Brits are safe to fly to Sharm el-Sheikh, Theresa May is told

B6K0KH sunset and turquoise ocean in sharm el sheikh egypt. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

Theresa May has been urged to give the go-ahead for flights to resume between the UK and Sharm el-Sheikh by the head of the cross-party parliamentary group on Egypt.

The group's chairman, Sir Gerald Howarth, has written to the Prime Minister asking her to end the ban and claimed that significant progress has been made on tightening security checks at the Red Sea resort's airport.

See also: Emergency flights bring home 20,000 Brits from Sharm

He also warned that there was a risk of people in Sharm becoming "radicalised" if the area's tourism industry continued to suffer.

Flights between the UK and Sharm were suspended by the Government in November 2015 after the terrorist bombing of a Russian passenger plane, killing 224 people.

Britons at the resort were brought home in a series of rescue flights with extra airport security.

During a visit to Egypt in July Sir Gerald inspected how baggage was handled at the airport and met senior officials.

In an interview with the Press Association, the Conservative MP for Aldershot said: "They really have been listening to what the UK authorities have been asking them to do. They are clearly bending over backwards to try to deliver.

"One of the guys we met was a Department for Transport (DfT) official and when I asked him, 'Are there any showstoppers to the resumption of flights?', he said 'No'.

"I believe that the necessary measures have been put in place to minimise the risk.

"We live in an imperfect world and no government can guarantee 100% security anywhere."

In June, British Airways suspended its flights to Sharm "indefinitely", stating that "the safety and security of our customers will always be our top priorities".

EasyJet, Monarch and Thomson Airways have previously said they are awaiting for the Foreign and Commonwealth to change its travel advice, which currently warns against all but essential travel by air to or from the resort.

Sir Gerald explained that hotels in Sharm were only 25-35% occupied and were "clearly hurting" from the UK flight ban.

"They've invested a huge amount of money in these really very sophisticated places," he said.

"They've kept on the staff. They can't do that indefinitely and, if the staff are laid off, we will have a substantial number of people who will be potentially radicalised.

"There is an imperative on ensuring that the resort can resume its contribution to the prosperity of Egypt."

Last month, Mrs May welcomed Egypt's efforts to improve security at Sharm airport in a phone conversation with the country's president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi.

An account of the call released by Downing Street gave no indication the Prime Minister was ready to ease Government advice, saying only that the UK would continue "working closely" with Cairo on the issue.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "The Prime Minister said she recognised the economic effects of the suspension, given the importance of the tourism industry to Egypt's economy, and she praised the Egyptian government's ongoing efforts to improve security at Sharm el-Sheikh airport."

Sir Gerald said the resumption of flights was "exclusively in the hands of the Prime Minister" and he believed "she is keen to make a decision in the next few weeks".

He added: "We hope that we can resolve this problem."

A DfT spokeswoman said: "The security of British nationals is our top priority, and we took the decision to suspend flights from Sharm el-Sheikh in November last year to protect the travelling public.

"We keep aviation security under constant review."

Top 10 destinations in Egypt
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Top 10 destinations in Egypt
Cairo is a mass of contradictions: its ancient monuments and medieval customs thrive within a city that's modern and cosmopolitan yet polluted, overcrowded and chaotic. In the Islamic area, narrow cobbled streets are filled with donkey carts and spice sellers. Its central landmark is Midan Hussain square, where you'll find the famous Khan-el Khalili, one of the world's largest bazaars (get your bargaining head on!), jam-packed with all sorts of trinkets. The Citadel (home to Egyptian rulers for 700 years), is a must-see, and holds other attractions, including the Military National Museum and the Al-Gawhara Palace and Museum. Head to Giza for Cairo Zoo, and the upmarket island of Gezira for the Opera House and Museum of Modern Art. But, of course, Cairo's most famous sights are the Great Pyramids and the Egyptian Museum of Antiquities.

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Of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid of Giza is the only one to still exist. There's three ( Cheops, Chephren and Mycerinus) and the tallest (Cheops) is 449ft high - truly awe-inspiring. You can even explore the inside through labyrinths and staircases. At the same site is the Sphinx (named by the Ancient Greeks), the amazing statue with the body of a woman and head of a lion. Top tips: early mornings and late afternoons are less crowded; be prepared for hawkers on camels trying to sell you souvenirs; and don't be surprised when you see a well-known fast food chain right by the ancient wonders!
Found in Cairo's modern, commercial centre, Liberation Square, The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities is an absolute must. It holds over 130,000 artefacts, including Byzantine and Pharaonic art and sculpture, the Mummy Room, and the famous Tutankhamun exhibition. It's definitely worth getting a guide to take you round and explain the history behind the unbelievably well-preserved and beautiful objects. You'll be amazed.

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One of the coolest ways to take in the sights of Egypt is to take a cruise holiday down the River Nile. Soak up the attractions of Cairo, which sits on its banks, and go all the way from Luxor to Aswan.

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Once the ancient city of Thebes, Luxor is now a tourist haven full of hotels, souvenir shops and restaurants. Visit the Karnak Temple, which covers 100 acres, and don't miss The Great Hypostyle Hall, choc-a-block with huge statues and, of course, the Avenue of The Sphinxes. The Luxor Museum and Mummification Museum are eye-opening, and around the Luxor Temple is where you'll find shopping bazaars and rooftop cafes overlooking the river. You can even hire a felucca (small boat) and take a sunset cruise on the Nile. But Luxor is surely most famous for being home to the Valley of Kings, where Tutenkhamun's mummy was found.

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Found on the West Bank of the Nile in Luxor, the Valley of the Kings, the Valley of the Queens, and the Tombs of the Nobles - the Theban Necropolis - is where some of Egypt's most famous pharaohs were buried, including Tutenkhamun. The can't be-missed highlights include the Tomb of Tutankhamun, Ramses II, and the Tomb of Nefertari, (apparently the country's finest), which is newly restored and allows only 150 visitors a day for 10 minutes.

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What Aswan lacks in sights, it makes up for in location. It's the country's most southern city, and is a picturesque riverside spot. A stop-off for many cruises, it offers floating restaurants and shopping opps at Sharia el-Souq, a huge street market. There's a beautiful botanical garden on the island of Plants, and on the West Bank of the Nile you'll find the Monastery of St. Simeon. Just outside the city is the f amous Aswan Dam, the Temple of Philae, and Abu Simbel - the majestic Sun Temple of Ramses II.

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The Red Sea Coast is a hotspot for Brits seeking a bit of winter sun, and Sharm el-Sheik is the largest resort, on the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. It's famous for its unparalleled dive sites, like the Ras Mohamed National Park, and the Thistlegorm ship wreck, and the stunning reefs also make for great snorkelling. There's hotels for every budget, from backpackers to push-the-boat-out luxury. Outside the resorts, you can shop in the souks at Naama Bay, or go quad-biking in the desert.

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On the west of the Red Sea Coast, Hurghada - once a small fishing village - is the biggest diving resort, with its warm waters, rare fish and coral reefs attracting thousands of tourists from the world over. It's also known as a bit of a party town, with lots of clubs and bars. For something a bit more laidback and less touristy, try Dahab. Commonly known as the most authentic of the Red Sea Coast resorts, it's got beautiful beaches, brilliant diving and is the best base for desert trekking and scaling the heights of nearby Mt. Sinai. Don't forget your hiking boots.

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The best way to explore Mt. Sinai and its region is by trekking, or camel and jeep safaris. Check out St. Catherine's Monastery, which has been a place of pilgrimage since the 4th century, and is now home to Greek Orthodox monks. Other highlights are Qalat al-Gindi, an 800-year-old fortress, and Hammam Faraun's hot springs and secluded beach. Just be careful on the craggy and steep way down!
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