The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Supersize it

"I'm loving it!" Who remember that MacDonald's campaign? Seems, according to an Egypt Today piece, that the good people down at the Ministry of Tourism do.
They've come up with their own version, a campaign that is going to change the way Egyptians deal with tourists.

It seems that someone at the ministry noticed that a lot of tourists leave Egypt with a bad taste in their mouths, perhaps even the impression that they have been ripped-off during their visit. (I wonder whose cousin got the contract to do the heavy lifting on this insightful piece of analysis?)

Apparently the solution is to “educate� the “less educated, the less socially conscious� types who overcharge tourists and don’t treat them as nicely as perhaps they feel they deserve.

Not to confuse these simple folk, they have designed a nice simple little ad for them, the story explains.

“… they kept the concept simple. The first series of print and television ads take the one-pound note — with its picture of Abu Simbel — and asks the Egyptian if he’s ever really looked at it. The camera zooms in on the monument, which slowly vanishes, leaving the paper almost entirely blank. “Hopefully, visually portraying the one-pound note with and without tourism drives the message home the pound would just not be the same,� Mustafa says.�

Later stages apparently will teach personal grooming.

Egypt Today is anodyne by necessity. They can’t afford to say anything that might annoy a potential advertiser or ministry contact, so I guess we can excuse the passive reproduction of this patronizing muddle-speak. The implication that Egyptians need MacDonald’s-style service training has got to rub some people the wrong way, however.

How can you tell an educated, socially conscious person? He’s the one who smiles at the foreigner, the one who speaks a little English. Maybe he’ll have on a hair net as well.

The best part is at the end, however. This is where the “communications consultant� from the ministry gets all sweaty about the Orwellian angle. “The investment in a national effort like this should stem from everyone’s sense of corporate social responsibility,� she is quoted as saying, and then as being “hopeful� for legislative changes: “Sometimes you have to change laws and regulations to get people not to do things…�

So, while one section of the regime has guys in polyester shirts beating demonstrators and shoving rolled up cardboard up their butts, another is going to pass a law that bans frowning at foreigners.

At the end of the day, it's just not enough any more to lay there and take it, you gotta smile nicely for the tourists as well.