Egypt’s Banks, Restaurants, Pyramids Open… But When Will Tourists Return?

BY Larisa Epatko  February 9, 2011 at 4:46 PM EST


Khan el-Khalili market in Cairo (Nicola since 1972 via Flickr Creative Commons)

Business owners near Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where anti-government demonstrators have congregated for two weeks, and in the legendary bazaar and tourist haunt Khan el-Khalili are ready for life to return to normal, but continuing protests are dashing those hopes.

The ancient market Khan el-Khalili, in Cairo’s Islamic district, is usually a top tourist destination, second only to the pyramids, said Jon Jensen, GlobalPost correspondent in Cairo, who reported on the impact of Egypt’s unrest on businesses.

Now, about half the shops are closed for lack of customers. “Seeing no tourists there is really surprising and is affecting business,” he told us by telephone.

Banks, restaurants and fruit stalls have reopened and check points have eased, but business owners are still anxiously awaiting the return of their customer base and are worried it could take months before tourists feel comfortable enough to return, Jensen reports.

Rather than dying down, the demonstrations have continued in force this week, stoked by the release of Google executive Wael Ghonim, who had been held for two weeks by the state for helping organize the protests.

On Wednesday, the protesters headed to the Parliament building in Cairo and elsewhere clashed with police. The demonstrators in front of Parliament set up tents and tarps for their own comfort but also to show the government that they’re not going anywhere, Jensen said.

GlobalPost’s Oliver Wilkins filmed protest signs in Tahrir Square, including “Game over Mubarak” and “Sorry your credit has expired.” Other posters made more general proclamations: “Egyptian Not Terrorist” read one, and a man making a peace sign held another that read “Muslim + Christian = Egypt”:

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