Avoid the Crowds in Egypt: Visit the Pyramids. By Louise Osborne ~ Weekly Exclusive - Global Views On Travel Tuesday, 10th June 2014
Exclusive Travel Feature: A man dressed in a foot-length fabric galabeya and riding a tall camel trots over to my friend and I as we walk towards the towering Great Pyramid of Giza on the edge of Egypt's sprawling capital city, Cairo;
'Do you want a camel ride?' he shouts down to us, holding out the reins and patting the neck of his steed. He is one of a number of men approaching the dozen or so tourists wandering around in the hot sun.
Once upon a time, it would have been hundreds of tourists exploring the impressive ancient structure, but three years on from the 2011 revolution that brought down Egypt's former dictator, Hosni Mubarak, many are still reluctant to visit for fear or unrest.
In 2010, more than 14.7 million tourists arrived in droves to take in the sights across the country, a figure that fell to 9.8 million following the revolution. Although the number rose again in 2012, attacks on tourist destinations such as the bombing of a tourist bus in the Sinai which led to the deaths of three South Korean nationals - saw the number fall again to 9.5 million, according to figures quoted by Reuters.
In the first quarter of this year, tourism revenue dropped by 43% to $1.3 billion as bazaars remained empty, sellers waiting in chairs outside as lone visitors walk by glancing in briefly before strolling swiftly away.
The drop in the number of tourists making their way to Egypt has left some hotels deserted, with some even reporting zero or single-figure occupancy in former tourist strongholds such as Luxor. It has devastated a business that employed millions and continues to damage to an already unstable economy, with more than 11% of Egypt's GDP dependent on its visitors.
But while officials struggle to come up with solutions to attract tourists and their dollars back into the country, some are taking advantage of the slowdown to explore the sites without the normal pushing and queuing that comes with tourist-ridden attractions.
I was one of those people a visitor enjoying a distinct lack of other visitors and experiencing a more authentic culture as a result.
While it's true that some parts of Egypt remain no-go regions the Sinai for one, where in the north the UK's foreign office advises against all travel, and where in the south (outside of Sharm el Sheikh, which is still a popular tourist destination) it advises against all but essential travel there is still plenty of safe places to visit.
Whether it's taking in the pyramids of Giza or Luxor, enjoying the beaches along the Red Sea coast or exploring the second city of Alexandria, there's still so much of Egypt to see that is safe and enjoyable, and the best thing at the moment being one of the only tourists enjoying the sites. But it won't stay like that for long, so go and make the most of it now.
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Louise Osborne is a correspondent and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She began her career working at regional newspapers in the UK and now works with journalists across the globe as part of international journalism organization, Associated Reporters Abroad (ARA). Living abroad for the second time, she continues to be fascinated by places both near and far, and boards a plane eagerly, as often as she can.
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