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Guide give a tour

Egypt's age-old attractions enjoying tourism boom

May 29, 1997
Web posted at: 2:41 p.m. EDT (1841 GMT)

From CNN correspondent Gayle Young

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- The great pyramids of Giza were built about 4,500 years ago, and tourists have been coming to see them ever since.

Now they are coming in record numbers. An estimated four million tourists will visit Egypt's famed sites this year. Tourism, recently the country's fifth largest source of income, is expected soon to become its number one revenue source.

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"The sky is the limit," said Egypt's Minister of Tourism, Mamdouh Beltagi. "We are very competitive in tourism, and it's picking up very strongly."

British traveler Jean Hubbard saved for years for her once-in-a-lifetime trip to Egypt. Like her fellow travelers, she spent a week cruising the Nile River and perusing Cairo bazaars for bargains.

Egypt is still considered a relatively cheap tourist destination. For tourists such as Hubbard, ongoing tensions in the Middle East are not a concern.

"Egypt is the cradle of history," said Hubbard. "It has a lot of history that A snapshotis older than England, and [I came] because I had always wanted to see the pyramids and also some of the old temples."

That attitude is good news to the estimated hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who depend on tourist dollars. Visitors were a rare sight on the streets and alleyways of Cairo in 1992 and 1993, following the Persian Gulf War and a series of well-publicized terrorist attacks. The number of tourists has more than doubled since.

Another welcome sign: Some visitors are coming back year after year, as Egypt expands its tourism facilities to include beach resorts along the Red Sea.

But Egypt's trump card in the competitive international tourism industry is, without a doubt, its rich selection of ancient monuments. After all, they have been drawing tourists for thousands of years.

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