In a sunny corner of the National Egyptian Museum, a group of almost a hundred tour guides held a protest, denouncing the ongoing lack of security in touristic sites. Occupying a sidewalk outlining one side of the Museum the protesters formed a circle, holding their tour guide cards and chanting their demands through a microphone and scheduled to remain there till 2 pm.
“The protest is held to deliver a message of warning and alert about the lack of security and moral behaviour taking over most touristic and historical sites to the officials.” Hesham Ahmed Al-Shattury, the secretary general of the tour guides’ syndicate, said while standing in his full suit among the protesting guides, explaining the reason for the protest.
According to Al-Shattury, cultural tourism in Egypt has declined by almost 80 percent following the January uprising, and especially after violent incidents such as the Maspero massacre and the cabinet clashes.
The protest was barricaded by three big banners displaying the guides’ demands; save the livelihood of over four million Egyptians working in the tourism sector, save touristic and historical sites from the lack of security and moral behaviour and backing the tourism police to support touristic security.
“The dire lack of security in touristic and historical sites has reflected negatively upon cultural tourism in Egypt, a situation which has subjecting tourists as well as tour guides to tough harassments which has sometimes even led to physical assault.” Al-Shattury added.
One tour guide standing in the protest, Ramy Al-Ameir told the Daily News Egypt that the main spark behind this protest is the verbal attack a female tour guide has been subjected to almost two weeks ago at the hands of a souvenir vendor.
“I don’t want to personify this protest by pinning it down to one individual incident,” Al-Shattury said, commenting on the aforementioned incident, “especially that several other attacks have happened before.”
Meanwhile, Al-Shattury assured that the demands of this protest were not categorical but national demands aimed at saving one of Egypt’s most important industries and a main source of national income and foreign exchange.
On the personal level, the protesting guides themselves were echoing separate demands as well as discontent affecting around 16 thousand tour guide nationwide. There seemed to be displeasure with president Mohamed Morsy’s Thursday meeting with a number of actors artists and intellectuals, where several guides see that a meeting with the guides’ representatives would have been more pressing.
Al-Ameir, one of the protesting guides speaking against Morsy’s meeting, posed an interesting point regarding the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan Egypt is subject to receive.
“Instead of taking over 3 billion dollars of loan from the IMF, take good care of tourism; a sector which could provide Egypt with one billion dollars per month.”
Al-Ameir’s work has been stalled for almost two years, due to the ongoing stagnation in the tourism sector.
It wasn’t only tour guides who took part in the protests. A few representatives of the Free Egyptians party were also seen among the guides, with the logo of the party decorating one or more items of their outfit.
One of them was Mona Monir Rezk, secretary general of the women’s committee in the party, who explained that in line with the party’s constant demand for a civilian state.
“We have joined the tour guides in a previous protest last year, which also had similar demands.” Rezk said.
Under the burning sun, one guide who seemed to be leading the protest called upon the other guides to join the circle and chant along instead of standing at a distance. Whether the seemingly large number of protesters would take its toll on restoring tourism to its initial state is yet to be observed.
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