Project Thumbs Up Africa
Neda Boin (22), Sierd van der Bij (23) and Christiaan Triebert (21) are the lucky Dutch trio who began on 1 October a three-month-long hitchhiking trip from Groningen in the Netherlands to Cape Town, South Africa. They are part of the Thumbs Up Africa project, which aims at raising global awareness about sustainability.
For many years, Luxor has been a must-see for every tourist in Egypt. If not for the temples of Luxor, Karnak or Deir el-Bahri, then you would definitely touch ground here for the breathtaking Valley of Kings. Twenty-four year-old Mido Noubi runs six souvenir shops in the old city market, also known as the Luxor souk. He points to the empty street outside.
By Sierd van der Bij
"As you can see, business is not going well. I hope, inshallah, this will change."
Egypt’s tourism sector has not benefited from the Arab Spring. "Before the revolution, I had 150 customers on a bad day, but now I have three customers on a good day,” says Mido calmly. “People are afraid, because the media depict the wrong image of Egypt. There is no problem here and the Egyptian people are very friendly."
Mido sells shishas, scarves of different fabrics and miniature pyramids and pharaohs. The shop, where Mido invites me in for tea, opened in June 2010. That’s an unfortunate date if you recall that the Egyptian revolution started only five months earlier
However, the souk shop owners find comfort in solidarity.
"Muslims and Copts sit together and drink tea to work something out,” Mido explains. “But then again, what can you do when the big tourist agencies from Sharm el-Sheikh build their own souvenir supershops? Contrary to these agencies, we keep the prices low. The supershops work on commission."
As I’m being served another cup of tea, a young European couple walks in. They take a short look around and leave without saying a word. Most shop owners in the souk try to lure foreigners with small talk in every world language. Experience has taught Mido that it is better to leave the customers for who they are.
"People do not like to be hassled. I learned this not long after my cousins and I opened our first shop back in 2001," he says.
A part of Mido’s income once came from domestic tourism. "Egyptians are afraid, as they read in the media that there are many problems on the railway because of the revolution,” he says. “This, too, is not the case."
Fewer tourists, lots of girlfriends
According to Mido, the government should come up with a solution for the tourism sector. He is not happy with the instalment of Morsi as prime minister.
"Hosni Mubarak was a bad man, but at least he made sure that the people were safe," he says. "The police did their job, but now nobody respects them anymore. Freedom is good, but too much freedom cannot be good. Now I see that people sell a lot of drugs and even guns."
Despite these crimes, Mido says he is sure tourists are safe in Egypt. He turns to me: "Tell your friends that Egypt is safe. The media sell one big lie. Tell them they should not believe what is written and let your friends please come back here."
A man, in his 40's, enters the shop. It is Mido’s uncle. Yesterday a relative got married and they tell me how good the party was. Mido himself does not think about marriage yet. "No business, no marriage. But I do have a lot of girlfriends," he laughs.
I ask if he wants me to share this blog with him on Facebook. He laughs again. "No, I don't like Facebook, because that started all of this."