Egypt fetes 10th anniversaryAs Korea and Egypt mark the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year, Ambassador Amr M.K. Helmy reflects on the milestone with a gracious refrain: “I’ve been very lucky.” As head of the Egyptian mission in Seoul for nearly four of those 10 years, the envoy attributes his smooth-sailing tenure to the good fortune of being stationed where “all the doors are open.”
Mr. Helmy returned some of this karma last Friday by hosting members of the diplomatic, government, business and media communities at an “Egyptian Night” reception at the Millennium Seoul Hilton. “We want to show Korea that we’re celebrating this anniversary,” he said.
Celebrations will continue. Earlier this month, thousands visited the National Library of Korea to see “The Splendor of Egypt,” an exhibition of artifacts from the ancient Nile civilization; encore showings at larger venues are currently being discussed. Egyptian soccer teams have already visited Korea this year, and an economic delegation will follow next month. The Gwacheon Hanmadang Festival in September plans to spotlight Egyptian cinema and dance. Even Lotte World, which unveils its Egyptian Pavilion this year, is joining the party.
“Egypt’s not just pyramids and the Sphinx and Luxor, though,” Mr. Helmy points out. Though indeed mythologized in the popular imagination for mummies and Cleopatra that dot its ancient history, present-day Egypt offers a panorama of options, from churches to beaches, for every kind of traveler. Korean tourism to Egypt more than doubled from 22,000 in 2003 to 55,000 in 2004. Mr. Helmy would like to see those numbers grow to include a special dignitary: “We hope President Roh Moo-hyun will visit our country in the near future,” he says, pointing to Egyptian President Hosny Mubarak’s state trip to Seoul in 1999.
But “it’s not only official relations that count,” says the ambassador. In emphasizing “people-to-people relations,” he speaks warmly of the bonds of sympathy between his home and host citizenries. “Koreans are a peace-loving people,” says Mr. Helmy, likening this to Egypt’s own stance in the Middle East, “and both of us are economic and cultural success stories.”
by Kim Sun-jung