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Egypt’s sports tourism under attack

A bus carrying mostly South African tourists was attacked near the Giza pyramids in Cairo, ahead of the African Union Cup that Egypt will host this summer.

CAIRO — An explosion using a primitive bomb targeted on May 19 a tourist bus near the Grand Egyptian Museum, which is located close to the Giza pyramids, wounding at least 12 people, most of whom were tourists from South Africa.

Security sources told Reuters that the bus transported 25 tourists from South Africa who were on their way from the airport to the pyramids. Four Egyptians who were in a nearby car were also injured.

According to the sources, the cause of the explosion was a rudimentary bomb detonated remotely on the perimeter of the Grand Egyptian Museum, near the location of the roadside bomb that targeted a tourist bus on Dec. 29, 2018, and killed four Vietnamese tourists.

The explosion comes as tourism in Egypt has picked up again, after witnessing a decline following the January 25 Revolution in 2011 and the crashing of a Russian passenger plane in 2015.

The Grand Egyptian Museum is set to open in 2020 near the Giza pyramids, which is among the most famous archaeological sites in the world. The museum, which will display some of the most important Egyptian antiquities, is built as part of Egypt’s efforts to boost tourism revenues, which are a main source of foreign currency in the country.

Meanwhile, on May 22, EgyptAir launched a promotional campaign to sponsor the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt, with the slogan “One destination, one cup.”

The Ministry of Civil Aviation and its affiliated companies had announced offering support and facilities to the Afcon organizers in order to ensure high standards that reflect positively on Egypt.

Egypt was chosen to host Afcon after the Confederation of African Football (CAF) revealed Jan. 8 that Egypt had received 16 votes out of 20. In December 2018, CAF decided to strip Cameroon from the right to host the event, because it failed to complete its preparations.

During the Afcon draw on April 13, Egyptian Minister of Tourism Rania al-Mashat said that organizing Afcon boosts the country’s tourism and highlights Egypt’s landmarks, qualifying it to host international championships.

Mashat added that sports tourism is one of the most important and popular trends among different nationalities and social classes, and it boosts the number of tourists.

Khaled Okasha, head of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies who is close to Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s regime, told Al-Monitor over the phone that the attack on the tourist bus had terrorist motives because of its timing and choice of location. It targeted a bus transporting Africans, which means that the intention was to deal a blow to tourism ahead of the country’s preparations for Afcon.

Akasha said that the bomb was detonated remotely and involved a rudimentary bomb that caused a loud thud and broke the window of the tourist bus, injuring some passengers.

He said that such terrorist attacks do not affect sports tourism because the security authorities are quick to respond to a minor blast. Ambulances rushed to the scene to transport three of the injured to the hospital. He added that the attack would not be detrimental for tourism because no one was killed.

Akasha noted that the Ministry of Interior took preemptive measures by launching raids against suspected militants near Cairo the following day. On May 20, the ministry said seven suspected members of the armed Hasm Movement — affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood — were killed in a security raid in 6th of October city. Five others were killed during a security raid in El-Shorouk city. Akasha noted that this operation shows that the security forces are still in control and are imposing order.

He noted that new security instructions were given as soon as the attack happened in order to increase security in the surrounding area as well as mobile and fixed ambushes to arrest any outlaws. The area was combed because of its tourist location.

Mohammad Hamed, an independent researcher in international relations, said that the bomb attack was aimed at tourism because it targeted a bus carrying South Africans ahead of Afcon, which is scheduled for June. The incident might distort Egypt’s image among African tourists who are planning to attend this major sports event.

He told Al-Monitor over the phone that the incident targeted sports and archaeological tourism, as it happened near the pyramids and the Grand Egyptian Museum.

Hamed noted that the attack happened the day after International Museum Day on May 18, when Egypt announced opening all museums for free to Egyptian, Arab and Western tourists. He said that the militants chose this timing to tarnish Egypt’s image abroad.

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