Vendors at Egypt’s pyramids who are desperate to make money in a deepening economic crisis are using aggressive and even violent means to get tourists to give them some business, frequenters of the tourist spot say. […]Visitors going toward the ancient complex, roughly an hour’s drive in traffic from central Cairo, are encountering Egyptians who work in the tourism sector and surround and pound on tourists’ taxis and cars in what the embassy says may be an effort to pressure visitors to ride in their horse-drawn carriages.
“U.S. citizens,” reads the Embassy warning, “should elevate their situational awareness when traveling to the pyramids, avoid any late evening or night travel, utilize a recommended or trusted guide, and closely guard valuables.” This is the same basic message presented by a World Economic Forum report that ranked Egypt as one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a tourist.This is less dramatic news than reports of the latest massacre in Syria or riot in Turkey, but it’s possibly more significant in the long term, for two reasons. First, it’s the US Embassy that has issued this warning; second it’s on the front page of USA Today, so plenty of people are going to hear about it.Tourism has been hit hard by political turmoil in Egypt. Many travelers are avoiding the country or canceling trips. Hotel occupancy in Cairo is 15 percent or lower in some parts of the city.The Embassy warning may be the sign that it’s time to stick a fork in Egypt’s tourism industry. The Egyptians can forget about a tourism revival anytime soon.Foreign economic aid won’t be able to replace the lost tourism revenue, which, as the NYT reports, “provides direct jobs for nearly three million people, critical income to more than 70 industries and 20 percent of the state’s foreign currency—now desperately needed to prop up the plummeting Egyptian pound.” And so the economic death spiral will continue.Egypt remains the center of gravity of the Arab world. A stable Egypt has been the bedrock reality of the region for more than 50 years. An end to that fact would be change indeed.[Old image of Great Pyramid of Giza courtesy Wikimedia]