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LE MONDE EGYPT The Sphinx, the Egyptian guardian of eternity. Egyptian chapati. FACTS & FIGURES White desert in the north of Farafra. The Egyptian Museum in Cairo. PHOTOS: GARDEL BERTRAND, EUROMONEY/THE EARL OF GUILFORD, CHICUREL ARNAUD, RIEGER BERTRAND Sometimes, when you fall in love, you do not know exactly why. So it happened to Anthony Sattin, a writer for the leading travel guide „Lonely Planet“. The harder he tried, the less he could find a final reason for his love of Egypt: ”Is it the way the glorious past casts long shadows over the present? Is it the way the lush Nile Valley gives way, from one footstep to another, to the harshness of the desert? Is it the light in the eye of the person telling me a story in a cafe, who has just burst into laughter?“ As often, his resumé ends up in a sweet compromise, which is certainly shared by the 10 to 12 million tourists visiting Egypt each year – ”the intensity of light, the love of life, the sense of family and many, many more reasons“ are only some of the ingredients of the magical nectar Egypt is offering to the world. Among the others, as any of the nearly 150,000 Austrian tourists who took a trip to Egypt last year is also well aware of, one may choose from a vast variety of outstanding attractions. First of all there is this gentle touch of history turning every stone into a mirror of the ancient past of a country that already existed more than 3,150 years before the birth of Jesus Christ. Whether you visit the sand-covered tombs, the austere pyramids or the towering Pharaonic temples, walk through the Valley of the Kings in Luxor, where Tutankhamun’s tomb was unearthed, hop off a Nile boat at Dendara, Edfu or one of the other waterside temples, cross Lake Nasser to see Ramses II’s masterpiece at Abu Simbel, or trek into the desert to find the traces of Roman trading outposts – all of the places will bring out the explorer in you. And with a little luck, your donkey might stumble across yet another find, just like the way many previous discoveries were made. Then Egypt, which from Austria is only a threehours-flight away, treats you with unmatched possibilities of relaxation, leisure and sporting activities. There are those who prefer empty beaches with nothing but a candlelit cabin and a teeming coral reef offshore, waiting for them at the coast along the Red Sea with its rugged desert beauty above the waterline and a psychedelic vibrancy below. Others may head to a holiday paradise like Hurghada, Marsa Alam, El Gouna, Sharm el-Sheikh or Soma Bay to train their skills in kite- oder windsurfing, to improve their handicap in one of the 21 golfclubs there (with a new 18-hole-course, the Ancient Sands, opening soon in El Gouna), or to enjoy a dive into a most diverse and ecologically intact underwater world. ”We have some 300 diving centers in Egypt all over the Sinai Peninsula and at the Read Sea coast“, says Hans Heinz Dilthey, the Vice Chairman of the Chamber of Diving and Watersports in Cairo. „Plus up to 170 safari ships offering special diving trips which normally last for about one week.“ And some may seek the solitude and irresistible beauty of Egypt‘s vast deserts, taking home an unforgettable memory of a sun rise between the gentle shapes of the White Desert, the lofty heights of Mt Sinai (Gebel Musa) or the shimmering horizon from the comfort of a hot spring in Siwa Oasis. Or they just book a cruise on one of the luxury Nile ships to engage in a personal dialogue with the remainings of the times of Ramses II., Echnaton and his beautiful wife Nofretete or the old kings of the mystic underworld, all along the holy river which for Egypt is the very source of life, fertility, food and energy. ”Even though our history and culture in scientific terms is better explored than that of most other countries, Egypt has lost nothing of its fascination“, says Tamer Marzouk, the director of tourism in charge of incoming guests from Austria, Germany, Switzerland und Poland. But because of recent incidents – mainly a terrorist strike on a Russian charterplane last December with more than 200 persons killed, the threat from Jihadists of the Islamic State, and the criminal attack in a Hurghada hotel in January, which left two Austrian tourists injured – Egypt is confronted with a diminishing number of bookings. And authorities are getting kind of nervous, since the tourism industry provides jobs for some 5 million Egyptians and accounts for over 11 percent of the country‘s GDP. In reaction to this, at the end of February a brand new image campain ”Egypt – where all began“ – has been launched „to re-awake the confidence into Egypt as a whole-year holiday destination for families and all guests interested in culture or sports“, as Marzouk points out. ”Egypt has also drastically tightened its security measures“, explains Khaled Shamaa, the country‘s Ambassador to Austria (see interview page 34). With the help of the international security company ”Control Risk“ airport controls and street checkpoints as well as military and police forces have been upgraded. ”One of the main examples of how that has been done efficiently is the very quick response by the security forces at the latest incident in Hurghada“, Shamaa says, adding that this is only one of the problems modern Egypt is currently facing. EGYPT Official Name: Arab Republic of Egypt Region: As a transcontinental country, Egypt is spanning the Northeast corner of Africa and the Southwest corner of Asia via the land bridge of the Sinai Peninsula. It is bordered by the Gaza Strip and Israel to the Northeast, the Gulf of Aqaba to the East, the Red Sea to the East and South, Sudan to the South and Libya to the West. Area: 1,010,407.87 km2 Population: 90,4 million (2016 estimate) Language: Arabic Religion: Muslim (90 %) Coptic Christian (9 %), other Christians (1 %). Capital: Cairo Currency: Egyptian Pound (EGP) GDP: GDP 324,27 billion $ (2015 estimate, nominal) GDP per capita: 3.724 $ (2015 estimate, nominal) Government: Unitary semipresidential republic. Establishment: c. 3150 BC The City Stars mall in Cairo. Cairo, the capital of Egypt, with the mighty Nile, seen from a high above perspective. Whether you are looking for an unforgettable dive, the solitude of the desert, the never ending pulse of Cairo or a certain touch of history – you will find that and more in Egypt – ”where all began“. Restaurant San Giovanni, Alexandria. Bibliotheca Alexandrina. 30 Cercle Diplomatique 1/2016 Cercle Diplomatique 1/2016 31