The Seashell is a resort with grand ambitions. Its villas, apartments, pools and bars have room for several hundred guests, and its domed roofs and arched balconies look across the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia. Every morning, the sunrise fills the mountainous coastline with reddish gold light that spills across the Gulf onto expansive white sand beaches.
“My hotel will be unique,” says Ali Khalil, the businessman behind the project. “There’ll be a swimming pool, a big spa. It will look very beautiful one day.”
But that day hasn’t come yet. Construction on the Seashell complex, on the south coast of Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, has been suspended for years. The villas are naked concrete, baked in the sun like unpainted pottery. The swimming pool is a trough with light fixtures poking from the sides. There are no guests, many stray dogs, and one-full time member of staff—a watchman who spends much of his time tending a fruit orchard where mangoes, oranges and lemons grow.
If this were an isolated case, it would be mere misfortune. But the Seagull is just one ruin among dozens that line some 200 km (120 miles) of road on the southeastern Sinai coast. These ghost hotels are a product of the collapse of Egypt’s tourism industry after the revolution of 2011 and the political turmoil and terrorist attacks that followed.
But the fact that they were built at all is also a symbol of greed, haste, and the Egyptian government’s neglect of the Sinai’s local Bedouin population. […]