Tight security and last-minute hustle as Cop27 opens in Sharm El Sheikh

Red Sea resort is almost unrecognisable in some parts after major sprucing up

People look at a map while arriving for the COP27 U. N.  Climate Summit, Sunday, Nov.  6, 2022, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.  (AP Photo / Peter Dejong)
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Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh prepared to receive global leaders for nearly two weeks of talks on curbing climate change with a flurry of last-minute activity before the formal opening of Cop27 on Sunday.

Long known for its pristine sea waters and golden beaches, as well as coral reefs at risk from global warming, many parts of the city are almost unrecognisable after four months of sprucing up at a cost of billions of pounds.

New five-lane motorways now connect hotels where the delegates will stay to the conference venue, the International Convention Centre. The roads have been built without speed breakers to allow the motorcades of presidents, prime ministries and other top-level officials to dart from their hotels to the conference venue and back without hindrance.

With about 200 heads of state and government representatives among the 45,000 participants, security is tight throughout the city, particularly at the venue.

A sign at the venue of the climate summit in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh. Getty

The police presence at hotels is heavier than usual, while armed officers in combat fatigues are posted along roads to the venue and plainclothes policemen, conspicuous in suits and ties, keep watch on roads near the conference centre. People entering the venue must go through airport-level security checks.

Egyptians coming into Sharm El Sheikh by road have been subjected to intense searches and identity checks in recent weeks, with police in some cases demanding documents to explain their reason for visiting. Passengers arriving at the city's airport on domestic flights are requested to scan their passports if they are participating in the conference.

The main entrance of the International Convention Centre in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh where the UN climate summit is being held. AFP

The roads to the venue are adorned with billboards bearing climate-related phrases such as “Return nature to its nature” and “From ambition to work”, but no billboards featuring President Abdel Fattah El Sisi, which can be seen on most main roads in the capital Cairo and other major cities in the country of 104 million.

As is usually the case with conferences of this size, last-minute work continued at the venue until just hours before the official opening on Sunday.

Technicians were connecting communication cables, porters were ferrying new chairs and desks still wrapped in nylon into conference rooms, and the rattling of trolleys laden with office equipment being pushed by workers in blue overalls filled the air in the venue’s hallways.

The opening day of Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh — in pictures

Updated: November 06, 2022, 11:27 AM