Meanwhile, in Abu Simbel…Meanwhile, in Abu Simbel…

Cairo is burning, and Abu Simbel has never been more out of time than today…

Since 4 days, Egypt faces unprecedented revolts. Having no tv in the hotel, news are scarce… rumours of hotels burning in Cairo, of a Children Hospital also burnt down, of a policeman dismembered in Suez as revenge because he killed 4 pro-democracy protesters…

I can’t say that here in Abu Simbel life goes on as usual. On the contrary, it has never been more different than before. But for a totally different, although related, reason : tourists are gone.Cairo is burning, and Abu Simbel has never been more out of time than today…

Since 4 days, Egypt faces unprecedented revolts. Having no tv in the hotel, news are scarce… rumours of hotels burning in Cairo, of a Children Hospital also burnt down, of a policeman dismembered in Suez as revenge because he killed 4 pro-democracy protesters…

I can’t say that here in Abu Simbel life goes on as usual. On the contrary, it has never been more different than before. But for a totally different, although related, reason : tourists are gone.

Today, the airport is closed and the military convoys which bring a couple thousands tourists every day are cancelled. The tourists remaining in Abu Simbel have been “evacuated” by the tour operators and all the hotels are now empty. Dr. Ahmed, Director of the Temples site, was here tonight : on a usual day, there are 3.000 entrance tickets sold. Today, only 14. A record since the opening of the temples to tourists ? “Since Ramesses !” adds Dr. Ahmed, laughing. But he wasn’t laughing two days ago.

The day before yesterday, when I came back to the hotel for the evening shift, he was on the phone with his colleagues in other cities of the country. It was the apex of the lootings. And looters had entered the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The army soon arrived and established a security perimeter, but the looters had breached the popular protection established around the museum by the inhabitants of Cairo. And more bad news were coming from the Tel-el-Amarna Museum, the Memphis Museum…

But Abu Simbel is quieter than ever. Without tourists, part of the population (dependant only on tourism) will soon go back to Aswan. The main hotel, Sethi First, is already closed, and nobody knows when the tourists will be back. The season is most probably over 4 months too early. Security considerations have been discussed with Mr. Fikri, especially the ones concerning myself (I must be the last foreigner south to Aswan), but I feel totally secure here, and definitely more than trying to get a train (there is no train anymore) from Aswan to Cairo to try to get a seat on a plane (are there still planes ?) to Europe.

This is still Abu Simbel, the Temples are still there, and the Eskaleh is still a hotel. Tourists will come back, to a different, better, more democratic Egypt (insh’allah). There is still a lot of work to do here, and I have no intention of leaving this quiet, eternal and never-more-out-of-Egypt Nubia…

Today, the airport is closed and the military convoys which bring a couple thousands tourists every day are cancelled. The tourists remaining in Abu Simbel have been “evacuated” by the tour operators and all the hotels are now empty. Dr. Ahmed, Director of the Temples site, was here tonight : on a usual day, there are 3.000 entrance tickets sold. Today, only 14. A record since the opening of the temples to tourists ? “Since Ramesses !” adds Dr. Ahmed, laughing. But he wasn’t laughing two days ago.

The day before yesterday, when I came back to the hotel for the evening shift, he was on the phone with his colleagues in other cities of the country. It was the apex of the lootings. And looters had entered the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. The army soon arrived and established a security perimeter, but the looters had breached the popular protection established around the museum by the inhabitants of Cairo. And more bad news were coming from the Tel-el-Amarna Museum, the Memphis Museum…

But Abu Simbel is quieter than ever. Without tourists, part of the population (dependant only on tourism) will soon go back to Aswan. The main hotel, Sethi First, is already closed, and nobody knows when the tourists will be back. The season is most probably over 4 months too early. Security considerations have been discussed with Mr. Fikri, especially the ones concerning myself (I must be the last foreigner south to Aswan), but I feel totally secure here, and definitely more than trying to get a train (there is no train anymore) from Aswan to Cairo to try to get a seat on a plane (are there still planes ?) to Europe.

This is still Abu Simbel, the Temples are still there, and the Eskaleh is still a hotel. Tourists will come back, to a different, better, more democratic Egypt (insh’allah). There is still a lot of work to do here, and I have no intention of leaving this quiet, eternal and never-more-out-of-Egypt Nubia…

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