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Egypt feels the cost of protest

A report released Friday estimates that Egypt is losing $310 million daily from the protests. On Cairo streets, concerns range from tomato prices to the future of tourism and jobs.

By Correspondent / February 5, 2011

Shop owners in Cairo opened their doors for the first time in days Saturday, but unemployment and rising prices are taking their toll.

Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor

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Cairo

While hundreds of thousands of people have been demonstrating against the regime of President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo, millions more have stayed home, struggled to find cash as ATMs went dry, and been unable to work.

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The financial toll of Egypt's popular uprising, already significant, is only likely to grow. In a report released Friday, the investment bank Credit Agricole estimated that the protests are costing Egypt $310 million a day. Finance Minister Samir Radwan called the economic situation "very serious."

For now, the crisis is making life more difficult for ordinary citizens in a nation that was already beset by high unemployment and rising food prices.

Exclusive Monitor photos of Egypt's turmoil

Ramadan Mohamed, a vegetable seller in Cairo's Saad Zaghloul neighborhood, says business has been light as people have holed up in their homes to stay away from trouble. The curfew – in a city where streets are normally bustling at night – has shortened business hours. Tomatoes, 2 Egyptian pounds a week before the protests began, now cost 4.

"I went a week without working because I had to stay home and defend my home against the looters," he says. "Now people are sitting in their apartments; they're not going out. The vegetables come, but the people don't. It's difficult."

Yet small shops like Mr. Mohamed's may be among the least-affected sectors. Tourism, a pillar of Egypt's economy, has been decimated. One million tourists crowded onto flights out in the first nine days after the protests began, Egypt's new vice president said this week.

At Cairo's airport, inbound flights are almost empty, while outbound planes are packed with foreign tourists and, to a lesser extent, members of the business elite who have prospered under the Mubarak regime.

More than 10 percent of Egypt's jobs are generated by the tourism industry, which brought in more than $11 billion in foreign earnings last year. Now, at the tail end of the tourist season, the pyramids at Giza are deserted and hotels are empty.

"I'm with our people – of course I want change – but we also have to live," says Aida Suweil, who works at a Cairo company that provides transport for tourists. "If this continues, a lot of us are going to be out of work."

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