Archive for April, 2011

U.S. Lifts Travel Restrictions for Egypt

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By Nicole Gaouette, Bloomberg.com

The State Department announced today that the U.S. embassy in Egypt will return to normal functions and that non-essential staff and diplomats’ families can return to the country.

Riots and protests that broke out in January [...] caused the State Department to winnow its staff at the heavily fortified embassy in Cairo.

The travel alert, released in Washington, warned that the situation is still not back to normal. “Given that Egyptian security services have not yet fully redeployed, the department alerts U.S. citizens planning to travel to Egypt to the possibility of sporadic unrest,” the statement said.

It advised Americans to avoid all public demonstrations “as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse.”

The security situation in tourist destinations such as Luxor, Aswan and the Red Sea resorts, including Sharm el Sheikh, continues to be calm, the statement said.

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WikiLeaks “soundtrack” featuring the people of Egypt

Nivehive-Album-Pic

From the forthcoming album “Collateral Sounds”, a WikiLeaks concept album. Featuring the people of Egypt on vocals and Jim Orso on drums.

People Demand by nivehive

According to Nivehive – soundtrack “providers” of WikiLeaks – their forthcoming album “Collateral Sounds” is a response to the Wikileaks phenomenon, whose publications have rendered clear the true line of division: on the one side, a global citizenry eager for liberation, for the creation of a common future; and on the other, a corporate-governmental elite, which cares not for this world, a world we all share, but for their own enrichment.

As it is stated on Nivehive’s official website “Wikileaks is not an organization, it is a backlash, a mutiny. Nivehive is here to provide the soundtrack.”

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Giant statue of Amenhotep III unearthed in Egypt

Part of the 3 meter (42 foot) tall statue of Amenhotep III unearthed in Luxor Photo: AP

Published in The Telegraph, April 26 2011

 Part of the 3 meter (42 foot) tall statue of Amenhotep III unearthed in Luxor Photo: AP

(Photo credits: AP)

Archaeologists have discovered a giant statue of Egypt’s famous pharaoh Amenhotep III at his mortuary temple in the southern city of Luxor, the antiquities authority said on Tuesday.

The 13-metre-tall (43-foot) statue was found buried in seven pieces at the mortuary temple of Amenhotep III at Kom al-Hitan.

It was one of two statues placed at the northern entrance of the temple, and was probably destroyed during an earthquake in 27BC, the antiquities authority statement said.

“The archaeological team is now working to clean, restore and collect the seven pieces and find the head of the statue,” the statement said.

It also said it was hoped the statue’s twin would be unearthed soon.

Amenhotep III, who ruled Egypt between 1390 and 1352BC, is the father of Akhenaten, the “heretic pharaoh” considered a precursor of monotheism because he tried to impose the exclusive worship of Aten.

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Massive holiday offers in the Red Sea resort of El-Gouna

El-Gouna-Golf-Club-(2)

By Ruth Norris, Southall Travel, April 26, 2011

Diver in El-Gouna, Red Sea, Egypt

British travellers heading to the Red Sea for a luxury getaway this summer can take advantage of some great value offers at El Gouna resort.

Ideal for those arriving on flights to Hurghada, the resort is currently offering 28 per cent off scuba diving, so you can make the most of the scenic coastline nearby.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to try your hand at something new, then the Golf for Beginners package may be appealing.

For just £228, a pair of keen golfers can enjoy five lessons on the 18-hole Gene Bates and Fred Couples designed championship course, with all balls and equipment included in the price.

If you want your kids to try their hand at golf, you can opt for the family golf package, which costs just £27 extra.

Other offers, including 40 per cent off hotel stays, can also be found.

Explore El-Gouna in full HD Panoramic interactive view.

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Did You Know: The first female doctor was Egyptian!

physician72_small

In the period known as the “Old Kingdom” in Ancient Egypt, from 2600-2100 BC, all professions were open to men and women, including the clergy, business, and medicine. In fact, records show that there were more than 100 prominent female physicians in Ancient Egypt, with Peseshet as their director. She was known as “lady overseer of the female physicians” – although it is not established that Lady Peseshet was a doctor herself and even if she was she was not the first known female physician. That title goes to someone who practiced medicine almost 100 years earlier: the world’s first known female doctor was Merit-Ptah (2700 BC).

As with mathematics and astronomy, medicine was well-developed in Ancient Egypt, with physicians specializing in various medical fields, including eye care and dentistry.

Source: Didyouknow.org

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Wael Ghonim leaves Google to create NGO

Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim attending a round table discussion entitled Youth, Jobs, and Inclusive Growth in the Middle East and North Africa at the IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington, DC, on April 15, 2011

By Jessica Guynn, The Los Angeles Times

Egyptian Google executive Wael Ghonim attending a round table discussion entitled Youth, Jobs, and Inclusive Growth in the Middle East and North Africa at the IMF/World Bank Spring meetings in Washington, DC, on April 15, 2011

Credit: Nicholas KAMM/AFP/Getty Images

Wael Ghonim never sought to become the public face of the Egyptian revolution.

But the Google executive who helped organize the political uprising on social media was thrust into the spotlight in February after he was arrested and beaten by government forces during the protests that toppled former President Hosni Mubarak.

Since then, Ghonim has been traveling the globe to spread word of Revolution 2.0, tapping the power of the Internet and social media to foment revolution. He has also lent his support to protests in other hot spots in the region, such as Syria.

Last week, Ghonim, head of marketing in the Middle East for Google, made a pit stop in Silicon Valley, where his appearance at the company’s Mountain View campus was described as “emotional.” He also spoke on the Stanford University campus.

On Saturday, Ghonim said on Twitter that he would take a long sabbatical from the Internet search giant. He plans to start a technology-focused nongovernmental organization to help fight poverty and foster education.

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UK Travelers pick Egypt and Dubai as top Easter destinations

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By Anthony Nicholson, Southall Travel, April 20 2011

Brits looking to book a last-minute getaway for the Easter holiday period can expect a great bargain in Egypt, while flights to Dubai are also expected to be popular.

This is according to travel association Abta, which has reported a boost in bookings to several short and mid-haul destinations.

[...]

Temperatures in the late twenties and guaranteed sunshine are to be expected in the North African nations, which have calmed down considerably since the civil unrest earlier this year.

John McEwan, chairman of Abta, said that the extra bank holiday for the Royal Wedding has significantly boosted bookings.

“Easter is the traditional curtain raiser to the summer. I am delighted to see that so many of our customers are taking advantage of the extra days off by either heading overseas or taking a break closer to home,” he said.

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A peaceful visit in Egypt

John holds up the revolutionary T-shirt he got from Tahrir Square

By Starla Pointer, Of the News-Register, April 20 2011

Caye Poe and John Francis of Dayton like to travel off the beaten path, taking spur-of-the-moment trips to places more conventional tourists might not consider — in fact, may never have heard of. They tend to skip the fancy restaurants and A-list sites in favor of street food and interaction with locals, giving them better insight into everyday life.

So it was unusual for them to join a tour group bound for Egypt at the end of March.

Poe was reading a newspaper story about the big downturn Egyptian tourism had taken in the aftermath of the February revolution. She suggested to her husband that they seize the opportunity.

“It took John about five seconds to say, ‘Let’s go!’” she recalled.

Joining a tour group was the quickest, most convenient way to arrange travel to the country, still unstable following the breakup of the Hosni Mubarak regime. Less then two weeks after signing up, they found themselves in Cairo.

It turned out to be the perfect time to visit the land of the pyramids: The weather was mild, prices were down and there were no crowds anywhere.

[...]

John holds up the "revolutionary" t-shirt he got from Tahrir Square

They expected to face some anti-American sentiment, but experienced nothing of the sort.

Egyptians welcomed them everywhere. And they seemed as interested in life in Dayton as Poe and Francis were about life in Cairo.

Souvenirs of the revolution were being hawked everywhere they went. Flags, T-shirts and books were particularly prevalent.

“They’re marketing the revolution,” Francis said. “They’re making an omelet from broken eggs.”

He and his wife spent time in Tahrir Square, the heart of the protests in Cairo. The “square” actually consists of several large open areas in the center of the city, flanked by shops and government buildings.

Demonstrations were still taking place there while the Dayton couple were on scene, and erupted into violence again shortly after they left. But while their tour leader cautioned them to stay together at their hotel at night, they encountered no threats

It was obvious the Egyptian economy was hurting, Francis said. “Ours was the only tour bus at the pyramids,” he said, noting, “The lot is usually full.”

 

They also had ancient temples and the Valley of the Kings almost to themselves.

[...]

The valley is filled with tombs built to hold the remains of Egyptian royalty, including King Tut. There is typically nothing visible above ground, but as soon as you go below, you begin to encounter elaborate carvings, they said.

Caye Poe and John Francis at the Pyramids in Giza

It was amazing to visit sites built and erected hundreds of years before modern machinery, Francis said. “It’s a funny feeling to touch the same walls someone touched 3,000 or 5,000 years ago,” he said.

He had a different type of funny feeling when their group embarked on a camel ride. It’s easier to ride a camel than a horse, he said, and the animals move with a rolling motion reminiscent of a ship.

Francis and his wife spent time in Luxor and Alexandria as well. And they traveled by boat along the wide, green Nile, passing through a series of locks, each with its inevitable contingent of vendors offering food, clothing and souvenirs.

Their floating journey ended at the mighty Aswan Dam.

They couldn’t get as close they’d hoped, however, due to the military unit posted there. “I’d hoped to go to the bottom and look up, so I could compare it to the Hoover Dam,” he said.

[...]

In the narrow, twisting streets of central Cairo, they visited a number of interesting shops.

Poe was particularly taken with a centuries-old spice shop, remarking, “oh, the smells!” She also visited a shop that traded in traditional papyrus and another offering inlaid boxes.

Nestled among the shops were numerous small cafes, all equipped with hookahs, Francis said.

For the Dayton residents, travel is mostly about people — about connecting with others and learning how people react to situations. They’ve experienced the differences and similarities of people in Sri Lanka, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Andaman Islands, India and other places.

[...]

“I hadn’t expected the friendliness,” Francis said. “We’d expected some anti-U.S. feeling, but there was none.”

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Egyptian artists tell their 25 Jan Revolution Story

After the glorious events of our revolution, many people have stories to share.

Everyone’s impressions about the events of January 25th.

Many Egyptian artists took the initiative and shared their story through this animation.

This is an invitation for you also to join and share the stories you have.

Egypt is free

Share freedom
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=al4GqFVGpLg

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International cruise line to resume calls to Egypt

princess_cruise_ship

USA Today: Princess Cruises is returning to Egypt, effective May 15
By Gene Sloan

 

“Princess Cruises” announced it is reversing the cancellation of upcoming summer and fall port calls in [Egypt].

In February, Princess said it was to drop Egypt from 18 sailings scheduled through November. The voyages – aboard Star Princess, Dawn Princess, Ocean Princess and Pacific Princess – will now revert to their originally published itineraries.

“The situation in Egypt has calmed considerably since wide-spread protests earlier this year, and the tourist areas aren’t currently being affected,” Princess executive vice president Jan Swartz says in a statement. “We’re pleased to tell passengers they can once again plan to experience this country’s iconic pyramids and other ancient wonders.”

The Egyptian ports of Alexandria and Port Said are part of the two-day Egypt experience included on the line’s 12-day Holy Land sailings. Sailings depart from May 7 through Nov. 15.

[…]

The line says it will continue to monitor the situation in Egypt and consult with various authorities to obtain the latest information and advice.

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Several tourist attractions in Egypt to open and re-open soon

The Hanging Church in Cairo

eTurboNews (eTN) Global Travel News, April 17 2011

During his meeting with Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, Zahi Hawass, Minister of State for Antiquities, reviewed the Ministry’s work for the coming weeks. Hawass announced that in an effort to promote tourism in Egypt, several archaeological sites and tourist attractions will be opened soon in Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Rashid and Taba.

The Hanging Church in Cairo

The Hanging Church in Cairo

Sites that will be reopened or opened for the first time include: the Hanging Church in Cairo, which recently underwent restoration, the Serapeum and the New Kingdom cemetery at Saqqara, which contains the tombs of Maya and Horemheb. Also to be opened for the first time are the new Suez National Museum and the Crocodile Museum in Kom Ombo.

Hawass stated that the opening of these sites at the current time is a message to the whole world that Egypt is safe and ready to welcome tourists from all over the world. Hawass added that new sites to be opened soon include the Zaghloul mosque and six Islamic-era houses in Rashid, the Salaheddin Citadel in Taba, the mosque of Sidi Galal in Minya, and the Al-Mansour and Qalawoun complexes in Al-Muizz Street as well as the mosque of Prince Soliman, which is known as the Hanging Mosque.

[...]

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On Kennedy’s nightstand: “Palace Walk” by Naguib Mahfouz

(AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

By Piper Castillo, Times staff writer

(AP Photo/Evan Agostini)

In celebration of National Poetry Month, on April 5, Caroline Kennedy released her third anthology of poetry, She Walks In Beauty: A Woman’s Journey Through Poems. Interviewed by the St. Petersburg Times, Kennedy talks about her nightstand books.

[…]

What’s on your nightstand?

My nightstand is pretty intense. I’m reading The Arc of Justice: A Saga of Race, Civil Rights, and Murder in the Jazz Age by Kevin Boyle. Also, I’m very interested in reading about different parts of the world. It’s odd, but I had just finished Fear and Trembling (by Amelie Nothomb), a novel based in Japan, right before the earthquake and tsunami. It’s a quick book and very good. I also have Palace Walk by Naguib Mahfouz, an Egyptian who won the Nobel Prize. My mom had edited it years ago, and I remember her talking about it and being very excited about it. Because of everything going on in Egypt, I decided to take it off the shelves.

This was the first time you read it?

Yes. It’s really a fascinating book because it describes Cairo’s society during the time of World War I and family life there. It’s very much for the Westerner, the American reader. It covers family life and how the role of women in society at that time was breathtakingly different. At the end, it gets really fascinating because the sons in the book get caught up in street demonstrations. I had no idea that was where the book was headed. I remember my mother talking about the slow pace of life in Cairo, and it was interesting reading it now against the backdrop of current events. I also just recently read Cleopatra (by Stacy Schiff).

[…]

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American students studying in Cairo refuse to leave

Shiho Fukada for The International Herald Tribune

Extract from “The Global Campus – Study Abroad in Hot Spots”, By CECILIA CAPUZZI SIMON, The New York Times

[...]

(Shiho Fukada for The International Herald Tribune)

The American University in Cairo suspended its program after the State Department advisory in February against non-essential travel to Egypt. But many of the 325 Americans studying abroad there relished their front seat to history and didn’t want to leave, says the university president, Lisa Anderson. She says fall programs are under discussion, and if the advisory is lifted, she expects a “bumper crop” of students.

Most study-abroad sponsors base their decisions to suspend programs on the State Department warnings; advisories can trip insurance policies, leaving little choice but to evacuate students. (Federal aid for study abroad cannot be used in countries where there is an advisory.)

Dr. Anderson advises parents and students to attach to a “robust” institution, one that will assess a country’s risk level and put in place emergency procedures, including seemingly simple things like transportation to an airport or arranging to have belongings shipped home.

[...]

The Global Campus

Study Abroad in Hot Spots

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The Pyramids of Egypt

A camel resting on the Giza Plateau
From Canuck Abroad, April 15 2011

Visiting the Pyramids of Egypt

The pyramid of Dahshur

What you might not realize is that there are over 100 pyramids throughout Egypt, but when you want to travel to see them specifically, most people choose the group known as the Great Pyramids. Located in Giza, these pyramids were created to symbolize the creation of the world, as the ancient Egyptians understood life. There is also some speculation that the pyramids were built to honor the dead, as many famous Egyptian rulers were buried in their own pyramids.

What to Expect When You Want To See The Pyramids Of Egypt

Giza Plateau

Located right outside of Cairo, it’s actually quite simple to journey to the pyramids. By flying into Cairo for the main part of your trip, you can take taxis and local transportation to visit not only the famous large pyramids, but also the Sphinx. The trip takes only about fifteen minutes.

Though the pyramids themselves are a little dull from the outside once you’ve gotten used to the monstrous size, you can go into the pyramids themselves to see burial chambers and other artifacts. Some of the rooms are a tight squeeze, so if you’re at all claustrophobic, you might want to skip this part.

You can also go on an organized tour of the pyramids as booked by your hotel. These are fairly cheap and well worth it if you want to learn more about the history of the building and the times. Of course, if you’re really cheap, you can see these pyramids from most tall buildings in Cairo.

Best Time to See the Pyramids

A camel resting on the Giza Plateau

If you want to avoid the tour groups, you might want to head to see the pyramids when it’s the middle of the day. Granted, it’s going to be really hot right then, but since many people forget this, you might luck out and get the pyramids to yourself. Just bring enough water and cover yourself up to protect your skin.

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Remembering the Greatest Moments of Egypt’s History

This video will remain one of my favorites!

Even if you don’t speak Arabic, the music is great and you can feel all the emotions.

The song’s title means: “In every street of my country, freedom’s voice is calling”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ky5UdJBo3m0

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Beyonce is a hot Egyptian princess in her new video

Beyonce on set in L.A (FAME / BARCROFT MEDIA LTD)

(IANS) London, April 14 2011

Beyonce on set in L.A (FAME / BARCROFT MEDIA LTD)

Singer Beyonce Knowles has donned a sexy avatar of an Egyptian princess for the video of her new single, ‘Till the end of the world’.

She wore skimpy hotpants and a tightfitted top, unlike a conventional princess, but she also sported a typical Egyptian headdress to complete her look, reports thesun.co.uk.

Knowles was surrounded by dancers in brightly coloured skirts, teamed with black military-style jackets and caps.

The set in Los Angeles had burnt out cars, sprayed with graffiti, and posters of the sultry star.

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Melbourne: Tutankhamun’s Last Trip—You Will Be Changed

The golden mask of Tjuya - Tutankhamun's great-grandmother

By Kati Turcu, The Epoch Times, April 12 2011

You’ve heard the expression: “Not all that glitters is gold,” but at the TUTANKHAMUN AND THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE PHARAOHS exhibition, all that glitters is gold. The exhibition that has just opened at the Melbourne Museum is already set to be a blockbuster, with well over 100,000 tickets pre-sold.

The golden mask of Tjuya - Tutankhamun's great-grandmother

This is the last time that Egypt’s precious artifacts will tour, as once the construction of the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is in the shadow of the Great Pyramids in Giza, is completed, the treasures will go back, never to leave home again.

But back to all that gold—there’s lots of it and it is mesmerizing.

Apparently, in ancient Egypt, gold was believed to be “the flesh of the gods” and rightly so.

In the Western Christian tradition, the religious icons often have a gilded background symbolizing heaven, that extra dimension of splendor and mystery, with Christ and the saints manifesting out of it. In Egypt, the king and his family are made of that very stuff, coming out of the darkness – solid, imperial and incredibly content. Their expressions are unexpectedly evocative and it seems as though they all have a sort of “Mona Lisa smile.”

Take the head mask of Tjuya, Tutankhamun’s great-grandmother, she’s definitely smiling. Then there’s the face of Nefertiti—her eyes and eyebrows, which would normally be filled with lapis lazuli, are missing, her nose is broken and yet there’s a glint of a smile, and an overall expression that really stops you in your tracks.

Seeing in Context

It is worth slowing down a bit and spending time in front of these objects. You’ll start to notice little things. The dim lighting helps with the mood as well, but more than that, it has the surprising quality of reflecting the images of the artefacts onto the surrounding glass in a sort of infinite visual echo descending into darkness.

This was a happy discovery even for the exhibition’s Creative Director Mark Lach, who told The Epoch Times: “It’s important not to be afraid of the word theatrical or dramatic, but to never let that overwhelm or up-stage the objects – the objects are the real focus.”

In designing the way the artifacts are displayed, he recognized the need to give them a proper context.

“You want to make sure that when you add theatrical touches that they don’t get in the way of the appreciation of the artifacts. But so many people come to the exhibition and they talk about going to Egypt, maybe some day, but maybe they’ll never make it. Today is their visit and if that’s the case, you want to give a little background, a little context. That’s why some of those big murals at the beginning of the exhibition put you there,” said Mr Lach.

Satisfying that even if you don’t know and don’t necessarily care whether King Tut died of an infection from a fractured knee or that his father Akhenaten was the first to introduce monotheism to Egypt, you will be changed.

Testimony to Artisans

The sculptures stand as glorious testimony to the Egyptian artists who, even with their stylized techniques, managed to imbue so much life and meaning into their creations. You can’t help but think that they poured all their energy, gold, vibrant colors, exotic materials into each creation as if to overcompensate for the inevitably diminutive mass of monochromatic mummified flesh.

And about that, since we must mention something about the ancient Egyptian penchant for embalming all things great and small, the exhibition’s high tech wing features a replica of King Tut’s mummy and a bronze skull that visitors are encouraged to touch.

The iconic image of Tutankhamun’s golden mask that features in the exhibition comes from a small coffin that used to contain the king’s embalmed liver.

Mark Lach explains: “The coffinette was placed with three others and [together] they held four different organs, and then they were placed in a box and then in another box. The coffins were human-size, life-size and they were sometimes two or three that would interlock one on top of the other.”

The small coffin is nothing short of exquisite, inside and out, with hieroglyphs covering the interior.

Inexplicable Techniques

Not surprisingly, Egypt’s ancient relics still raise many questions. Just how did the ancient Egyptian sculptors living in the Bronze Age manage to carve and buff great big blocks of granite when today, carvers need to use tungsten-tipped chisels and industrial diamonds?

In an article titled Advanced Machining in Ancient Egypt, and available on his website, Christopher P. Dunn, who confesses to be a “technologist” rather than an Egyptologist, concludes that the artifact left behind by ancient Egyptians are unexplainable in simple terms. Their prolific number and lack of evidence as to the tools surviving to explain their creation has left us with a sketchy understanding of the culture, he writes.

Perhaps this is why the culture of ancient Egypt is so awe inspiring. The Tutankahmun exhibition actually gave rise to the term “blockbuster” when it showed in London for the first time, ie, the queue for tickets going around the block.

There’s an ancient Egyptian belief that to speak of the dead is to make them live again.

Considering the number of visitors set to see the exhibition, the Boy King and his entourage may be smiling somewhere out there in the afterlife.

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MICE: The perfect time to meet in Egypt?

redseamarina

Bedouk.com, The Online Resource for Worldwide Meeting Planners
Tuesday April 12, 2011

Egypt has launched an aggressive new advertising campaign which aims to restore confidence in the country as a tourist destination following its recent political unrest.

Representatives of Egypt revealed at the recent GIBTM show that around US$5 million is being invested in a variety of different measures: incentives are being offered for charter flights to Sharm El Sheikh, Hurghada and Luxor, familiarisation trips are being arranged for the media, and an awareness program is being targeted at travel industry professionals.

Tourism, both business and leisure, is crucial to the Egyptian economy, employing over 10% of the country’s workforce and supplying around US$12 billion in income per year, and it is for this reason that the Egyptian tourism authorities are so keen to reassure potential visitors from abroad that the situation has returned to normal, and that it is safe to return.

It was also announced at GIBTM that many hotels in Egypt have reduced their rates by around 50%. For those looking to organise a spectacular event on a budget, perhaps now represents the ideal time to consider this destination.

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Egypt sees comeback by Russian holidaymakers

© Flickr.com/Lifesized/cc-by-nc-sa 3.0
Published by The Voice of Russia, Monday April 11 2011

© Flickr.com/Lifesized/cc-by-nc-sa 3.0

Normalization in Egypt has triggered a mass comeback by Russian holidaymakers to Egyptian resorts on the coast of the Red Sea. Hurghada alone expects to welcome 8 thousand during the Russian vacations in early May.

At the time of the Egyptian revolt against President Hosni Mubarak in January and February, the Russian Foreign Ministry advised Russian nationals to postpone travel to Egypt.

On February 11th, Mubarak stepped down. A few days later, the last Russian holidaymaker left his North African country.

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Australia eases up on travel advisory for Egypt

australian-flag

Published on Etravelblackboard.com, Monday April 11, 2011

DFAT (The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade) has revised its travel advisory for certain areas in Egypt. Luxor, Aswan and the Red Sea Resorts have been issued a lower level of alert – down from level four “Reconsider your need to travel” to level three “High degree of caution”. This decision has been welcomed by the Egyptian Tourist Authority (ETA).

Most Australian travel agents operating tours to Egypt resumed tours to the country in late February. Interest in travel to Egypt and the region remains strong for the rest of 2011 and beyond.

The Egyptian consulate in Sydney has also announced it is seeing an upward trend in visa applications for travel to Egypt. The consulate says 614 visas were issued in January before a substantial drop to 194 visas being issued in February. However, travel confidence to Egypt was evident in March with 381 visas being issued. Visa applications to the Egyptian consulate in Sydney are showing continuing confidence amongst Australians who wish to travel to Egypt.

Although these visa application figures in Sydney are not indicative of the actual number of Australians visiting Egypt (as visitors to Egypt can obtain visas on arrival), it is a clear indication of the increasing number of Australian travellers to the country.

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18 Items Have Been Stolen from the Egyptian Museum

Items-Stolen-Museum-2

Egypt’s antiquities chief says looters escaped with 18 items at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo during the recent anti-government unrest.

(Source: Associated Press YouTube channel)

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Of Pyramids and Protesters

Denis Dailleux / Agence VU-Aurora
Denis Dailleux / Agence VU-Aurora

Replicas of the pyramids in a Cairo workshop (Denis Dailleux / Agence VU-Aurora)

By Peter Der Manuelian (Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology at Harvard University), Newsweek

As Egypt transitions to democracy, Egyptians from all walks of life are stepping up to protect the country’s ancient heritage.

“There’s the Great Pyramid. Since you are new here, please go over to the entrance and try to bribe the guard to let you spend the night in the King’s Chamber.” This was my first encounter as a student Egyptologist with Zahi Hawass, 34 years ago. He wanted to test the loyalty of the pyramid police (fortunately, they showed not the slightest interest in my “offer”). Even back then, as a young antiquities inspector at Giza, Hawass had a concern for protecting Egypt’s monuments, a concern that only grew in the past decade with his meteoric rise as the most famous (some would say infamous) face of Egyptian archeology. What a whirlwind these last few months have been, as he, like many of us, was caught off guard by the Egyptian revolution. Hawass’s status and that of the ancient sites and monuments have swayed somewhat precariously since January; both could be metaphors for the tumultuous and uncertain birth of a new and, it’s hoped, democratic era for all Egyptians. If the culture of despair, fear, and inequality can truly be lifted, then the world might witness the vast potential of the Egyptian people.

How do Egyptologists view these events through the lens of Egypt’s millennia-old civilization? As the playing field has turned upside down, some of us might remember the admonitions of an ancient Egyptian sage named Ipuwer. Some of his phrases almost seem aimed at Hosni Mubarak himself: “We do not know what will happen throughout the land…Indeed, the laws of the council chamber are thrown out…See, things have been done which have not happened for a long time past; the king has been deposed by the rabble. You have deceived the whole populace. It seems that [your] heart prefers to ignore [the problems]. Have you done that which will make them happy? Have you given life to the people? They cover their faces in fear of the morning.”

Most Egyptians never lost their dignity and graciousness in the face of a crushing system that favored only the uppermost echelons and seemed to tighten its chokehold on basic aspirations with each passing year. Corruption, cronyism, surveillance, and wanton arrests under a 30-year-old emergency law cowed most segments of the population. The regime stifled open political debate, and economic opportunities were denied to all but the lucky and the well connected.

What role will Egypt’s ancient cultural heritage play in the post revolutionary era? When will tourism revive and economic recovery kick in? What about the calls for repatriation of Egypt’s cultural legacy, including Nefertiti’s bust in Berlin and other key masterpieces abroad? Many writers, both inside and outside the country, have hijacked these issues in light of the revolution to serve their own agendas, proving once again that archeology and politics can seldom be separated.

As I write this, the Egyptians themselves are mapping out what should change in the new regime regarding their policies toward antiquities. It has not been easy so far. In the space of a few short weeks, the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities (SCA) broke away from the Ministry of Culture to become its own ministry; then Mubarak was toppled, the police disappeared, and some sites, including the famous Egyptian Museum in Cairo, were looted. Hawass stepped down to protest the looting; the SCA temporarily lost its independent ministry status; and the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, could not choose a successor to fill the power vacuum. This created an unfortunate window of opportunity at some sites for armed criminals to overpower the unarmed guards and break into antiquities-storage magazines. SCA officials are still assessing the damage. In other cases, villagers have seized the opportunity to expand out onto antiquities sites with new construction, or even to establish new cemeteries right on top of ancient ones.

In late March, the new prime minister reinstated Hawass to head the Ministry of Antiquities. While Hawass has his detractors, it seems clear that few others could fill the post at this delicate time. What the public may not know about him is that, behind all the onscreen bluster, aggrandizing press releases, and saber-rattling at intransigent museum directors around the world, he has worked tirelessly for decades to secure the monuments, implement site-management plans, construct new provincial museums and storage magazines, modernize -collections-management systems, improve the standards of Egyptian scholarly publications, and provide health insurance, training, and employment opportunities for the next generation of Egyptian Egyptologists. In addition to standing up for Egypt’s cultural heritage and the recovery of stolen artifacts, Hawass and the SCA have also supported scores of foreign expeditions working all over the country. This is a delicate balancing act, for the national and international pressures of the job are immense. What’s more, they are often diametrically opposed to each other.

Hawass is, of course, not alone in promoting renewed Egyptian pride and awareness for the country’s ancient and distinguished history. One might see a manifestation of these collective efforts in the “human chain” of ordinary Egyptians who protected the Cairo museum during some of the most violent days and nights of the January revolution. While thefts, damage, and pilfering commanded the international headlines, there are true Egyptian heroes all up and down the Nile who in recent weeks have selflessly guarded the ancient sites, sometimes at great personal risk, in the absence of police protection. Their stories are the ones we should be reading; they deserve the gratitude of all who care for Egypt’s pharaonic, Coptic, and Islamic heritage.

Egypt faces major challenges on all fronts as its nascent democracy gets underway. We will have to wait and see how it all plays out. But for those in the West, let us try to allay our fears for the antiquities sites. Egypt’s cultural heritage will not go the way of the Buddhas of Bamiyan, no matter how religious in flavor the new government might become. Egyptians are doing more, with their native expertise, to claim their heritage than ever before. I am optimistic that the pharaonic past will be in good hands under the next generation. But the challenge will lie in allowing that generation to flourish, without sabotage by the old guard, and with enough logistical, financial, and infrastructure support—and that’s where the world community can help.

Much will change, but much remains constant on the ancient front. Tombs and temples will still require care and conservation. Destructive elements—time, pollution, overpopulation, ignorance, vandalism, and the antiquities trade—are oblivious to political parties, constitutional reform, or multiparty elections. Our hope is for a gradual return to stability and protection for the vast open-air museum that is Egypt. The international community, for its part, might refrain from lecturing the Egyptians on what to do with their heritage, and instead offer assistance in those areas not already covered by native know-how. If we work together, it should be possible to safeguard the monuments and serve the needs of tourism at the same time.

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Egypt’s not so scary! – The Ottawa Citizen

Luxor Nile view

By Carmen Farrell, Ottawa Citizen, April 9, 2011

Egypt may have no head of state and it’s unclear whether the democratic uprising of Jan. 25 will result in big changes. And there may be political unrest in neighbouring nations, but as a tourist, you’d never know it as you traipse from one amazing Egyptian site to another.

During my recent visit the streets of Cairo felt perfectly safe. While I didn’t do things I wasn’t supposed to, such as dress immodestly (uncovered shoulders or knees) or make eye contact with men on the street unless they spoke to me first, I always felt safe by myself or with my children. Always, children and adults called out “Welcome!” with a smile.

Khan El-Khalili Souk in Cairo

Khan El-Khalili Souk, Cairo

I was in Cairo in late March during the first voting since the January demonstrations, which resulted in a 77-per-cent “yes” vote for further constitutional changes in September. For many, it was the first truly free vote they had made in their lives and they were excited about it.

The only ways a tourist is aware of political change are reduced crowds at tourist sites and the curbside kiosks selling “25th January” paraphernalia and Egyptian flags. Cairenes are gobbling them up, displaying them and proudly telling anyone who will listen about why they hope things will be better without Mubarak. The Egyptian media is extremely optimistic and anyone I talked to remains hopeful for democratic and lasting change.

Depending on whom you talk to, and where exactly you are, tourism at the moment is down 60 to 70 per cent. Egypt wants Westerners to know it’s “business as usual” for visitors. Obviously it’s a sentiment full of self-interest since tourism is No. 2 in the Egyptian economy, but there are innumerable benefits to visiting Egypt now.

Egypt is a country where the concept of tourism was invented 4,000 years ago and where tourism is a prestigious course of university study for those who work in the industry.

Think about it. It’s a 15-or-sohour trip to Egypt from Can-ada, never mind the price tag. So how many times do you think you might go to Egypt in your life? Once? Twice?

Egyptian Museum of Antiquities in Cairo

Egyptian Museum of Antiquities, Cairo

Visiting Egypt now is like going to Disney World at its slowest time of year. Consider the Egyptian Museum. Picture the 200,000 people that on a usual day parade through the Cairo building that’s about half the size of the Museum of Nature. Many of the museum’s 3,000-year-old papyri, pottery, stone carvings and jewelry are inside glass cabinets built in 1902 along with the rest of the museum, locked with pieces of twisted wire. The cabinets are not lit and most of the items are not at eye level, so they’re not exactly easy to see.

If you have to elbow your way past thousands of tourists, well, it’s just not very Canadian, is it? But now, instead of 200,000, just 50,000 to 80,000 come to see the museum most days.

There has never been a better time to see Egypt’s treasures.

There is no need to line up for hours in 30-degree heat to enter the magnificent, carved tombs in the Valley of the Kings at Luxor. Now, you can just walk in, take your time, and not have to shuffle along in a queue.

If you go on a Nile cruise, you’re attended to superbly since instead of being one of 100, you’re one of 25. And because there are so few of you, they might even upgrade your accommodations wherever you go. Not bad, really .

Luxor Nile view

Nile view, Luxor

If, like me, you’d be travelling with your school-aged children and wondering if that is a responsible thing, know that Egyptians love kids. My children have never been so much the centre of attention, petted over and played with.

Egyptians take the safety of tourists seriously -more so than in Europe. I felt OK being in a shop with my son sitting at the door with a neighbouring shop owner who talked with him, gave him his chair to sit on and offered him a cold drink.

If you show up at a tourist destination with a guide (highly recommended since the English-language explanation of what you’re seeing adds immeasurably to the experience and getting a guide can be easily arranged at your hotel), the “tourist police” will take note of what your nationality is, where you’re staying, and, apparently, follow up with your hotel later to make sure you got back safely. Which seems a bit superfluous, really, since I never felt threatened, worried or unsafe anywhere in Egypt.

[...]So if you are wondering if you should go or not, go. It’s an amazing time to be there and see the sights and talk with Egyptians about what they think about their future. And there are some great deals out there.

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Saudis still consider Egypt as a favorite spring-break destination

Credit: upi.com

By Renad Ghanem, Arab News, Apr 8, 2011.

JEDDAH: Despite the political uprising in Egypt that brought down the government of former President Hosni Mubarak, there are some Saudis who intend to spend their spring vacation in the country.

Saudi vacationers going to Egypt are not concerned about the lack of security on the streets and the fact that it may not be safe. For many Saudis, especially homeowners, Egypt is still a favorite holiday destination.

Some Saudis told Arab News they were eager to visit the famous Tahrir Square, which was the focal point of the Jan. 25 movement.

Naif Al-Fakieh, a Saudi copywriter at international advertising agency, was a frequent traveler to Egypt before the revolution. He is planning to spend the spring vacation this time in Jeddah.

“I have no problem going to Egypt because Egypt is safe all the time. If there are any accidents or attacks, they are isolated incidents and not widespread,” said Naif. He said that before he takes his family to Egypt in summer, he would go alone first to check the situation.

“Sure I will go to Egypt during the presidential elections whenever they are because I want to witness and share this moment with Egyptians. I love to go to Egypt and I’ll never regret doing this.”

Saudi businesswoman Amira Al-Jaffrey visits Egypt every year. She was planning to go after the protests ended but decided it was too soon.

“I’m not afraid of the security situation because to me Egypt is a safe place. I was planning to go after these events, but I was afraid I would see bad changes in my favorite place,” she said. Al-Jaffrey added that she would go to Egypt next summer.

Ahmed Al-Sayed, an employee at a private company, said he never visited Egypt before but this vacation he would go to see the historical changes that have happened there.

“I usually spend my short vacation in Dubai or Beirut, but this year I’ll go to Egypt,” he said.

Credit: upi.com

He added that he would go with his family, who he said were not afraid to go. He wanted to visit Tahrir Square and hopefully stand next to an army tank to take pictures.

Saudi woman Rabab Mahmoud decided to go to Dubai this vacation because she was not sure about the security in Egypt. She said that she would go to Egypt only after the situation becomes stable.

Fawzi Mahrous, a general manager at a travel agency, confirmed that there was no decline in the number of tickets booked to Egypt from Saudis compared to last year.

“Everything is normal. The indications are that there will be no decline and the same also goes for summer vacation bookings,” said Mahrous.

Mohammed Al-Sharif, general manager at a travel agency in Jeddah, also confirmed that there was plenty of demand from Saudis wanting to travel to Egypt. “Spring vacation bookings are all filled up and there are many Saudis and Egyptians going to Egypt for the one week vacation,” he said.

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