(Blue Ocean Network - February 12, 2012) -- A string of tourist-related incidents in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula have raised concerns for travel to the area. Until recently, inspite of uprisings, travel to Egypt has been relatively safe, although travel advisories have warned of travel to Cairo, following the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak last year.
On February 10, 1rmed Bedouin tribesmen stopped a tourist bus had snatched three Korean tourists and their tour guide as they were traveling back from a famous tourist site on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The tribesmen left several other tourists behind. Just 29 hours later, all four people were safely released. The freed people reportedly said that the gunmen were not violent at all but rather kind, and even gave them some food.
On Feb 3, two American women who were briefly abducted while vacationing in the Sinai Peninsula. Their tour van was carrying six people, including the two Americans and an Egyptian guide. The women, aged 60 and 65, were being picked up from the Bedouins and returned to the American embassy. Three other tourists in the convoy were robbed of their cell phones and wallets as the kidnappers took the guns away from their police escort.
Bedouins are desert-dwelling Arabs who have traditionally been nomadic herders across the Middle East. About 380,000 live in Sinai. The Bedouins have long complained of discrimination and random arrests by the government, but tensions have intensified in recent months along with a general deterioration of security in the region including attacks on police stations, armed militias roving the streets and attacks on pipelines carrying gas to Jordan and Israel. Tribesmen occasionally abduct tourists to use as bargaining chips in negotiations with the Egyptian government for the release of imprisoned colleagues. Tourists are rarely harmed in such cases.
On Jan 28, robbers killed a 42-year-old French tourist at a currency exchange shop in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. The masked gunmen robbed the shop and exchanged fire with the security forces. Two others, a German tourist and an Egyptian citizen, were injured. The French man was shot in his stomach and legs. In a press statement Egyptian Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour declared the killing a “random act” and not directed against foreigners.
Well known for its white sand beaches and rich underwater life, Sharm El-Sheikh, one of the most famous tourist resorts in Egypt and attracts hundreds of thousands of diving tourists every year.
The political unrest in Egypt has led to a sharp drop in the country's vital tourism sector, with revenues plunging almost 30 percent last year. Tourism Minister Mounir Abdel-Nour said last month that the number of tourists who came to Egypt in 2011 dropped to 9.8 million from 14.7 million the previous year. Revenues for 2011 amounted to $8.8 billion compared to $12.5 billion in 2010.
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