Very few will argue against the importance of tourism that has slowly became the lifeline of many third world countries and a money pumping machine that pumps millions of dollars into their economies. Once the word tourism pops up, people immediately and rightly connected it with camera totting tourists, frantically busy airports, cozy hotels, enchanting ancient monuments, gentle touches of hospitality service providers, and last but definitely not the least, dollars, traveler’s checks, and credit cards passing to and fro widening the eyes of people from the young half naked street children running around after the kind looking tourists to the policy making statesmen in their finest suits and decision making tycoons busy shopping for the latest passenger planes. And it is also impossible to overlook the huge number of employment opportunities in the service industries associated with tourism like transportation services, hospitality services, entertainment venues, shopping malls, various music venues and the theaters.
But there exists still another very important contribution tourism has made locally to individual countries and globally to the planet itself.
When I first arrived in Egypt I was bewildered, like everyone who got the chance to tread on this land, by the ghosts of ancient Egypt. The ancient structures, the embalmed remains of the pharaohs, the golden masks, all wonderfully preserved through centuries just for me to see! Then there was the Old Cairo. It was on the other side of the modern Cairo. The structures, and somehow, even the people living there seemed most wonderfully preserved. Unlike the Zamalek area in Cairo where I was living, Old Cairo exists in a dimension of its own, and maybe also in another time zone. There we can see massive mosques, ancient Coptic churches, Roman walls, roads made of stone and earth. The local people, who strangely blend with the part of the city where they seemed to have traveled together across the centuries, filled the streets and the bazaars. Then, there were of course, the tourists. They were there, taking pictures, talking with the locals, buying souvenirs, and enjoying themselves with whatever that enchanted them. What to do at sentosa singapore
Another place I’ve been to that was equally intriguing to me was Manila. Philippines is unique among the Southeast Asian countries in that it has many affinities with the Western world, derived mainly from the cultures of Spain, Latin America, and the United States. Though one cannot find the ancient Coptic churches and Romans walls like in Old Cairo, Manila has also preserved its own past which proved no less interesting if not equally ancient. Like in Cairo, what attracted me in Manila was not much the modern Makati District where I was living but the famous Intramuros.
Intramuros is a walled city in Manila, built by the Spanish in the 1500’s. Intramuros, literally means – “within the walls”. Originally, Manila’s boundaries were the city walls. But due to the growing size of the city, it expanded far outside these walls. Today, Intramuros contains many museums, Christian churches and an old Spanish fort. And once again, they were well preserved. Here also, together with the colonial structures and Spanish cannons, we see the smiling tourists wearing their sombreros to protect themselves from the sun.
When I finally got to Burma, I found myself once again fascinated by another ancient city, Bagan. Here also, Bagan seemed to be another world centuries away from Rangoon. Located in upper Burma, its 2000 ancient pagodas and temples were once again frozen up for me to see. And once again, when I heard the clicks of the camera buttons, I know that standing beside me will be my friendly tourists, though this time they may be wearing something else instead of a sombrero.
Sitting on the dusty pavements beside a thousand year old Coptic church, leaning against a Spanish Cannon, and gazing at the ancient murals once viewed by ancient Burmese kings, I thanked everyone involved in keeping them intact just for me to see. And I’m sure each and every tourist felt just the same. They must rightly feel thankful.