Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is drawing fire for appointing Muslim Brotherhood officials to a majority of 17 provincial governorships this week. But the appointment of a hardline Islamist to the district covering the heart of Egypt's tourism industry is causing particular anxiety.
Hundreds of people in Luxor protested outside the governor's office Monday after Morsi appointed Adel el-Khayat to lead the province. El-Khayat is not in the Muslim Brotherhood. Rather, he's a part of the radical religious movement al-Gamaa al-Islamiya's political party. Al-Gamaa members claimed credit for killing 58 tourists during a 1997 attack at a temple in Luxor.
"No to the terrorist governor!" read a protester's sign.
In addition to the connection to the attack, el-Khayat's Construction and Development party advocates banning alcohol sales, nightclubs and dress codes for modesty.
"Doesn't the president know that the people of Luxor depend on tourism for their livelihoods?" asked protester Abubaker Fadel. The area is home to some of Egypt's greatest antiquities, including King Tutankhamun's tomb. But visitors already have fallen off since the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak's government and the Brotherhood's ascension to power.
Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou resigned in protest of el-Khayat's appointment.
In response, Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood counter-demonstrators ringed the governor's office today, hoping to clear a path for el-Khayat to enter.
The appointment struck many Egyptians as particularly tone-deaf, coming amid widespread discontent with Morsi's leadership just a year into his term. "It's as if the Muslim Brotherhood is reaching out to the extremists," American University in Cairo historian Khaled Fahmy said.
In addition to el-Khayat, Morsi tapped Muslim Brotherhood officials for eight of the 17 vacant governorships. Brotherhood members now fill 10 of 27 governorships. That's significant because, in addition to local matters, governors carry strong influence over arranging elections.
Opposition groups say Morsi is trying to monopolize power in Egypt for the Brotherhood. They hope to garner 15 million signatures on a petition calling for early elections, to be released before Morsi's one-year anniversary in office June 30.
Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei called Morsi's government "a surreal and absurd regime."