Earlier this month, Hurghada airport saw the landing of the first direct flight from Uzbekistan Airways coming out of a straight six-hour journey from Tashkent. This charter flight is part of a new momentum of direct airliners between Egypt and the Central Asian country that are operated from Tashkent to Red Sea resorts and Cairo by Fly Egypt, Air Cairo and Uzbekistan Airways.
“I think the direct flights, both the charters, and the direct regular flights between the two capitals, would enhance the enormous chances for expanding cooperation between Egypt and Uzbekistan – and there are ample opportunities for this cooperation,” said Amira Fahmy, Egypt’s Ambassador to Uzbekistan.
It was actually on her first day at the Egyptian embassy in Tashkent, last year, that Fahmy received a confirmation to the starting of direct flights between Tashkent, Cairo and Red Sea resorts.
“But I want more flights to connect the cities of Uzbekistan to Alexandria, Luxor and Aswan too,” she added.
“For now the plan is to have 18 flights a month - between our two countries - to allow the travellers - who wish to move back and forth - easy travel plans,” Fahmy said. “We are talking about entrepreneurs from both countries and many Uzbek students who atend Al-Azhar University along with a possibly large number of tourists on both sides,” she added.
Fahmy is already working on securing the basis for medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural and industrial cooperation. She said that she is particularly hopeful about a breakthrough in the pharmaceutical industry. “We have already secured the registration of some Egyptian medicine and are working on the set up of a pharmaceutical factory in the capital; one agreement has already been signed,” she said.
Uzbekistan is certainly an attractive destination for many investors obviously from Russia and from Asia, particularly South Korea, China and India. Several European countries, especially from the former eastern bloc, are also eyeing Uzbekistan for business cooperation.
The EU is already negotiating the association of Uzbekistan to its GPS. Saudi Arabia, Emirates, Qatar and Turkey are yet other big contenders for business with this former Silk Road country.
Less than six months on the job in this promising and key Central Asian country, Fahmy is confident about “the big potentials” that Egypt and Uzbekistan could offer one another – not just in investment and trade, which might be the most luring fronts for cooperation, but also on the cultural front.
A young country that has gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Uzbekistan is an enormously old culture. Its big cities: Tashkent, Samarkand and Bukhara have ample architectural evidence for the grandeur of the Uzbek Islamic heritage of the 15th to 17th centuries. It was actually Samarkand that saw the construction of the first mosque in all of Central Asia and it was from Uzbekistan, that Egypt received the largest part of its Mamluks that granted Cairo and other Egyptian cities the gems of Egypt’s Islamic architectural heritage.
“This is a fantastic country when it comes to history, heritage and culture in general – and it is not only about its medieval past but also about its recent past with the prominent Tashkent Film Festival of the 1960s, when the country was still part of the Soviet Union,” Fahmy said. “Egypt used to take part in this film festival and I think today that we can still have so many joint cultural events - cinema, opera and many other forms of art,” she added.
Earlier this month, Fahmy had taken part in a leading conference that was hosted by the Tashkent University for Studies of Arabism. She said she was very impressed with the attention that this conference which was hosted by one of the oldest and most prominent universities of Central Asia to Egypt and this field.
“Al-Azhar is already very well known and highly respected in Uzbekistan. People here really admire Al-Azhar graduates and they also have enormous respect for the Grand Imam. So this is an established path for cooperation,” Fahmy said. “But I think we can work to consolidate it and we can also work on building new bridges between the universities in both countries,” she added.
Fahmy is also eyeing potential cooperation between the prominent Uzbek National Library, with its over 200 branches across the country of 30 million people, and possible counterparts in Egypt including the libraries of leading universities and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. “When we talk about two countries with such great cultural heritage as Egypt and Uzbekistan then the opportunities are simply endless,” she said.
The coronavirus travel restrictions are not helping with the plans that the new ambassador of Egypt has to get the full Egypt-Uzbekistan connection in gear. However, she said that she is confident about the mutual interests on both sides to explore the “endless opportunities” for cooperation.