Egypt’s tour guides’ new business: Producing opium

Published on : Tuesday, June 24, 2014

download (2)Egypt’s political chaos is keeping tourists away. Therefore, in extreme anxiety, some traditional guides are producing opium.


Near Egypt’s popular Red Sea resorts, beside a field of poppies, sits a motley crew of unlikely drug lords: an Oud player, a resort chef, and a taxi driver. They used to work together, taking tourists on desert safaris and entertaining them with traditional food, music and camel rides. However, when tourists stopped travelling here, they started a new business: producing opium.


Weekly clashes between protesters and security forces and a spike in retaliatory terror attacks have threatened tourists. According to the Tourism Ministry, the numbers of foreign tourists has plummeted by 30 % since last year, and tourist revenues have been cut in half.


In February, the bombing of a tourist bus that killed three South Korean travellers and the Egyptian driver at the Israeli border prompted 15 countries, including Canada, to declare travel warnings. Sinai’s holiday region has been dealt the worst blow. Even the area’s main city, Sharm el-Sheikh, with its coastline of resorts, restaurants and nightclubs heavily guarded by the military, is practically empty.


Nestled into the cliffs to the east of St. Catherine’s Monastery, a famous tourist attraction near Mount Sinai, there is now dozens of new poppy fields.


When the tourism work dried up, Ahmed, 24, the taxi driver, says they jointly invested nearly $30,000 in a well but the government refused to give them the mandatory permit to grow legitimate crops like vegetables.


Amr Osman, says that the government is aware Bedouin tour operators are turning to drug production, who manages the cabinet-affiliated National Front for Drug Control. But the military and security forces have been focused on efforts to crush an insurgency in North Sinai. Development plans to encourage legal cultivation of crops and tourism are on hold while the peninsula remains unstable. Anti-drug campaigns are sporadic.


“Our message is for tourists to return,” says Mahmoud.


He and his two friends pray growing opium is a temporary measure until the political situation is stabilized and they can go back to running desert treks.


“There wouldn’t be any opium if there was tourism.”

13 Responses to Egypt’s tour guides’ new business: Producing opium

  1. lance says:

    They won’t touch a beer but have no problem with opium!!!

  2. Pinko says:

    Precisely my sentiments ! They create/ identify /label what is halal and what is haram as and when it suits them . They are unbelievable lot to have existed in this world !

  3. Shiraz Irfahan says:

    You guys seem to be ignorant. Opium was used by the Paharaohs and the high Priests during Ceremonies in Ancient Egypt

  4. david says:

    I don`t understand what your point is Shiraz. Are you saying that Opium is ok for Egyptian muslims to grow/use because the Pharaohs used it?

  5. Diane says:

    I just returned from Egypt and the Egyptologists who accompanied us were terrific and knowledgeable. I do hope all will become settled, it is a wonderful culture and should be experienced.

  6. lisa says:

    Isn’t opium basically cocaine or heroin? So, they are trying to draw tourists back by planting some drug?

  7. david says:

    Heroin comes from the Opium poppy and Cocaine comes from the Coca plant. The article is saying that some people in the Egyptian tourism industry have turned to drug production to earn a living, because fewer tourists are visiting, because of the current political situation.

  8. Therese A Schoen says:

    Seems short-sighted to ignore a potentially huge drug problem while primarily focusing on fighting the insurgency. Granted, weapons are more profitable than veggies. If and when the insurgents are defeated, Egypt will still be left with what could be a far more insidious problem. I have no idea what resources are available to the present government and its allies, but attention should be paid to opium production. Why deny permits for growing vegetables? Another example of so-called Military Keynesianism?

    Too bad. This is a country with a fascinating history and intriguing culture. Tourism is a major contributor to GNP.

  9. Akram El Dimerdash says:

    I really don’t know where these information came from, I am into the tourism field and such a thing never ever happened in Egypt. Most of the Guides are very patriot Except of those who are members of the biggest Criminal organization in the Middle east ” The Muslim Brotherhood” , I believe they are trying to defame Egypt as much as they can.
    But I am telling you the truth, nothing is true about this article.

  10. Drac says:

    If the civilization were more like during the Pharoah’s time conditions would be better; their civilization has regressed in the past 2000 years. They also drank beer back then.

  11. rex randolph says:

    Most comments here don’t get it. First the Poppy produces a gummy substance which is the active ingredient which can be smoked these so called People that were in the tourist trade don’t even smoke the stuff they bag up the Goo and sell it to a second party usually the terrorist who have labs and turn it into Heroin. which they sell to a third party whom are your Brazilian, Italian and every other drug king pin you can think of who distribute it around the world. the terrorist use the money to keep up their fight. the third party uses the money for big houses and fancy cars. the Original farmer uses the money for food and shelter for their families if there was no other work for me it’s sad to say but I would do what I had to in order to provide for myself and family. it is grown all through the middle east this is nothing new going on. in Egypt it’s just more people are forced into growing it because of the economy. Please read up on your facts everyone.

  12. Vimala Sinnadurai says:

    It’s all about survival in times of need and hardship. If the issue is true. Otherwise it is just a warning so as not to be alarmed of the current situation.

  13. Aziz Bonzo says:

    I think its economic sadness which turn these tour Guides into news means of earning,if you don`t get bread you will eat leaves to survive. Pray God to set the situation and come back to the big flow of tourists where Guides will resume their professionalism.

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