"Perception, and identity construction between borders": Normalization within the context of Egyptian tourism to Israel

Date of Completion

January 1999


Anthropology, Cultural|History, Middle Eastern|Political Science, International Law and Relations|Sociology, Ethnic and Racial Studies|Recreation




In an era marked by multinationalism, globalization, transnationalism, and ethnopolitics, the conventional state border appears to be blurring at the edges, and in some instances extending beyond itself, This research seeks to test this proposition for a specific set of borders. ^ Historically, the Egyptian/Israeli border has been among the most rigid borders of the world. Often determined by a display-of-arms, the legally-determined border has shifted dozens of times. From the end of 1993 until early 1996, the existing border was permeated by ‘reciprocal-tourism’. The movement of people, across this particular ‘international borderland’, was symbolically as well as ideologically significant within this sociopolitical locus of world history. ^ This research examines specific “intergroup contact” (Amir 1969) between people from various ethnic groups; within the context of Egyptian tourists or travelers to Israel during this 1993–1996 period. The wider parameters of the study pertain to recent history (post-1948 C.E./Israeli independence), until the present. Situations and changes are addressed regarding the ‘crossing of borders’ between the contemporarily geopolitically defined countries of Israel and Egypt; including the Sinai (administered by Egypt), and areas currently known as Palestine, the West Bank, and Jerusalem (predominately East Jerusalem). ^ Using the peoples identified as tourists, this dissertation tests the proposition that: “international borderlands, at least as expressed by cross-border tourism policy and planning, represent an evolution of borders from formal boundaries to functional regions of ‘connectedness’ ” (Lewis in Richard 1993:602), in the specific case of the nations and inhabitants of contemporary Egypt and Israel. [Tourism broadly defined as traveling for recreation, business, mercantilism, and/or culture (e.g., religion or ideological importance), and, as the management of tourists and the promotion of touring.] ^ This dissertation provides information essential to comprehending how identity is constructed—historically and culturally, within the context of border change, introductory crossings, reciprocity, and documented perceptions. Examining these constructions helps explain how cultural units (particularly state and church), establish social categories and mindsets, and how personal cultural perceptions produce identifiable depictions and presentations. ^ In this particular treatise, Egyptian constructions appear to embitter relations rather than promote the blurring of borders that might lead to regions of connectedness. ^