Tourism is already tanking. People will stay home and watch a DVD about Egypt if they fear harassment and abuse if they visit, even if they have no intention of hitting the beaches or bars. They’ll hit the beach somewhere that hasn’t been known inflict virginity tests on female detainees.
Like Key West. Dar al-Margarita, if you will. “Battle over bikinis looms for Egyptian tourism,” from Agence France-Presse, January 5:
On a barren hill in Sharm el-Sheikh, not far from the famous beach resorts with their bikini-clad patrons, Islamist activist Ahmed Saber ponders the fate of revealing swimwear if his party comes to power.
The swimsuit has been at the centre of a growing debate over the Islamists’ plans for tourism, one of Egypt’s key currency earners.
Speaking at a voting station, Saber seeks to present a liberal outline of his party’s position on the bikini. “You’re free to do as you please as long as you don’t harm me,” he says.
The Sharm el-Sheikh tour guide then goes on to explain that: “Some sights might harm me. For example, women wearing bikinis on the street. There are special places for bikinis”.
After decades of repression by a secular police state, the Muslim Brotherhood grouping finds itself fending off questions about its plans for beach resort mainstays like bikinis and alcohol – considered unIslamic by some.
With ultra-conservatives poised to play a big role in parliament during an economic crisis, the Islamists’ thoughts on what tourists may wear or drink are being scrutinised amid fears they will harm the country’s vital tourism industry.
The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party, poised to win the most votes in the country’s first election since president Hosni Mubarak’s February overthrow, has promised it would not hurt tourism.
But some of its candidates have exacerbated the fears with pledges to ban alcohol or bikinis on beaches, forcing their leaders to backtrack.
Essam al-Erian, the party’s vice president, said the FJP would no longer comment on bikinis. “It’s a ridiculous question. Tourism can’t be considered in terms of bikinis or such matters,” he said.
The party’s candidate in Sharm el-Sheikh, Ahmed Qassim, also appeared wearied by the topic. He said he has repeatedly assured voters the Islamists would encourage tourism.
“We are with tourism, and we are not against personal freedoms,” he said.
But along the beaches, hotel workers said they were worried, particularly about ultra-conservative Salafis who won more than 20 per cent of the votes in the election’s first two rounds.
“People are very worried,” said Ahmed, while approaching sun bathing guests to offer them massages at the hotel….