Islamists are dominating Egypt’s elections and some of them have a new message for tourists: welcome, but no booze, bikinis or mixed bathing at beaches, please.
Egyptian beach scene
That vision of turning Egypt into a sin-free vacation spot could spell doom for a key pillar of the economy that has already been badly battered by this year’s political unrest.
“Tourists don’t need to drink alcohol when they come to Egypt; they have plenty at home,” a veiled Muslim Brotherhood candidate, Azza al-Jarf, told a cheering crowd of supporters on Sunday across the street from the Pyramids, The Associated Press reported.
“They came to see the ancient civilization, not to drink alcohol,” she said, her voice booming through a set of loudspeakers at a campaign event dubbed “Let’s encourage tourism.” The crowd chanted, “Tourism will be at its best under Freedom and Justice,” the Brotherhood’s party and the most influential political group to emerge from the fall of Hosni Mubarak.
On Saturday, Mohamed Morsi, president of the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), told Egypt’s al-Ahram daily that his party did not plan on banning alcohol in hotels and at tourist resorts or prevent Egyptians from drinking liquor in their homes.
Since their success in the first round of parliamentary elections on Nov. 28-29, the Brotherhood and the even more fundamentalist party of Salafi Muslims called al-Nour have been under pressure from media and the public to define their stance on a wide range of issues, especially those related to Islamic law, personal freedoms, the rights of women and minorities, the flagging economy and tourism.
The Salafis of al-Nour are up front about seeking to impose strict Islamic law in Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood says publicly that it does not seek to force its views about an appropriate Islamic lifestyle on Egyptians.
Speaking at a public rally in the southern Egyptian governorate of Aswan on Monday, al-Nour party spokesman Nader Bakar clarified that the party would only allow tourists to drink liquor they brought with them from abroad, and only in their hotel rooms, an Egyptian daily reported on Tuesday.
In a report carried by Egypt’s al-Ahram daily, Bakar said that the party did not plan to set any restrictions on tourism related to Egyptian antiquities, such as the Great Pyramids of Giza and ancient Egyptian temples.
Bakar was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the Nour Party would establish a chain of hotels that would function in compliance with the sharia (Islamic Law), while banning beach tourism, which he said “indices vice.”
Critics say remarks by members of both parties meant to reassure the nation that they don’t seek to damage tourism are having the opposite effect.