The Shop Owners of Dahab
Egypt has suffered quite a few blows to their tourism industry due to the revolution back in 2011.
Many people were afraid to visit after the Arab spring, but of course we couldn’t stay away, so we decided to end our trip in Egypt and were very excited to head back to Dahab.
Ahmed left Cairo two years ago to help his father’s business in Dahab, but says lately things have been very tough. “I have had no sales in the past 10 days and it’s very difficult for me. I usually have to borrow money from friends to eat, and on most days I only eat breakfast because it is all I can afford.” When asked about the new President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Amed says “Sisi will be a good change for everyone in our country, but we must be patient. If he does some wrong, but is doing mostly good, then we must be patient with him. Things will not change overnight”
When Giselle and I got married we spent our honeymoon backpacking around Africa for 5 weeks. We headed to Egypt and visited the small town of Dahab, along the Red Sea.
I fell in love with the place and it’s people and how relaxed everyone was there.
Mohammed is from Upper Egypt and has been away from his family for the past 7 years. I asked him how he feels about the state of tourism in Dahab and in Egypt “When I have good business I make sure to eat and stock up on food and everything I need. It is really sad because there are so many lies on TV and in the news about Egypt and how it is dangerous. Tourists are always welcome in our country and they will always be safe. Tourists are not a target here and they are protected by all of us. We don’t want war here. We want peace just like everyone else everywhere. People are people you know? We are all the same underneath. We have hearts and lungs and blood. We made the revolution so we could have freedom and there would be no higher ups in the government. We are all the same. I believe that if you have a clean heart the world will be at peace” He then offered me tea and told me “Next time you come back we will have tea again and talk about how Egypt is different”
It was a big change from the rest of Egypt. We were married 6 years ago this September, and have since been back to Egypt 4 times. (Check out our videos here and here)
Dahab is always our last stop in Egypt as it is so laid back and very different from the rest of the country, but it wasn’t the same this time.
Salah works in a perfume shop and has been away from his family for the past 9 years. “My family is in Cairo. There is no money in Cairo, and very little money in Dahab. The little money I make I send back to family. No people travel to Egypt because it’s dangerous, but it’s not dangerous. There is too much bad news about Egypt. I thank you my friend for coming back to Egypt and helping us”
The relaxed attitude was not as apparent, people were struggling to make a living, and shop owners were practically begging us to purchase items from their shops.
Emad from Luxor has been in Dahab with his family for the past 13 years selling carved masks and necklaces. He hopes that with a new president tourists will decide to come back. “Next time you come back to Dahab, my store will be so busy we won’t have time to chat”
Since the revolution, Egypt has seen a massive drop in the number of tourists visiting the country and it is affecting the merchants.
I sat down with several people to hear about their hardships.
I connected with many of the shop owners and wanted to hear what they had to say about the recent drop in tourism.
Ahmed came to Dahab from Cairo 5 years ago to make money, but after the revolution, tourists completely stopped coming. “There was no one here (Dahab) and I hope things can change. People will come back when they see that it is safe. So many people before but now they are scared. Dahab is a very special place and has so much to offer. Desserts, Mountains, Red Sea. I want people to come back so I can learn about other places of the world”
These men were eager to talk to me, and wanted to explain that Egypt is not a bad place, and that people should come visit.
I really felt for them.
Ahmed is from Alexandria and came to Dahab 12 years ago to start a travel company. “Sometimes there are people here and sometimes there are not. I started a travel company because people always want to go on tours because they feel safe. We always make sure the people on our tours are safe. People will come back because Dahab is so beautiful”
The first time we visited Dahab we had met a man named Gerges who owned a small shop.
He invited us in for tea and was very kind.
Alaa-Abou Farroq has been selling pipes in Dahab, Egypt for the past 15 years.
In 2012 when we visited again, Gerges was still living in Dahab.
We have kept in touch with him through Facebook, but very shortly after our visit, he decided to leave Dahab and is now living in Aswan.
Being in Dahab for the past 10 years, Mahmoud has seen the ups and downs of tourism in Egypt. “My family moved with me from upper Egypt to Dahab and business was really good when we first came. Since the revolution there has been a big drop in people coming here. People are afraid that there are problems here but there are no problems. It’s very safe here and no issues with tourists. We just want our freedom”
“Many people have left Dahab because there is no money to be made. Not many tourists are coming to Egypt because they are scared. There is not much money to be made in Aswan but at least I am with my family.”
Many shop owners have left the sleepy town of Dahab because it was impossible for them to sustain themselves there.
Hazem owns a lamp store and has been in Dahab for the past 5 years. “With a new president in Egypt I believe that tourists will start to come back. He wants people to work and to make money and he is a leader for the people. We need a strong leader to take care of us and make Egypt safe for tourists.”
The stories that these men shared were heartbreaking. My hopes are that things get better for everyone in Dahab, and that it will all turn around for the people of Egypt.