In 2011, the world watched the citizens of Egypt revolt against the dictator who called himself president, Hosni Mubarak. Students, business owners, cab drivers and nearly every socioeconomic category of life crammed the streets in unified protest of the government and its neglect of the country. People connected to social media outlets and nations around the world came together like never before. In between the violence, there was a whimsical, “progressive excitement” that made it challenging not to be captivated. Few realized what such a destabilizing event would do to the economic dependence on tourism, and even today that revolution is still a factor.
For three years since that historical event, the lasting memories of wild-eyed protesters permeating the streets in tumultuous mobs has had a dramatic impact on people’s perception of Egypt. The political turmoil and apparently unstable nature of the region, have all but flat-lined the flow of tourism into the country. Millions who depend on a steady flow of international currency have been devastated by the fearful retreat of visitors, and find themselves desperately seeking a method to turn the tide.
Egypt has implemented a new tourism campaign, but despite their efforts, the pre-revolutionary 15 million tourists per year have dwindled to a little over nine million. Many of those now restrict their travel to beaches and avoid major cities like Cairo and other historical destinations; further cramping the economic benefits of spending money.
Violent clashes with security forces and persistent unrest as militants carry out deadly attacks continues to keep Westerners away. A recent bus bombing that killed three tourists in Sinai has highlighted the danger, and Egypt tourism officials are struggling to bring travelers into the country that used to sell itself.
The recent military government takeovers, which will be followed up with a presidential election, does little to quell concerns over the country’s stability. Turmoil and past incidents have been mostly manageable, but the social media’s presence, and the up-close intimacy of that immediate accessibility has given the world a different perspective on the country’s troubles.
The need for change and the uprising of people who felt oppressed approximate such a dramatic and organic event on television. The foundational nature of the movement, and the passion of the protesters was inspiring. Even more gripping were the shocking images of police brutality, and the violence in the streets that hit home as casualties began to amass.
The memories of the uprisings continue to bear a toll, even as Egypt approaches a crossroads of different events in the coming years. The backlash of financial input, that has largely gone astray in view of the regions chaotic interludes, continues to hurt the struggling middle and working classes. The vast historic lands dotted with culture and everyday life has been swallowed up by the shadow of the revolution meant to end such a drought. The unforeseen consequences of progress mark the difficulty of change, and highlight the birth pains of a new era as the 2011 revolution continues to be a factor.
By J. Benjamin