Egypt invests to improve cruising

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safaga.jpgWhether it’s a for a river cruise on the Nile or a Red Sea voyage on an ocean-going ship, Egypt can be a memorable destination.
The Pyramids of Giza, the temples of Luxor, Karnak and Abu Simbel, and the tombs of the Valley of Kings are all spectacular sights, but sadly visits to Egypt can provide memories of a different kind.
The middle reaches of the Nile can get crowded, and mooring can often mean tying up alongside a gaggle of other boats – all of which have to be negotiated before passengers can step ashore.
Safaga, the Red Sea port from which excursions to Luxor usually depart, is an industrial harbour with no facilities to welcome passengers. It’s unattractive and uninviting to say the least, and could be dangerous for the unwary, as my picture above demonstrates.
Even al Sukhna, which is the gateway for coach trips to Cairo, is better suited to handling containers than coping with human cargo.
There’s hope for the future, though. At the World Travel Market in London, Mr Zoheir Garranah, Egypt’s minister for tourism, announced that he had demanded river cruise operators improve their product and their facilities by the end of next season – a year from now.
“We know that things are not right,” he said. “But we are building new piers and berths, and when these are completed no more than two boats will be moored together. To reduce pollution, boats will have to plug into shore power rather than keep their generators running.
“There are 282 licensed boats on the Nile and we have not issued any new licences for 10 years. Older boats have been replaced by new vessels, but the number of boats has not been allowed to increase.
“We have done a lot of work in Luxor and invested a huge amount but it is still not right. I have issued a ministerial decree that it must be completed by the end of next year’s season.”
There are no immediate prospects of the Nile being re-opened to cruising from Cairo, however. Suspended some years ago because of security issues – which are no longer a problem, insists Mr Garranah – they are not possible at the moment because of a shortage of water, a problem which cannot be resolved simply by throwing money at it or by issuing a decree.
In the Red Sea, the number of cruise visitors has increased from 100,000 a year in the last decade to 500,000 now and the Minister has hopes of the number doubling again in the next few years.
“We know the drawbacks to Safaga,” he said, “and we have a budget to build new facilities. We have invested in the Mediterranean port of Alexandria, which is now one of the best in the world, and I want to be able to say the same of Safaga.”
Good luck with that. I took the picture of the unfinished control tower at Safaga earlier this year. No work appeared to have been done on it since my visit to the port a few months earlier in 2009.

By | 2017-06-15T16:00:17+00:00 9 November 2010|Cruise Destinations, Cruise News|0 Comments

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John Honeywell is a travel writer specialising in cruise ships and cruise travel. Winner of CLIA UK's Contribution to Cruise award 2017.

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