September 21, 2014
Attempting to restart a foundering tourism industry, Egypt has announced a wide-ranging plan to boost security measures at select sites.
The nation's hotels, beaches, and ancient wonders have been far less attractive to tourists than before the 2011 revolution that drove Hosni Mubarak from power. Tourist numbers in 2010 were 14 million and in 2013 were 9.5 million.
The government plans to boost the number of security cameras, as well as increasing airport security procedures. In addition, applicants for jobs in the tourism industry will be subject to mandatory background checks. Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazoua announced the security plan at an international conference on tourism safety.
In a related development, Minister of Antiquities Mamdouh el-Damaty announced that restoration of the country's oldest pyramid, Saqqara's Djoser Step Pyramid, was proceeding as planned and that work to shore up the structural integrity of the 4,600-year-old pyramid was under way again in earnest.
The nation's revenues have been lower in the past few years, because of a drop in visiting tourists but also because of a lack of other external income. Significantly, the government reached an arms deal with Russia that will see $3.5 billion go out of Egypt's coffers, in exchange for an unspecified amount of weaponry. The U.S., one of Egypt's longtime allies, recently halted arms shipments to Cairo.
The country has been a hotbed of political protest and, subsequently, of crackdowns by police and the military, as deaths have numbered in the hundreds and arrests in the thousands. Most recently, Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie was sentenced to life in jail after being convicted on charges of inciting violence and murder in the wake of the removal of then-President Mohamed Morsi. Badie was convicted along with more than a dozen others. Their sentences can be appealed.
Badie was already facing other life sentences, after being convicted of similar charges earlier this year.
Morsi, who was elected after the revolution that overthrew Mubarak, is himself in jail, awaiting several trials on multiple charges. If convicted, he could be given the death penalty.