In a defiant gesture of faith from beneath the Pyramids, Anglican bishops sent a message to the world this week: Egypt is safe.
And this on a weekend the UK embassy warned against visiting public places.
Representing twenty of the more conservative provinces of the worldwide Anglican Communion, delegates to the Sixth Global South conference in Cairo visited the Giza pyramids and dined on the Nile in a show of solidarity.
‘I appeal to you as an Egyptian, please return and visit Egypt,’ Bishop Mouneer Hanna Anis, chairman of the Global South, told delegates.
‘Our economy depends on tourism, and when it is down, thousands of Egyptians cannot earn a living.’
The tourism sector employs roughly four million Egyptians, representing 12.6 percent of the work force. But according to the Central Bank of Egypt, tourism revenue declined by nearly a half – 48.9 percent – year-on-year to September 2016.
The 31 October, 2015 crash of Russian Metrojet Flight 9268 over the Egyptian Sinai desert, claimed by the Islamic State, had a disastrous impact.
Russia, who represented 35 per cent of arrivals, has since barred all flights to Egypt, and the UK at 12 per cent have canceled flights to resort areas in the Sinai.
In Cairo the pyramids stood empty. In Luxor there was just one family at their hotel, where staff threw a party for their one-year-old’s birthday, to show their appreciation.
American Darren Haley said: ‘It was sad to see just how much Egypt has to offer and how few are willing to take the journey. Egypt is history just waiting to be explored.’
Egypt is struggling to promote tourism with an ongoing Islamist insurgency.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs reacted furiously to UK and other embassy warnings that they said could ‘harm the country’s economy.’
Without identifying the threat, the UK embassy issued a warning 7 October to avoid ‘large gatherings and public spaces,’ specifically mentioning museums.
‘Most terrorist attacks target the security forces,’ reports the embassy website,‘but it’s likely that foreigners, including tourists, will also be targeted.’
So the bishops’ stance is all the more remarkable. ‘I wanted the Anglican delegates to see a different picture of Egypt than what they see in the media,’ Bishop Anis told Lapido.
‘It is unfair to call Egypt unsafe, as we have seen there is no place in the world safe from terrorism.’
Before the Russian airline crash tourism was showing signs of recovery. Revenues had increased 45.3 percent compared to a year earlier.
Egypt hopes a second rebound is coming.
Officials are finalizing negotiations with the Russian authorities to restore flights. Egypt Air resumed London-Luxor travel on 3 October.
On 10 October Egypt completed restoration work at the shrine of King Tuthmosis III in Karnak Temple.
Last month the ransacked Mallawi Museum in Upper Egypt was reopened for the first time since pro-Morsi rioting in August 2013.
But even throughout this tumultuous period, tourists have come.
‘We have never had a bad experience, even during the uprisings of the last five years,’ Bishop Timothy Ranji of Kenya told Lapido. Every year since 2004 he has brought thirty clergy to Egypt for religious pilgrimage.
‘Egypt is secure, full of lovely people, and I invite everyone to come,’ said Archbishop Tito Zavala of Chile.
‘I am an ordinary person here. There is no need for bodyguards.’
This article was published first at Lapido Media.