In an effort to save Sharm el-Sheikh from going bankrupt in the aftermath of the Russian plane crash, the Religious Endowment Ministry is organising trips for imams and giving them permission to mingle with foreigners.
Egypt is scrambling to do everything it can to save Sharm el-Sheikh in the aftermath of the Russian plane tragedy. Surprisingly, the latest ministry attempting to help is none other than the Religious Endowments Ministry, who has announced that they are giving imams permission to mingle with foreign tourists.
We’re not exactly sure how imams walking the beaches of Sharm will boost tourism, but we guess it's slightly better than no one at all on the beach. On Wednesday, Endowments Minister Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa announced that not only will they be allowed to mingle with foreigners, whatever they may be wearing, but that 100 domestic trips will be organised for imams, administrative employees, and their families “as a contribution to resolving Egypt’s tourism crisis." Of course, the minister expects that all imams and their families will wear sharia-approved bathing suits, but will have the permission to swim guilt-free among bikini-clad women.
As one could imagine, this new exception is being challenged by other imams, like Sheikh Mohamed Othman Al-Bastawisi, who called the ministry statement ‘improper’. Talking with Al Masry Al Youm, Al-Bastawisi says that “the preacher’s job has its sanctity and we need to preserve a good image of preachers in people’s eyes,” adding though that it is permissible to use pools “where there are no female tourists wearing (skimpy) swimming suits.”
At the heart of Al-Bastawisi's argument is that tourism is a political issue and should not concern the Endowments Ministry. With many fearing that the October 31st plane crash will devastate tourism, a large push has been made to encourage Egyptians and regional tourists to visit Sharm to offset the expected loss of foreign tourists. From a campaign to bring a million Saudis to Sharm to a myriad of hashtags branding the Red Sea resort as Sharm el-Safe, there is no clue as to whether it will be enough to offset the expected LE 2.2 billion loss per month announced by the tourism minister this week. Either way, expect to see an entirely different looking Sharm el-Sheikh than most are used to seeing in the coming weeks.