Egyptian Minister of Culture Ines Abdel-Dayem has announced the choice of Cairo as the Capital of Islamic Culture in the year 2020, confirming "the historic status of Egypt that has always allowed it to establish a dialogue between nations."
A celebration was held on this occasion, 18 December, by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) in Tunisia, where representatives of the ministry of culture — Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Culture Hisham Azmy, and head of the General Organisation of Cultural Palaces Ahmed Awwad — received the torch from Tunisian Minister of Cultural Affairs Mohamed Zein Elabedine.
ISESCO has chosen the Uzbek capital, Bukhara, as the Islamic Capital of Culture in the Asian region, and Bamako, Mali, as the capital of the Africa region in 2020.
Abdel-Dayem said, “The programme of capitals of Islamic culture aims to consolidate the bonds of relations between peoples, establish a creative dialogue between them and to promote intellectual communication between the citizens of Islamic nations. It also highlights the contents of Cairo's rich heritage calling for global tolerance and coexistence and presents a true image of the ancient Islamic civilisation."
Culture Minister Ines Abdel-Dayem Photo courtesy of the Minister of Culture Media Office
Abdel-Dayem added that choosing Cairo for 2020 confirms Egypt's position in the heart of the Islamic world as a crossroads of cultures. “A diversified programme of activities has been prepared to celebrate this occasion with the participation of all organisations and cultural sectors, and it includes many functions that will reflect Egypt's unique Islamic culture identity,” she said.
ISESCO initiated the Capital of Islamic Culture programme along the lines of a programme launched by the Arab Organisation for Education, Culture and Science (ALESCO) for choosing the capital of Arab culture, and decided to assign it annually to three ancient Islamic cities, representing the Arab, African and Asian Islamic regions.
Cities are chosen based on their achievements in serving culture, literature, the arts, science, and Islamic knowledge.
The capital hosts the Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers, which is held every two years. Celebrations span the whole year.
In 2001, an agreement was signed on the form and organisation of celebrations, adopted by the fourth Islamic Conference of Culture Ministers held in Algeria in 2004.
Mecca was given the first torch in 2005. Afterwards it was given to many other Islamic cities, including Aleppo (Syria), Fez (Morocco), Alexandria (Egypt), Kairouan (Tunisia), Tarim (Yemen), Tlemcen (Algeria), Najaf (Iraq), Medina (Saudi Arabia), Sharjah (UAE), Nizwa (Sultanate Oman), Kuwait (Kuwait), Oman (Jordan), Manama (Bahrain), and Tunis (Tunisia).