our freedom," he shrugged.

Tourism accounts for six percent of Egypt's gross domestic product, and February would normally be the height of the holiday season.

The sector brought in $13 billion in 2010, with a record 15 million people taking their holidays in the Land of the Pharaohs.

Alongside the guides, coach drivers, camel handlers, souvenir sellers, hotel waiters and taxi drivers have had a thin few weeks.

Shabula Abzimir shows visitors the ribs of his famished steed, crying out: "There is no business, no Americans. My horse can't eat, my family can't eat. This is not war, come back!"

Strikes by government employees have erupted throughout the country to demand higher wages and benefits, despite Egypt's newly formed government vowing to raise public sector salaries and pensions by 15 percent.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
Life and Style
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Bid / Tender Writing Executive

    £24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in Manchester, Lon...

    Guru Careers: Marketing Executives / Marketing Communications Consultants

    Competitive (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a number of Marketi...

    Recruitment Genius: Marketing Executive

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This well established business ...

    Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester

    £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Management Accountant - Manchester...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own