Page last updated at 10:12 GMT, Wednesday, 20 April 2011 11:12 UK

Egypt's resorts suffer after revolution

By Ibrat Jumaboyev
BBC News, Sharm el-Sheikh

Egyptian restaurant worker outside a cafe in Sharm el Sheikh on 14 April, 2011
Cafes and bars are trying to look lively

The revolution in Egypt has put the tourism industry under strain, and nowhere more so than in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

I am overwhelmed by the attention I am getting here.

As a dark-skinned Uzbek, no matter how much I try to blend in with the local youth, some shrewd shop-owners and greeter boys can still see I'm a tourist.

"Hello, hello, English, Russian, Chinese? Armenian? I just want to ask you one question."

Have you come to Sharm el-Sheikh for Russian women?

One question leads to more questions, and I end up in shops that sell souvenirs and fake designer bags for women.

My lack of interest in incense burners or bags leads into offers of hashish, marijuana, cocaine or Viagra.

"Are you Muslim? Welcome, brother. Have you come to Sharm el-Sheikh for Russian women?"

The young traders of Sharm el-Sheikh seem desperate for business.

Receptionist with a degree

The popular demonstrations that squeezed President Hosni Mubarak out of office in February have drastically cut the numbers of tourists coming into Egypt.

Hotels and shops are almost empty. The countless bars of Na'ama Bay are only pretending to look lively, with staff members doing a line dance and singing along to Western pop songs blaring from speakers.

A young Egyptian with his face painted with the Egyptian flag during demonstrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo, on 1 February, 2011
Some workers long to turn the spirit of Tahrir Square against their bosses

Back in the hotel, receptionist Malik asks me how my night in town went. I say I got hassled a lot. Malik looks embarrassed. "It is not good for tourism, this hassle," he says.

Malik is 22 years old and comes from a village near Cairo. He says he disapproves of a lot of the things that go on in Sharm el-Sheikh, like drinking, sex and drugs, as he comes from a very strict Muslim family.

Malik graduated from university with a degree in mass media and dreams of working in TV, but he could not get a job. So he came to Sharm el-Sheikh to work in the hotel industry for the time being.

He says he is constantly looking for a better job, but it's hard as he works 12 hours a day and doesn't get a day off.

And when he tries asking for permission to go to a job interview, his manager tells him not to bother coming back.

Malik lifts the load of papers in front of him, mimicking his boss, "Take your papers with you, take your papers with you!"

Overseas workers

But Malik can count himself lucky.

He at least has a job while youth unemployment, now standing at 25%, seems set to get worse. According to the UN refugee agency, the unrest in Libya has forced nearly 70,000 Egyptians working there to flee the country.

This is what Mubarak did to us - he turned us into beggars

Malik says thousands of people, including many from his village and family, left Egypt over the years to go to other countries, like Libya and Sudan, looking for work.

"My brother is in Misrata, in Libya, but he hasn't phoned in the last 20 or so days and we don't know whether he is OK. This is what Mubarak did to us. He turned us into beggars. Our lives aren't worth the sand you are standing on," he says.

Skinny and small Ahmed joins the conversation. Ahmed is a cheerful 20-year-old. He's a cleaner, who I've discovered has a great talent for making swans and heart shapes out of towels.

Malik prompts Ahmed to tell the story of his sacking last month. "Boss said 'No job, no tourists, go home - when tourists come I call you.'" So Ahmed tells me he complained about his sacking to the Ministry of Labour. As a result, he was reinstated into his job.

"But now Boss finds me and tells me, 'Clean this, clean that.' He says, 'Don't stand like this,'" Ahmed laughs, mimicking an Egyptian mummy. We all laugh.

"But don't worry," says Malik. "We overthrew Hosni Mubarak, so we will overthrow this boss too."

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