The American Research Center in Eygpt

ARCE Bridges the Employment Gap in Luxor

ARCE Bridges the Employment Gap in Luxor

ARCE Bridges the Employment Gap in Luxor
An empty parking lot at Karnak Temple speaks volumes. Photo: John Shearman

There’s no hustle, no bustle, no crowds or lines. No buzz, no hum, no buses in the parking lots or along the roadsides -- engines running, air conditioners blasting. No polyglot tour guides barking facts and figures, histories of monuments, stories of pharaohs.

For the thousands who are part of Luxor’s informal economy -- the vendors, the unofficial guides, the laborers with archaeological missions, and the artisans -- making a living and supporting a family has become a chore.

Indeed, these are tough economic times for Luxor, where hotel occupancy in August 2013 was down to 5 percent, according to Ministry of Tourism figures. Most of Luxor’s population relies on tourism replete with its spin-off, trickle down benefits. Whole families are involved in the tourist trade, whether they are hawking alabaster statues on the way to the Valley of the Kings or at home in the workshop, sanding the statues or serving tea to those who do.

Keeping households working keeps the trusty family motorcycle on the road and brings buyers to Ibrahim's fuul stand in El Qurna. Photo: Andrew Bednarski (2012)

Yet for the hundreds of men and over 250 small and micro-businesses that are benefitting from ARCE’s employment and job creation project, finances and life are considerably better. Some local Luxor businessmen have said it’s the only game in town for the thousands of unskilled workers affected by the lack of tourism in Luxor. Others have said that ARCE’s site clean-up/employment program, designed to bridge the gap until tourism returns to Luxor, has helped to keep people in Luxor calm and fed. The program employs one person per family: with 751 employees that means 751 families residing adjacent to and surrounding one of three sites, Old Qurna and Deir el Shelwit on the West Bank and Mut Temple, on the East Bank, have directly benefited by having a family member employed. On average some $336,000 a quarter has been injected through salaries into these communities since the project swung into full gear.

Ninety-five young men have gained on-site-mentoring construction skills such as stone masonry and mud brick making with master craftsmen. Because of this training, these men have increased their employability for the future, independent of the resumption of tourism in the area.

Hamada's famous fateer and smile. Photo: Saad Bakhit
Mostafa Mohamed, out selling sandwiches, most likely has a mom and some siblings at home making them. Photo: Saad Bakhit

Then there’s Ahmed and 251 more small businessmen/merchants from whom ARCE secures 71% of its transportation needs and 84% of its supplies and materials, infusing on average $95,000 per quarter into the Luxor economy.

While thousands more have indirectly benefited from the salaries of these workers or from services and supplies provided to the project, opportunities have opened up for entrepreneurial souls like Hamada, who peddles delicious and filling fateer stuffed with basboussa (a flaky ‘pancake’ stuffed with a grainy semolina cake sweetened with sugary syrup) from his popular cart served up with a smile, or Mostafa Mohamed Hamada, a newcomer on the breakfast scene who has created a demand for his sandwiches this season, or Alaa Mohamed Hussein, who surveys his box of goodies with his customers. For these entrepreneurs, at least, business is booming and money is trickling in and trickling down.

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