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Tourists receive rude welcome from Egypt’s police state

April 14, 2022 at 6:02 pm

Foreign tourists visits the Giza Pyramids at the outskirts of Cairo, capital of Egypt on June 16, 2009 [Wissam Nassar.]

The fake security concerns of the regime of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi are causing Egypt to lose its tourist reputation as one of the most important cultural and entertainment tourist destinations in the world due to its unparalleled, exceptional effects and its picturesque nature.

The recent evidence was what happened with Will Sonnebuchner, one of the most famous creators of street food content on YouTube and Facebook. Upon his arrival in Egypt, his photographic equipment to shoot a series of street food episodes was confiscated. The security services pursued him throughout his stay in the country.

Will Sonnebuchner is a video blogger with over 8 million followers on YouTube and nearly 2 million followers on Facebook. He is one of the most famous street food content creators.

Sonbuchner posted the first video of his trip to Egypt on 5 April titled, EGYPT Food Tour! WORST Place to Shoot in Africa! The introduction to his series on street food in Egypt has garnered nearly two million views since its release.

Sonbüchner posted another video on 6 April titled, NIGHTMARE Egypt Food Tour!! POLICE Shut Us Down!!, which had over 4.1 million views in less than a week.

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The blogger said that the police confiscated his equipment upon arrival, so he used his iPhone instead. The police interrogated him for four hours and took his cameras. Police officers were worried about the reason for his visit to the country and why he kept taking pictures and videos.

Sonbuchner added that the police confiscated his walkie-talkie, which photographers usually communicate with staff. He said that the authorities feared that it would be used if “a new revolution breaks out or the Internet is cut off from the country.”

He also indicated that he was prevented from filming and using his equipment, despite obtaining permission to film from the State Information Service. And he posted a picture of the authorisation he received.

Sonbüchner’s experience with the Egyptian police did not end there, as he was pursued while using the phone to film his program. First, the police stopped him to review the clips he filmed. Then he was asked to delete his photos, claiming that the images were “not beautiful and not up to standards.”

The video blogger concluded his speech by saying, “People in Egypt are very kind and friendly, but I have to be honest in my experience and what the photo experts and photographers suffer here as they are treated like criminals.”

Sunbüchner’s videos went viral. Unfortunately, many of those who had terrible experiences visiting Egypt shared their experiences in the video’s comments, which exacerbated the scandal and worsened Egypt’s reputation even more.

Sunbüchner’s case was not the first that the security services have tarnished Egypt’s tourism reputation. Instead, it was preceded by many incidents, including, for example, what happened with the American YouTuber Alex Chacon, the creator of travel and tourism content.

In March 2021, Chacon published on his 350,000 subscribers’ YouTube channel his experience during a tour near the archaeological pyramids area in Giza. He was subjected to multiple harassment from security men wearing civilian clothes who refused to show their identities, which scared him.

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In a video that had more than 400,000 views and extensive media coverage, Chacon said that security men interrogated him for two hours about his place of residence and where he was going. “They terrified me, and I did not come up with something that called for suspicion,” he said.

In addition, the regime’s security concerns missed an essential opportunity for Egypt regarding the international film industry. The security services slowed in giving the latest “Marvel” series Moon Knight, directed by Egyptian Mohamed Diab, the necessary permits to film the series in Egypt, which caused the transfer of filming locations to Hungary.

Diab expressed his regret for losing this opportunity from Egypt, as filming the series cost 3 billion pounds ($163 million US), which is roughly equivalent to Egyptian production since the beginning of the film industry. More importantly, Egypt’s presence in a Marvel series may bring billions of free advertisements and may contribute to an increase in tourism.

These are the actions of a regime that claims that it seeks to improve the country’s economic conditions. Still, on the ground, its security concerns are the ones that dominate and rule it, not the financial interests of the country. Unsurprisingly, Egypt loses opportunities and its reputation suffers because of such actions.