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Wednesday, November 19, 1997 Published at 09:34 GMT



Despatches
Barbara Plett
From Luxor

The exodus from Luxor continues as tourists pack their bags at the end of a holiday cut short by the massacre of more than 60 people on Monday. Their Egyptian hosts watch with dismay as once again their livelihood is threatened by Muslim militants who target tourists as part of their violent campaign against the government. Promises by President Hosni Mubarak to tighten security at tourist sites are not expected to prevent at least an initial slump in this vital industry. Barbara Plett reports from Luxor.

"Behind the reception desks in the big hotels in Luxor there is a spirit of quiet resignation. Most of the people who stay in these hotels belong to tour groups and many of the tour operators are pulling out in the wake of the massacre. The exodus began yesterday and those scheduled to leave later today are making the most of their last moments in the sunny Egyptian town. Two young British visitors said they would try to squeeze in at least some of the sites in the remaining hours. They had arrived on Monday, the day of the massacre. An Egyptologist of local fame who free-lances as a tour guide on the West bank glumly paced around a hotel lobby looking for clients, his megaphone dangling quietly at his side. One Egyptian man sitting with his friends on a bench next to the Nile said the locals were all deeply sad about the massacre. This is not Egyptian, he said, we are very friendly people. Tourists who spoke to reporters said they were touched by the response of their hosts and many appear to be leaving unwillingly. Some foreigners are planning to stay but it's not clear whether they can off-set the loss of the big tour operators. Luxor has suffered before from the instability inherent in its main trade. The town was hit hard, first by the 1991 Gulf War and then a few years later by a rise in Muslim militant attacks across the country, but this is the first time that tourists in Luxor itself have been targetted and residents are soberly bracing for the worst."





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