You can’t make this stuff up. The Salafist (Islamic hardliners) party in Egypt has a stellar plan for the pyramids – cover them in wax. Why? Well, to promote ‘halal’ tourism of course! The Daily Mail reports:
For now members of the Nour (The Light) Salafist party, which won 20 per cent of the vote in recent elections, are talking about putting an end to the ‘idolatry’ represented by the pyramids.
This means destruction – along the lines essayed by the Afghan Taliban who blew up the Banyam Buddhas – or ‘concealment’ by covering them with wax. Tourists would presumably see great blobs rather than the perfectly carved steps.
This last suggestion was made by Abdel Moneim Al-Shahat, a Nour candidate for parliament. Apart from wanting to do away with this ‘rotten culture’, this gentleman also wants to ban the Nobel prize winning novels of Naguib Mahfouz, one of many great Egyptian writers.
I suppose they could call in the great Bulgarian artist Christo, who specialises in putting curtains across the Grand Canyon or surrounding Pacific atolls in fetching pink cloth? But I doubt they have heard of him.
Salafism means reverting to the mores of the founding generation of Islam, for the close companions of the Prophet were called Salafi meaning ‘pious founders’. Since the last adherent of ancient Egyptian religion allegedly converted (to Christianity) in the fourth century AD, the original Salafists had little to worry about the pyramids and left them alone.
But not their 21st century successors, who also want what they call ‘halal’ tourism, with women told to dress decorously and no alcohol, something pretty general already in conservative Egypt. The Salafists want segregated beaches, which will not go down well with visitors to Sharm el Sheikh.
Tourism accounts for 11 per cent of Egypt’s $218billion GDP. Right now, hotels and resorts report falls in occupancy from 90 to 15 per cent.
This is bad news for the 3million Egyptians who depend on the 14million tourists who visit Egypt each year. The people affected are not simply waiters and chambermaids, but taxi drivers, camel and horse ride touts, shop and stall owners and ordinary villagers who make a bit on the side providing tea and snacks for Nile cruises.
This “Arab Spring” thing is producing some great ideas, isn’t it?