Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 25 August 2019

Egypt's spirit must remain undimmed

The recent tourist attack also strikes at the heart of the nation's reputation and the livelihoods of its people

The shattered windscreen of a tourist bus at the site of the blast in Giza. Reuters
The shattered windscreen of a tourist bus at the site of the blast in Giza. Reuters

On Sunday, 17 people were injured by a roadside bomb that shattered the windows of a tourist bus and a private car as they passed by the site of the Grand Egyptian Museum in Giza, close to the city’s world-famous pyramids. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, but the casualties included Egyptians and holidaymakers from South Africa. Although no group has claimed the attack, it bears strong similarities to one that killed three tourists and one Egyptian tour guide, just five months ago. It is no coincidence that this museum, which is still under construction, should be targeted by terrorists. The $1 billion project is central to efforts to revive a tourism industry rocked by the 2011 uprisings. Egypt is a fascinating country, blessed with spectacular scenery and an unparalleled wealth of history. As such, it has long exerted a magnetic pull on travellers. However, the number of foreign visitors plummeted from a 2010 peak of 14 million to only 5.3 million in 2016.

Reports suggest that, owing to a more stable political environment, the industry has rallied considerably. That recovery is precisely what militant groups wish to put an end to. Sunday’s blast is part of a wider trend of attacks that have plagued Egypt for a number of years. Lately, they have focused particularly on attractions in Cairo and Giza. While such violence is clearly directed at visitors who have done nothing more than travel thousands of miles to admire a proud nation’s ancient treasures, it also strikes at the heart of Egypt’s international reputation and places the livelihoods of millions of hardworking people in grave danger.

Egypt already understands the importance of increased security. Since 2011, it has faced an ISIS-led insurgency in the Sinai peninsula. However, in the past year, government forces have successfully prevented high-profile attacks in this area. Guarding the Egyptian border with war-torn Libya is also a major concern, essential to curbing extremist incursions into the country and preventing Libya’s conflict from spreading. And now there is unrest in neighbouring Sudan. Those who carry out attacks such as that witnessed on Sunday do so in order to spread fear and chaos, and with the ultimate aim of destabilising a nation vital to the safety of the wider region. In the face of adversity, Egyptians have displayed admirable resilience. Their spirit and renowned hospitality must remain undimmed. After all, the millions of tourists who come to immerse themselves in the country’s many wonders should be able to do so without fear, and its people should be allowed to live in the peace and prosperity they deserve.

Updated: May 23, 2019 02:49 PM

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