Sunday, February 6, 2011

Egypt's Banks Re-open

Banks in Egypt re-opened today, allowing life to return to some sense of normality. Or at least this is how the picture is being painted.

When they say "banks," and "re-open," what really should be said is a "select few" and for minimal hours only.

The closure of banks have affected millions throughout the country, with people running out of cash to provide their families with even he staple necessities. ATM machines, with the resumption of Internet services, were able to provide some people with their salaries, but still many were left cashless.

In Hurghada, all foreign exchange places were shut down, for obvious reasons. I had heard rumours that foreigners were able to exchange cash in hotels, so decided to check it out. 5 hotels later, still unable to exchange anything. I was getting the same response from everyone "we don't have any Egyptian pounds left."

Today, Egypt is meant to be returning to normalcy. What many people were unaware of however, is that when they said "banks," what they really meant were the main branches. In Hurghada, this meant that only 6 banks or so (the main branches for banks based in Hurghada) were actually open. Every other bank still had their metal shutters down, and no sign of life inside.

I passed one of these branches on my way to work today. The Egyptian National Bank. I couldn't help but gasp when I saw the crowds outside. No less than 300 people were milling outside of the bank, all clamouring to be allowed inside and get their money in the brief 3 hour window that banks were open for.

There were in fact so many people, that the traffic on the side of the road by the bank came to a complete standstill, and the army was called in to monitor motor and pedestrian traffic. A mini road block was set up with an armored vehicle, and army soldiers stood armed outside to ensure things would run smoothly. (where's your camera when you need it!)

In my office, salaries are slowly being paid to the workers, but it's always a question of "ok...who wants to brave the crowds at the bank to make the withdrawal?"

Should be interesting to see what the next few days bring...If life really will gain a level of normalcy again. It bears mentioning that the Egyptian Stock Exchange has yet to open, and no date has been set for this to happen either.


  1. suz....

    give it time... it's the first day... you should have seen the crowd at the top on my road... it's normal.

    Next week will be smoother!

  2. I'm not expecting instant return to "normal," but the whole "banks are opened" really cracked me up. I don't blame the crowds...of course people want access to their cash. hahaha