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March 14, 2014 6:38 pm

Empty Egypt: Sinai Peninsula Tourism Low Despite Government Efforts

avatar by Gidon Ben-zvi

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Sinai Beach

Since the overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, the number of tourists visiting some of the most beautiful places in the entire Middle East has plummeted by an estimated 80 percent, Israel’s Channel 2 reported on Thursday.

In Taba, Egypt, tourists are greeted by glorious seascapes and many empty rooms. Visitors embarking on a three-hour boat ride from the quaint town, situated near the northern tip of the Gulf of Aqaba, to Sharm el-Sheikh will most likely encounter several military checkpoints, police patrols and dogs trained by local authorities to sniff out anything considered a security threat.

Still, Governor of the Sinai Peninsula Khaled Fouda asserts there is nothing to fear since “our security measures are working effectively, especially in Sharm El-Sheikh.”

A wave of terrorism has swept across the Sinai Peninsula over the last three years, but not everyone has been scared away. Perhaps in need of a breather from the turmoil in their own countries, Russian and Ukrainian visitors continue to make their way to Taba and Sharm el-Sheikh, Channel 2 said.

Intrepid globetrotters who are willing to disregard their own governments’ warnings to visit Sinai stand to be rewarded with unheard of accommodation rates in Taba, Channel 2 said. According to local travel agent Mohammed Hamdi, “The prices here range from $50-60 dollars a night, as the Egyptian government is subsidizing heavy discounts for local hotels.”

Despite the desolation, Egypt’s rulers have made attracting tourists to Taba and the rest of Sinai a top priority. Hotels, nightclubs and cafes are being built at a frantic pace, Channel 2 said.

Even with the lure of substantially reduced rates at five-star hotels, the only Israelis who are visiting their neighboring Arab country nowadays are Israeli Arabs, according to the report.

Nevertheless, hope remains in Egypt. The country’s latest strongman, Defense Minister Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, is believed by many to be the one person with the strength, will and ability to vanquish the terrorists, restore order and kick start the local economy – crucial factors in turning the Sinai Peninsula into the attraction it once was, Channel 2 said.

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