Cairo's craft market hit by tourism collapse

With visitor numbers plummeting, markets have been hit by the resulting microeconomic crises.


Cairo, Egypt - Khan el-Khalili is an ancient market area which has housed handmade arts and crafts since the 14th century. Once a flourishing hub for craftsmen, today it faces a sharp economic decline.

Just 18 months ago, tourism was one of the main sources of Egypt's economy, generating more than $12bn a year.

But since the revolution erupted on January 25, 2011, the country's tourism sector has been decimated. According to the Egyptian ministry of tourism, there has been a $3.8bn fall in tourism revenues, due to 32 per cent fewer visitors to the nation famed for its pharoahs, pyramids and ancient monuments - at it has been Cairo bearing the brunt of the street fighting in recent months.

A huge range of industries have been affected, with small family-owned factories and shops paying much of the consequences.

The perceived lack of security noted in the past few months is the main reason why tourists no longer choose Egypt as a favourite destination, said officials, yet the craftsmen of Khan el-Khalili remain welcoming to all.

They produce everything from lamps to bags, bowls to chandeliers; they work with a huge range of materials: wood, glass, mother-of-pearl, alabaster, ivory and copper.

Some of these workers have inherited the crafts and businesses started generations ago by their great-grand parents. And now these basic economic activities are in jeopardy.

Nonetheless, Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, Egypt's minister of tourism, predicted to Al Jazeera that tourists would return in greater numbers in the next tourist season, following the election of the new president and the nation's return to "normality".

Follow Mariagrazia Petito Di Leo on Twitter: @uchria