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Egypt mulls ban on sale of duty-free alcohol
Duty Free officials say they are considering the ban after receiving complaints from citizens and ministry officials
AP, Wednesday 13 Mar 2013
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(Photo:Al-Ahram)

Egypt's Civil Aviation Ministry is considering a ban on the sale of alcohol in airport duty-free stores after it received complaints that it goes against the country's Islamic principles, ministry officials and a senior lawmaker said Tuesday.

Duty Free officials said the ministry has been reviewing the policy for about four months after citizens and ministry officials complained.

Liberal and secular opponents of Egypt's Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi, fear he and his supporters are seeking to slowly enshrine a more conservative system in Egypt based on Islamic law. There are also concerns that steps such as banning alcohol would drive away tourists, a critical source of income for Egypt's faltering economy.

Morsi's Islamist group, the Muslim Brotherhood, has emerged as the most powerful political force in Egypt since the uprising two years ago that ousted the authoritarian regime of Hosni Mubarak.

Civil Aviation Minister Wael el-Maadawi, a former general who is not affiliated with an Islamist party, raised the idea of the ban in a meeting Monday with members of the interim parliament's transportation committee, said committee head Mohammed Sadeq.

Sadeq, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood political party, told The Associated Press he does not have an opinion on the matter at this time because the committee he heads is currently grappling with "much bigger issues."

"We are foremost talking about the country's economy. So even if this issue requires its proper place at the discussion table, now is not the time since there are bigger priorities at hand," he said in telephone interview.

He said the minister was discussing with lawmakers on parliament's transportation committee safety measures and how to ensure that alcohol bottles sold in airports are not used as firebombs.

Egypt has been embroiled in wave after wave of unrest in the two years since the uprising, with protests and clashes over a range of social ills from the deteriorating economy to poor security and Morsi's leadership.

El-Maadawi told the lawmakers there have been calls to ban the sale of alcohol in duty-free stores, though he did not say who the calls came from. He said they were looking into the complaints, but did not talk about any review or study of the policy, Sadeq said.

The Brotherhood lawmaker said the issue touches on both financial considerations and matters of Islamic law, which prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol. Egypt is a predominantly Muslim nation and its laws include both religious and civil code.

The sale of alcohol in Egypt is allowed only to licensed dealers and tourist areas such as hotels, restaurants and bars, which are all heavily taxed and pay high customs tariffs for imports. There is also locally-made wine and beer. During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Egyptians are prohibited from purchasing alcoholic drinks anywhere.

Officials at Cairo's airport say the sale of alcohol and cigarettes accounts for more than half of total profits of duty-free stores in Egypt. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media about internal reviews.

Duty Free Egypt, managed by Egypt Air airline and the airport administration, says on its website that it operates 67 retail outlets in all major Egyptian airports as well as space in a Cairo mall and two Red Sea resort towns.

Passengers are permitted to purchase up to four liters (4.2 quarts) of alcohol upon arrival, or three liters (3.2 quarts) within 48 hours. The law limits Egyptians to purchases of up to two times per year, whereas foreigners are allowed up to four times per year, though it is rarely applied.

Ahmed el-Borai, spokesman for the main opposition National Salvation Front, told the AP that banning the sale of alcohol will not stop people from drinking it.

"Are we asking people to bring alcohol from abroad? There is no reason for this study and it will affect tourism," el-Borai said.

There have been other hints that Egypt might be moving in a more conservatively religious direction.

Last year, the head of the upper house of parliament complained that Egypt Air was showing an old Egyptian movie with scenes he saw as too racy during an international flight. He wanted a review of the national carrier's policy on showing films.

Similarly, the spokesman for the ultraconservative Islamist Salafi Nour Party told a conference of tour guides last year that tourists should not be allowed to buy alcohol in Egypt but could bring it with them and drink it in their rooms.

The Housing Ministry's New Urban Communities Authority said no new licenses would be issued for liquor stores and current licenses will be revoked in new residential settlements. The decision does not affect tourist establishments such as restaurants or hotels that sell liquor.

The NSF's El-Borai said he is very concerned about "wasting time talking about films on an airplane or whiskey in the airport."

"People cannot find diesel to drive their cars, and maybe will not find electricity," he said of Egypt's current diesel crisis. "There are much bigger issues than this to think about."





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11



My country
13-03-2013 04:45pm
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Which are the priorities?
Alcohol and bikinis! Is this the real problem of Egypt? No fuel, soon no electricity during summer, no work, etc... And what about drugs? Nobody ever speaks about drugs. How many Egyptians are using drugs on a daily basis? A lot! And the funny thing is that it seems to be much accepted in the community. Why nobody mention Islam regarding this issue? As usual, we prefer to close our eyes on real problems and loose our time on stupidities!
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10



Roslyn
13-03-2013 03:34pm
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Out of their minds!
Yes, this is basically all I can add to most of the other comments! 'Out of their minds'! They keep saying Tourism is 10% of our income, do they want this percentage to be zero, because this is a great way to make this a reality. Once foreigners had a laugh on Egypt air, as attendants gingerly handed them plastic bags containing small bottles of alcohol to consume on their flight to and from Egypt, now they will be smiling from afar, and holiday in such places as Turkey or Dubai! Do we have a comment yet from the minister of tourism...poor man! For all of those Islamists reading, 'you don't have to buy it, as it is not compulsory', however your attitude will mean a diet of 'bread and water' for 90% of your fellow Egyptians! Face reality, leave your religious beliefs for your mosques and your community, don't further effect our struggling economy as, most of us need more than 'bread and water'...thank you!
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9



AZ
13-03-2013 03:10pm
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the problem with the problem, is that its not a problem
its very simple, what is the rational or outcome they are looking for , what will banning Alcohol improve in the countries situation. Id understand if they put laws to enforce punishments for drunk driving, or for Drunken disorderly conduct, that i would say jod job because they are putting rules that will affect direct consequences. But unfortunately those people are just too eager to enforce their executive powers that they focus on the personal ambitions rather than the critical needs of today. Frankly they can go ahead and put a ban, at the end the government will suffer from lose of income and taxes and they would put more money trying to close down the black markets and smugglers that would see opportunity capitalized on.
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8



Abdullah Rachman
13-03-2013 01:28pm
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The real issues
i am not worried about the sale of alcohol, I am a Muslim and i know what is right and wrong and do not need other to form or create my decisions. But on the other hand i know plenty of Muslim who do drink and so i do not feel this is kissing up to EXPAT. I feel we as humans make our own choices and when we stand before Allah the merciful we will have to speak for our actions. NO this is not the bigger issue we are facing, the issue is the lack of planning when it come to politics, where was the MB plan, were is our plan, we talk go and deliver nothing? I hear and see a lot of talk and not one person or group has form a plan of actions or a political group that can do things in a grass roots approach. We have leaders who like the way we live, they like filling their pockets with our sweat and blood. We voted for them, if we do not like it, then get into Politics, make a change. DO this in a peaceful way so the world does not view us as uneducated people who burn buildings and throw roc
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7



Ha
13-03-2013 01:16pm
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Ban Banning
Banning will not address the issue, it will go underground. If you are a Muslim then don't drink it, if you are tempted then seek advice. Perhaps we would get better press if we banned demands for silly things and concentrated on sorting the country or is it just a control thing?
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6



mohammad Sadque
13-03-2013 12:40pm
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Sideline issue.
Lack of focus in the media allows for odd reporting. Islam is very clear on issue of alcohol and alcoholism. More than 95% of Egyptians are Muslims. There several denominations and religions share Islam view on alcohol. Stop ignoring the main ideology of Egypt in quest of kissing up to few expat.
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Egyptian
13-03-2013 04:52pm
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You do not understand Democracy
First of all, your percentages are wrong, it is not 95%, it is more like 85-90%. Secondly, so what if 99.99% of Egyptians do not drink? That does't give them the right to enforce their views on those who do drink. If the alcohol shops are profiting, and the consumers are enjoying, then it is their personal choice and you have no right to enforce your views on them. Thirdly, the main ideology in Egypt is not extreme Islamism, it is tolerant centrism.
medo
13-03-2013 01:36pm
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really???
LOL! Next you will be telling us that no Muslims drink alcohol! Whose main ideology are you talking about? If everybody shared you view then we would not be having the problems that we have in Egypt everyday.
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medo
13-03-2013 12:23pm
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here we go again!
LOL! Here we go... the start of the end! Yesterday EgyptAir was complaining about losing 6 billion LE since the revolution, Now here they are basically taking more money away from the company. When is Egypt going to prioritize it's issues? People dying everyday, no law, no security... but hey, lets deal with banning alcohol!! This is further proof that Morsy and his people are more intent on their own agenda rather than what is good for Egypt and it's people.
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4



Egyptian
13-03-2013 12:10pm
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Tourism
Destroy tourism further, instead of buying from us and the country making profit, the tourists will bring in alcohol. If the government thinks that banning alcohol will rid the country of alcohol then they are wrong. People will still drink alcohol but underground and in dirty ways like they do in Iran and Saudi Arabia. Keep it public, clean, and profitable. Beer and wine in Egypt have been around longer than Salafism and the Muslim Brotherhood, they cannot destroy Egyptian culture.
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stuart holliday
13-03-2013 03:00pm
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Mister
I fully endorse the comment made above by " Egyptian " Please do not attempt to destroy Egypt's culture.
Farid
13-03-2013 02:12pm
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Heritage
Lets don't forget that its Ancient Egyptians who discover way of making beer and wine. It should be considered as National Treasure and Heritage, not something to be ban.
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Farid
13-03-2013 12:07pm
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Wooo Hooo :)
Officials at Cairo's airport say the sale of alcohol and cigarettes accounts for more than half of total profits of duty-free stores in Egypt. Duty Free Egypt operates 67 retail outlets in all major Egyptian airports as well as in a Cairo and two Red Sea resort towns. LETS CLOSE IT DOWN, MAKE NO INCOME, FIRE EMPLOYEES, CREATE UNEMPLOYMENT !!! BRAVO, BRAVOOO keep it going MB (ps: this is sarcasm)
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2



Carole t.
13-03-2013 12:03pm
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Ban on Duty Free Alcohol
This is so rediculous. Now that Egypt is considering raising taxes on alcohol wouldn't it make more sense to allow the sale of foreign made brands and make more money doing it? This is a waste of everyone's time. It's just making the government look more and more like this will be another Iran if the MB has their way.
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