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Egypt is special destination for Iranians: Persian tourists

Ahram Online goes to the Pyramids to interview one of the first Iranian tourism groups to visit Egypt in 30 years amid Salafist 'warnings' against Shias (Gallery)

Dalia Farouk, Ahram Online, Friday 7 Jun 2013
(Photo: Ayman Hafez - Ahram news website)
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With the greatness of the Giza pyramids and Sphinx looming overhead, at the last stop on the agenda for the group of 134 Iranian tourists Ahram Online interviews the guests who raised fears from ultra-conservative Sunni Salafists by their mere presence.

Some Sunni Muslims were up in arms over the flow of tourism from the Shia-majority country, since they see them as "heretics" and suspect that Iran is trying to spread the Shia faith in the Sunni-Muslim world.

Iranian businessman, Mohamed Redha, who has described Egypt as a "special destination" above the many countries he has visited, says he expects that an enormous number of Iranians will come.

"Tourism will contribute to the rapid political and economic development in both Tehran and Cairo," he predicts.

Redha praised the Egyptian civilisation and the ancient monuments, confirming that the visit went without a hitch.

"I have been informed how ancient Egyptians lived throughout the centuries and I can't believe that I'm standing in front of one of the world's seven wonders!" Redha said as he stared at the Giza pyramids.

"I loved visiting Egypt, which has an inveterate history, like Iran," said 27-year Hamed Dilshah, an Iranian engineer.

"I really liked the great Nile River, the Red Sea and the water activities there."

Dilshah, who only speaks Persian, and the group tell Ahram Online that the boiling hot weather hampered their enjoyment of the pharaonic sights in Egypt’s far southern provinces, Luxor and Aswan.

"We were warmly greeted, regardless of the expected troubles that we might have faced due to Salafists' opposition," Dilshah said.

One of the Iranian was irritated by the tight security presence around them, but understands that it was to keep them safe.

"I know that our visit represents a problem to Salafists in Egypt, but I don’t know why," Frank Boha wondered.

Last week, Egyptian Tourism Minister Hisham Zazou tried to allay fears of a 'Shia infiltration' just before a new Iranian tour group was due to visit Egypt, arguing that the flow of Iranian tourists to the country is like any new market that will benefit the travel industry.

In April, more than 50 Iranians – the first to visit Egypt as tourists since relations between the two countries were severed more than 30 years ago following the 1979 Iranian revolution– arrived in Upper Egypt amid tight security.

The visit came as part of a bilateral tourism agreement signed in February between Cairo and Tehran.

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