a company trying to revive and preserve traditional Egyptian handicrafts.

offered Egyptians discounts on domestic plane travel, hotels and museum admissions.

But Ahmed Samir, chief executive of the tour company Egypt Tours Portal, said the direct cash support for tourism workers was minimal. With reduced bookings, he was able to keep his employees in his marketing and social media departments on the payroll but at half salary.

“As a kind of sympathy to my employees, we tried to balance,” he said. But still, he added, “most of my friends’ companies closed completely.”

The slowdown in tourist arrivals has left areas usually swamped by tourists quiet.

At the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, Mahrous Abu Seif, a tour guide, sat waiting for clients one morning. A few small tour groups, including from Russia and China, were going through metal detector scans to go into the museum. But he hoped that more clients would come.

“What can I tell you? We sit here and wait and wait,” he said, throwing his hands in the air and adjusting his sunglasses. “We don’t know what the future holds.”

On the other side of town, at the historic El Fishawy coffee house, a few locals gurgled their water pipes and drank mint tea or Turkish coffee while melodious Quran recitation ascended from a nearby speaker. Located in the centuries-old Khan el Khalili market, the cafe, along with souvenir and jewelry shops, was hit badly by the pandemic.

“I used to bring people here and it would be packed, but look at it now,” Mohamed Said Rehan, a guide with a local company, said of the cafe. “The pandemic is a big problem.”

Mr. Rehan said that he knows many colleagues and friends who had to stay home for months without income or who left the industry altogether. But he still clings to a thread of hope that tourism will pick up soon.

And some tourists have indeed started coming back.

In February, Marcus Zimmermann, a 43-year-old architect from Germany, was visiting Egypt for the first time, stopping first in Cairo and planning trips to the southern city of Luxor, home to the iconic Valley of the Kings. Mr. Zimmermann had hoped to come to Egypt last year with his mother, who dreamed of being an archaeologist, for her 70th birthday. But they had to cancel their plans because of the pandemic.

This year, he decided to come alone but promised to “plan the trip again” with her once she’s vaccinated.

Even though it will be tough attaining the prepandemic figures quickly, people like Mr. Karim who work in the industry hope tourists will start coming back by year’s end.

With all the new discoveries, renovations and the planned opening of new sites and museums, tourists will gradually flock back to Egypt, he said.

“People will start to move. People will start to travel,” he said. “I am optimistic.”

Nada Rashwan and Asmaa Al Zohairy contributed reporting.

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