The coronavirus is affecting our work in Egypt

Sent On: 
Tue, 2020-03-17
Newsletter Number: 

There is a widespread fear for the coronavirus and responses also affect our work.


Egypt’s Prime Minister announced yesterday that all air traffic to and from Egypt between March 19 and 31 will be stopped. This decision makes sense since the first coronavirus cases in Egypt were transmitted through people coming from abroad. Traffic over sea and land to Egypt was already minimal and is probably stopped now as well. Students interns who applied for an internship cannot come and those who are with us cannot leave.


The Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities announced today that Egyptian airspace remains open to inbound charter or regular flights arriving on an empty leg to carry outbound passengers to their destinations, should tourists wish to continue their program in Egypt.


Dr. Khaled El-Enany, Minister of Tourism and Antiquities, pointed out “that the period of suspension will be a good opportunity to rearrange and develop the tourism sector as well as taking all precautionary measures to ensure the safety and health of the tourism sector employees. An international company is to sanitize hotels, Nile cruises, resorts and tourist entities in addition to carrying out tests and analysis for the health condition of the employees in the tourism sector. A training system is to be applied for the employees to improve their skills.”


Pilot Mohamed Manar of EgyptAir added that the decision to suspend air traffic does not include domestic and air cargo flights.


I was supposed to attend the Anna Lindh Foundation conference in Croatia between April 2 and 5 and combine this with a visit to the Netherlands. The conference has been postponed until better days. This affects their call for proposals which has the deadline of April 28. The conference would have been an ideal place for networking for a project meeting their call for proposals but this is now not possible.


Schools and learning centers, including ours, have been closed. Teachers are now giving students home assignments.


Egypt's al-Azhar permits the suspension of mass prayers, including the Friday prayer, to stem the spread of the coronavirus. The Friday sermons will be limited to 15 minutes only. The Ministry of Endowments said that all mosques will remain open during the times of the five daily prayers. Mosques might be shut down when necessary.


The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced the suspension of most of its activities. The church said that the daily mass may be split up into several smaller services to avoid large gatherings.  


Anglican Bishop Dr. Mouneer wrote “we closed down all meetings. The churches are open for individual prayers only. We have to comply with the government regulations.”


All large gatherings have been stopped. The police entered the gym near the house of a friend of ours and closed it. Thus, they are ensuring that rules are lived up to.


The Maadi Messenger, a nice glossy community magazine our students have been contributing to, will not come out in the coming month since it depends on advertising which in turn depends on the size of distribution. Distribution is to a large extent in restaurants and public places but most of these are now closed. Most of these were previously advertising but with rapidly dropping revenues have scaled down advertising.


Streets are not empty but there is substantially less traffic then before the spread of the virus.


Comfort and Dani working on videoconferencing for the training project of refugee leaders 


Our NGO is involved in the training of refugee leaders. These meetings had to be stopped but coordinators are currently working hard to change to video conferencing. There are of course challenges but coordinators, trainers and refugee leaders are very dedicated to continue their program.


Ramadan is expected to be between April 23 and May 23. People like to gather and share meals during this time of the year. The draconic measurements have been taken in the hope this will reduce the spread of the virus and will make it possible to experience Ramadan as in previous years. Ramadan probably won’t be the same anymore. People will need to be more alert to much needed hygienic measures such a frequently washing hands.


Egyptian media are all focused on the coronavirus. It reduced articles about religious subjects and the role of religions in society. This will be reflected in the choice of articles for our database of course.



March 17, 2020


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief of Arab-West Report