Friday, 5 April 2013

Egypt: Ongoing problems in the transport sector

Labour unrest continues to plague Egypt. Alexandria's railway workers forced the cancellation of a number of trains while the city's international airport at al Burj was closed after police blocked the runway and demanded a slice of the fees paid by travellers.

Meanwhile Cairo airport is reducing its operating hours because of both a dramatic fall in traffic and a need to save energy. The civil aviation minister, Wael al-Maadawi, said that two runways will now be closed for four hours starting from 01.30 am (2330 GMT) "in order to save energy". Only one runway at Terminal 3 - which serves as a regional hub - will remain open 24 hours a day.

Egypt's growing sense of isolation was increased by the rupture of undersea telecommunications cables. A judge is now investigating which ship might have dragged its anchors over the cables.

Only Iran, itself in almost complete international isolation and economic meltdown, seems to be improving relations with Egypt at present. Direct flights between the two countries were inaugurated on 30 March when an aircraft of the privately-owned Air Memphis took off from Cairo airport. Civil Aviation Minister Wael Al-Maadawi said that Iran and Egypt had signed an agreement to promote tourism, basically one way, to bring Iranian tourists to Egypt.

There have been concerns expressed that the presence of Iranian tourists in Egypt might lead to conversions to Shiism - but a leading member of the Muslim Brotherhood scoffed at the suggestion. Dr Essam el-Erian, who was for years the Brotherhood's official spokesman, said that Egypt's Sunni identity was very strong. “Egypt is too great to be penetrated by any thought or current ... Egypt has refused all forms of secularism and welcomed nationalism mixed with Islamism,” he said.

For more news and expert analysis about Egypt, please see Egypt Politics & Security.

© 2013 Menas Associates

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