This is a travel guide for anyone planning that North African dream vacation you’ve always wanted to take. There’s a number of great options, although each one has its own character. And with the Muslim Brother ascending to power across North Africa, that local character appears to be in flux so a decent travel guide is a great way so save money. You don’t want to have to cancel those tickets.
Egypt, the crown jewel of North African tourism, is a must-see country. One word. Pyramids. That’s all you need to know. And with Egypt being one of the countries in the process of getting Muslim-Brotherhooded (it’s a trend), one might reasonably ask the question, “can I see the pyramids AND get trashed in Egypt now that the MB is the Powers that Be?” That’s an excellent question. With the MB poised to take control of all the levers of power in Egypt there have been understandable concerns about just how tourism-friendly an Islamist Egypt might be. Prospective visitors looking for indications of how an MB-run Egypt might treat future tourists should note that the MB has professed a strong committment to the health of Egypt’s business sector. While Western journalist often find this surprising, it’s actually a highly consistent trait in throughout the history of this fascist Islamist organization of Egypian origin. Yes, history is coming alive in Egypt. More specifically, the history of 20th century Islamofascist economic theory is coming alive in Egypt:
May 16, 2012 5:07 pm
Islamists in tune with west over economy
By Jane Kinninmont
One of the significant realignments resulting from the Arab spring is the growing warmth between western policy makers and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. This is born out of necessity, but strengthened by the surprising discovery that on economic issues, the west and the Islamists often see eye to eye.
Many of the discussions between these two groups are not about the veil, alcohol or even Camp David, but about business, investment and jobs.
When it comes to the economy, the Brotherhood’s policy framework does not represent a radical change from the past, though there is more focus on social justice and fighting corruption: one reason Islamists are popular is because they are seen as untainted by the bribery and cronyism that bedevilled the former regime of Hosni Mubarak.
Although some Egyptians distrust the private sector, Brotherhood representatives see it as the engine of growth. They are keen to reassure western investors that Egypt – by far the largest country in the Arab world with a population of 85m – remains a promising place for businesses. Their failure to take a clear stance on a proposed $3.2bn International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt seems to reflect internal politicking more than economic ideology; they want the cabinet to be replaced, and it is not in their interest to see funds roll in to support the current one.
Mainstream Islamists in Tunisia and Morocco have also emphasised free trade, and they hope international investors can help them create the jobs their constituents need. Leaders of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood have been welcoming western business delegations to the country, and their political party, Freedom and Justice, met senior British investors and policy makers in the UK in March.
The Salafists are developing their own ideas about the economy, and are doing more than most to flag the need to develop the neglected and insecure Sinai; one of their MPs said it could become a Dubai-style trade zone. An Al-Nour economic spokesman has said the party’s aims for “halal tourism” are to create a parallel, sharia-compliant market rather than banning alcohol or swapping bikinis for burkinis. Any smart politician would think twice before messing with an industry that attracted 14m visitors annually before the revolution.
Western policy makers have barely begun to revise their recommendations for Egypt’s economy, despite the large-scale dissatisfaction with the western-backed economic policies of Mubarak’s final years. Investors can help create jobs, but sustainable development will need to go far beyond boosting trade and investment to focus on issues such as decent working conditions, living wages, literacy, potable water and air pollution (the sixth worst in the world).
If the Muslim Brotherhood’s private-sector focus fails to address these issues, there could be an angrier, hungrier uprising to come. Could the next Egyptian revolution be against a western-backed Muslim Brotherhood?
As you can see, with the ultra-conservative Salafists calling for ‘Dubai-style’ free-trade zone in the SInai (sounds saucy!), there appears to be a direct correlation between a party’s religious fervor and their committment to far-right economic argle-bargle in today’s Egypt. And that seems to be true in Morocco an Tunisia too! Plus, the Salafist calls for ‘halal tourism’ are merely intended for a parallel tourist sector. So take heart, dear travelers, the general consensus amongst international observors is that the MB is merely talking about laws like banning alcohol, gender-separated beaches, and general religious lunatic stuff that will kill tourism, etc. They won’t, it appears, actually do it:
Bikini, alcohol ban ‘just attempt to win votes’
The Telegraph, London
June 1, 2012
Egyptian tourism authorities have sought to reassure travellers about the future of the country as a holiday destination, despite fears of a crackdown on the sale of alcohol and calls for segregated beaches.
Last week Mohamed Morsi of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) received a quarter of the votes in the country’s first presidential elections since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak. A run-off for the presidency between Morsi and Ahmed Shafik – a prime minister under Mubarak – is due to take place on June 16 and 17.
Extreme factions within the FJP, which possesses a parliamentary majority and has strong links to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, have demanded a ban on the sale of alcohol across the country, while calls have also been made for Egypt’s beaches to be segregated by sex and for revealing swimwear to be outlawed. It is feared that the election of Morsi could see such policies put in place, but representatives from the country’s tourism industry said any changes would face strong opposition.
“These calls are just rhetoric – it is an attempt to win votes,” said Omayma El Husseini, director of the Egyptian Tourist Office. “These people can say and promise what they want but they will not deliver anything.”
She added that economic concerns would make such changes disastrous and suggested that an “intellectual conflict” was developing in the country.
“Tourism is very important to Egypt – it is the second highest contributor to GDP,” she said. “The tourism industry and the liberal Muslims in Egypt will not let them screw it up.”
So are the calls for alcohol bans, bikini bans, and gender segregated beaches all just campaign
lies rhetoric in order to secure votes? Well, that’s certainly a possibility, especially given the MB’s rapidly earned reputation for lying to the public agressive campaign tactics. Then again, Mohammed Morsi is reported to be ‘more conservative than the conservatives‘ according to MB insiders so the signals are rather mixed at this time.
So if you happen to be planning a booze & bikinis-based vacation somewhere near a pyramid any time soon, you might want to make it REALLY soon. Next week-ish could word. Or you may need to postpone those ticket purchases for a couple of weeks. The 2nd round of the presidential election between Mohommed Morsi and Mubarak-era strongman Ahmed Shafiq is scheduled for June 16th, so this issue might be resolved by then. That assumes Shafiq wins, in which case the beaches should definitly be open for business, although you might want to avoid pissed off looking men riding camels.
And if you’re really anxious to book those plane tickets and can’t wait until the 16th to decide, well…you’re sort of in luck because we might know how this all plays out even sooner. And why is that? Well, because the MB, along with ‘ex’-MB candidate Abde Moneim Aboul Fotuoh and youth-backed candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, are moving to get Shafiq thrown off the ballot. This is expected to invalidate the election, postpone the military’s hand over of power, and force a new presidential vote, sans Shafiq:
More Protests Loom in Egypt, Targeting Candidacy of Mubarak’s Prime Minister
By DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK
Published: June 4, 2012
CAIRO – The presidential candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood and two popular rivals eliminated before the runoff called on Monday for further street protests until Egypt’s current military rulers enforce legislation disqualifying the other remaining candidate, former President Hosni Mubarak’s last prime minister, Ahmed Shafik.
In a joint statement, the candidates also endorsed a call for a major demonstration on Tuesday to protest what they called the weak verdict handed down over the weekend in Mr. Mubarak’s trial. Their statement was the most forceful effort yet to use anger over the verdict to galvanize opposition to Mr. Shafik, long considered a contender to succeed Mr. Mubarak inside his authoritarian one-party system. But it was also the latest blow to the credibility of Egypt’s first competitive presidential election.
The call for Mr. Shafik’s elimination came less than two weeks before he is set to face Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in the runoff, scheduled for June 16 and 17. The new president is expected to take power from the military council that has governed since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster 16 months ago; attempts to draft a new constitution have so far deadlocked, which means the new president could play a formative role in the shaping of Egypt’s charter.
The Muslim Brotherhood said in its own statement that all three candidates agreed to demand not only a retrial of Mr. Mubarak but also legal action against Mr. Shafik for his role as Mr. Mubarak’s prime minister, “bringing to justice those accused of conniving with the defendants by hiding evidence, including the prime minister and minister of interior during that period, who are now seeking to abort the revolution.”
The Brotherhood urged support for Mr. Morsi as “the candidate of the revolution.” The Brotherhood is Egypt’s largest Islamist movement and dominates the newly elected Parliament. But Mr. Morsi and Mr. Shafik each won just under a quarter of the vote in the first round of balloting last month, with Mr. Morsi just ahead of Mr. Shafik.
Earlier Monday, three eliminated candidates – Hamdeen Sabahi, a leftist who narrowly trailed Mr. Shafik in the first round; Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate former Brotherhood leader who came in next with about 18 percent of the vote; and Khaled Ali, a human rights lawyer – held a joint news conference to denounce the results of the first round as fraudulent, citing irregularities and limits on monitoring.
International observers have said many isolated abuses did not sabotage the overall fairness of the vote, and the three losing candidates did not present new evidence. But because the three together had the support of nearly half the voters – more than either candidate in the runoff – their joint criticism threatens to undermine the legitimacy of the final result and with it Egypt’s halting transition to democracy.
Mr. Aboul Fotouh and Mr. Sabahi met separately with Mr. Morsi of the Brotherhood to issue the statement calling for more protests and the elimination of Mr. Shafik. Before the first round of the voting, the Brotherhood-led Parliament passed legislation barring Mr. Shafik and other top officials of the Mubarak government from seeking the presidency, and the ruling generals signed it. But the presidential election commission set the legislation aside by referring it to the Supreme Constitutional Court, and the court has not ruled on the matter.
It is highly unlikely that the legislation could be approved and enforced before the runoff, in part because the election commission has said that it intends to retain the last word on how the legislation is carried out even if the court approves the restriction. Mr. Shafik’s elimination would require the cancellation of the first round of results since there is no way to know which other candidate his voters might have chosen. As a result, the military’s transfer of power would be postponed.
Yes, a court ruling that kicks out Shafiq and invalidates the first round of the election is unlikely (although not entirely without precedent). And with no clear front-runner, it looks like prospective tourists could be looking elsewhere for that dream North African vacation. Fortunately, there are quite a few options for such adventurous travelers: For instance, there’s always Tunisia:
Protests threaten Tunisia tourism recovery
May 28, 2012 07:24AM GMT
A shadow has been cast over a recovery in international tourism to Tunisia amid reports of rioting by anti-alcohol protesters.
Bars and shops were attacked on Saturday as religious tensions rose in the birthplace of the Arab spring uprisings, the Sunday Times reported.
Followers of a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam called Salafists rioted in protest at the arrest of four men in connection with previous attacks on alcohol sellers in the northwestern town of Jendouba. Police responded with tear gas.
The rioters threw rocks and petrol bombs at the police station and security base where the men were being held, setting fire to the station.
Hmmm….ok, well, Tunisia might have a bit of a ‘drinking problem’ at the moment. Well, Libya has great beaches, so that’s an option. Although you probably don’t want to buy plane tickets for your drean destination. Passage by boat is recommended:
Libyans ask “Where is the state?” after airport seized
By Hadeel Al Shalchi and Marie-Louise Gumuchian
TRIPOLI | Wed Jun 6, 2012 4:52am EDT
(Reuters) – Invading Libya’s biggest international airport was embarrassingly easy: the attackers cut the wire perimeter fence in broad daylight, and then drove onto the tarmac while airport security chiefs stood and watched.
The occupation of Tripoli airport for several hours on Monday by an armed militia force has compelled policymakers in Europe and the United States to ask what sort of country they helped create when they joined the campaign last year to force Muammar Gaddafi from office.
Libya, home to Africa’s biggest proven oil reserves, is free from Gaddafi’s repression, but it is a chaotic country where nearly a year on from the end of the revolt, the state still barely exists.
Garbage piles up uncollected in suburban streets, drivers park their cars in the middle of highways, and, as incidents like the attack on the airport underscore, rag-tag militias who answer only to their own commanders are more powerful than the police and army.
“How can these people … close the airport like this?” asked Adel Salama, a civil society activist in Zintan, a town whose fighters used to control the airport before handing over to the central government back in April.
If you happen to have a fear of boats and/or angry militias there’s still a number of wonderful North African locales where you can still dance the night away to a tune or two. Unfortunately, that no longer includes Timbuktu:
In Timbuktu, Harsh Change Under Islamists
By ADAM NOSSITER
Published: June 2, 2012
BAMAKO, Mali – Isolated for centuries by the harsh desert that surrounds it, Timbuktu now finds itself even more cut off from the rest of the world.
Rebels who captured the city in northern Mali in April have imposed a form of hard-edged Islamic rule, prompting many residents to flee in fear and changing the face of what had been a tolerant and easygoing destination that drew tourists from around the world.
Women are now forced to wear full, face-covering veils. Music is banned from the radio. Cigarettes are snatched from the mouths of pedestrians. And the look of the ancient mud-brick town is changing. A centuries-old monument, the shrine of a 15th-century saint, has been defaced; bars have been demolished; and black flags have been hung around town to honor Ansar Dine, or Defenders of the Faith, the radical Islamist movement that emerged from the desert and turned life upside down.
“There is no liberty,” said Abdoulaye Ahmed, a tailor who fled Timbuktu and came to Mali’s capital last week. He added that the Islamist rebels “are constantly circulating with their guns. This is scaring people. The town is sinister.”
The situation is said to be especially troubling for women in Timbuktu. “Women are living in terrible fear,” said Baba Aicha Kalil, a well-known civic activist who is still living in the town, which once had a population of more than 50,000 but has experienced a significant exodus since the rebels moved in.
“They want to put a veil on everything,” Mrs. Kalil said, reached over a crackly telephone line from Timbuktu, which is about 440 miles northeast of Bamako, at the edge of the Sahara. “They are everywhere, everywhere with their guns.”
All of northern Mali, an area the size of France, has been in the hands of a loose coalition of Islamists and nomadic Tuareg rebels since late March, when resistance by the Malian Army collapsed after a coup d’état by junior military officers in the capital.
Since the takeover, however, the Islamists of Ansar Dine, supported by Al Qaeda, have gained the upper hand over the Tuaregs, and they are aggressively promoting their brand of Islamic law, or Shariah.
Mrs. Kalil said that when the Islamists encountered young people of the opposite sex together, they forced them to marry on the spot.
“We don’t want the Shariah here,” she said. “Truly we are living in misery. Personally, I am deeply concerned.”
The ‘veil on everything’ theme might seem offputting at first, but that’s only until you see the savings on sunscreen. And marriage on the spot, eh? Involuntary marriage, no less! Well, that’s one nitch in the tourism market Mali has covered. So if involuntary spontaneous marriage is your ‘thing’, a trip to Timbuktu just might do. And don’t feel to bad about your involuntary spontaneous marriage fetish. It’s pretty twisted alright, but there’s a lot of fairly popular twisted fetishes and perversions out there. A lot. Watch out Vegas!
I hope you all found this a useful travel guide for uncertain times. And please do visit these destinations if it’s safe and you can afford it. Tourism really is more vital than ever to this region and it’s one of the primary driving forces in these societies against the madness of religious fundamentalism and tribalism. It keeps us all connected in mutually beneficial ways and that kind of international/inter-worldview cohesion is something in incredibly short supply these days. And with a global economy in free fall, tourism is poised to take a hit globally. That’s downright dangerous for much of the developing world so book those tickets if you can. If millions of drunken US college students can make it back from Mexico with their heads still screwed on straight anything is possible. It’s complicated.
Keep in mind that even in these crazy times even the crazy Islamists almost never shoot the tourists, especially in tourist-y areas. It doesn’t go down well with the locals. So seriously, buy those tickets and stay safe. It could do an immense amount of good right now.
Oh, and who am I kidding. Vegas, no one could replace you.