Egypt welcomes 6,000 tourists after resuming flights

Passengers wearing protective face masks sit on a plane at Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport, Egypt, June 20, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 11 July 2020

Egypt welcomes 6,000 tourists after resuming flights

  • As of Friday morning, not a single case of COVID-19 had been detected among foreign visitors
  • In June, Egypt announced that it would reopen three governorates to tourism and international flights in July

CAIRO: Egypt received 6,000 tourists at the beginning of July after resuming flights that were previously suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement the country’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities said people from Switzerland, Ukraine and Belarus made up the greatest percentage of tourists in Egypt during this period.

It added that, as of Friday morning, not a single case of COVID-19 had been detected among the foreign visitors.

Suha Bahgat, a ministry spokeswoman, told Arab News that this was an indication the country was recovering and a sign of the gradual return of tourism to pre-pandemic days.

Bahgat said that the arrival of the number of tourists indicated their full trust in Egypt in terms of the precautionary measures taken by the government which had won the admiration of other countries.

She added that the country had made concerted efforts to restore the Egyptian tourism sector and was facilitating its return by implementing a set of precautionary measures and controls to improve Egypt’s image in foreign countries.

She was expecting that Egyptian tourism would gradually increase during the coming period “because the return of tourism is not just happening in Egypt, but in the whole world. It is also linked to the criteria set by the countries in which the tourists come from.”

Bahgat explained that it was necessary for tourists to adhere to the standards set by the government. The ministry's website includes instructions and controls to maintain tourist safety as well as the safety of those in tourist destinations.

HIGHLIGHT

People from Switzerland, Ukraine and Belarus made up the greatest percentage of tourists in Egypt since early July.

Tamer Makram, president of the South Sinai Investors Association, confirmed that the tourist groups arriving in Egypt at the beginning of the week had started to leave for their home countries without any positive coronavirus cases, neither among those departing nor those currently in the country who were “enjoying their vacation by the beaches of Egypt.”

Makram said the tourists expressed their enjoyment in Sharm El-Sheikh and singled out Egypt’s warm weather, open areas and the precautions set by the government as an ideal country for their tourist trips.

They said they would tell their friends and colleagues of the hotels’ commitment to the health and safety regulations announced by the government, according to Makram.

Egypt is working on restoring tourism in the country to how it was prior to the pandemic. Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Khaled Al-Anani said that Egypt had shown flexibility in dealing with the crises the country had witnessed during the past two decades.

Al-Anani said that Europeans made up nearly 60 percent of Egypt’s tourism last year. “The Egyptian state is seeking to create new tourist destinations inside the country by expanding the establishment of archeological museums and establishing new cities such as El-Alamein, which is expected to be one of the most significant tourist destinations in Egypt in the coming years,” he said.

In 2019 Egypt received nearly 2 million tourists from Germany and 1.5 million tourists from Ukraine.

He announced that Egypt would launch a number of important archaeological projects that had been in the pipeline for years. Some projects were suspended but have resumed, “an indicator of the government’s interest in the tourism and antiquities sector as those projects represent a new addition to Egyptian tourist destinations,” he added.

On June 14 Egypt announced that it would reopen three governorates to tourism and international flights in July, including Red Sea resorts in Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh as well as Marsa Matrouh, which overlooks the Mediterranean.


Political novices drawn to rally against Netanyahu

Updated 13 August 2020

Political novices drawn to rally against Netanyahu

  • The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis

JERUSALEM: In a summer of protests against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the accusations of corruption and calls for him to resign could be accompanied by another familiar refrain: “I’ve never done this before.”

The boisterous rallies have brought out a new breed of first-time protesters — young, middle-class Israelis who have little history of political activity but feel that Netanyahu’s scandal-plagued rule and his handling of the coronavirus crisis have robbed them of their futures. It is a phenomenon that could have deep implications for the country’s leaders.

“It’s not only about the COVID-19 and the government’s handling of the situation,” said Shachar Oren, a 25-year-old protester. “It’s also about the people that cannot afford to eat and cannot afford to live. I am one of those people.”

Oren is among the thousands of people who gather outside Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem several times a week, calling on the longtime leader to resign. The young demonstrators have delivered a boost of momentum to a movement of older, more established protesters who have been saying Netanyahu should step down when he is on trial for corruption charges.

The loose-knit movements have joined forces to portray Netanyahu as an out-of-touch leader, with the country’s most bloated government in history and seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax benefits for himself at a time when the coronavirus outbreak is raging and unemployment has soared to over 20 percent.

Many of the young protesters have lost their jobs or seen their career prospects jeopardized. They have given the protests a carnival-like atmosphere, pounding on drums and dancing in the streets in colorful costumes while chanting vitriolic slogans against the prime minister.

Netanyahu has tried to dismiss the protesters as “leftists” or “anarchists.” Erel Segal, a commentator close to the prime minister, has called the gatherings “a Woodstock of hatred.”

Despite such claims, there are no signs that any opposition parties are organizing the gatherings. Politicians have been noticeably absent from most of the protests.

Israel has a long tradition of political protest, be it peace activists, West Bank settlers or ultra-Orthodox Jews. The new wave of protesters seems to be characterized by a broader, mainstream appeal.

“The partisan issue is totally missing, and the party organizations are not present,” said Tamar Hermann, a researcher at the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank and expert on protest movements.

Hermann said the protesters resemble many other protest movements around the world. “They are mostly middle class,” she said. “And they were kicked out of work.”

Oren, for instance, said he used to survive on a modest salary as a software analyst thanks to training he received in an Israeli military high-tech unit. Then he moved into tutoring — offering lessons in English, computers and chess to schoolchildren.

He said things were not easy, but he was “too busy surviving” to think about political activity. That changed when the coronavirus crisis began in March.

Oren’s business crashed.

With unemployment soaring, Netanyahu and his rival, Benny Gantz, formed a coalition with 34 Cabinet ministers, the largest government in Israel’s history. Beyond the generous salaries, these ministers, many with vague titles, enjoy perks like drivers, security guards and office space, and can hand out jobs to cronies.

A Netanyahu ally dismissed reports that people were having trouble feeding their families as “BS.”

Oren said he became “furious,” and about two months ago, he went to his first protest against the nation’s leaders. “They are there because we gave them the power and want them to help us. And they’re not doing anything,” he explained.

Oren now treks to Jerusalem from his home in the city of Kfar Saba in central Israel, about an hour away, three times a week. He is easily recognizable with his poster that says “House of Corruption,” depicting Netanyahu in a pose similar to Kevin Spacey’s nefarious “House of Cards” character, Frank Underwood.

Oren says he does not belong to any political party or any of the movements organizing the rallies, but that the diverse group of activists all want similar things. “No to the corruption, the poverty, the detachment. We’re just saying enough,” he said.

University student Stav Piltz went through a similar evolution. Living in downtown Jerusalem near Netanyahu’s residence, she quickly noticed the demonstrations in her neighborhood when they began several months ago. She talked to protesters as well as local residents at the cafe where she waitressed before she was laid off.

She said she noticed a common theme. “They feel that something is very critical now in the political climate and no one is listening to the citizens and the pain we are experiencing,” she said.

But Piltz said the spark that drew her to protest was a national strike last month by the country’s social workers.

Piltz, herself a social work student, said she has a history of social activism but has never been involved with party politics. The collection of women, coming from different religious, political, ethnic and racial backgrounds, was a powerful sight. “This is where I saw how much power we have when we are together,” she said.

The demonstrations, which have gained strength in recent weeks, are the largest sustained wave of public protests since hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in 2011 to draw attention to the country’s high cost of living. While those protests ultimately fizzled, two of their leaders entered parliament, and one, Itzik Shmuli, is now the country’s welfare minister.

Both Piltz and Oren said they are determined to keep up their activities in the long term.

“People have nothing to lose. So it’s very easy to go demonstrate these days, especially if you’re young and you see no future here,” Piltz said.

Hermann, the political analyst, said too many Israeli youths have been “politically ignorant” and that it is a “very good sign” for the country’s democracy that people are becoming involved.

The leaders, however, may not be so pleased to face a politically aware young generation.

“They are much more difficult to be controlled while they gain political views and confidence,” she said.