Luxor Dahab, Egypt

"Freedom and Chaos is a Thin Thread"


Many Egyptians are fed up with revolution and democracy. You want a strong leader to keep things organized. The new President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi is her husband. Impressions from a paranoid country.

In the end, it was formally a final hurdle and in reality a silly tribute to the alleged rule of law: Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi resigned as head of the military in order to be able to officially run for the highest state office. On June 3, he was elected Egypt's new president with 96.9 percent of the votes cast. It was the end point of a foreseeable path.

Al-Sisi did not come to power through electoral fraud. He had violently intimidated any opposition, whether Islamists or secularists; the Muslim Brotherhood had been declared terrorists and persecuted. But in the end you have to recognize that a large part of the Egyptians want the ex-military as president. Behind it is the longing for a strong man, for a leader who organizes the shattered country and restores control.

Strong men: Al-Sisi and Putin.

When I flew to Egypt for two travel stories in February, the hopes that the Egyptians associate with the former army chief - a man of the old establishment under ex-dictator Husni Mubarak - who was born in 2011 due to the revolution of the "Arab Spring" was overthrown.

"When the elections are over, it will be more stable," explains Tamer el Mekaty, who works as a massage therapist on a Nile cruise ship. He has a good feeling for the future. “The media play a big role, politics play a big role. All of Egypt speaks of politics. That didn't exist before. ”What sounds like it is not said that al-Sisi's march and the stabilization of Egypt are sabotaged by“ false ”media reports.

The ship's tour guide, Hesham Hammad, says of the general who is everywhere on posters: "Al-Sisi is a good man." Hammad also believes that many (foreign-controlled) media want to discredit Al-Sisi. This is felt to be an injustice, an arrogance. The 49-year-old tourist expert does not want to respond to further questions from the reporter about the political situation. Great embarrassment suddenly.

The Muslim Brothers, who, after the fall of Mohammed Mursi, were the first freely elected president in Egyptian history, are now simply regarded as criminals by many elite people. At least, according to the widespread view, they harm the interests of the country. The propaganda worked.

Mubarak has prevented the Gaza-Palestinians from getting Egyptian citizenship quickly, explains tour guide Hesham Khattab. Mursi made that possible, says the studied Egyptologist during a conversation in the lounge of the Nile Smart . "Whoever came to us in the country could no longer be controlled." Finally, Khattab also admits that there is a great longing in Egypt for a man who can bring things back under control. Indeed, the country has had a highly unstable period.

Revolutionary country Egypt: tourists prefer to spend their holidays elsewhere.

Mubarak was disempowered by the revolution in 2011 after 30 years of sole rule. In 2012, Muslim brother Mursi was elected head of the state and soon began to undo the separation of powers only to be pushed out of office by the military. Hundreds of people died in the fighting between the army and Islamists, and the country remained deeply divided. The Muslim Brotherhood was banned and thus criminalized. In April, a court sentenced 683 of their followers to death in one fell swoop. A show trial, a threat.

The Muslim Brotherhood are terrorists, terror threatens our country - that is the logic of the new, old power elite.

Against this background, it was convenient to also blame the Taba attack in February on the Muslim Brotherhood. An assassin blew himself up in a coach, three South Koreans and the Egyptian bus driver died. The perpetrator probably belonged to an Islamist faction that operates on the Sinai. But nobody really wants to know.

The Taba attack occurred a few days before I flew to Dahab to research my second story. One afternoon I'm sitting at the Blue Hole north of Dahab, a famous diving area. It's a warm day, flippers are put on, cats roam about, everything is peaceful. Call from the editorial office: Everyone is very keen that I fly home.

The Federal Foreign Office has just issued a travel warning for the entire Sinai Peninsula. You can read on the Internet that the German secret service wants to know about new attack plans in the popular holiday region. Everything remains vague. German tour operators start flying their customers back to Germany. In the case of a travel warning, they are de facto obliged to do so.

The security situation in Egypt is tense.

For me, the situation is a bit bizarre. The Muslim Brotherhood is absolutely believed by people to have carried out this attack. The Islamists are considered extremely dangerous. At the same time, every Egyptian assures me that it is absolutely safe in Dahab. "Everything is quiet", everyone says. It is the contradictions of a state doctrine that creates a danger that shouldn't actually exist.

I stay in Dahab and realize: One is suspicious, even towards the West. The crude conspiracy theory that I get to hear goes like this: Angela Merkel and the German government were upset about Morsi's disempowerment; now, as a vengeance, so to speak, they would have ensured that the Federal Foreign Office issued a travel warning to harm tourism. A rational conversation, it seems to me, can hardly be conducted.

A month later I witness an absurd appearance at the ITB travel trade fair in Berlin: The Egyptian Minister of Tourism Hisham Zaazou is raging against the Federal Foreign Office. Before it issues any warnings, let's get a picture of the situation. Concerns about security are theatrically reduced: "We will take from our food what it needs for security," the minister says.

Above all, many Egyptians are afraid that even more tourist locations could become targets for attacks. That would be a disaster for people. Even the pictures of bloody street battles in Cairo a year ago did not exactly act as the country's tourist flagship. Since then there has been hardly any recovery in sight.

"At the moment, the guests come less and less," explains Tamer el Mekaty. "The crisis is everywhere," says Hesham Khattab. "We hope that things will slowly go up." A large part of the ordinary population did not expect such a long-lasting unrest. "You had work, then it suddenly stopped. Everyone is affected, from the hotel manager to the cleaner. ”

Sluggish business: Egypt hopes for more tourists.

Egypt faces an uncertain future, despite the new leadership's demonstration of power. 1.2 million children are born every year. The country needs - in this case it's not just a phrase - growth and jobs. Unfinished houses can be seen everywhere. There is no point in saving if the Egyptian pound is constantly losing value. Building materials are only becoming more expensive. People are growing against inflation.

Khattab estimates that around 13 million Egyptians depend directly or indirectly on tourism. If you book a cruise and take a look at the country, you will quickly notice the need of the people. It increases the higher you go up the Nile.

Brigitte Biallas, a German holidaymaker who spent a week on the Nile with her husband, said at the end of the cruise: "The trip made us very sad."

The longing for a regulatory power that brings stability and growth is omnipresent in Egypt. Al-Sisi has restricted freedom of expression and assembly, inflicts long-term sentences on critical journalists, arbitrary rule of law and a climate of fear and intimidation. Mubarak 2.0 , and just for now. Three years after the first revolution, the Egyptians are ready to accept all of this.

"The majority of people just want to rest," says Khattab. So that it goes up again, so that the tourists come back. From a German perspective, this fact should not be understood immediately. But: First comes the food, then the moral , Berthold Brecht, this aphorism is all too obvious.

Finally want peace: the simple people in Egypt.

On the way back to Sharm el-Sheik, I talk to the Egyptian representative of a German tour operator. "Democracy and freedom can only be seen in a dream," says the Egyptian, who does not want his name to appear anywhere. “Democracy and freedom only bring something for the rich people. What will democracy and freedom do for me if I don't have anything to eat tomorrow?

The Egyptians today want a stable government rather than democracy, a Pew study found.

We then argue whether Mursi's disempowerment can be described as a coup or not. I say yes. He says no. I am accused of bias. And who wants to teach lessons to whom?

Hasn't “the West” lost all moral credibility with its war of aggression against Iraq that violates international law? Isn't the cool power politics of the Western Powers waving the terms democracy and freedom pure hypocrisy?

Tour guide Khattab speaks good German. Only one >

Advertising at Cairo Airport.

  1. Dear Philipp, thank you for this article! Only yesterday I had a conversation with Gesa on this topic (which, incidentally, also referred me to the article here) and my words about it were similar. I was in Egypt the week before the fall of Mursi in 2013 to report on a Nile cruise. And this trip also made me sad. We were only 5 guests on the cruiser. Every day I entered these wonderful, millennia-old temples of a high culture that is trampled on today by a war of faith. I saw the Egyptian Museum right next to Tahir Square which is fully loaded with completely unsecured treasures. I met wonderful, open-minded, hoping people, but also desperate faces. I have lost track of the situation in the country over the past year due to a lack of understanding of the political situation. Thanks for the clarification!

    "When Egypt is ready, tourists will come back!" My guide kept saying back then. I can only hope that it will be soon.

    • Hello Nina! Thanks for your comment. I think all ordinary people cling to this "hope", but unfortunately they have little impact on development. Perhaps Egypt below al-Sisi will again be what it was under Mubarak: a quasi-dictatorial and therefore even safer travel destination for tourists.

  2. Thank you Philipp for this article. As a lot of travelers in Egypt it makes me dumb and sad where Egypt has been developing for 2 years. We learn from many friends of the despair of Egypt and also of the meanwhile very, very many destruction and robbery of the unique treasures in Egypt. At the same time, however, we have planned to visit Nov. / Dec. Luxor and the Valley of the Kings for an extensive photo story. The morning view in the Valley of the Kings always leaves me speechless.
    Thanks for the great article says Daniela

    • I am glad that you enjoyed the insight. I'll probably be there for a few more days in November. Let's see how the situation has developed.

  3. A bit unusual for a dispatch, but very interesting. Thanks for the report.

  4. Dear Phillip, this is a really great report! Keep up the good work! I like to continue reading from you! And the pictures blow me away, very strong! Great!

  5. A really very extensive and good article! Great praise!!

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