First Iranian tourists arrive in Egypt amid tight security

Ahram Online, Monday 1 Apr 2013

Within context of recent Egypt-Iran tourism agreement, 50 Iranian tourists arrive in Upper Egypt, stoking Salafist fears of perceived Shia influence in Sunni-Muslim world

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, left, and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right (Photo: AP)

More than 50 Iranian tourists, the first official tour group from the Islamic republic in decades, arrived in Upper Egypt on Sunday amid tight security.

The visit comes as part of a bilateral tourism agreement signed by both countries in February.

The group's arrival to the Upper Egyptian city of Aswan has raised fears among Egyptian Salafists – ultra-conservative Sunni Muslims who view Shia Muslims as heretics – that Iran is trying to spread the Shia faith in the Sunni-Muslim world.

"Iranian tourists shouldn't raise these concerns; they're just tourists, and the number that has come isn't big," Elhami El-Zayat, head of the Egyptian Federation of Chambers of Tourism, told Ahram Online on Monday. "They won't flood Egypt, as some have feared."

Early on Monday, 43 of the Iranian tourists reportedly docked on the banks of the Nile in the Upper Egyptian city of Luxor.

On Saturday, the first commercial flight from Egypt to Iran in 34 years took off from Cairo International Airport en route to Tehran.

Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Wael El-Maadawy announced last month that charter flights between Egypt and Iran – linking the Upper Egyptian tourist cities of Luxor, Aswan and Abu Simbel with the Islamic Republic – would commence within weeks.  

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