Egypt’s Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour decided on Sunday to ban Egyptians from buying alcohol during religious holidays, sparking many to question why the minster felt it was necessary to make the announcement.
The decision, largely handled by most of the press as news, is actually quite old news.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, alcohol sales to Egyptians have always been banned in Egypt.
This was confirmed by Mohamed Tawfiq who works in Pyramisa Hotel. Tawfiq said, “alcohol is banned for Egyptians and Arabs during Islamic holidays but not for other foreigners and that’s the way it has been every year.”
Tawfiq’s assistant manager, Mohammed Abdel-Naby was so surprised that the announcement was considered news that he speculated about the foolishness of media in their decision to circulate the announcement as ‘news’ saying that the “press is irresponsible and it has not used reliable sources. And this can only signal that there is an intellectual vacuum.”
The move, according to state run news agency MENA, is meant to increase the number of days alcohol is banned during the year.
While the sale of alcoholic beverages to Egyptians was only banned during the month of Ramadan in previous years, the minister’s decision will now include four other Islamic holidays.
Any restaurant or shop found in violation of the decision will be forced to shut down and will be disbarred from the ministry’s records, MENA noted.
Upon the request of the legal advisor for the Ministry of Tourism, the minister immediately approved the decision to add the four other holy days; the Islamic New Year, the night of Isra and Mi’raj, the Prophet’s birthday and Arafa day.
During the fasting month of Ramadan, Muslims are not supposed to eat or drink from dawn to sunset.
They are also supposed to take more time to be grateful to God and to increase prayers.
Abdel-Nour’s move was reportedly made out of respect for the feelings of Muslims on their religious holidays.
Almost 90 percent of all Egyptians are Muslims.
Muslims are not allowed to drink alcohol throughout the year regardless of whether it is Ramadan or not.
Yassar Hanafy, a lawyer said the decision is “good for Muslims but not for Christians.” Hanafy believes that the decision should only apply to Muslims.
Alcohol is sold in Egypt in shops and is served in restaurants, hotels and clubs.
While this has been the way since Mubarak’s era, there have been concerns by some that Egypt’s change in regime will spell a new policy towards the selling of alcohol.
Many were afraid that the rise of an Islamic government will bring with it stricter rules that are more in accordance with Islam.
Thus far, no new decision to ban alcohol has been made and Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsy has tried to assure those concerned he would not damage Egypt’s highly-relied upon tourism sector.
Both Abdel-Naby and Tawfiq are not afraid that Morsy will make any decisions to negatively impact tourism.
Tawfiq is, however, afraid that tourists will refuse to come to Egypt based on misconceptions and misunderstandings they have about the Muslim Brotherhood.