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Support the Revolution: Visit Egypt and Spend Some Money

April 4, 2011

I took a group of students to Egypt in Summer of 2010 but insurance problems would prevent us from returning this summer. Hopefully we will be able to return in 2012.

Every other year my wife and I take students to Egypt as part of an anthropology  field methods research class. If I could, I’d try to take students there this summer instead of 2012 and talk to folks about the revolution. Alas, I can’t, because as long as the US Travel Advisory remains in effect, they can’t get student travel insurance.

Like most U.S. universities, Miami had to bail our students out of Cairo when the demonstrations turned violent, whether they wanted to leave or not, for insurance reasons. The students who left were among nearly a quarter million travelerswho fled the country in the last week of January and the first few days of February.

The government has estimated that tourism losses cost the nation about US$850 million in the span of about two weeks. And while some tourism has returned, the overall effects are pretty dire. The industry amounts to 5 to 6 per cent of Egypt’s gross domestic product.

Worse, about 2 million Egyptians make their living from tourismin a country where unemployment already is widespread, and underemployment, or jobs that pay less than needed to meet the cost of living, is even more common.

One interesting thing about tourism in post-Mubarak Egypt is that downtown has become a tourist hot spot. Whereas for my students, Tahrir Square was a hub from which we traveled other places in Cairo via Metro (albeit we also went there for koshary, to buy replacement electronics and visit the AUC bookstore), now foreing tourists make Tahrir Square a tourist attraction in its own right.

Naturally this has attracted sidewalk merchants, who line the circumference of the square hawking T-shirts, flags, bookmarks, hats, badges, stickers and wall hangings dedicated to the revolution.

Meanwhile, Egyptians have begun revisiting Pharaonic monuments, which have long offered a symbol of Egyptian nationalism, something I write about in Chapter Four of Connected in Cairo.

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