The assistant manager of the Pyramids Holiday Inn wandered this morning through the building's charred rubble, its lobby and most of its rooms gutted Tuesday night by rampaging security policemen from the barracks across the street.
"Here was the antique shop." Ashes and charcoal. "Here was the main dining room that sat 400 people." Broken glass and twisted bits of metal from the ceiling. "The bar." Nothing left but the steel skeletons of chairs. "As you see, everything is gone," he said.
At this and other tourist hotels sacked by the security police, there are plans to rebuild immediately. Cairo was returning to normal today as an indefinite curfew was lifted for 12 hours, although Army troops ringed several security force camps with armored vehicles to prevent new rioting.
The devastating economic implications of this latest crisis -- after a series of terrorist incidents in the region during the past eight months that frightened tourists away in droves -- are likely to be more difficult to repair than the charred interiors of the hotels.
Egypt's already shaky economy has only a few major sources of foreign exchange earnings: tourism, oil revenues, remittances from workers abroad and Suez Canal fees brought in $7 billion last year.
According to a senior American diplomat, setbacks in all these areas are now expected to cost Egypt between $2 billion and $5 billion in the coming year. For a country that imports half its food and already runs a $7.75 billion trade deficit, that could be disastrous.
"It's going to be a very hard time," the diplomat said, briefing reporters yesterday. "One of the real dilemmas for Egypt," he added, is that "its major sources of foreign currency earnings are pretty much beyond its control."
The situation at the beginning of the year looked bleak. But the shocks of the last few weeks have made it much worse.
The plunge in petroleum prices affects three of the four main exchange earners. Direct oil revenues may be cut in half, from $2 billion last year to $1 billion this year, diplomats suggested. Remittances from Egyptian laborers in other oil-producing states are going down, and many of the workers are coming home. Less money among oil producers means less commerce through the canal.
Tourism is the only major source of income not affected by oil, but as the U.S. diplomat put it, "The PLO and central security have pretty much assured that tourism will be off."
Current projections, he said, suggest a decline of from $300 million to $500 million in tourist earnings, which last year were $1 billion.
The hijacking of a TWA flight originating in Cairo last summer, the Palestinian pirating of the Achille Lauro cruise ship after it docked in Alexandria in October, the apparently Libyan-inspired hijacking of an Egyptair flight in November that resulted in 60 deaths, all served to terrify travelers.
Americans, who were among the primary targets in all these attacks, are especially reluctant to come here. According to the U.S. Embassy, even before Tuesday's rampage American tourism in Egypt was off by 80 percent from last year.
"We had already been affected by the hijackings," said Suzy Naga, public relations director for Cairo's opulent Marriott Hotel, which was far from the scenes of violence. "And when we started to pick up, somehow, all this happened again."
The Marriott's occupancy normally would be about 80 percent this time of year, Naga said. Monday it was a little more than 60 percent. Now it is barely 50 percent.
"There is no question," said one senior Egyptian government official, "the tourist season has really been under attack for the past three or four months."
The crunch has been felt the worst, perhaps, among the owners of small businesses that cater to tourists.
Hassan Mohammed Hassan said business at his small curio shop across the street from the U.S. Embassy has dropped off 75 percent in the last three years.
In the meandering alleys of the huge souk, the Khan Khalili, Kadri Said stood glumly at the door of his souvenir shop yesterday afternoon.
"The business now is very bad. We're open all the time, and we sell nothing." Speaking of the rebellious security police, Said commented, "We don't like what these bad boys did. We need business. If there are problems there is no business."
But the handful of American tourists wandering the Khan Khalili yesterday were philosophical, and even intrigued by the recent events.
Bob and Sharon Melton of Summit, N.J., said they do a lot of traveling. "But we've never been in a country that's been in this type of situation," Sharon Melton said.
They were not worried about their security, they added, having been treated very warmly by everyone they met.
"It seems to me very safe here now," said Sharon Melton as the crowds surged around her in the market, taking advantage of the relaxed curfew. "We have complete armament around our hotel. About five tanks and a hundred soldiers. So we're safe."
The whole experience was "really quite interesting," she concluded, but she said she was upset that the curfew and security closings were keeping them from seeing the usual sights.
"The trip will be wasted," said Bob Melton, "if we can't get the picture of us on a camel in front of the Pyramids."