Egyptian voices — conservative and progressive — clamour to be heard

The Guardian reports: Last weekend, the owners of the 4Win hotel in Hurghada uncorked the entire contents of their drinks cabinet, and poured it down their stairs. Attended by a Salafi sheikh, and by supporters chanting “Allah is great”, the event was a first for Hurghada. It marked the opening of the first hotel in the Red Sea resort – a westernised tourist town where much of the signage is in English and Russian – that promises to cater for religiously conservative guests.

“At the moment, many Middle Eastern men won’t come to Hurghada because they won’t get the privacy they require,” said 4Win’s manager and co-owner, Abdelbasset Omar. “We’re trying to fill that gap in the market.”

Omar said female guests will stay on a segregated, women-only floor guarded by female security personnel, and will also have the option of swimming in a segregated pool. The bar is alcohol-free, while images of musicians Elvis Presley and Shakira – the residue of the hotel’s previous life as a conventional establishment – have been removed from the walls. But the transformation is not entirely complete: paid-for pornography channels have not yet been removed from the hotel’s televisions.

“It gives me the chance to enjoy tourism in my own country in a way that does not contradict my beliefs,” said one of the hotel’s first guests, Abdel Rahman – an electronics engineer from Cairo. “Especially the privacy for women – they can enjoy swimming now with no problems.”

“I’m very glad that this hotel has been opened,” said Sheikh Khaled Saeed, who spoke at the hotel’s opening. “It helps better reflect a real image of Egyptian society.”

Western tourism in Egypt has fallen since the 2011 uprising – one local hotelier said his hotel’s occupancy was down by 50%, while nationwide numbers have fallen by over a fifth in the past two years. In this light, 4Win’s existence is partly seen as a clever attempt to make up for the shortfall with a different kind of tourist. “It’s a smart move,” said Adel Ibrahim, the owner of Canary Hotel, another Hurghada inn. “It’ll attract conservative guests – both from the Gulf countries and from Egypt.” [Continue reading…]

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