Egypt’s culture and tourism to be shaped by the hands of Egyptian ladies

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In a limited cabinet reshuffle the Egyptian parliament approved Sunday President Elsis’s appointment of new ministers for Ministries of National Development, Tourism, Culture, and Business Sector.  The new appointed minsters for Tourism and Culture are Rania al-Mashat and Enas Abdel Dayem.  It is a step described by observers to demonstrate a new trend of the 30th of June government to trust women to manage heavy duty ministries after the notable success of Sahar Nasr as minister of investment. It is not a secret that tourism sector in Egypt has been taking heavy losses from an all-time high of almost 1.5 M visitor monthly in 2010 to as low as less than 400 thousand monthly in 2013 due to terrorism security threats and overall unrests in the aftermath of two revolutions in 2011 and 2013 (trading economics). It has been a challenging task for any minister of tourism since then to come up with a plan to regain the flow of tourists.  The Ministry of culture’s office doesn’t come with no challenges either.  It comes in a time when the 30th of June government is fighting a defiant ideological battle against Islamic extremism and looking with anticipation at the role of cultural activities to counter hate speech and religious segregation.   In a televised speech in 2014 El-Sisi addressed a conference of Egypt’s elite society of writers, novelists and drama producers saying: “you are the ones spearheading society’s dynamics in emphasizing morals, awareness, culture and fine manners, I declare our commitment as the government of Egypt to support you to help regain the Egyptian personality with its model manners of past  generations.”  Words that prove an opposite mind map to the mind map of the Brotherhood that considered art in its most common forms as the works of the devil!

According to the Egyptian Streets the new minister of culture, Enas Abdel Dayem, is the first female to be the minister of culture since the ministry was officially founded in 1958. Abdel Dayem was the head of the Opera House and a prominent flute player. She further concluded her MA and Ph.D. degrees in the flute in Paris. She held multiple solo performances and joined the joined the International Orchestra of the UNESCO.  Al-Mashat on the other hand, worked as deputy governor of the Central Bank of Egypt for monetizing policy. She also worked as an economist in the International Monetary Fund in Washington.

Tourism is vital to Egypt’s struggling economy as revenues from tourism reached $3.5 billion in the first seven months of 2017according to government officials (Reuters).  In a report by Deutsche Welle sourcing Egyptian media in July 2017 several members of Egypt’s Supreme Tourism Council, including the chairman of the Red Sea Tourism Investment Association Kamel Abu Ali, have submitted their resignations in recent months. They were protesting the mismanagement of publicity campaigns, and demanding the resignation of the Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed, who spent about $19 million (16.5 million euros) last year and another $9 million this year on his initiatives.  According to the Oxford business Group, Egypt can enhance its tourism competitiveness internationally by improving infrastructure and by being more welcoming to foreign visitors. Ultimately, Egypt can get much more out of its natural and historical assets than is currently the case. It can also get ahead of the trend by developing what it has in a sustainable and eco-friendly way, thus guaranteeing that tourism will continue to contribute to the economy over the long term.

It is worth mentioning that Abdel Dayem was removed from her office at the Opera House by the brotherhood Minster of Culture Alaa Abdel Aziz.  Her removal from office led to a persistent sit-in by the cultural activists’ which continued till the ousting of the Brotherhood government in 2013. It remains to be seen how these newly appointed women fighters will face their challenges.

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