Tourism Workers In Luxor Threaten Protest Over New Governor

Tourism workers in Luxor, Egypt, are threatening protest over the appointment of the region's new governor. Over the weekend Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi appointed Adel el-Khayat to lead Luxor. El-Khayat is a member of a political party strongly associated with the Islamist group Gamaa Islamiya, a group connected to attacks in Luxor in 1997 that killed 58 tourists. Parliament member Abdul Mawgoud Rageh Dardery represents Luxor. He speaks with Robert Siegel about the appointment and the reaction to it.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

In Egypt, tourism is a vital source of foreign currency. And Luxor, home to the Valley of the Kings, is vital to attracting tourists. Well, now, Egypt's minister of tourism has resigned, protesting President Mohammed Morsi's appointee to the post of provincial governor of Luxor. The new governor's party is allied to the Gamaa al-Islamiya, an extreme Islamist group that used to engage in armed insurgency and that is synonymous with the 1997 massacre of tourists in Luxor.

Well, joining us to talk about this is Professor Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, who won the parliamentary election in Luxor, and who is of President Morsi's party, which is related to the Muslim Brotherhood movement.

Welcome to the program once again, Professor Dardery.

ABDUL MAWGOUD DARDERY: Thank you, Robert. Thank you for having me.

SIEGEL: No one is saying that Governor Adel el-Khayat, the man appointed by the president, was involved in the 1997 massacre of 58 tourists at Luxor. But many Egyptians in the tourist industry say the appointment of someone from his party is a terrible signal to send to foreign tourists. Are they right?

DARDERY: Not really. No, not at all. It is just the political act is encouraging them to oppose anything that comes out of President Morsi. I think it is political opportunism. I had a chance to talk to the new governor today. The man is very nice. The man even refused to go to his office today so that he does not want any Egyptian to be hurt because of himself.

SIEGEL: But the party that Governor Adel el-Khayat belongs to is the Salafist Party. They want to impose Islamic law on Egypt. At some point, if they could, they would require Islamic dress of women. They would ban alcohol, prevent the mixing of the sexes. Is that really the image that Luxor, very much in need of tourists from Europe and America, really wants to project?

DARDERY: No, not at all. Luxor is a tourist city. And I think this understanding of Gamaa Islamiya was of the past. And I think they've grown up and they've learned a lot. And I think they're moderating. And really, the Freedom and Justice Party, Muslim Brotherhood, is trying really to help them to moderate their stance so that they can really feel the practicality of how to live with others who are different, how to be able to work with those who are different from you.

SIEGEL: But...

DARDERY: So this is a step in the right direction, I think.

SIEGEL: ...you think it was a step in the right direction for President Morsi to name a Salafist to the governorship of Luxor?

DARDERY: Not to Luxor but to the governorship of any other governorate, not just necessarily of Luxor. I think for Luxor, it is controversial. Luxor is very sensitive. Luxor is a tourist city. And we prefer someone who has a better history than what is associated with the Gamaa Islamiya.

SIEGEL: Well, given that special nature of Luxor, was this a case of President Morsi making a political error, sending a man from the wrong party to your very special city?

DARDERY: I think it has a lot to do with the transitional stage we're passing through. There are lots of pressures on President Morsi and on the government. And sometimes when the pressure is too much, some decisions can be made, not necessarily the best decisions here or there. So I think this is one of the decisions that was not the best of the presidency or of the government.

SIEGEL: You're saying one of the decisions that was not one of the best that...

DARDERY: It is not one of the best - no, it is not one of the best decisions made by the president or by the Egyptian government. And I think there is reconsideration for that decision now.

SIEGEL: Reconsideration. Well, if Mr. el-Khayat hasn't actually entered his office and if there's some protests and counterprotests and reconsideration, is it conceivable to you that he might ultimately decline the appointment and someone else might be named the governor of Luxor?

DARDERY: I think it is very possible. We need to do more dialogue. I think if he declines the position and someone else is in his place, maybe better for everyone so that the tourism industry does not get impacted negatively by his appointment.

SIEGEL: And you would assume that if somebody else took his place, it wouldn't be someone from the Gamaa al-Islamiya?

DARDERY: Not at all, no.

SIEGEL: We've been talking with Professor Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, a spokesman for foreign relations for the Freedom and Justice Party. That's the party of President Mohammed Morsi and the party of the Muslim Brotherhood. Thank you very much for talking with us.

DARDERY: Thank you, Robert, for having me.

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