ALEXANDRIA, EGYPT – As President Morsi of Egypt grabs more power, the more power slips from his fingers as Egypt’s economy continues to fail. Morsi is doing all he can to revive the economy. With foreign travelers contributing a sizable chunk of Egypt’s economy, Morsi takes aim at the tourism industry to bring it back to it’s former glory.
While Hosni Mubarak was certainly someone we can all agree needed to be removed, that still begs the question: who can do it better? Mohammed Morsi has bravely stood up and claimed he can do it better. But now is the time that Mr. Morsi discovers that critiquing is far easier than doing. The Muslim Brotherhood may have felt that life would be better under their rule, but life isn’t only about keeping enough bullets handy for your AK-47. Running a government requires maintaining a million details (not necessarily related to killing people) in perfect balance. One of these details is tourism, which according to the Washington Post article, tourism brought in $14 Million annually (2010) before Mr. Morsi. Afterward, continual civil unrest and other factors has brought that figure down to a paltry $9 million. According to the article, “Currently there is no tourism in Egypt,” grumbled Adel Anwar, the 32-year-old owner of a trinket stall. The new Islamist government has no experience in managing the state,” he said. “The Islamists care only about their interests, not us. They forget about everyone else.” According to the egyptindependent.com, only 57.5% of Egyptians are making ends meet.
In an effort to repair the quite broken tourism industry, Mr. Morsi created a new organization, the Developmental Unit for New Gains (DUNG), to re-market Egypt and restore the industry. Where once pharaoh hats, Giza pyramid figurines, Alexandria kitchen magnets, and Sphinx bobble-heads once ruled, and were eagerly purchased by middle-aged housewives from Nebraska, something quite different has emerged.
DUNG has produced a new line of products for the tourism industry that better reflects the new ideals of the Muslim Brotherhood and what it feels Egypt truly is. Now stalls have introduced the “Sharia Soldier action figure” complete with AK-47 and bloodied knife, the “My First Suicide Vest” (for ages 8 – 12) with simulated C4 explosive and blinking trigger, the bobble-head Mujahadeen soldier, “Death to Israel” keychain, the “Noble Martyr” with pop-off head action, the USA G.I Joe pull-apart soldier doll with “death-throe” action, and the “Death to Israel” line of scarves and Hijabs.
We’ve visited markets all over Egypt. In every case, they’ve been bustling with industry, merchants hawking their wares with boastful promises, street artists entertaining, smells of food pulling you to fascinating delights, but in a market featuring only DUNG products we found something different. Dried weeds blew through empty streets. The only sound came from the authorized black streamers (colors not permitted) whipping in the wind. Merchants dozed or slumped in their stalls, unwilling to emerge.
We spoke with merchant, Taweel Hajjar, and asked about the new marketing campaign. He agreed to speak with us only if any colorful language was not printed. He had this to say. “Are you kidding me? This [camel spit mixed with goat dung] couldn’t be sold to a [leperous prostitute with genital warts]. My father sent me to study at Columbia in America. Do you know how expensive that is? Even before then I knew such [exotic worms feasting on each other] could never sell! And then, and THEN! I am forced into this [sand pit filled with scorpions] market plan imagined by [dog nymphomaniacs] who are the children of [paint is beginning to peel from the stall]. How the [translator is beginning to blush] am I supposed to feed my family selling this [nearby insects are dying in little piles on the ground]. Allah’s [Allah would be unhappy with this description]. We are all doomed if this [translator is attempting to dig a hole in the sand] be the solution to our problems!”
We halted our interview with Hajjar when it seemed our translator was in need of serious medical attention. No other merchant was willing to speak. Even a passing snake appeared embarrassed to speak with us.
We left Alexandria, our thoughts filled with foreboding for the once magnificent country. Will Mr. Morsi’s new changes solve Egypt’s problems, or merely create new ones? Only time will tell.