Camels, Sand, and Pyramids: Struggles with Tourism in the Golden Land of the Pharaohs

Julia Ashton


In 2010, 14.7 million tourists traveled to Egypt, generating 12.5 billion dollars in revenue.1 Egypt is such a popular tourist destination because for centuries, Westerners and Arabs alike have held a specific, solidified impression of the country in their minds. Examining this enduring and pervasive conception of Egypt is the purpose of this research, as this paper investigates how Egypt is being represented to tourists in the 21st century, and how this representation has changed since the nineteenth century when Europeans first began to travel to the nation. Westerners often socialize youth to believe in a timeless image of Egypt, and this ideal has been perpetuated by the Egyptian government in order to generate tourist revenue for its economy. Through a review of historical and social science literature on Egyptian tourism, as well as an examination of the website of the Egyptian Tourism Authority, this paper applies the concepts of the consumption of the “other” and the commodification of culture, colonial nostalgia, Orientalism, and the formation of national identity, within a framework of the politics of culture. The conclusion reveals that the commodification and consumption of the ancient Egyptian “other,” a sense of wanting to return to the glory of the British colonial period in Egypt, and the nation being constructed as an exotic Oriental land remain relevant in 21st century Egyptian tourism. So, while Egypt relies heavily on profits from its tourism industry, it has been fetishized and reduced to stereotypical symbols, which can greatly impact the identity of the Egyptian people. By understanding that the pervasive international cultural perception of the country is antiquated and does not fully represent the modern nation of Egypt, the global awareness of individuals can be raised.


Tourism, Egypt, Orientalism

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