Monday, February 25, 2008

A fragile oasis uneasily welcomes tourist dollars

Los Angeles Times (Daniel Williams)

In Siwa, where Cleopatra came to bathe, visitors' cash has brought a splurge of construction, jobs and change.

As the putt-putt of motorbikes eclipses the clip-clop of donkey hooves, tourist guide Sayid Abu-Seif has decided that development in Siwa, his oasis home in western Egypt, is moving too far, too fast.

"It used to be quiet here," said Abu-Seif, 27. "You could hear the birds. Now it begins to sound like a city."

His unease is shared by other Siwans and outsiders concerned about the preservation of a fragile place out of time. A conundrum familiar to Shangri-Las the world over has arisen in this ancient island in the sand: What price change?

In the case of Siwa, where Cleopatra came to bathe, what danger does development hold for its clean air, abundant springs and languorous pace of life among the date groves?

The question is doubly vexing in a country where every livable space is exploited.

See the above page for the full story.

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