Tourism in Luxor.

I’ve just finished reading a blog based on an interview with a German tour operator based in Luxor (Link below). It both shocked and angered me. This tour company runs Nile cruises to Aswan, including visits to the Red Sea and Cairo. However, the political situation in Egypt has meant that are no cruises at the moment. A situation the manager of the company laments; naturally…it’s his business. He blames the lack of tourists on the media, with their biased reporting and fear-mongering.

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The blog quotes “In the German media, they were saying for weeks that “Power Struggle in Egypt” was still shaking the country while it was in fact over. (italics mine) In order to underline this they showed images of MB angry supporters and made people think that big fighting is very near again and again.”  Taking the first point , it is not over!!! It might have quietened down but there are still bomb attacks and random outbreaks of violence. The problem is that no-one can predict where these outbreaks are going to occur! As I’ve mentioned in my previous blog, if it was totally safe we wouldn’t still have army tanks guarding the banks! We wouldn’t have larger amounts of police at checkpoints!  Anti-Brotherhood sentiment is high here in Luxor. It is no longer safe to wear a beard. They are now seen as the enemy!

The second point: ‘fighting is near again and again.’Although it is not as bad as it was before; that doesn’t mean that it has disappeared completely. I would not feel good about inviting anyone from my family here at the moment. Not that I think anything might happen to them but I wouldn’t want to promise it either. If I wouldn’t bring my family here I sure as hell would not bring an unknown person here, just to bring their money! Because that is what this is about! Money!

One of the biggest shocks I had reading the blog was the amount of fuel subsidy that each cruise receives from the Government. “It is a big burden as it costs the government so much money. Subsidies fuel cost for each Nile cruise trip costs approximately 50 to 60 thousand Egyptian Pounds.”  50-60,000LE! Per trip! What????

My husband used to work on one of these ships when he was in his early 20’s. He told me that, today, an average legal worker makes up to 200LE per month (less than £20)!  A non-legal worker, gets the same. A non-legal worker is one who is not protected by the Government and the Government owe them nothing. My brother-in-law, who has worked as a driver for the local Government here in Luxor, has only recently been made legal, after nearly 20 years of service! Its cheaper for the Government to have non-legal workers than legal. They still have to pay tax though!

A kitchen worker on the cruise ship, the one who does all the washing up, gets paid 60LE a month. That’s less than £6 to you and me! Or less than $8. or just under 6.5 Euros. Could you live on that for a month?A ship’s Egyptian manager will take home a 500LE wage.

The staff all get  12 1/2% of the tips. 12 1/2% of their wages that is. If your wages are 200 a month, then you get 12 1/2% of that. If you are the manager you get 12 1/2% of your wages!  Then there is the baksheesh issue! Guess who gets most of that?

Women drawing water for their household needs.

Women drawing water for their household needs. (Taken on a river trip to Dendera)

My husband’s nephew works in a restaurant and he gets paid 100LE a month. That’s less than £10! A MONTH! 7 days a week, no holidays! The restaurant owners expect them to make their money through tips so they pay them very little. For the whole of the cruise the workers will probably average around 3 hours sleep a night! They get up a 5am to prepare for breakfast and spend the entire day cleaning and preparing for the next meals. They don’t get regular work -breaks but have to try to eat on the hoof. They’re lucky if someone puts some food away for them, otherwise they don’t eat!  The managers, who are really just supervisors, are the most corrupt and regularly steal vast quantities of food and property from the ships whilst sleeping with the single female travellers. Many times the workers, trying to better their lives, will zero in on single women and have a romance with them, all in the hope of getting money from them. These ‘relationships’ can last for years. But that’s a different blog!

Its no wonder that these foreign tour companies, who have businesses here, try to bring tourists back. They make a fortune. With the cruise issue, the Government subsidises the cruise’s fuel so that the tourists don’t have to pay the real trip price! As the author of the blog states “I think it would make sense if the tourists pay for the actual cost of the trip.” Eh…yeah!

One of the problems with the companies expecting their workers to make more money with tips is that the workers can put a lot of pressure on the tourists. I remember my first day-trip to Dendera a few years ago. We went on a small cruise ship from Luxor to Dendera. It was an early morning in February and no-one had warned us how cold it could be on the river. We were freezing! You could ask one of the stewards and they would get a blanket for you, which, of course, we did. However, the steward we asked was the one we didn’t tip when we first had a coffee on the boat! My friend and I had bought a cup of coffee and sat at a table, which was about three feet away from the cafe counter.  The man didn’t give us any sugar so I turned around to get some and the waiter, who had been hovering nearby, asked me what I needed and insisted on getting it for me, even though I didn’t want him to. The counter was right behind me!

So he got the sugar and then hovered again. I realised that he was waiting for his tip. He wanted a tip for doing something I didn’t want him to do in the first place. I felt pressured and annoyed, but I continued drinking my coffee and didn’t tip him.

So, later, when we wanted a blanket from him, he didn’t say he wouldn’t get it, he just didn’t gt it for us! He was going to pay us back for not tipping him! I don’t think he quite understood the concept of tipping!

So not paying your hard-working staff, and expecting the tourists to pay them for you, leads to an unpleasant, uncomfortable experience, not just on the ships but everywhere. The whole tourist industry needs over-hauling. Inasmuch as people are beginning to struggle financially now as a result of the lack of tourists, I think it could be a wake-up call too. Far too many people depend on the tourism industry; and exploitation and abuse have become the norm. Being a tourist here was one of the most uncomfortable experiences I had ever had as a visitor to any country.  But maybe if things were fairer, and better regulated, people would be better off and there would be less pressure to part with your hard-earned money!

 But we’ll have to see what happens when the tourists come back…whenever that will be…


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