"We donít want Dahab to be like Sharm el Sheikh"

Hassan and his german wife Heidi Copyright: Sirtaki Hotel

Dr. Hassan A. Enin is the owner of Sirtaki Hotel and Head of the United Business Investments Group Dahab. He is living in Dahab since 12 years, also doing business in Europe for over a decade. In his interview with Dahab-Info.com he talks about business in Dahab, future projects and the difference in European and Arabic mentalities.

November 13, 2007

What is the Business Group about and what is it doing for Dahab?

Dr Hassan A. Enin: The United Business Investments Group Dahab is a private organisation to combine the efforts of improving infrastructure for tourists and inhabitants of Dahab. We are 14 people, mostly representatives of big Hotels like Hilton, Coralia, Daniela, but also businessmen like Mr. Aisam from Aladdin Internet in Masbat. Each of us is also leading projects, for example the plantation of palm trees at the main road from the checkpoint to the city, the kindergarten, the sponsorship of new PC’s for the school in Dahab, or financial support for the new mosque. We also help poor people in Dahab, i.e. with support of carrying the deceased back in their hometowns. In the past, we organised a lot of festivals in Dahab – but since 3 years we stopped this, because the number of tourists declined and the whole environment changed.

Who is financing these projects?

Everyone gives some money for these projects, as much as he can afford. In the last 7 years we have been investing about 1.5 Mio. Pound. The organisation is non-profit oriented (NGO) – this means we don’t make any money with our projects. On the other hand, for this reason we have more freedom and support from the government officials. We work very close together with the local representatives.

What are the next big projects?

One of our bigger projects is to enforce a new law - so hotels have to build flats for their local staff. Many of the workers here have no houses, no family. In Sharm el Sheikh for example all the big hotels do like this, so the workers can relax more and bring their families. And for the businesses its more easy to find better staff for the tourist business. Currently the big hotels provide land for this purpose.

Personally, you have a very interesting past as policemen, lawyer, businessmen and also politician. What did you learn from all these jobs?

Yes, my jobs were very different! As a policeman, I was hunting criminals. As a lawyer, I sometimes had to be against the police – I also learned a lot for my job as businessman. Later I was travelling to Austria and Germany, and had business there for a long time. I learned a lot from these trips. The people there have got emotion, and experience. I learned respect, and to care for the right of other ones. There is freedom for everybody, and you have to work hard for the money. I like this mentality.

What are the differences in the mentalities of Egyptian and European?

I have children from both an Egyptian and a German woman, and I can see the differences in my own family. My German wife is trying to teach them respect and a system – because in Europe there is no “later”. It has to be now. In Europe I saw a lot of people living exactly like their religion is telling them. On the other hand, the people here in Egypt say that they are very close to their religion, but they don’t do what the religion says. In Europe, people have only one face and one character – in Egypt you can find many people with more faces.
That’s why people from Europe experience a lot of problems when they come to Dahab. Because they believe everything in the beginning.

You were also a candidate for the Egyptian parliament in the past, but you didn’t succeed. Will you try again?

Yes, I will try again, but this time without a supporting political party. Because I love this country and I want to do something. I am now since 7 years in the local government for south Sinai. One of my biggest successes was the banning of the jet skies – On the same day, when I was voting for a stop in the local parliament, a 8 year old child died in Masbat. This showed me that we were on the right path. Yes, I have a lot of experience and ideas – and maybe people could profit from this. In Dahab we find a lot of ideas, but nobody is really doing anything.

While Sharm is still exploding, Dahab has got very little customers. What is the reason for the low business?

In Sharm we have big investors, which came with the big travel agencies. And both of them have only one goal: to make more and more money. Sharm has got a lot of money for infrastructure from the government, e.g. for streets. It also makes a very clever marketing, like the peace conferences for the Middle East that gives the city internationally a very good reputation. But I don’t want to live in Sharm. I want to live here in Dahab – here the people still know how to enjoy the life. In Sharm, there’s only one rule: money.

Where do you see Dahab in 5 years? Will it ever become a second Sharm el Sheikh?

We don’t want Dahab to be like Sharm el Sheikh. Here are very good people, with very good hearts. The language in Sharm is only money. And we have to take care that this doesn’t happen here.

There are ongoing rumours that the government wants to shift the focus from Sharm to Dahab, and invest more in infrastructure here.

A shift of investment from Sharm to Dahab? No way! Sharm is a goldmine – 25 percent of the tourist-income of whole Egypt comes from Sharm.

In the 20 years a lot of foreign people settled down and got children – but they don’t find an international school for them in Dahab, so some of them already left. Are there plans to build a school in the future?

The government already gave 4000 square metres of land for this reason. They want to finish the international school in 2008/09. I know this problem personally, because my son has to go every day from Dahab to Sharm. We also hope to find good teachers, who want to work here in Dahab.

Most of the tourists feel very disturbed about the garbage in the desert. Are there plans to establish a better system?

The government worked already a lot on this problem. They gave the responsibility to a private company, which collects the trash with their trucks from the big boxes. But the problem is the local people – they just don’t care. And its not only the Egyptians: even the local European inhabitants start after a little while to through their cigarettes, bottles and garbage away without caring for the environment.

A lot of foreigners has already bought land here or is about to buy land - is it allowed for foreigners to buy land, and what do they have to take care about when doing so?

The problem is: Foreigners are not allowed to register land. Point. Even the story with 99 years rent gives them no real security. Nobody will tell you this, but the truth is – and I know because I am lawyer and had already a lot of cases – Foreigners are not allowed to buy. If you go to the city council, they will confirm you this. A lot of people think they can register land with this new notebook for 20 LE, which you can get in the city council. But it’s not true. You need the Egyptian nationality, and you have to be born in Sinai to buy land here. If people come to me to help them buy land from Egyptians, I send them away. Because there’s no way – and as a lawyer I am obliged to tell the truth.

Thank you for the interview.

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