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Egypt Tourism Takes Massive Hit Amid Unrest

1:18 PM, Aug 18, 2013   |    comments
  • Cairo, Egypt (Courtesy: Getty Images)
  • Egyptian military vehicles block a road leading to the Rabaa al-Adawiya protest camp in Cairo as Egyptian police try to disperse supporters of Egypt's ousted president Mohamed Morsi on August 14, 2013. Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said at least 250 people were killed and over 5,000 injured in a police crackdown on two major protest camps held by supporters of Morsi. AFP PHOTO / GETTY IMAGES / KHALED DESOUKI
    
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GIZA, Egypt - It looked more like a fortified military zone than a top tourist attraction that draws millions of visitors: Metal barricades, tan-colored tanks and men in army fatigues blocked the way to the Giza pyramids on Saturday.

"This is the street of the pyramids?" asked Sabr Agaya, who offers camel and carriage rides, in a rhetorical tone. "I can't believe this is the street. Sometimes my head spins."

Tourism in Egypt was devastated this week as museums and archaeological sites shut down and violence erupted, propelling looting and sinking the industry.

"My business died," said Agaya, standing among a pack of men with no work and a throng of emaciated horses. "No one comes."

Violence clawed through the country this week, killing more than 900 people since Wednesday, when security forces cleared two protest camps.

"We cannot accept any reservations until next Saturday," said Mohammed Sabry, who works in the reservations department at the Cairo Four Seasons, "because as you know, there are bad circumstances around the hotel."

Many reservations were canceled at the Mena House Hotel - built in 1869 as a hunting lodge for Egyptian royalty at the foot of the pyramids - said deputy hotel manager Ahmed Salem. He blamed the government-imposed nightly 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and the fact "there is no clear idea about what will happen in the next few days."

Last week, two major German tour operators canceled all trips to Egypt after the nation's foreign ministry warned Europeans against visiting popular beach resorts. Other European countries followed suit and on Thursday, the U.S. State Department renewed a warning urging Americans to avoid traveling to the country.

Security forces over the weekend protected the pyramids "not because the area is unsafe," Salem said. "It's a security measure: This is one of the most important places in Egypt."

Looters ransacked the Malawi Antiquities Museum overnight Thursday in Upper Egypt's city of Minya. Glass display cases were smashed and hundreds of artifacts were reported stolen. Others were left destroyed on the floor.

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