Ambassador Hisham Badr - Photo compiled by Egypt Today-Mohamed Zain
CAIRO – 6 October 2017: In what could be considered a big leap in promoting tourism to Egypt, Minister of Tourism Yehia Rashed reached the Vatican Wednesday, along with a high-level delegation to get the blessings of Pope Francis to recognize the Holy Family’s journey to cities in Egypt as part of the Christian pilgrimage destinations.
The ceremony of the blessings that took place in the Egyptian embassy was presented by several Egyptian and Italian public figures and officials, including the new Egyptian ambassador to Italy, Hesham Badr.
In an interview to Sada al-Bald television channel during the celebrations, Badr said the decision will have very positive impacts in the future. He also talked about the Italian-Egyptian relations, affirming that both countries have several cases of common interest and good relations. He added that both countries are coordinating to reach the truth regarding the story of Giulio Regeni’s murder.
Tell us about today’s celebrations, and what does it represent? The celebration comes after two weeks of my arrival to the country. Therefore, this is considered a very important occasion attended by several officials of the Italian state.
Also, after several meetings I conducted here, since my arrival to complete submitting my papers, I can affirm the Italian officials are very keen on their relations with Egypt.
Can we say that we passed the Giulio Regeni crisis with Italy? Well, Regeni’s case still exists, and, as President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi said before, we are willing to continue the investigations until the end, as both Italian and Egyptian attorney generals and officials are cooperating transparently to reach the truth. However, we need to understand that not everyone wants Egyptian-Italian relations to continue and develop. Those that don’t are quite known to everyone.
Both countries still have other issues of common interest — like settling the Libyan situation and fighting terrorism. To continue talks, neither country will stop cooperating with the other, as they have a long-standing history of good relations. All these things are considered by the Italian side.
Today’s celebration also enhances the relations and reflects Egypt’s historical and tourist importance.
There are several important officials gathering here with us today, which reflects the importance of Italy’s political partnership with Egypt.
Italy is still Egypt’s second trade partner internationally and the first in Europe. There is about $5 billion worth of Italian investments in Egypt. Moreover, the number of the Italian tourists who visit Egypt is clearly increasing, as the number increased from 130,000 in December 2016, to 350,000 tourists during 2017.
So we have a pretty good plan to restore mutual relations between both countries gradually and prevent any attempts that aim to fail our efforts.
National and international entities and organizations that don’t wish for this relation to prosper are known to everyone. It is not a coincidence that Italy was the first state to us after the June 30 Revolution. Also, it is not a coincidence that Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was the first official to announce attending the Egypt Economic Development Conference (EEDC) in Sharm El Sheikh. Not everyone liked these aspects.
But we announced to the Italian side that we highly recognize the importance and sensitivity of this aspect. Therefore, we left specialists work on the investigation and the case.
Can we say relations between Egypt and Italy are going back to normal soon? This is my role and duty, which I’ve been working on since arriving to Rome. We are working very hard on this. Things will get back to normal — and maybe better.
How can we resume Italian tourism again to Egypt, and what is the government’s plan regarding Italian tourists? Egypt and Italy are discussing signing a joint protocol in tourism, which would be a very positive step towards restoring the tourism relations between both countries.
Also, the participation of Egyptian Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed here today at the celebrations is considered a fundamental step, as another exhibition is supposed to take place in northern Italy by the end of October, at which the minster will also be present. We are working firmly towards restoring relations in this regard.
Would we use the Vatican’s blessings and approval of the Holy Family’s journey as a destination for the Christian pilgrimage within our plan to promote tourism to Egypt, especially since this started from the Vatican itself? Sure, we will. As today’s celebration was not just covered for Egypt or the Egyptian media, but for most countries that received our message clearly.
We are sure today’s event will have a high positive impact on tourism to Egypt in the near future.