Bazaar owners in the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor on Sunday cut off the main road leading to the Valley of the Kings and the Hatshepsut Temple – both of which represent major tourist attractions – to demand exemptions from the rent they pay for their shops.
The bazaar owners' action brought the movement of tour busses to a halt, leading several tourist agencies to cancel scheduled trips to the two historical sites.
Tourism workers in Luxor have seen their income deteriorate sharply in recent months due to ongoing political instability countrywide. Egypt's tourism sector received another blow last week after 18 foreign tourists were killed in a hot air balloon accident in Luxor.
Bazaar owners, who rent their shops from Egypt's antiquities ministry, threatened shut down the city's historic sites for three days until their demands were met.
"Shop rents range from LE400 to LE4500 per month," Bakry Abdel Gelil, head of the Luxor Bazaar Owners Association, told Al-Ahram's Arabic-language news website. "How do they expect us to pay this amount given the current dearth of tourists?"
The antiquities ministry on Sunday announced that it planned to tie shop rents to tourist inflows in each district in hopes of easing pressure on bazaar owners.
"We will restructure the rent structure for bazaars in Luxor to accommodate sharp declines in tourism revenue," Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim stated on Sunday. "This way we hope to ease the financial burden on bazaar owners until tourism picks up again."
Despite the minister's statement, however, shop owners refused to open the road.
"They don't trust the government's promises; they want action," Al-Ahram's reporter in Luxor Iman El-Hawary said. "Some of these shop owners risk going to jail because they were late paying rent. They have received promises before, but these promises weren't kept."