Thinking about Sharm

I am so saddened to read about the bombing yesterday in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  The bombings that killed 88 people, including several tourists, personally affected me in a way that the other bombings did not.  It could have been me.  I could have been one of the victims.  I have European friends who could have been there and may have been there.  I contacted them to make sure they’re all right, but I have not heard from them.  I pray that they are safe. 

These bombings personally impacted me because I have been to Sharm el-Sheikh.  I can vividly picture in my mind what happened last night.  In January 2002, just prior to the start of the Afghanistan War, my wife and I visited Egypt.  We spent Christmas in Luxor, New Year’s in Cairo at the Pyramids of Giza, and in January we visited the Sinai Peninsula and Jordan.  We stayed with friends in Dahab up the coast from Sharm and had a wonderful time together.  The memory is priceless.  After a couple of days in Dahab, we took a bus from Dahab back to Cairo, and on our way we stopped in Sharm el-Sheikh.  In many ways Sharm is not so different from Dahab.  Both are popular tourist destinations for foreigners, particularly Western Europeans.  Both are very westernized.  Most Egyptians there are very friendly and cordial to the multitudes of foreigners who descend upon the Sinai for rest and relaxation.  As I read about what happened in Sharm last night, I recalled a time when my wife and I stayed in Dahab, and I realized that what happened could have happened to us.  I can picture the moment before the bombings occurred—tourists having fun into the wee hours of Saturday night, with Egyptian employees pulling all nighters in order to make sure their guests’ vacations were enjoyable.  In an instant, the merriment ended as car bombs detonated in the Ghazala Garden Hotel and the city’s Old Market, shattering the calm and leaving gaping holes where lives used to be. 

I am so saddened by these bombings, as well as by all the violence that has occurred in recent weeks in London and Iraq.  My heart goes out to the victims’ families.  I also feel for the people of Egypt who will be impacted by this tragedy.  The negative repercussions of these bombings will be enormous for Egypt’s economy, perhaps even more so than the Tsunami impacted Thailand’s tourist industry.  Egypt depends heavily on tourism.  This is the worst attack in modern Egyptian history, even worse than the 1997 massacre at the Temple of Hatshepsut that claimed the lives of 64 tourists.  After the massacre at the Temple of Hatshepsut, Egyptian tourism fell on hard times.  On the heels of last year’s deadly bombing of the Taba Hilton, this event will surely devastate Egypt’s tourist industry.  Many Egyptians, both Muslim and Coptic Christian, rely on tourism for their livelihoods, and they will suffer even more lean years as tourists stay away from Egypt in droves.  Many of those who previously considered vacationing in Sharm will choose other options such as Tunisia or Mallorca or the Canary Islands.  I hope that those who perpetrated this atrocity are apprehended soon, and I hope that the good people of Egypt who are affected by these bombings will be able to move on from this tragedy.  I long for the day when people put aside their bombs and use diplomacy to achieve solutions.

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