Traditional delicacies. A Syrian man work at a Syrian restaurant in 6 October City in Giza. (Reuters)
CAIRO – 11 June 2019: “Some discourteous [persons] have resented the success of the Syrians in their country Egypt. They tried to abuse them with false national claims about their influence and their economic penetration, but the people of Egypt, the Egyptian government, and the leadership of Egypt, who together provide a model in the awareness and national alignment, stood up to defend the Syrians and isolate the odd, misleading voices,” Sayed al-Bably, a writer in Egyptian state-owned Al-Gomhuria wrote.
This comes after Nabil Naeem, a former figure in the Islamic Group designated by many states including Egypt as a terrorist organization, said in a Facebook post that “the [source of] the economic activity of the Syrians in Egypt is the money of the International Organization of the Muslim Brotherhood, and [this activity] represents money laundry operations for [the sake of] some terrorist groups.”
Subsequently, lawyer Samir Sabry, known for filing lawsuits against pro-Muslim brotherhood figures and some other parties, said that Syrian investments in Egypt are at $23 billion according to some statistics, calling for monitoring these investments, checking their source and making sure they are carried out within the country’s legal framework.
Sabry said in his complaint that Syrians, through “a cheerful face, a sweet word and a smile,” managed to win the hearts of Egyptians, adding that such qualifications have been like “a passport” that has enabled them to stay on the land of Egypt.
Syrians managed to achieve their goals in a short period despite the conditions of war, immigration and asylum, Sabry said, adding that the Egyptians’ hospitality has even encouraged them to carry out their projects which gained “success and fame.”
"The money entered through the Syrians in many fields. Syrians invaded the commercial zones throughout Egypt and Alexandria. They bought and rented shops at high prices and in distinctive locations. They also bought apartments and villas,” Sabry stated.
The number of the Syrian restaurants and coffee shops has increased, “and you are shocked by the prevailing pattern of excessive consumer relations and the excessive luxury of many of these Syrians who inhabit these places,” Sabry said, referring particularly to Giza’s 6th of October City, and New Cairo’s Al-Rehab district.
“Those who follow up on their behavior in the restaurants, cafes, clubs and shopping places, [find it] unbelievable that these are the people of Syria who suffer the ravages of destruction, damage, killing and displacement," he stated.
"Statistics estimated the volume of investments of the Syrian businessmen and capital owners, most of whom moved to Egypt after the start of the [Syrian] crisis estimated at US$23 billion, invested mostly in real estate, lands, factories, restaurants, shops and others, Sabry said, adding that the Syrians now own “the most important clothing and textile factories, while others have dominated real estate development areas in the most prominent and prestigious areas of Egypt."
"Has a sound legal environment been created to allow Syrian money holders to operate in accordance with clear laws and a sound investment environment?” Sabry asked, urging to include these Syrians in the Egyptian procedures taken to make sure individuals are not involved in terrorist activities against Egypt.
“Also, do all these activities, funds, projects, shops, cafes, factories, restaurants and real estate are subject to [procedures of] financial control and questions about their source, and the way they (the money) enter the Egyptian territories and how profits are returned and exported again?,” Sabry asked, adding that the procedures should also include asking “whether these funds are subject to the tax laws in Egypt and whether the Syrian investor whatever his activity and whatever his investments is treated like an Egyptian before the financial control authorities.”
Especially since the Syrian war started in 2011, Egyptians have welcomed Syrians to live among them, and launch small and medium projects. President Sisi last year affirmed welcoming refugees “who all live [in Egypt] like Egyptians, without discrimination between us and them.” He addressed the Syrian refugees, saying that “Egypt is their country.”
Egyptians and Syrians share many similar traditions, religious values and even the taste in food; Many Egyptians fell in love with the Syrian version of Shawarma which they have favored over the Shawarma they have been familiar with.
Amid the recent allegations questioning the integrity of the Syrian investors, and calls to monitor their investments, many Egyptians including celebrities have launched campaigns to defend their Syrian “brothers,” including starting hashtag “Syrians are [welcomed] in Egypt.”