Egypt’s alcohol bans keep stirring controversy

People shop at a liquor store in the Zamalek district of Cairo, Egypt, July 21, 2016.  (photo by MOHAMED EL-SHAHED/AFP/Getty Images)

Egypt’s alcohol bans keep stirring controversy

Author: Rami Galal

CAIRO — An order to close all Egyptian nightclubs, bars and liquor stores on a recent Islamic holiday reignited public debate about whether such bans are hypocritical, discriminatory and detrimental to tourism.

SummaryPrint A ban on alcohol during an Islamic holiday has revived debate over the effectiveness and fairness of government attempts to regulate such spirits.

TranslatorPascale el-Khoury

Ashraf Ezz al-Arab, general director of Egypt’s Tourism and Antiquities Police, issued the order May 11, the day before the Night of Mid-Shaaban, a holiday that calls for Muslims to fast. They believe their fortunes for the coming year are determined on that day, and their sins might be forgiven.

According to Arab, the Ministry of Tourism’s Decision 222 of 2012, amending requirements for tourism establishments, stipulates that anyone caught drinking or selling alcohol during the holiday can be imprisoned. In reality, however, the law only sanctions sellers, not buyers, unless the latter are found inebriated. Arab did not make clear whether the ban also applied to foreigners.

The holiday passed without any significant incidents, as those who wanted to drink had probably already bought their supplies, and restaurants, nightclubs and stores complied with the ban to avoid trouble. Five-star hotels appear to have abided by the ban in public areas, although it would have been difficult for them to refuse orders for alcoholic beverages through room service.

Arab’s order continues…

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