Tourism areas in Egypt remain calm and safe, despite escalating protests across the country calling for President Hosni Mubarak to relinquish power.
Tour operators are closely monitoring the situation in Egypt, but the protests so far have been far away from the popular tourism sites in the country. Leading Red Sea resorts such as Sharm-el Sheikh and Hurghada are not experiencing any problems.
However Egypt’s most popular tourist attraction, the Sphinx and Giza Pyramids, are situated in the Cairo, scene of the largest gatherings so far.
Advice from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) states that travelling to the area remains safe, companies and holidaymakers are poised to cancel trips should the advice change.
The FCO has warned British holidaymakers to avoid demonstrations in Egypt after violent protests entered a fourth day and hundreds of people were arrested. It also says the situation remains unpredictable and may change quickly.
As a precautionary measure only, Thomas Cook UK & Ireland on Thursday cancelled its excursions from the Red Sea resorts to Cairo. The company said that its next excursions are due to take place on Sunday.
In a statement, TUI Travel said: “We are aware of the protests currently taking place in Cairo and are monitoring the situation and taking FCO advice. The vast majority of our tour operations are in Sharm el Sheikh, which is a considerable distance - indeed, an eight hour drive - from Cairo.
Egyptian security battled to contain increasingly violent anti-government protests after prayers on Friday.
Police earlier warned that they could soon lose control if the number of demonstrators demanding the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak went over teh 70,000 mark.
A protester in Suez was killed in clashes with police on Friday, whilst live TV pictures from Cairo showed what appeared to be army vehicles on the streets.
Cairo, Alexandria and Suez have been placed under curfew effective from 1800 to 0700 local time local time. State television said President Hosni Mubarak had decreed the curfew to stop riots, lawlessness and attacks on property.
Securities have also attempted to crack down on the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Seven leaders of the country’s largest resistance group were arrested overnight as authorities desperately try to avoid a repeat of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolt, which saw President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ousted from power earlier this month,
Opponents of President Mubarak were given a further boost after the Nobel laureate and reform advocate, Mohamed ElBaradei, returned to Egypt from Vienna to join the protests, warning that the president’s “barrier of fear” had been broken.
A page announcing Friday’s protest on Facebook, which has played a key role in mobilising opposition supporters, drew over 56,000 supporters in 24 hours.
On Friday morning, many internet connections went down across Cairo. Service providers have given no reasons but it is thought by many that the government has cut them to prevent social networking sites being used to coordinate protests.
The organisers called on people to come out in force, stressing that the religion of protesters was not relevant.
In what could be a sign of things to come, some army units in Suez, the eastern city that has seen some of the worst of the violence, reportedly refused orders to disperse protesters.
Seeking to escalate the pressure on the regime, Mohamed ElBaradei, who is a former chief of the UN’s nuclear watchdog, offered to lead a transitional government.
“If people, in particular young people, if they want me to lead the transition, I will not let them down,” he said.
Although he has been a leading Western ally, Mr Mubarak was also facing growing international isolation as the United States and Britain both called on him to heed the grievances of his people by instituting reforms.
The growing unrest has unnerved investors and the Cairo Stock Exchange was briefly forced to close after share prices fell by more than seven percent. London-listed shares in gold miner Centamin Egypt and Egypt-focused Circle Oil also fell.
The economy, which has been growing at around 5.5 percent in recent years, would suffer from any prolonged turmoil. Tourism – 5 percent of GDP – might be hit first, as potential travellers switch their plans in response to the media headlines.