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five Egyptians, four French and a Belgian died in a bus accident in Aswan

The charred tourist bus after the accident, in Aswan, Egypt, April 13, 2022.

Ten people – five Egyptians, four French and one Belgian – were killed on Wednesday, April 13 in a bus crash in Aswan, in Egypt’s touristy south, which is struggling to recover from a decade of political instability and the Covid-19 epidemic.

Fourteen other tourists were injured — eight French and six Belgians — when the bus collided with a car on the long desert road leading to Abu Simbel’s two temples early in the morning, Aswan Governorate added. All injured are in a “steady state” after being hospitalized for “fractures, bruises and superficial injuries”, he says. An Agence France-Presse photographer spotted the completely charred bus lying on the edge of this tongue of asphalt.

Road accidents are common in Egypt, where roads are often poorly maintained and traffic rules are not observed. Officially, in 2020, seven thousand people died in accidents in this most populous country in the Arab world (103 million inhabitants).

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Tourism in trouble

The Abu Simbel Temples, over 3,000 years old, were moved from their original location to avoid being flooded by the rising waters of the Nile with the construction of the Aswan Dam in the 1960s and 1970s , and are one of the main tourist attractions in Egypt .

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, Ramesses II (1279-1213 BC). Abu Simbel is one of the jewels of ancient Nubia, whose borders stretched along the Nile, dividing the territory between present-day Egypt and Sudan. But if the site has long been teeming with tourists, it is now much less visited.

After years of political instability related to the 2011 popular uprising, which dealt a major blow to the main tourism industry, Egypt had only just managed to bring visitors back in 2019, notably by promoting its ancient heritage.

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But in 2020, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, tourism revenues – which employ two million Egyptians and generate more than 10% of gross domestic product (GDP) – fell from $13 billion to $4 billion. .

In August 2021, Russia resumed flights, which had been interrupted for six years after a deadly crash, reviving this sector at half-mast.

Accidents and attacks

But the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine brutally stalled the recovery, while these two countries accounted for 40% of tourists arriving in Egypt, mostly on 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.

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The regime of President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi, now seeking to establish itself as an example of stability in a violence-torn Middle East, regularly organizes visits by diplomats, bloggers and other influencers to restore the tourist image. Since the beginning of April, Cairo has even given permission for several dozen new nationalities to enter its territory without a prior visa.

When the attacks on tourists – bloody in the 1990s – have largely been weakened, accidents regularly happen.

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 when a building collapsed in a residential area in February 2019.

In May 2020, an attack targeted another high place of Egyptian tourism, the Pyramids of Giza (southwest of Cairo), injuring 17 people a month before the start of African Cup of Nations football in the country.

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Le Monde and AFP

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