As soon as he gets off the bus at the entrance to the Carols hotel in Marsa Matruh, a spa town on the northern coast of Egypt, the tourist is approached by a man who appears to have stepped out of an astronaut film and sprays his bags with disinfectant.
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Beside the man dressed as one of the Apollo 13 passengers in a suit that covers him from head to toe, there is a small army of individuals with faces covered by a large plastic screen, white robes, caps, masks and disposable gloves.
On the right, one of them points to a surface covered by a white cloth impregnated with bleach, on which the visitor must clean the soles of his shoes, before being “shot” in the forehead with a pistol-shaped thermometer.
“You can pass”
The guest does not have a fever. The man enters and is faced with a small table full of pamphlets that reveal the secrets of Marsa Matruh, one of the tourist enclaves that the authorities reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic, in several languages.
Two receptionists hand out facial masks and offer some disinfectant behind the counter, smiles hidden under blue disposable fabrics.
“No, take the pen from that other bottle,” says one, alarmed, explaining that the pens must also be used and thrown away.
After the signing, the holidays between astronauts and disinfectants begin.
No buffets and optimism undefined
The disinfectant is ubiquitous. When calling the elevator, there is a gel alcohol dispenser. Upon entering the room, you receive envelopes. And while you sit in the lobby, pots await you at every table.
In the pool area, employees carefully clean each deck chair every 15 minutes.
At dinner time, the usual beach tourism buffets are missing, the chairs are further apart than normal and a QR code informs the visitor of the menu that will be served tonight.
That way, “there is no need to talk, you know what the menu is and start to serve yourself”, explains Safwat Gerges, managing director of this complex with a private beach, swimming pool and a large number of gardens, restaurants and bars .
He says the hotels in the chain spray the rooms with disinfectant and keep them empty for at least 24 hours after the departure of each guest.
The authorities of Egypt, a country that is still at the height of contagion, with around 1,300 cases a day, totaling 64,000 cases and 2,700 deaths, started allowing the reopening of hotels a few weeks ago and, from July, will be open to the public International.
Obviously, there is a wide range of limits and protocols, between which they can only occupy 50% of their capacity, which is why Gerges explains that there is “a lot of space” and the empty rooms are alternated with those occupied for an extra touch of distancing. Social.
He acknowledges that the pandemic has had a “huge, huge bad effect” on tourism in Egypt, whose peak season usually starts in May. This year has been postponed, but they already have reservations for the end of the month for Italian tourist groups.
“For now, let’s cross our fingers, we are in demand because not just us, most people are stuck in their rooms and want to go out to enjoy the summer. Resorts like these are safer than any city, they have the outdoors, the sun and space, I think it’s safer than our homes “, he concluded.
Weapons to combat fever and astronauts with sprayers have become the new post-coronavirus tonic, not only in Egyptian hotels, but also in towns, museums and other tourist attractions.
In order to discover the intricate crowns and necklaces covered with precious stones, gold medals and binoculars of Egyptian royalty at the Royal Jewelry Museum in northern Alexandria, the use of a mask is mandatory.
A lady gives each visitor a pair of blue shoe protectors, like those in an operating room, and she won’t let anyone step on Princess Fatma El Zahraa’s palace until their shoes are well covered.
The round stickers placed on the floor in the corridors and at the foot of the windows remind the visitor to keep a distance of at least two meters from the rest of the people in the room, whose number, of course, will be reduced.
According to Egy Endy Hamdy, the museum’s curator, the facility reopened on June 28 after a three-month hiatus due to the pandemic and is taking strict measures, such as checking whether people have a fever and displaying lists with hospitals specializing in treating the coronavirus in Alexandria.
“Whoever enters the museum needs to wear gloves, a mask, (iron) alcohol and cover their shoes,” said the curator.
And this is where the visitor himself begins to look like an astronaut.