Ten people – five Egyptians, four French and one Belgian – died on Wednesday April 13 in a bus accident in Aswan, in the tourist south of Egypt. Fourteen other tourists – eight French and six Belgians – were injured when the bus collided with a car on the long desert road leading to the two Abu Simbel temples early in the morning, the Aswan governorate added.
All the wounded are in a “steady state” after being hospitalized for “fractures, contusions and superficial injuries”, he says. A photographer from the Agence France-Presse (AFP) saw the completely charred bus lying on the edge of this tongue of asphalt.
“The two Egyptian passengers of the pick-up died”reported in the afternoon the prosecution, which opened an investigation “to determine the exact circumstances of the accident and determine those responsible”. The other three Egyptians killed were “the coach driver, his co-driver and the tour guide” who incriminated the group of Belgians and French, adds the prosecution. Together with AFP, the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the death of one of its citizens, as well as several injuries.
tourism in trouble
Traffic accidents are common in Egypt, where roads are often poorly maintained and traffic regulations are not respected. Officially, seven thousand people lost their lives in accidents in 2020 in this most populous country in the Arab world (103 million inhabitants).
The Abu Simbel temples, more than 3,000 years old, moved from their original location to prevent them from being submerged by the rising waters of the Nile with the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 60-70s, are one of the main Egypt tourist sites.
Carved into the rock on a hill overlooking the Nile, they are dedicated to Osiris and Isis and were built by one of the most famous pharaohs, Ramses II (1279-1213 BC). Abu Simbel is one of the jewels of ancient Nubia, whose borders extended along the Nile, dividing its territory between present-day Egypt and Sudan. But if the site has been full of tourists for a long time, now it is much less frequented.
After years of political instability linked to the 2011 popular uprising, which dealt a major blow to the key tourism sector, Egypt had barely managed to attract visitors in 2019, particularly by promoting its ancient heritage. But in 2020, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, income from tourism – which employs two million Egyptians and generates more than 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) – plummeted from 13 billion to 4 billion. Dollars. In August 2021, Russia resumed its flights, interrupted for six years after a deadly accident, revitalizing this sector at half-staff.
Accidents and attacks
But the invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army brutally slowed down the recovery, while these two countries accounted for 40% of tourist arrivals in Egypt, mainly through the Red Sea. The French and Belgians, on the other hand, are the first contingents of visitors to the pharaonic sites of Luxor and Aswan.
The regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, which now wants to present itself as a model of stability in a Middle East torn by violence, very regularly organizes visits by diplomats, bloggers and other influencers to restore its tourist image. Since the beginning of April, Cairo has even authorized the entry into its soil of several dozen new nationalities without a prior visa.
If the attacks on tourists, bloody in the 1990s, have largely weakened, accidents happen regularly.
In Luxor (ancient Thebes), where the tomb of the famous pharaoh Tutankhamun is located, in the Valley of the Kings, 250 kilometers north of Aswan, a German tourist and two Egyptian girls died in the collapse of a building in a residential area February 2019.
In May 2020, an attack targeted another Egyptian tourism hotspot, the Giza pyramids (southwest of Cairo), injuring 17 a month before the start of the African Cup of Nations soccer tournament in the country.