Travel

Meet the Few Tourists Who Still Go to This Egyptian Resort Despite the Shadow of Terrorism

The once popular Egyptian seaside town has been mostly abandoned since the terrorist attack on a Russian passenger plane, but the few vacationers who do go have all the beach chairs and buffets to themselves.

by Sanne Zurné
Dec 2 2016, 3:20pm

This article was originally published on VICE Netherlands.

Introduction by Kees van Unen

In the year after Russian passenger plane Metrojet flight 9268 was brought down by the Islamic State a few hours after taking off in Sharm El Sheik, the once immensely popular Egyptian seaside resort became deserted. Western airlines in Europe suspended their flights to Sharm, which meant that resorts remained vacant, beaches were empty, and souvenir shops went bankrupt.

More than a year after the attack on October 31, 2015, most European countries' central governments still advise their subjects not to go to Sharm El Sheikh. Like the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office, which advises "against all but essential travel by air to or from Sharm el Sheikh." However, most countries in Europe have resumed their flights to Sharm—only the UK and Russia have still banned them.

Photographer Sanne Zurné visited Sharm to see what kind of tourists do find their way to the beaches and resorts. She found a handful of them there, all of whom were pretty happy about the huge number of available beach chairs, and mostly just worried about applying enough sunscreen.

Lena and Mara from Ukraine

Lena: I've been coming here with my daughter for years, but it's different now. The resort we're staying at is empty. Last night there were three other guests at the buffet. It's a bit boring, but there are upsides—we have the entire place to ourselves and only pay half. We're from Ukraine, where there's an actual war going on. Here, there definitely isn't. I'm enjoying it as long as I can—the tourists will come back, and it'll all be like before. Either that, or the town goes bankrupt. Then we'll have to find somewhere else to go on vacation.

Susi from Austria

Susi: My boyfriend is Egyptian, so I come to Sharm three times a year to see him. One airplane being brought down isn't going to stop me. There's a risk, of course, but it seems just as big in Europe or Turkey. Every time I come here the city is in a worse state. There's no money. My boyfriend owns a souvenir shop, so he keeps hoping it will all be OK soon. I'm trying to do my part; I have about 200 sunglasses at home that I bought here.

Kevin and Jan from Germany

Jan: We originally wanted to go to Malta, but that was too expensive.
Kevin: We also considered going to Turkey, but thought that might be more dangerous.
Jan: Our parents are worried and want us to register at the embassy, but we don't really see the point. We mostly think it's just really annoying to be the only tourists, because everyone here wants to sell their shit to us.

Giorgo and Paula from Italy

Paula: We come and stay here every winter. We have an apartment in the city center, and every now and then we stay in a resort for a week to celebrate and enjoy a bit of luxury. At the moment, we're staying in a beautiful resort by the sea. Since there's practically no one here, we have the entire beach to ourselves.
Giorgo: We've been coming here for years, so we understand the situation. We know everything's fine here—the press has just been very negative about it. If you ask me, not flying here isn't a matter of security, but of politics.

Alan and Christine from the United Kingdom

Christine: People at home think we've lost our minds, but we're not afraid. The chance of something actually happening is very small.
Alan: The only problem is that it's hard to reach Sharm these days. British airlines don't fly here directly anymore, so now we have a layover in Cairo. It's a good thing we're retired and have all the time in the world. We've been coming here for 14 years, and we love it. We also came during the revolution, and everything was fine back then, too. And we get around by public bus services, which is so much fun.
Christine: I think that's where the real danger lies; there are a lot of traffic accidents here in Egypt.
Alan: And the weather. You have to be careful not to get dehydrated.

Morenyta from Italy

Morenyta: Terrorists? Where? In Italy, we have the Mafia—I don't really see the difference. I've been coming to this place for six years, and I always travel by myself. Nothing has ever happened to me. I'm at the beach at 9 in the morning every day. I cover myself in sun oil and spend all day in the sun. It's great. I could do that in Italy, but the sun is guaranteed here. Plus, I'm looking for an Egyptian boyfriend. I don't mean a toy boy who's only after me for the money—I mean real love. It's hard to find that in Egypt as a Western woman, but I'm not giving up.

Bintou from the United States

Bintou: It has always been a dream of mine to see the pyramids. Today is my 20th birthday, so in a way this journey is my birthday present. When I decided I wanted to go, I wasn't worried at all, but then people at home started warning me, talking about possible dangers. As soon as I booked the flight, though, I let it go. Now that I'm here I can see there's nothing to worry about. I do call my parents twice a day—I still have to convince them that I'm safe here.

Igor from Russia

Igor: This place is paradise for someone from Russia. It's warm, exotic, and cheap. I came here with a colleague, and we just added another week to our vacation. My family at home is a little worried about me—the plane attack really scared Russians. But it's politics, too. Putin wants to keep Russian tourists in Russia because I think there's a lot of money invested in Crimea and Sochi as vacation destinations. Because of all those economic interests, I think it will probably take a while before Russian airlines fly to Sharm again. Not me—I'm coming back as soon as possible.

Katrina from Ukraine

Katrina: My boyfriend and I wanted a beach vacation. Sharm El Sheikh seemed like fun, and it's really cheap right now. I work at a travel agency, so I could assess the situation pretty well. The crash happened almost a year ago and nothing like it has happened here since. There are still direct flights between Ukraine and Sharm El Sheikh, so I don't see the problem. I'm not scared; I'm from an actual war zone.

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