Her Majesty Queen Mathilde of the Belgians and Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Elizabeth during their visit to a number of archaeological sites in Egypt’s Luxor governorate on Wednesday. (Photos courtesy of Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and official Facebook page of Belgian Monarchy)
Mostafa Waziri, secretary-general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, accompanied the queen and princess during their tour and gave them a souvenir of a papyrus featuring queen Nefertari and boy king Tutankhamun, read a statement by the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
The tour included the Belgian mission's premises in El-Kab city south of Luxor, Deir El-Medina on the west bank of the Nile, and the Noble Tombs and Sheikh Abdel-Qurna on the west bank of Luxor.
The visits to El-Kab and Sheikh Abdel-Qurna reveal "how Belgian researchers, in tight collaboration with Egyptian researchers, have been playing a major role in the study of ancient Egyptian culture for decades,” the Facebook page of the Belgian monarchy said following the visit.
At El-Kab, the queen and princess were told about one of the oldest Belgian missions' archaeological sites in Egypt where the Art and History Museum of Brussels has been conducting research in one of the first urban centres on the banks of the Nile for more than 85 years, the Belgian monarchy said.
They also visited the tomb of Tutankhamun in the Valley of the Kings, where Waziri explained the history of the tomb and the story of its discovery by British archaeologist Howard Carter in 1923. Queen Elisabeth had attended the official opening of the tomb, the ministry said.
On Tuesday, the queen and princess inaugurated the "1923-2023: Queen Elisabeth of Belgium in Egypt" exhibit at the Baron Empain Palace in Cairo’s Heliopolis. The exhibition was held to mark the 100th anniversary of the trip to Egypt made by Queen Elisabeth of Belgium and her son, Crown Prince Leopold.
The Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa and the Belgian Ambassador to Egypt François Cornet escorted the queen and the duchess at the exhibition.
The exhibition — which runs from 14 March to 14 April — is organised under the patronage of the Belgian Royal Palace and the Belgian Embassy in Cairo in cooperation with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities.
It highlights the long-standing, close-knit cultural and commercial ties between Egypt and Belgium that date back to the 19th century.
Egypt received 11.7 million tourists in 2022, up from eight million in 2021, marking a 46.2 percent increase, said Issa on Wednesday.
The number of visitors to Egypt is expected to increase by 28 percent this year to 15 million, Issa added in a meeting with Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly.
Egypt’s tourism sector was dealt a hard blow by the COVID-19 pandemic, with revenue dropping from $13.03 billion in 2019 to $4.1 billion in 2020. However, the sector has begun since mid-2021 to flourish as Egypt secured $10.7 billion in tourism revenue in FY 2021/2022, up from $4.9 billion in FY 2020/2021, according to the Central Bank of Egypt in October.
Egypt received 13.1 million tourists in 2019, 3.7 million in 2020, and eight million in 2021.
The country, which has 1,200 tourist hotels, hopes to double tourist numbers to 25-30 million by 2028.