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Egypt: Travel destination with risks

After South Africa, Egypt is the strongest industry on the African continent and has been popular with European tourists for a long time. Reason enough to take a closer look at the current security situation.

Egyptian tourism is booming again. According to Bloomberg, Egypt was once again part of the top 20 destinations worldwide in 2017, after tourist numbers had decreased dramatically in 2016. Egypt has much to offer: apart from the beaches of the Mediterranean Sea and the coral reefs in the Red Sea, its  historical heritage is particularly appealing and attracts millions of tourists to the country on the Nile. But the Arab spring and the associated unrest also marked the beginning of troubled times for the country's tourism.

While 14.7 million guests came to the country in 2010, the number has been steadily declining since 2011, with the exception of 2012, reaching a dramatic low of 5.4 million tourists in 2016. In 2017, however, a turnaround took place; almost 8 million people returned to the land of the Pharaohs, which gives hope to the important economic sector, nonetheless, the security situation and thus also the attractiveness for tourists is still unstable.

To better comprehend the situation inside the country it is worthwhile to take a look at the most recent incidents. At the end of November, during Friday prayer at a mosque in the north of the Sinai Peninsula, more than 300 people were killed in a bomb attack. About a month later, a Coptic church south of Cairo was attacked, killing nine people.

Since April 2017, the nationwide state of emergency has been declared, which resulted in extended powers of intervention for authorities and the military, but not necessarily in increased security. European foreign ministries have issued travel warnings for many parts of the country, including the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. In addition to the Sinai Peninsula, this also affects parts of the Sahara region, especially the border region to Libya, and also the Cairo-Luxor land link. Attacks and kidnappings, which can also target foreigners, are cited as a particular threat. In addition, fraudulent and extortionate taxi drivers are also brought to explicit attention, which is why one should stick to taximeters.

How Egypt's economy and tourism will develop will to an significant extend depend on the presidential elections this year. So far, the incumbent al-Sisi has been regarded as the favourite, while the list of challengers is getting shorter and shorter and the criticism of official interventions louder and louder. The election results could once again give rise to political unrest and thus also adversely affect the fragile security situation and the economic upswing.

In any case, professional and private stays in the country must be prepared at the very least, and the issue of security must be placed at the top of the priority list.

Sources: Auswärtiges Amt, Außenministerium Österreich, Bloomberg, Zeit, Süddeutsche Zeitung
Picture:  Egypt Giza Sphinx with pyramids in the background by Roderick Eime (CC BY 2.0) (Picture was cropped and colors were edited)

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