The Luxor Massacre Remembered

Lloyd Billingsley is the author of Hollywood Party and From Mainline to Sideline. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Reason and many other publications.


Protests of Mohamed Morsi’s quest for absolute power have been a staple of recent news. But reporters have overlooked a key episode in Egyptian history, one that enlightens what an Islamist Egypt might look like.

In recent times tourism has been a bulwark of the Egyptian economy and a major source of foreign exchange in a nation not exactly strong on industry and exports. Islamists, however, have no use for tourism.

“Tourism is an abomination, a means by which prostitution and AIDS are spread by Jewish women tourists,” explained Talaat Fuad Qasim, leader of Gamaat Islamiya. According to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the presence of these foreign tourists is “aggressive against Muslims and Egypt.”

In October 1997 Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Aida was staged at the ancient temple of Queen Hatsheptsut, hosted by Suzanne Mubarak, wife of president Hosni Bubarak.  A month later, hundreds of tourists visited the temple. Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 recalls what happened on November 17, 1997:

Six young men dressed in black police uniforms and carrying vinyl bags entered the temple precinct shortly before nine in the morning. One of the men shot a guard, and then all put on red headbands identifying them as members of the Islamic Group. Two of the attackers remained at the gate to await the shoot-out with the police, who never arrived. The other men crisscrossed the terraced temple grounds, mowing down tourists by shooting their legs, then methodically finishing them off with close shots to the head. They paused to mutilate some of the bodies with butcher knives. One elderly Japanese man was eviscerated. A pamphlet was later found stuffed in his body that said, “no to tourists in Egypt.” It was signed “Omar Abdul Rahman’s Squadron of Havoc and Destruction – The Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the Islamic Group.”

Caught inside the temple, cowering behind the limestone colonnades, the tourists tried to hide, but there was no escape. It was a perfect trap. The screams of the victims were echoed by cries of “Allahu akhbar!” as the attackers reloaded. The killing went on for forty-five minutes, until the floors streamed with blood. The dead included a five-year-old British child and four Japanese couples on their honeymoons. The ornamented walls were splattered with brains and bits of hair.

Wright notes that 35 of the 58 tourists killed were Swiss and that one Swiss woman saw the terrorists beheading her father. In a New York Times report, one of the men fired into the face of a Japanese woman from a range of about 15 inches. Survivors said the terrorists moved away then returned to gun down people who had taken cover. In another report, a cab driver testified that the gunmen were “pulling tourists like sheep on the floor and slaughtering them.” The Economist, not prone to sensationalism, noted that the attackers lingered to finish off victims with knives and to “dance over their victims’ bodies.”

The previous April, Islamic militants killed 17 Greek tourists at Cairo’s Europa Hotel. As Wright notes, in the five years before the Luxor attack, Islamist terror groups killed more than 1,200 people, “many of them foreigners.”

The Swiss police determined that Osama bin Laden had financed the Luxor operation, which sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman blamed on the Israelis. Zawahiri blamed the Egyptian police but did say that “the young men are saying that this is our country and not a place for frolicking and enjoyment, especially for you.”

The Luxor massacre recalls the savagery that still roils Egypt, which in short order could easily fall into complete control by Islamic militants. That would be bad news for adherents of all other religions, particularly Egypt’s Coptic Christians, and for all foreigners. Tourists would not be safe, but tourists would have less reason to visit Egypt because Islamic militants have now called for the destruction of the pyramids. So it’s a safe bet that in an Islamist Egypt, Aida will not be staged at the temple of Queen Hatsheptsut. But Death on the Nile will be a regular feature.

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  • Chezwick

    There ought to be a movie made about the Luxor massacre….one in which the lives of both the tourists and their executioners are explored in the days leading up to the tragedy. The viewer would get to know some of the victims, develop a sense of who they were before their lives were cut short, their qualities, their foibles, their hopes and dreams,their humanity….so that the terror of their last moments would be that much more horrific to behold.

    As for the killers…an effort could be made to engage in an honest exposition of their thought-processes and motivations (ahhh, dare we venture???).

    It'll be a cold day in hell when such a movie is made.

    • hjo

      I think you have a GREAT idea. wish you would go for it.

    • Jakareh

      That movie would be most excellent. The problem is that the California desert would have to pass for Egypt. No way this could be filmed in the original location.

    • Joe Ordinary

      Maybe Eric Allen Bell will make it.

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Islam and Blood explains why Islamic massacres are timeless – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/07/13/islam-blood-a…. And it matters not a whit who is at their lslamic helm.

    And their thirst for blood is boundless -http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/09/13/muslim-blood-lust-boundless-no-excuses-needed-yet-western-third-world-devoteesappeasers-supply-them-addendum-to-islam-and-blood-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/…. and this is what MUST be understood by the west's appeasers.

    And the fact of the matter is that this blogger is more than familiar with their blood lust, so just take it to the bank

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://www.adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Mike

    Why does Egypt need money from tourist when BHO gives them 1.4 billion a yr? Seems stupid to me.

    • Bill Batte

      1.4 billion dollars with 80 million population gives $20 per capita.

      • Ken Baskin

        Obama throws Israel under the bus time after time and he still gets the Jewish vote – unbelievable!!

      • anonymouse

        Your point is???

      • Joe Ordinary

        That's two months salary. And they get more from Europe.

  • Bernhardt

    I love Paris in the Springtime ,…… I love ….Egypt in the Fall , when it ……Sizzles ….. { A place not to be (at) }

  • Leon Wilkeson

    “Tourism is an abomination, a means by which prostitution and AIDS are spread by Jewish women tourists,” explained Talaat Fuad Qasim

    The Jewish race makes up a TINY minority of the world's population. How many "Jewish women tourists" does this guy think exist? It's funny how they also think that American=Jew. I didn't know a Jewish person until I was at least 8 years old!

    • Joe Ordinary

      And I was 20 before I had the clap.

    • Parenthetical Phrase

      It is interesting that the Islamists seem obsessed with sex, Jews and women. The rape and harrassment epidemic in Egypt against Egyptian women by Egyptian Muslim men doesn't seem to count to them. I guess they feel it is either justified or the whole thing just is a lie made up by the infidels. The Islamists have made Western tourists the target of murder and mayhem, so the biggest tourist dollars now come from rich Saudi men who come to Egypt to have sex with Egyptian girls and boys.

  • BLJ

    I bet 99.999% of the American public have never heard of this massacre. Of course if this had been Muslims slaightered it would still be talked about (unless of course those Muslims were killed by other Muslims).

    I consider all Muslims my enemy. I really do. They are all pigs.

  • Capt_Z1

    The only good muslin is one that has gone to paradise.

    • Jakareh

      Do they go to paradise?

  • Patscholar

    My husband and I were set to visit Egypt on an archaeological tour just after this massacre happened. The tour was cancelled because of the slaughter of tourists and we have never considered visiting Egypt again and certainly would not even consider it in the future. Islamists are a threat to all mankind and civilizations will fall because of them.

    • Jakareh

      Civilization will fall if they continue to be unopposed. But at the end good will triumph over evil.

  • Ghostwriter

    I've never been to Egypt before. I don't think I want to go there now.

  • BS77

    So, I guess Egypt is off the table for vacations! It's hot, dirty and dangerous. You can be robbed and worse…so go somewhere better…like Ireland or Canada and have a good time.

  • solidspine

    Muslims can not be trusted,

    • anonymouse

      And proud of it, they are- look up taqiyya.

  • curmudgeon

    any tourist that travels from the safety of a western country to any place in an islamic majority country just refuses to understand the situation, and deserves what happens. to take what little wealth we have remaining and risk your life to transport it to an enemy country is beyond silly. i would not go to egypt if they paid me, and i am sure not going to pay them for the chance to be slaughtered by savages. regarding the contemplated destruction of the pyramids…….go for it, animals. destroy the pyramids and even the looniest of our liberal loons might be able to consider the possibility that there just might be something very wrong with islam.

  • Jakareh

    Plus women are molested on the street. Despite a thin veneer of technology copied from the West, Egypt was far more civilized under the rule of Ramses II than under Mohammed Morsy.

  • Yogot

    These people are barabarians, surely they deserve better than hanging.

  • ratonis

    Charles Martel . . . Charles Martel . . . do you read us! Come in Martel. Twenty-first century calling! Martel. Where are you! Come in Martel!