More than 50 Iranian tourists arrived in the ancient city of Luxor on Monday as part of a rare visit that showcases the warming ties between the two countries since President Mohammed Morsi came to power last year. A new bilateral deal was signed recently to promote tourism between the two countries. Iran on its part has unilaterally waived visa requirements for Egyptian tourists. (AP, 2 April)
However, some sparks flew over the visit. The Egyptian government attempted to regulate the places Iranians can visit. Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazou wants Iranian tourists to only be allowed to visit ancient cities and Red Sea resorts like Sharm el-Sheikh, while keeping them away from religious sites, especially mosques affiliated with Prophet Mohamed’s family. Cairo has also been declared off limit to the Iranian tourists. The Iranian officials, however, want the tourists be allowed into sites throughout the country without restrictions.
“Iranian tourists have the right to visit whatever places they want in Egypt. We shouldn’t intervene in programs [created] by Egyptian and Iranian tourist companies,” said Mojtaba Amani, Iranian Charge d’affaires in Cairo. An Iranian deputy foreign minister visiting the country also said in a news conference in Cairo on Monday that tourists from Iran don't have a religious agenda and that they are coming to Egypt to support its economy. (Egypt Independent, 2 April)
The group visiting Luxor today came in a tourist boat down the Nile from the southern city of Aswan, where they had arrived two days earlier on a charter plane originating from Tehran, the first commercial flight between the two countries since the 1979 revolution. Today, they are visiting ancient sites in the city, including the famed open-air Karnak Temple and the Valley of the Kings where Tutankhamen's tomb lies.
File photo: Foreign tourists visit the Hatshepsut Temple, in the ancient city of Luxor, southern Egypt. (AP)