Cairo, Jul 1 (efe-epa).- The pyramids of Giza and several archaeological gems reopened to tourists on Wednesday as Egypt eases out of lockdown and attempts to reboot the tourism sector.
As monuments and historical sites reopen, Egyptians and tourists have been greeted by a new normal where hand sanitizer dispensers are scattered around sites and wearing face masks is mandatory.
Minister of Antiquities and Tourism Khaled al Anani entered the Egyptian Museum in Cairo where he led a symbolic reopening act and celebrated the arrival of the first two groups of international tourists to the country, around 300 people from Ukraine.
“I said that we are ready to welcome tourists at the beginning of July and I said that I don’t expect any flights to arrive early July and today we have two flights, to Sharm el Sheik, and Hurghada,” he told reporters.
Al Anani said this pointed to “a demand for Egyptian destinations, it means there’s a credibility for the measures that were established to receive the tourists of all the world.”
The Tourism Minister did not address questions over Egypt’s exclusion from the European Union’s list of 15 external nations the bloc was reopening borders for from the 1 July.
Al Anani swerved the question and instead assured that the Land of the Pharaoh was open for business.
“We respect any political decisions (…) it’s a political decision from another country that we respect but we are ready,” he said.
“Our measures are the same of the whole world and we are ready to welcome the tourists from all the world and I am sure that even the EU countries will open and will allow travelling to Egypt very soon,” he added.
The Government reopened all archaeological sites located in Alexandria and Matruh (Mediterranean coast), Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel (Nile Valley) and Hurghada (Red Sea) for the Egyptian public.
During the first stage of reopening for international visitors, establishments from three provinces, mainly focused on beach tourism have reopened in South Sinai, Red Sea and Matruh.
According to Al Anani, these areas are “almost free” of Covid-19.
The minister said authorities hopes to open Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Alexandria and Abu Simbel for tourists from all over the world very soon.
Tourism, one of the main income sources for the country, has been recovering in recent years after hitting rock bottom following the Arab Spring in 2011 and an attack on a Russian plane in 2015.
In 2019, the country received 13 million visits raking in $13 billion.
By the first two months of 2020, the Middle Eastern country had already welcomed 2.3 million tourists generating $3 billion.
However, the impact of coronavirus has caused a setback to the sector and authorities have not yet given a projection of when they expect to recover to pre-pandemic levels.
“I don’t think any country can give a date,” the minister added. EFE-EPA