Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How can foreigners support the revolution? Come visit Egypt!

Jeff, Cameron and I visited the Khan al-Khalili market last weekend.  This market is vast and more than 500 years old.  You can buy just about anything here.  It is like a giant maze of corridors flanked by shops.  And it was almost empty when we were there.  We had visited the Khan last fall and it was so packed, but all the tourists left during the revolution.  Some are coming back, little by little, but for the merchants at the Khan, the empty streets mean tremendous economic hardship. 

Egypt's struggle for liberation has meant its tourism industry has been crippled.  The New York Times article at this link estimates that Egypt is losing $1 billion per month because of lack of tourism.  Over a million tourists left Egypt when the protests began two months ago.  Here's an article about this:

I was impressed to read of an ingenuous idea Egyptians had to promote tourism:  invite Oprah to do a show in Tahrir Square.  She accepted the invitation!  Here's an article about this.  She's scheduled to do a show in the Square some Friday in March.  

Interestingly, the Revolution has created a hot new tourist attraction for those bold enough to come in this exciting time:  Tahrir Square.  Here's a New York Times article about this:

I think things are quite safe for tourists here in Cairo.  Before the revolution, it was one of the safest cities in the world and now, though I have heard of a little more crime in certain locations (not the tourist spots), it is still very safe compared to most large cities.  For those who want to avoid the hotspots of the protest, you can certainly see the pyramids, the Nile, the Valley of the Kings and many other sites without going anywhere near Tahrir Square.  If you are avoiding the Square, then you might want to skip the Egyptian Museum, but that's all you would miss and there is so much to see in Egypt.  

The Square is very safe during the day on days other than Friday (though be careful crossing the street--- that's one of the greatest risks in Cairo).   Tourists can go talk to the protesters who are still camped out in the Square, sitting in front of their tents.  Friday it is also quite safe in the Square, but there are large, dense crowds of thousands of protesters after Friday's mid-day prayers, so for those who don't want too much excitement, you may want to avoid going there on Friday.  

So, if you or people you know, would like to support Egypt's revolution, Egyptians would love for you to come here for your vacation. This economy needs foreigners to come back and this is one of the most exciting times to see Egypt.  

Here are some photos of the market.

Here is a photo of a beautiful mosque right next to the market.

We had a cup of tea at the famous Fishawi's Coffeehouse in the heart of the market.  This cafe is open 24 hours a day and has been open continuously (except during the fasting month of Ramadan) since 1773.  The next few photos are from the cafe.

The view looking out of the cafe in the market alley.

While we were wandering in the maze of the Khan, a man approached us asking if we would be interested in having our name engraved on a Cartouche (hieroglyphic lettering).  He said he had a factory nearby and invited us to go see it.  We did.  It was a couple flight up in one of the nearby alleys.  He did indeed have a small factory and we watched them make a couple of the cartouches I bought.  Here are a couple videos of the crafts-people working.   

Here's a link to this video:

Here's a link to this video:

News Update:

*  Events here in Egypt continue to move at a fast speed.  Protesters demanded changes in the Cabinet and today, the new Prime Minister appointed six new Ministers of veterans, foreign, interior, justice, oil, culture and manpower.
This photo is from the Egyptian Gazette which included this caption:   Prime Minister Essam Sharaf meeting candidate for the post of minister of oil Mohamed Ghorab (C) and Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Legal Affairs Yehia el-Gammal Monday, March 7, 2011.

The new minister of the Interior which oversees the police force has ordered police chiefs to send policemen back to their duties.  Many Egyptians will probably be happy about this since there has been a increase in petty street crime since the revolution.

I was pleased to see the Foreign Minister appointed was Nabil el-Araby, who used to be a judge with the International Court of Justice.  Here's a photo of him from when he was on that Court.

I was also interested to learn that el-Araby was elected to the board of my university, American University in Cairo, in 1999 and that there is a scholarship named after him.

Here's an link to an article in the Egyptian Gazette providing more details on this topic:

*  It was announced that 47 members of the security forces have been detained for burning documents that could be potential evidence of police misconduct.  

*  11 state universities around Egypt reopened, with 10 more scheduled to open in one week.  

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