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This is Egypt! Visiting celebrities coopted for tourism campaign
Morgan Freeman and Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou

The government-sponsored #ThisIsEgypt hashtag has been appearing between the hands of international celebrities visiting Egypt over the past few weeks as officials work hard to boost the nation’s floundering tourism industry.

The beleaguered sector has suffered massive losses estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars per month in the wake of the 2011 revolution and the 2013 ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi. It was making modest gains since 2014, only to crash again when the Armed Forces mistakenly fired missiles at a convoy of Mexican tourists and their Egyptian guides in the Western Desert in September, killing 12.

The Tourism Ministry designed the #ThisIsEgypt campaign — which was launched in mid-October in concert with the Antiquities Ministry — to dispel negative stereotypes of Egypt and promote the country as safe and hospitable for tourists, according to local media outlets. All are invited to upload their photos of a sunny, attractive Egypt under the hashtag.

Officials have capitalized on recent visits by international celebrities including American actor Morgan Freeman, Greek-American composer and musician Yanni and Russian pop singer Nyusha to promote the campaign. 

Yanni’s forthcoming “Dream Concert” at the Giza Pyramids on October 30 and 31 has been a key part of the campaign.

On Thursday, the Antiquities Ministry posted photos of Yanni’s visit to various tourist sites to its official website. Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty and his entourage are pictured accompanying the musician and his daughter Krystal to the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, the Giza pyramids and Moez Street in Islamic Cairo. Some of the photos show the much loved (and equally reviled) musician carrying a white piece of paper emblazoned with the #ThisIsEgypt hashtag.

Yanni and Tourism Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty

Yanni and Tourism Minister Mamdouh al-Damaty

Damaty gave Morgan Freeman a similar guided tour when the actor visited the country last week to film the National Geographic production, The Story of God. The award-winning actor was also photographed carrying a piece of paper with the hashtag as Damaty stands nearby.

A smiling Freeman was again photographed in front of the pyramids as Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou holds the signature piece of paper and puts his arm around the actor.

The latest celebrity to be photographed with the #ThisIsEgypt sign is the Russian songstress Nyusha. On Wednesday, the pop singer appeared holding up the sign while visiting the Red Sea resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, where she reportedly gave a concert. Nyusha was pictured with the Russian TV anchor Ksenia Sobchak (a childhood friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has since become a vocal dissident of his regime).