UPDATE — The Islamist radical President Morsi appointed governor of tourism-center Luxor, Adel el-Khayat, resigned in the wake of intense public criticism that he was unfit for the job. The ultra-conservative el-Khayat is a member of a terrorist group that murdered 58 tourists at the 3,400-year-old Hatshepsut Temple in Luxor in 1997. With a touch or irony that clearly went right past him, el-Khayat said he resigned to prevent “bloodshed.”
Sometimes the worst wounds are self-inflicted.
With Egypt’s tourism industry already in deep trouble, President Mohamed Morsi seems intent on making it worse with his appointment as governor of Luxor a leading member of the ultra-religious organization responsible for the 1997 terrorist attack which murdered at least 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptians at that famous tourist attraction.
After the pyramids at Giza, Egypt’s most popular site is the temples at Luxor and the Valley of the Kings in the upper Nile.
Widespread political unrest throughout the country, including clashes between the Islamists and more secular segments of the country, is keeping many tourists away, particularly from Israel and Jewish communities abroad. I was there shortly before the revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak and the river was clogged with tour boats and many of the tourists I encountered were Israelis and American Jews.
Morsi’s appointment of Adel El-Khayat, a founding member of Egypt’s militant Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya group, as governor is another move that will help guarantee no recovery for the tourism industry any time soon.
The group was also implicated in the 1981 assassination of president Anwar El-Sadat, after which El-Khayat was sentenced to one year in prison without a charge, according to Ahram Online.
Ihab Moussa, head of the Egyptian Coalition to Support Tourism (CST), told Ahram Online: “Morsi is scaring tourists to death by appointing this man to the governorship of Luxor.” He accused Morsi of handing over one of the world’s largest and most famous open-air museums to a man who “belongs to a terrorist group that committed the Luxor massacre.”
The CTS also accused the Morsi government of failing to respond to statements by a radical Salafist scholar who called for demolition of the Sphinx and Pyramids at Gaza because “They were worshipped once and could be worshipped again.”
The ultra-conservative Salafis, who advocate implementing strict Sharia law in Egypt, lead the Islamist block in the parliament, second only to Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood.