Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Sudanese Refugees Boost Off-Season Tourism in Egypt’s Aswan | TOME


Thousands of Sudanese refugees have sought refuge in the Egyptian city of Aswan, providing a much-needed boost to the local tourism industry. Aswan, located on the Nile River, is a popular holiday destination known for its Pharaonic sites and warm weather. However, during the low season, many businesses struggle to attract tourists. The arrival of Sudanese families in April has brought new life to the city, with boat captains and business owners benefiting from the increased business.

The journey from Sudan to Egypt has been treacherous for these refugees. Many have fled the fighting in Khartoum and traveled over 1,000 kilometers to reach the Egyptian border. Since war broke out in Sudan in April, an estimated 310,000 people have crossed into Egypt. Zeinab Ibrahim, a 30-year-old refugee, shared her harrowing experience of sheltering from air strikes and artillery fire while pregnant. With 80 percent of hospitals in Sudan out of service, she had no choice but to seek medical help elsewhere.

While some refugees continued their journey to Cairo, others like Hisham Ali and Ibrahim decided to stay in Aswan. Despite the scorching September heat, boat captains have been navigating the Nile islands, offering tourists a chance to cool off in the river. Mahmoud Al-Aswany, a 19-year-old boat captain, expressed his gratitude for the influx of Sudanese refugees, as it has improved business in the tourism sector. Egypt is currently facing its worst economic crisis, with high inflation and a devalued currency. The arrival of Sudanese refugees has provided a much-needed boost to the struggling economy.

The response to the influx of refugees has been mixed. In Cairo, refugees have faced housing discrimination, soaring rent prices, and racism. However, in Aswan, where there are historical links between the local Nubian communities and Sudan, early arrivals were met with warm welcomes and hot meals from volunteers at bus and train stations. While there are limited humanitarian operations in Aswan, the Egyptian government allows refugees to work and move freely instead of operating refugee camps.

The number of people fleeing Sudan is staggering. Over a million people have crossed borders seeking refuge, and an additional four million have been internally displaced within Sudan itself. The United Nations expects these numbers to increase as the violence continues. By September, the war had already claimed the lives of at least 7,500 people.

The situation in Sudan is dire, with ongoing violence and a crumbling healthcare system. The refugees seeking solace in Aswan are grateful for the kindness and support they have received from the local community. For them, Aswan represents a safe haven where they can temporarily forget the horrors they left behind. The tourism industry in Aswan, which was struggling during the low season, has experienced a resurgence thanks to the presence of Sudanese refugees.

As the crisis in Sudan persists, it is crucial for the international community to provide support and assistance to those affected. The influx of refugees in Aswan highlights the importance of solidarity and compassion in times of crisis. By offering a helping hand and welcoming refugees with open arms, communities like Aswan can make a significant difference in the lives of those fleeing war and violence.

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