This article was published at Christianity Today on December 23, 2014.
The sound bomb exploded right behind the Egyptian Museum on Cairo’s Tahrir Square, throwing Ibrahim Morgan’s Swedish tour group into a temporary panic.
Then they settled back down and finished their tea.
This latest tactic in Egypt’s Islamist insurgency is meant to instill terror without harming civilians. It seeks to convey a message to citizen and tourist alike: Egypt is unstable.
This has been the dominant narrative abroad regarding Egypt, thanks to three years of instability, four presidents, and two revolutions. However, some locals like Morgan disagree.
“We know it is nonsense what the media says about Egypt,” Morgan said after the November 28 incident. “This group is here and they have had a great time.” The Swedes nodded in appreciation.
But relatively speaking, they are among the few. Since hitting a highwater mark of 14.7 million visitors in 2010, Egypt’s tourism numbers declined by a third, devastating the economy. The sector represented more than one-tenth of Egypt’s GDP, and tens of thousands have lost their livelihood.
Once stability—or its perception—returns, the numbers will likely rebound. The Giza pyramids, the temples of Luxor and Aswan, and the medieval mosques of Islamic Cairo will long attract international visitors.
But in October, the government launched a unique campaign to increase a segment representing only 1.9 percent of total tourists: Christian pilgrims. To do so, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehlab and Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II promoted the most noteworthy biblical example.
“Jesus was the first ‘tourist’ to Egypt,” said Tawadros at the launch event, according to AsiaNews. “For us, for our community, his stay in this land has been a blessing for the present and for the future.”
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