CAIRO -- Egypt's tour guides demonstrated Sunday, protesting that they are attacked by souvenir vendors and unlicensed competitors at famed sites like the Valley of the Kings tombs in Luxor or Cairo's medieval citadel.
The turmoil reflects the crisis in Egypt's vital tourism industry, which has suffered from the country's internal unrest since the 2011 uprising that forced President Hosni Mubarak to step down.
Tourism officials said revenues and the number of tourists dropped by about a third in 2011. Official guides, unlicensed competitors and souvenir salesmen vie for the attention of small numbers of tourists – and the licensed operators have had enough.
About 150 tour guides demonstrated Sunday outside Cairo's famed Egyptian Museum. They said the lack of security and increased lawlessness, which has plagued much of Egypt following the toppling of Mubarak, has exposed them to attacks from vendors and competitors and further complicates attempts to lure tourists back.
"There is no security. This is not a joke," said Dina Yacoub, a 29-year-old guide who said she was punched in the face three times last month when an angry citizen tried to cut in line for a small train at the Cairo citadel and she protested. "We are asking tourists to come back ... how would they unless there is security?"
Yacoub's was one of at least 40 cases of assaults on tour guides reported to the professional union over the last year, said Gladys Haddad, a member of the union.
"Most of the assaults were basically fights over tourists," she said, by vendors and unlicensed competitors breaking regulations and at times even damaging protected sites.
She said vendors are operating inside the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, in violation of antiquities laws that prevent even cameras from being brought into the tombs. In other areas, they have moved entrances into historic sites to ensure that tourists pass through their bazaars.
Haddad said some of the attacks were prompted by harassment of foreign tourists. When one guide objected, the vendor hit him in the head with a statue, causing a long gash, she said.
Tourism officials were not immediately available for comment.
Faten Abou Ali, a spokesman for the guides' union, says Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's new government is not paying attention to the industry.
"They are forgetting tourism. They are only talking about long term projects," Abou Ali, the deputy of the guide's union, which has about 16,000 members. "Tourism ... can bring in lots of cash. They need to open it up ... They need to tell us, do they want tourism or not?"
Many worried that an Islamist-dominated government might put restrictions on tourism, such as banning alcohol or mixed beaches, and scare away tourists. Conflicting statements from members of Morsi's party and other more radical Islamists about what is allowed and what is not caused concern.
During his first days in office, Morsi visited tourists sites in Luxor in an apparent message of reassurance.
Egypt has long coasts on the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which have attracted visitors from Europe and U.S. because of their pristine beaches and beautiful diving sites.
"We work in the hospitality business. If we don't have those tools than we should shut it and let tourists go to neighboring Israel and let her make all the money," said Raji Banna, a 36-year old guide. "If Islamist groups and the current government don't want to promote tourism, then tell us to go home."
A local boy watches as tourists photograph themselves at the Sphinx and the great Pyramid of Cheops on May 28, 2011 in Giza, Egypt. (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Egyptians ride horses past the great pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo on March 3, 2011. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A tourist from the Philippines poses for a picture in front of the great pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo on March 3, 2011. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
A tour guide tends to horses while waiting for tourists near the Giza pyramids on February 15, 2011 in Giza, Egypt. With tourism counting for 6 percent of Egypt's gross domestic product, the country's economy has taken a huge hit after foreign tourists fled during Egypt's uprising. Some 15 million tourists visited Egypt in 2010 and the tourism industry supports up to 10 percent of the Egyptian population. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
Egyptian visitors watch a nearly empty light and sound show at the Giza pyramids on February 15, 2011 in Giza, Egypt. (Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)
An Egyptian man waits for tourists to take them on camel rides at the Giza pyramids on the outskirts of Cairo on February 14, 2011. (PEDRO UGARTE/AFP/Getty Images)
A picture shows the Sphynx near the pyramids in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, on November 30, 2010. (PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)
French movie star Juliette Binoche poses next to the Sphynx at the site of the pyramids in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, on November 30, 2010. (HOUDA IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)
(PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images)
(HOUDA IBRAHIM/AFP/Getty Images)
An Egyptian sells souvenirs in front the Great Pyramid of Khafre in Giza, on March 30, 2010. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama poses for a photo in front of the Sphinx during a tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza following his landmark speech to the Muslim World on June 4, 2009. (MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
In this photo provided by The White House, President Barack Obama ducks his head to get through an entranceway on a tour of the Pyramids and Sphinx June 4, 2009 near Cairo, Egypt. At center-right is the hieroglyphic that the President comment on saying it looked like him. (Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images)
The pyramids in the Giza plateau in the outskirts of Cairo, some of Egypt's most recognizable landmarks, stand tall behind popular housing on June 2, 2009. (CRIS BOURONCLE/AFP/Getty Images)
Foreign tourists climb one of the Pyramids of Giza, south of Cairo, on February 23, 2009. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni visit the Great Pyramids of Giza on the outskirts of Cairo, 30 December 2007. (KHALED DESOUKI/AFP/Getty Images)