The Other Side of Egypt
by Ibrat Jumaboyev
Ibrat Jumaboyev traveled to Egypt's largest tourist resort and found another side to the future the country's youth faces. This is his personal account.
I'm overwhelmed by the attention I'm getting in Sharm el-Sheikh. I am a dark skinned Uzbek, but no matter how much I try to blend in with the local youth, some shrewd shop owners and greeter boys can still see I’m a tourist.
"Hello, hello, English, Russian, Chinese? Armenian? I just want to ask you one question."
One question leads to more questions, and I end up in shops that sell souvenirs and fake designer bags for women. My lack of interest in incense burners or bags leads into offers of hashish, marijuana, cocaine or Viagra.
"Are you muslim? Welcome, brother. Have you come to Sharm el Sheikh for Russian women?"
The young traders of Sharm el-Sheikh seem desperate for business. The popular demonstrations that squeezed President Hosni Mubarak out of office last February have cut the numbers of tourists coming into Egypt drastically.
Russia, one of the biggest contributors of tourists to Egypt, banned its citizens from travelling to this country, only lifting the embargo recently. Hotels and shops are almost empty; the countless bars of Naama Bay are pretending to look lively with staff members doing a line dance and singing along to Western pop songs blaring from speakers.Continue Reading
the future for egyptian youth
Back in the hotel, receptionist Malik asks me how my night in town went. I say I got hassled a lot. Malik looks embarrased. "It is not good for tourism, this hassle" he says.
Malik is 22 years old, he comes from a village near Cairo. He says he disapproves of a lot of the things that go on in Sharm el-Sheikh like drinking, sex and drugs, as he comes from a very strict Muslim family.
Malik graduated from university with a degree in mass media and dreams of working in TV, but he couldn’t get a job. So he came to Sharm el-Sheikh to work in the hotel industry for the time being.
He says he’s constantly looking for a better job, but it’s hard as he works 12 hours a day and doesn’t get a day off. And when he tries asking for permission to go to a job interview, his manager tells him not to bother coming back. Malik lifts the load of papers in front of him, mimicking his boss, "Take your papers with you, take your papers with you!".
But Malik can count himself lucky; he at least has a job while youth unemployment, now standing at 25 per cent, seems set to get worse. According to the UN refugee agency, the unrest in Libya has forced nearly 70,000 Egyptians working there to flee the country.
Egyptian trade unions fear the returnees will find it very hard to get jobs. Malik says thousands of people, including many from his village and family, left Egypt over the years to go to other countries, like Libya and Sudan, looking for work.Continue Reading
Continue ReadingSharm el Sheikh, Egypt
"My brother is in Misrata, in Libya, but he hasn't phoned in the last 20 or so days and we don't know whether he is OK. This is what Mubarak did to us.
He didn’t create jobs for young people. He turned us into beggars. Our lives aren’t worth the sand you are standing on"
Skinny and small Ahmad joins the conversation. Ahmad is a cheerful 20 year old. He’s a cleaner, who I've discovered has a great talent for making swans and heart shapes out of towels. I've noticed he works very hard.
Malik prompts Ahmed to tell the story of his sacking. "Yes, I was sacked last month. Boss said ‘no job, no tourists, go home; when tourists come I call you.’" So Ahmed tells me he complained about his sacking to the Ministry of Labour. As a result, he was reinstated into his job.
"But now Boss finds me and tells me, ‘clean this, clean that.’ He says, ‘don't stand like this.’" Ahmed laughs, mimicking an Egyptian mummy.
We all laugh. "But don't worry" says Malik.
"We overthrew Hosni Mubarak, so we will overthrow this boss too."
Curious about Uzbekistan? Discover Window on Uzbekistan, our reflections and reports from the country.
This report also aired on the BBC World Service's From Our Own Correspondent on Wed, 20 Apr 2011.