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Bodies Pile in Egypt, But Birds Still Singing for Russian Vacationers

Over the past several days Russian newspapers [ru] have [ru] reported [ru], with growing worry, about the 50,000 Russian tourists who run the danger of being stranded in Egypt, if violence there does not abate. Egypt, along with Turkey, is a popular budget travel destination for Russians, who especially favor the all-inclusive resort towns of Harghuda and Sharm-el-Sheikh on the Red Sea. In fact, it is so popular that even the growing instability, riots, and several hundred fatalities have not deterred many Russians from taking their long awaited vacations.

"Burning hot tours. Egypt." Anonymous image distributed online.

“Burning hot tours. Egypt.” Anonymous image distributed online.

Many Russian bloggers who are either currently in Egypt or are planning to go this month are actively discussing the situation online, in Facebook and VKontakte groups like “Russians in Hurghada.” Some Russians, particularly the ones who have found employment in Egypt's bustling tourist industry, are quick to reassure potential travelers scared by photos of burning buildings and dying Egyptians published in LiveJournal posts like this one [ru]. For example, the VKontakte account I♥Hurghada wrote [ru]:

Люди, не отказывайтесь от своих приобретенных туров! В Хургаде все спокойно, все как обычно!!!!

People, don't cancel the travel arrangements that you've paid for. Hurghada is calm, everything is normal!!!!

When Pavel Kulikov commented, asking [ru]:

Как можно писать, что всё спокойно и ничего не происходит про страну, где идёт гражданская война?

How can you write that everything is calm and nothing is happening about a country in the middle of a civil war?

I♥Hurghada replied [ru]:

Вот из-за паникеров всяких, люди порятт себе отдых, отказываясь. Никто не призывает ехать в Каир и другие города где беспорядки (! Беспорядки, а не война или что-то еще). Говорится про курортные зоны, где всегда все нормально и спокойно!

Because of panicky individuals, people spoil their vacations, by cancelling. No one says you should go to Cairo or other cities where there is unrest (! Unrest, not war or something). I'm talking about resort areas where things are always normal and calm!

Sometimes these attempts to reassure sound a bit strained [ru]:

Всем привет!Я живу в Хургаде.Дороги перекрыты на всяк случай,но в городе из-за этого в отдалённых районах плохо ходит транспорт или вообще отсутствует.Люди спокойные.Туристов очень мало. [...] В Хургаде тепло ,хорошо море фруктов. [...] Не бойтесь.

Hi everyone! I live in Hurghada. The roads are closed just in case, so the more remote areas of the city have trouble with transportation, sometimes it's just not there. People are calm. There are few tourists. [...] Hurghada is warm, nice there are many fruits. [...] Don't be afraid.

Similarly, a local woman tried to downplay [ru] reports of Muslim Brotherhood rallies in downtown Hurghada:

СМИ – удивительная вещь. Посмотрела сегодня сюжеты от “Вестей”, задумалась: в той ли Хургаде я живу? ))) Мы со всех сторон фоткали толпу, не больше пары сотен человек с фотографиями Мурси. А в новостях рассказывали про 5000-ную сумасшедшую толпу

The mass media is a strange thing. I watched a view stories from “Vesti” today, started thinking — do I live in the same Hurghada? ))) We took photos of the crowd from all sides, no more that couple hundred people with photos of Morsi. The news talked about some kind of crazy crowd 5,000-strong

Some people wrote straight from Cairo, the epicenter of violence. On August 14, Lyubov Lobova wrote [ru] on the group “Your guide to Sharm-el-Sheikh”:

Друзья! Я нахожусь в Каире. Вчера приехала на свою голову)))) Тут нет войны, но обстановка не очень веселая. Мы основательно застряли в отеле  в Гизе, тк ввели комендантский час. С 19:00 до 06:00. [...] В Шарме спокойно, но меры безопасности не лишние.

Friends! I am in Cairo. Stupidly came here yesterday)))) There is no war here, but the situation isn't fun. We're stuck at a Giza hotel, because there is curfew. From 7PM to 6AM. [...] In Sharm everything is quiet, but it doesn't hurt to take precautions.

Another woman who works as a realtor in Hurghada also blogged [ru]:

Я сейчас в Каире, не надо делать при этом страшные глаза! У меня все отлично!!!!! Там где я нет даже намека на какую-то спец операцию. За
окном щебечут птицы и слышны звуки мирной размеренной будничной жизни.

I'm in Cairo right now, [but] don't look scared! Everything is fine!!!!! Where I am there is no hint of some kind of special forces operation. The birds are singing outside my window and I can hear the sounds of peaceful monotonous everyday life.

Meanwhile, on August 15, the Association of Russian Travel Agents reported that the Russian agency in charge of regulating tourism has advised Russians to refrain from traveling to Egypt, if possible. Currently the Association's front page hosts an FAQ [ru] on how to “annul your vacation package to Egypt.” Even this, however, does not deter intrepid Russian travelers, who seem to think [ru] that, even in the worst case scenario, the cavalry will come to their aid:

Ребята,живущие в Египте сейчас успокоили! И причем даже те,кто живут в Каире!!! На курортах все идет своим чередом:) Если уж,не Дай Бог,начнется война-нас,естественно,эвакуируют! Поэтому готовимся к обычному-тусовочному отдыху в любимом Шарме и всем того же советуем!;)

Guys who live in Egypt have reassured us! Even the ones who live in Cairo!!! At the resorts its business as usual:) Even if, God Forbid, there will be war, we will be evacuated – naturally! So we are getting ready for the usually party vacation in our favorite Sharm and advise that to everyone else!;)

A beach in Mersa Matruh, Egypt. The caption reads "Russians tourist have threatened to quash the unrest in Egypt, if it gets in the way of their vacation." Anonymous image distributed online.

A beach in Mersa Matruh, Egypt. The caption reads “Russian tourists have threatened to quash the unrest in Egypt, if it gets in the way of their vacation.” Anonymous image distributed online.

This somewhat reckless type of behavior has led to jokes, such as this tweet:

Egypt is fine. There are 60,000 of our nutcases there. Theoretically we could put in a bit of effort and take power on the sly.

And there was this fake-news piece [ru] on “Intersucks” (a word play on the news agency Interfax):

Войска республиканской армии Египта были разбиты на подходах к Шарм-эль-Шейху и Хургаде. Во второй половине дня оба города окончательно перешли под контроль отдыхающих из России. «Это наши города, и мы никому не позволим диктовать нам свои правила. Не лезьте в чужой монастырь со своим уставом», – заявил командующий русской Алкогольческой армии Николай Деникин.

The forces of Egypt's republican army have been smashed on approach to Sharm-el-Sheikh and Hurghada. In the second half of the day, both cities came under total control of vacationers from Russia. “These are our cities, and we won't let anyone dictate to us their rules. [...]” said the commander of the Russian Alcoholic army, Nikolai Denikin.

Behind such levity lies a sad fact, however. Many Russians are going through with their plans because they cannot afford to lose their vacations — especially since they are not guaranteed their money back. This point was made [ru] by Facebook user Elijah Chertcoff:

Тем, кто копил из своей нищенской зарплаты в 15-20 тысяч рублей, деньги на отдых у тёплого моря, ничего не остаётся, кроме как закрыть глаза, стиснуть зубы и получить дозу ультрафиолета и свежих витаминов “пока не началось”. [...] В конце концов, курортную зону и покой россиян египетская армия будет оборонять до последнего [...]

Those who have managed to save for a warm beach vacation from their pauperly wages of 15-20 thousand rubles [per month], have nothing to do but close their eyes, set their teeth, and get their dose of ultraviolet and vitamins “before it hits the fan.” [...] After all, the Egyptian army will guard the resort area and the comfort of the Russians to the end [...]

This theory seems to be borne out by this despairing VKontakte comment [ru]:

Как нам себя не успокаивать, если мы приняли решение лететь? [...] Нам всем страшно, но кто-то сдал путевку, кто-то нет и будет себя успокаивать.

How can we not try to reassure ourselves, if we have decided to go? [...] We are all scared, but someone gave up their travel package, and someone didn't, and will try to reassure themselves.

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