The pyramids of Egypt bore witness to the resurgence of terrorism and a jolt to its tourism industry. The bedrock of its stuttering economy has been shattered for good measure with the weekend terrorist attack on a tourist bus near the pyramids of Giza, an outrage that killed four Vietnamese. The raids follow the deaths of the Vietnamese tourists and their Egyptian tour guide in the bus attack. Eleven other Vietnamese and the vehicle’s Egyptian driver were injured in the blast after the detonation of an improvised explosive device reportedly hidden near a wall on the outskirts of Cairo. No group has claimed responsibility for the mayhem.
It was the first attack on foreign tourists in Egypt in more than a year, after security forces launched a campaign against militant groups in the Sinai peninsula, in the southern areas, and along the border with Libya. Several years after the coup against Morsi Mohammad’s Muslim Brotherhood pro-Islamic government, the country seems poised to grapple with mortal fundamentalism yet again. Hence the fierce retaliation by the military in a country helmed by Field Marshal Sisi. Tourism has been one of the major drivers of Egypt’s struggling economy, contributing around 11 per cent of the GDP in 2017, or 375 billion Egyptian pounds (£16 bn).
The government has intensified efforts to reverse a steep fall in the number of visitors to the country in the aftermath of the Arab Spring (2011), which aside from the ouster of Hosni Mubarak threw up more problems than it was able to address. Egypt’s Red Sea resorts were sheltered from the worst of the upheaval, but tourism fell dramatically following an explosion aboard a Russian plane over the Sinai peninsula in October. The explosion killed all 217 passengers and seven crew members after the plane took off from Sharm el-Sheikh airport. Targeted campaigns promoting tourism have accompanied state-sponsored international conferences designed to encourage foreign investment.
Ergo, tourism and terror are now apparently the core issues though the interior ministry has promptly highlighted the wider perspective. It was not clear till Sunday evening whether the raids were directly connected to Friday’s attack. Thirty of those killed during the two raids on hideouts in Giza were “terrorist elements” planning attacks on state and Christian targets. The inter-religion strife appears to have recurred yet again in a land that oscillates between strained democracy and fundamentalism.
Security forces also killed ten suspected militants in the north Sinai capital, Arish, where the country is fighting an insurgency led by the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The suspects, described as “terrorists seeking to intimidate Egyptians”, were killed in a gun battle. From Giza to Sinai, the hand of terror is palpable in Egypt once more.