In the year after Russian passenger plane Metrojet flight 9268 was brought down by the Islamic State a few hours after taking off in Sharm El Sheik, the once immensely popular Egyptian seaside resort became deserted. Western airlines in Europe suspended their flights to Sharm, which meant that resorts remained vacant, beaches were empty and souvenir shops went bankrupt. I made a visit to the beach resort to report about its empty streets last year, but when I got there I surprisingly met a few holidayers who refuse to give up their favorite destination. Over the years, Sharm became a second home to them. The holidayers are not afraid. According to them nothing changed, except that the few who do go now have the beach chairs and buffets to themselves.
More than two years after the attack on the 31st of October in 2015, the Egyptian government has made almost no effort to put Sharm back on the map, and most European countries' central governments still advise their subjects not to go to Sharm El Sheikh. In this tempo it is going to take years for Sharm’s economy to recover - if it even will. In the meantime the mass has found holiday destinations elsewhere, and Sharm’s locals are struggling to keep their business going.
Susi: My boyfriend is Egyptian, so I come to Sharm three times a year to see him. One aeroplane being brought down isn't going to stop me. There's a risk, of course, but it seems just as big in Europe or Turkey. Every time I come here the city is in a worse state. There's no money. My boyfriend owns a souvenir shop, so he keeps hoping it will all be OK soon. I'm trying to do my part; I have about 200 sunglasses at home that I bought here.
Lena: I've been coming here with my daughter for years, but it's different now. The resort we're staying at is empty. Last night there were three other guests at the buffet. It's a bit boring, but there are upsides – we have the entire place to ourselves and only pay half. We're from Ukraine, where there's an actual war going on. Here, there definitely isn't. I'm enjoying it as long as I can – the tourists will come back and it'll all be like before. Either that, or the town goes bankrupt. Then we'll have to find somewhere else to go on holiday.
Jan: We originally wanted to go to Malta, but that was too expensive.
Kevin: We also considered going to Turkey, but thought that might be more dangerous.
Jan: Our parents are worried and want us to register at the embassy, but we don't really see the point. We mostly think it's just really annoying to be the only tourists, because everyone here wants to sell their shit to us.
Morenyta: Terrorists? Where? In Italy we have the Mafia – I don't really see the difference. I've been coming to this place for six years and I always travel by myself. Nothing has ever happened to me. I'm at the beach at nine in the morning every day. I cover myself in sun oil and spend all day in the sun. It's great. I could do that in Italy, but the sun is guaranteed here. Plus, I'm looking for an Egyptian boyfriend. I don't mean a toy boy who's only after me for the money – I mean real love. It's hard to find that in Egypt as a western woman, but I'm not giving up.
Christine: People at home think we've lost our minds, but we're not afraid. The chance of something actually happening is very small.
Alan: The only problem is that it's hard to reach Sharm these days. British airlines don't fly here directly any more, so now we have a layover at Cairo. It's a good thing we're retired and have all the time in the world. We've been coming here for 14 years and we love it. We also came during the revolution and everything was fine back then, too. And we get around by public bus services, which is so much fun.
Christine: I think that's where the real danger lies; there are a lot of traffic accidents here in Egypt.
Alan: And the weather. You have to be careful not to get dehydrated.
Paula: We come and stay here every winter. We have an apartment in the city centre and every now and then we stay in a resort for a week to celebrate and enjoy a bit of luxury. At the moment we're staying in a beautiful resort by the sea. Since there's practically no one here, we have the entire beach to ourselves.
Giorgo: We've been coming here for years, so we understand the situation. We know everything's fine here – the press have just been very negative about it. If you ask me, not flying here isn't a matter of security, but of politics.
Bintou: It has always been a dream of mine to see the pyramids. Today is my 20th birthday, so in a way this journey is my birthday present. When I decided I wanted to go I wasn't worried at all, but then people at home started warning me, talking about possible dangers. As soon as I booked the flight, though, I let it go. Now that I'm here I can see there's nothing to worry about. I do call my parents twice a day – I still have to convince them that I'm safe here.
Igor: This place is paradise for someone from Russia. It's warm, exotic and cheap. I came here with a colleague and we just added another week to our holiday. My family at home is a little worried about me – the plane attack really scared Russians. But it's politics, too. Putin wants to keep Russian tourists in Russia because I think there's a lot of money invested in Crimea and Sochi as holiday destinations. Because of all those economic interests, I think it will probably take a while before Russian airlines fly to Sharm again. Not me – I'm coming back as soon as possible.
Katrina: My boyfriend and I wanted a beach holiday. Sharm El Sheikh seemed like fun and it's really cheap right now. I work at a travel agency, so I could assess the situation pretty well. The crash happened almost a year ago and nothing like it has happened here since. There are still direct flights between Ukraine and Sharm El Sheikh, so I don't see the problem. I'm not scared; I'm from an actual war zone.