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Real-life "Jaws" terrorizes Egypt coast

An unprecedented five shark attacks have shut down Egypt's most-popular tourist destination.

Egypt’s economy is heavily dependent on the tourism industry, which generates more than $10 billion in revenue each year.

Sharm — with it’s colorful coral reefs, sandy beaches and bawdy nightlife — is one of Egypt’s biggest breadwinners. More than 3 million tourists flock to Red Sea beaches annually for scuba diving alone, according to government statistics.

A wave of terrorist bombings targeting tourist sites and hotels throughout the Sinai Peninsula between 2004 and 2006 greatly impacted the numbers of foreigners coming to the region.

But Ahmed Salah, a spokesman for the South Sinai region, was quick to dispel the notion that a string of shark attacks could create the same kind of panic.

“These types of attacks are very rare for Sharm and Egypt. And we are not alone — this could happen anywhere, in America, Australia and South Africa,” Salah said. “I don’t think this problem will last in Sharm. Even if it did, diving is not the only activity for tourists. They use the beaches to sunbathe and they are still enjoying themselves.”

Although nothing is known about the shark — or sharks — causing the stir in Sharm, most businesses here agree that the economy will soon be in troubled waters if no answers are found.

Hesham Mahmoud, the manager of Helnan Marina Sharm, a cliff-top hotel overlooking the popular Na’ama Bay, said that many residents are “losing confidence” in the ability of the Egyptian authorities to solve the problem.

“I’m telling my guests not to panic, but the whole shark situation is pretty worrying for me,” Mahmoud said. “If things don’t change soon, our business will be very affected. I think many hotel managers in Sharm are equally worried.”