"The stunning, colossal monuments of Ancient Egypt never fail to astonish," promises
"You're talking about ghost cities," said Zaazou. Some of
On some days, there were only a handful of visitors to Luxor's Valley of the Kings. During the worst trough, no more than five tourist ships operated on the Nile out of a fleet of about 250. Up to 165 hotels closed temporarily owing to lack of custom last July and August, according to Elhamy Elzayat,head of the Egyptian tourism federation.
In a country where officials say tourism provides 12.5% of employment, and 11.3% of GDP, the effect has been brutal for many Egyptians. In Luxor in December, the local government gave food handouts to families who make their living from giving carriage rides to tourists. "They had to choose between feeding their families and feeding their horses," said Elzayat.
The industry suffered during 2011 and 2012, as tourists stayed clear of a country that had swung from crisis to crisis after Mubarak's removal. But numbers fell off entirely between July and
Tourism workers say visitors' fears are largely unfounded. "If you go back over the past three years, most of the tourist cities were under control like this one. It was safe and sound," said Zaazou, interviewed near Hurghada, a
Though extremists killed dozens of tourists in Luxor in 1997, today's militants have not attacked any foreigners, Zaazou stressed. "What you have seen in
Government supporters often express heightened nationalist rhetoric on television, with one pro-regime ex-MP threatening to slaughter Americans in the street in January. But Zaazou said such sentiment was just bluster, and aimed at western governments - perceived to still back Morsi - rather than tourists. "I want you to understand that on a one-to-one basis Egyptians are welcoming you," said Zaazou. In general, hoteliers and officials want to portray the industry as on the road to recovery, and the subject of renewed investment. The industry has unveiled pounds 500m worth of investment in six new hotels,
But while room occupancy is slowly rising across
"It will pick up, though not in the near future," said Elzayat, adding that a return to a full inbound flight schedule was crucial. Direct flights to Luxor are a start, but according to his calculations planes flying into
But Elzayat said
Tourists who have braved
A guide looks for tourists to take on a ride round the pyramids at Giza. In Luxor, food was given to carriage operators who had to choose between feeding families or their horses. Below, good times at the Temple of Hatshepsut near Luxor Photograph: Fayez Nureldene
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