Egypt turmoil turns tourist hub Luxor into ghost town

Egypt turmoil turns tourist hub Luxor into ghost town
Egyptian men on their horse carts wait for tourists in the southern Egyptian city of Luxor.

LUXOR, Egypt - Tourists once flocked to Luxor for its pharaonic treasures, but as Egypt witnesses sweeping political upheavals, the visitors have simply vanished from this famed temple city. Christmas used to be particularly busy, as tens of thousands of visitors thronged Luxor's famous temples, but fresh unrest that followed the army's ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in July has virtually stopped tourist arrivals.

Egypt's political unrest first began with the 2011 uprising that toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak and triggered a wave of events that has rocked the tourism industry, which was vital to the country's economy.

Salah, 51, earned a living showing tourists around Luxor in his horse carriage, but now the father-of-four, the youngest of whom is just 18 months old, has no customers and his cart has lain idle for months.

"Before, I used to earn 2,000 to 3,000 (Egyptian) pounds (up to S$548 or 300 euros) a month. Today, I am happy if I have 10 pounds in my pocket," Salah said.

Luxor, a city of around 500,000 residents on the banks of the Nile insouthern Egypt, is one of the country's main tourist hubs that has born the brunt of the upheavals of the past three years.

It is an open-air museum of intricate temples, tombs of pharaonic rulers and landmarks such as the Winter Palace hotel where crime novelist Agatha Christie is said to have written "Death on the Nile."

Before 2011, it attracted several million tourists annually, drawn by the Valley of the Kings and Valley of the Queens, and the mortuary temple of Queen Hatshepsut - scene of a 1997 massacre that killed dozens of foreign tourists.

The 1997 attack by radical Islamist militants dented tourism, but in the years leading up to 2011 the industry was on the rise again and Luxor was once again a popular destination.

Most families like Salah's live on earnings from tourism, a sector that makes up over 11 per cent of Egypt's gross domestic product and until recently employed more than four million.

But the days when about 10,000 tourists arrived daily in Luxor have gone.

One could barely walk through the crowded streets three years ago, but now idle guides loiter between the towering columns of historic structures.

More about

Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.