Text by: Sonja Lapatanov, ballet artist, and travel writer
Serbia and Egypt have represented a model of diplomatic relations and friendly cooperation for more than 100 years, and strengthen a part of the past, present, and future of our two countries.
Special relations date back to the middle of the 20th century, when Josip Broz Tito and Gamal Abdel Nasser played an exceptional role within the Non-Aligned Movement, which “achieved extraordinary achievements that cannot be ignored”.
Part of these good relations was culture, as evidenced by the successful guest appearances of the Belgrade Opera at the Khedivial Opera House in Cairo, 1961, 63 and 1969, when I was part of the ensemble that performed two performances of the opera “Don Quixote”, of the French composer, Gilles Masne.
After several decades, I was given the opportunity to visit the Arab Republic of Egypt again, as a member of the delegation of Serbian journalists, media officials, tourist workers, travel writers and leading influencers. The study visit to Egypt, in the period from November 28, to December 5, 2020, was organized by the Embassy of Egypt in Serbia and H.E Ambassador Amr Alguvejli, and from the Egyptian side, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities (Egyptian agency for the promotion of tourism), the Governor of the Red Sea, the Tourist Federation of Egypt, the Egyptian Chamber for hotels and tourism companies, airline Air Cairo, and Egyptair, and with the support of the hotel: Continental Hurghada, Steigenberger Nile Palace in Luxor, Ramses Hilton in Cairo, and Museum in Hurghada and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo.
For “The Land of Pharaohs, Wonders of the World and Modern Life”, with a long and fascinating history rich in diversity, ancient culture and history, united in order to preserve tradition and mutual respect, it is difficult to choose the right words to describe emotions and positive impressions… When the warm welcome of the hosts and the excellent organization is added to that, it can rightly be said that the slogan “Egypt in the open air: all locations, all year round” is the right message sent to tourists from Serbia by the Egyptian Ambassador in Belgrade, H.E. Amr Alguvejli, reminding that Egypt is a year-round destination, only three hours away, which is how long the direct flight from Belgrade to Hurghada lasts.
During their stay in Hurghada, the delegation visited the Coptic Church, the New Marina and Cornish, the Great Al Mina Mosque, the fish market, the beautiful beaches and the newly opened Museum of Hurghada. A special experience was cruising on the sailing ship Pirates III, on the Red Sea and swimming and diving right next to the coral reef. After relaxing in the turquoise-blue water of the Red Sea, the delegation was served lunch with Egyptian specialties, seafood, fresh salads, vegetables, and oriental sweets.
Egypt has long been known for its ancient civilization. Among the antiquities, the mysterious Luxor, known as “one of the largest open-air museums in the world”, occupies a significant place. The delegation had a whole day to visit the temples of Karnak, the Valley of the Kings, Deir el-Bahari temple-Hatshepsut the first woman to hold the title of Pharaoh, and colossal statues of Memnon.
The delegation concluded its visit to Egypt with a visit to Cairo, a megalopolis of 15 million inhabitants, the capital of the land of the pharaohs, world-famous as the “jewel of the Nile.”
In the largest city in Africa, the delegation visited the Coptic Church of St. George, the Salah al-Din Citadel, the Mohammed Ali Mosque, Old Cairo, the exciting Hanel Khalili Bazaar and the phenomenal Egyptian Museum, on Tahrir Square.
Then there was a visit to Giza, a tour of the magnificent pyramids, the most famous and oldest buildings of mankind and one of the seven wonders of the world, the only preserved and mysterious Sphinx that not far from Cairo, guards the desert and protects the three great pyramids, Cheops, Kefren and Mycerinus.
Planned meetings with officials of the Red Sea Governor and the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities of the Arab Republic of Egypt were held in Hurghada and Cairo. Members of the Serbian delegation, pointed out that that they will write in the Serbian media and talk about it with friends and their families abouth this experience, in order to encourage them to visit Egypt.
The enthusiasm, positive energy and desire of the hosts to enable us close encounters with the remains of ancient civilizations, museum exhibits and magnificent artifacts, religious buildings, dramatic landscapes, the Red Sea and the mighty Nile were amazing. We enjoyed meeting people we met in the desert, on the beach, on the streets, bazaars, villages and towns; especially those with persistent traders and bargaining masters, with children waving and shouting “Welcome to Egypt” and hotel staff who greeted us with the words: “Welcome home”. … We were delighted with the hospitality, gentleness, patience and effort of the hosts to please us and make us all feel as good as possible, wherever we went and every place we visited. We are convinced that what is offered to the guest comes from the heart and is sincere. We learned that sincere hospitality still exists in Egypt, whether it is a short conversation in a souk, or just a cup of tea. In Egypt, you just have to leave the Egyptian tranquility and not hurry, anywhere!
While the world will remember 2020 by the COVID 19 pandemic, I will have the privilege to remember it with joy of the sunny days, the attractive itinerary and the quality time spent in Egypt. In addition, it was a special honor to represent Serbia and be a member of the Serbian media delegation in friendly Egypt.