Egypt to ban sale of alcohol in urban areas By DALLIA MONIEN in Cairo | Wednesday, February 13  2013 at  14:55

Egypt has banned the issuing of new alcohol licenses in urban areas. Photo | FILE 

Egypt's Islamist government will no longer issue new licenses for the sale of alcohol in urban areas.

The rule will mainly affect the new "satellite cities" built on the outskirts of the main populated urban centres. Under the same law, existing liquor stores will not be allowed to renew their licenses.

Nabil Abbas, the senior Vice-President of the New Urban Communities Authority (NUCA), said in an interview: “We cannot allow [liquor] stores spreading debauchery in our society." He added that the decision not only reflected “religious, social and health considerations” but came after "complaints" from residents and city councils requesting a ban.

The move has raised fears that Egypt, one of the few Muslim states where the licensed sale of liquor is allowed, is moving to a more conservative style under the President Mohamed Morsy's rule.

Furthermore such a move could hurt the revenue-generating tourism industry which is already suffering under the continuing political and civil unrest.

The latest decree comes in the wake of a governmental decision last July in which the Egyptian Minister of Tourism Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour banned the sale of alcohol to Egyptian nationals during all major Islamic holidays such as the Islamic New Year and the Prophet Mohamed's birthday, in addition to the fasting month of Ramadhan.

The ban on serving booze to Egyptian customers during Ramadhan has been in effect for some 30 years so why the minister felt the need to re-issue it as a new law still remains unclear.

Some believe the move is designed to placate Islamist followers that the government is serious about taking measures complying with their cultural and religious beliefs.

A recent report by The Economist magazine indicates that alcohol consumption in Islamic countries in the Middle East and North Africa region has risen considerably by some 72 per cent between 2001 and 2011 against a global average of 30 per cent.