Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Egyptians and Tourists

Last summer, I touched on how the Egyptian government favors tourists above its own citizens. The examples I noted there were relatively minor, such as having personal bus stops, but you could go on about the existence of special tourist trains and resort areas in which Egyptians are simply not allowed. Now, Matthew Carrington mentions that laws may soon restrict how Egyptians interact with tourists. Apparently tourists are leaving Egypt with a bad personal impression of Egyptians, so the government feels the entire country must be remade to service the empire, with everyone now a hospitality worker. The Egypt Today article from which this springs didn't give many details, but it sounds like feeling ripped off is one complaint, as are lack of English skills and personal hygeine. So are we to understand now that individual Egyptians will no longer be able to take advantage of the vast differences in income between most Arabs and even Western grad students who pass through the country to make a few extra bucks and try to take care of an older relative or educate their children? Is the government really going to be worried about tourists who apparently think that everyone should speak English? And notice how signs of poverty, such as regular access to clean water, are now a government concern not because poverty is bad, but because these aforementioned signs are upsetting to those from wealthier nations?

The Egyptian people are really friendly, even when they're ripping you off. Hustling is kind of a problem, but I didn't think it was as bad as in Morocco, and you don't need this sort of massive campaign to deal with it.

I've read somewhere recently that Cairo is also replacing it's ancient taxi fleet, though I can't find it now. It's all undoubtedly part of fixing the country's image. As Carrington notes, "So, while one section of the regime has guys in polyester shirts beating demonstrators and shoving rolled up cardboard up their butts, another is going to pass a law that bans frowning at foreigners." These will often be foreigners who show no respect at all for local culture.


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