Almost 18 months since the protests in Tunisia set off a chain of events which became known as the Arab Spring, each of the affected countries in the Middle East and North Africa is facing its own challenges and opportunities. While destinations such as Libya were far from the minds of most tourists even before the revolution, visitors from around the world enjoyed holidays to Egypt and Tunisia.
Such countries were heavily reliant on foreign visitors and statistics show catastrophic falls in tourist numbers of up to a third following the huge political changes. One of the consequences of such a decline is billions of dollars in lost income, but with the situation in many countries in the region now stable travellers are again considering spending time and money on a summer holiday in a post-Arab Spring country.
This series of articles will examine the prospects for travel to destinations which were popular in pre-revolutionary times as well as a couple of places that may have been off the radar but could be worth considering for your next trip. Safety is paramount and will be given first priority – we will relay the latest travel advisory information we have from reliable sources at the time of publication but naturally situations can change and ultimately it is up to each potential visitor to decide whether the benefits outweigh the potential risks.
We have not included Syria for obvious reasons. When peace returns – as we hope it will before too long – we will update this series.
This first article concerns the region’s real heavyweight in terms of tourism…
Image (c) arabacademy.com
The Arab Spring in Egypt:
At the beginning of 2011 protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding that President Hosni Mubarak step down. After initially trying to quell the uprising the government collapsed and the revolution succeeded, but not without considerable violence and loss of life. Disappointingly the new rulers dragged their heels and promised reforms were delayed.
The current situation:
Protests continue after the recent first round of elections but these were the first to be freely contested in the country’s history and thus an indicator of real progress. When the second round of voting to decide on the country’s next president is completed and a winner announced the way forward for Eqypt will become clearer. Fears that one of the candidates will ban alcohol and impose segregated beaches have been dismissed as an attempt to win votes and would face massive opposition from the hospitality industry.
Still a concern, particularly after the kidnapping of several groups of foreign tourists in the Sinai Peninsula in February and again in May 2012. The British Foreign Office continues to advise against non-essential travel to the northern part of the peninsula.
The effects on tourism:
Visitor numbers were down by more than a third in 2011 compared to the previous year and have been slow to pick up despite the efforts of specialist travel agencies and the return of some major cruise lines in 2012, including Princess, Oceania, P & O, Cunard, Silversea, Seabourn, Holland America, Celebrity, and Norwegian. Nile River cruises began again in late 2011 despite having far fewer passengers. Tourism is one of Egypt’s most important sources of revenue so such a dramatic decline has serious economic consequences.
Attractions for visitors:
Egypt has many entries on most peoples’ bucket lists. To begin with, the country is home to the last surviving member of the Seven Wonders of the World; the Great Pyramid of Giza. There are two other pyramids in the same location and of course the Sphinx which sits in front of them. The temples of Abu Simbel next door are equally impressive but even these are overshadowed by the Temples of Karnak near Luxor.
Image (c) sailthenile.com
A Felucca trip down the Nile is another must-do, and for beach lovers the Red Sea resorts offer sun, sea and sand. If you’re into snorkeling or diving Hurghada is the place to go and you can qualify for your PADI certificate at one of the diving schools here for a fraction of the cost back home
Egypt is slowly returning to its rightful status as a holiday destination of choice; as long as you can deal with a little uncertainty you should definitely consider visiting. Enjoy the lack of visitors, crowds and queues while it lasts.
Image (c) egyptonlinetours.com
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This Post Has 12 Comments
I’d love to go back to Egypt and hopefully will sooner rather than later. Our last trip there was disrupted by the revolution which made travel around the country impractical. Nonetheless despite staying in Dahab from the initial protests to Mubarak’s fall we never once felt threatened.
Had we not been two weeks over our visa and needing to get on with our journey towards Turkey we would have stayed longer and enjoyed having the major sights to ourselves. I think that opportunity may be over now but, as long as travellers to the region keep up to date with the news and stay away from any sporadic trouble that may spring up, now is still a great time to visit.
Hi Shane and thanks for the comments. I’d love to get to Egypt too, my only experience was a stop-over on the way down to Ghana about 18 years ago. But I’m a bit fan of North Africa having travelled extensively in Morocco and Algeria. I also have fond memories of Libya, from 1977 when my father was living and working there. Amazing Roman ruins and great beaches, so I am hoping that travel there will become an option soon. I think people are returning but travellers will still notice a lack of long queues and high prices. Hopefully the situation will become clearer any day now after the second round of the elections.
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