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The official name of Egypt is the Arab Republic of Egypt. Egypt is a transcontinental state whose territory is mostly situated in northeast Africa, while a smaller part of it (the Sinai Peninsula) is located in the area of southwestern Asia. Egypt covers a territory of about 1,001,450 km2, which makes it 30th largest country in the world by area.

It is the most populous Arab country known for its ancient civilization and notable world monuments.

With 100 million people, Egypt is the world’s 14th most populous country in which 99% of the population inhabits 5.5% of the land, while a substantial percentage of Egyptian labor force is employed in tourism today.

The Egyptian flag is similar to the flags of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. It is the flag of Arab Liberation: the red color represents the bloody fight against repression, the black represents repression, and the white marks the bright future. The middle of the flag displays the golden Eagle of Saladin.

Egyptian history has supposedly started in 3200 BC, when King Menes united Upper and Lower Egypt.

Egyptians invented the clock and were the first to have a year lasting 365 days.

The Egyptian Imhotep is known as the first physician, first engineer, and first architect in history.

If we were to divide the Cheops Pyramid into cubes the size of 30 cubic centimeters, we could build a belt around the moon three times.

The oldest dress in the world originates in Egypt and is 5,000 years old.

Hieroglyphs were created around 3000 BC, comprising more than 700 symbols. They were exclusively used for ceremonial and official matters, and since they do not include vowels, we do not yet know how ancient Egyptians pronounced their words, while there were recent attempts by scientist to analyse vocal cords of mummies and recreate the possible voice.

H.E. Mr. Amr Aljowaily, Ambassador of Egypt

1. Your Excellency, how do you feel about being in Belgrade? Can you tell us about your impressions of Serbia?

Arriving in Serbia marked my first landing in the Balkans, even as a tourist, let alone living here. A region we often heard of, especially in the 90s, yet know little of it in the present. It is now the time to discover the reality and measure it up against the impression. I should say that I continue to be pleasantly surprised with the warmth and hospitality, extended to me on every occasion and in every corner of this beautiful country.

2. How long have you held the position of ambassador in Serbia, and what was the course of your career in diplomacy before you came to Serbia?

I have been in Serbia for just a little more than one year and a half, having arrived in January 2018. My diplomatic career, before being posted to Belgrade, was on a different track, being specialized in multilateral diplomacy both through my posts abroad in Washington DC, Geneva and New York, or at the seat of the Foreign Ministry working in political, strategic and economic issues related to the United Nations.

3. What is the current diplomatic and economic cooperation of our two countries like, and what was it like in the past? What should be changed in order to improve that cooperation?

The last two years have been marked with an almost unprecedent leap in our diplomatic relations, witnessing an exchange of high-level visits from both countries. Suffice it to say that the Speaker of the Egyptian House of Representatives (Parliament) came to Belgrade twice in less than two years, marking a first in the relations between the two countries; the Foreign Minister of Egypt’s first visit in almost 9 years, and the two Governors of Aswan and the Red Sea, conducting more than four Ministerial level visits, a number of them heading large delegations. The Speaker of the National Assembly of Serbia also visited Egypt, meeting both the President of Egypt as well as her counterpart in Cairo. Add to that the first visit by the Serbian Minister of Agriculture in January 2019. Such ministerial visits in technical fields explore potential for tangible and concrete economic projects in the benefit of both peoples. This will soon culminate when the Joint Economic Committee meets for the first time in ten years chaired for the first time by Foreign Ministers of both countries. These, and other diplomatic exchanges, reflect the commitment of the two countries to enhance their bilateral relations.

4. When it comes to investments, how do investors from Egypt regard the Serbian market? How many Egyptian companies are operating in Serbia at the moment and which are the most important companies investing in us?

The potential in boosting investment flows between the two countries is a real one. In general, economic relations should be energized to the level of political and diplomatic relations. The number of Egyptian companies operating in the Serbian market remains limited. However, we have good news that the Egyptian side of the Joint Business Council has finally been named, after 14 years by the signing of the Memorandum, establishing the Council. The Co-Chair of the Council, Former Minister of Investment, Osama Saleh, visited Serbia for the first time in September 2019 heading a select group of members of the Council representing companies from the fields of energy, construction, tourism, and finance. The visit came as the Embassy took the initiative to organize, in cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the first ever Business Conference on Economic Relations between Africa and the Balkans: the Case Study of Serbia. This benefited from the role Egypt plays as the 2019. President of the African Union, positively marked with the launch of the African Continental Free Trade Area, the largest in the world in terms of number of citizens benefiting from it.

5. How would you describe your cooperation with the Serbian Government and business associations for the purpose of entrepreneurship development?

We have excellent cooperation with economic ministries in Belgrade, and business associations. As I mentioned before, we co-organized a number of forums with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. But also, we organized an investment roundtable with the Business Club of Serbia, the Serbian Association of Corporate Directors, and the Serbian Association of Economists. Also, we had a number of activities with regional Chambers of commerce in Novi Sad, Nis, and Uzice. The fruits of these activities will hopefully be reaped in the future, once connections are established between Serbian businesses and their counterparts in Egypt.

6. What is the nature of the foreign trade cooperation between our countries and which industries in Serbia have the most potential? What does Serbia export to Egypt, and what does it import from Egypt?

Our trade balance is still below expectations and the realistic potential, given the trade volume Egypt has with a number of countries in the region. It is not enough to suffice the current scope of goods forming the main exchange between the two countries, even if they include agricultural machinery, agricultural products, or salt. I feel that furniture, construction material, food industries, fertilizers, and ICTs represent sectors with growth potential.

7. Today, Serbia is a candidate country – negotiations started in January 2014.In your opinion, how far along is Serbia on the path towards the EU, and what will be crucial for Serbia to become a member state?

Egypt has excellent relations with the European Union, with a successful Association Agreement. We play a major role in bringing Africa and Europe closer together. Egypt hosted the first African-European Summit in Cairo in April 2000 and was the first to host the EU-Arab League summit in February 2019 in Sharm el-Sheikh. We are keen to engage with Serbia’s European related initiatives.

Hence, Egypt, whether Cairo or Sharm el-Sheikh, or now Aswan, has always taken the initiative to strengthen the bonds of African-Arab-European friendship. Let me give you a recent example of the participation of the Governor of the African Youth Capital Aswan at the roundtable in Novi Sad, and as the European Youth Capital, attended by the mayors of the former and future European youth capitals. It was also an opportunity to discuss cooperation with the European Youth Cities Association, providing an opportunity for future institutional cooperation with these capitals through the World Youth Forum held yearly in Egypt. The same will be as Novi Sad assumes the European Cultural Capital in 2021. So, we find much benefit of such activities bringing African and Europe closer together.

8. Can you tell us about the relationship between Serbia and Egypt in the fields of science, culture and education?

Cultural relations have witnessed a remarkable set of activities in the last two years, crowned by the participation of Egypt as Guest of Honor at the Belgrade Book Fair in October 2019, featuring a meeting of the Ministers of Culture of both countries agreeing on a plan of action for the upcoming couple of years. It will be hard to count the number of activities that took place, many of them for the first time, including visits by the Cairo Opera House Modern Dance and Ballet Groups, the Nour and Amal Orchestra of visually impaired young women, the archival documents exhibition, the Reda Folkloric Groups, the participating as Guest of Honor in the African Durbar Festival, and the Archaeological Film Festival, to name a few.As for education, I have met the Minister of Education to discuss two proposed MoUs between the relevant three ministries from both countries. Currently, we are preparing for a visit by the Minister of Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development of Serbia who will speak at the 2nd session of the Global Forum for Higher Education and Scientific Research taking place in the period April 2-4, 2020. in the new Administrative capital of Egypt. Finally, on science, we have a particular interest in those subjects related to information and communication technology, including the educational institutions specialized in this field.

9. How would you present your country as a tourist attraction? Which characteristics and sights would you highlight?

Every day, I discover Serbian tourists who regularly go to Egypt, some more than 30 times in the last 10 years! Egypt is a unique tourist destination featuring cultural, leisure, conference, health, and adventure tourism. Now with direct flights to Cairo, Hurghada and Sharm El-Sheikh, these touristic treasures are only three hours away.The participation of Egypt as a partner country at the Belgrade Tourism Fair in February 2020, can represent both a boost in the number of tourists visiting Egypt, but also a qualitative diversification to include cultural tourism to both Cairo, which will witness the opening of the Grand Egyptian Museum up to the Aswan in the South, which will twin with Uzice in Western Serbia. There is no country in the world with this diversity and such a warm climate only 3 hours away from Belgrade, and maybe even less time from Nis Airport, where we hope to have direct flights as well.

10. What are the things you particularly like in Serbia? How do you spend your free time?

I particularly like the hospitality you notice in the countryside. I love greenery especially in the mountainous, which we sometimes miss in the Arabian deserts. I wish I had more free time to explore, cycle the cities and horseride in the fields. Well, maybe and hopefully, that would be possible in the next two years remaining in my diplomatic post in Belgrade. And all advice is welcome from you and your kind readership!