CAIRO: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman invited Egypt’s Coptic Christians to visit Saudi Arabia after a rare meeting in Cairo’s main cathedral.
Speaking to Egyptian media after the visit the head of the Egyptian church, Pope Tawadros II said: “In the name of the Coptic Orthodox church we welcome Prince Mohammed’s visit to his second country Egypt.
“Prince Mohammed spoke a lot of his affection for the Copts,” the Pope said, adding that the kingdom’s heir to the throne invited him and all Copts to visit Saudi Arabia.
The two men walked together through St Mark's Cathedral, in what Egypt’s state news agency described as the first tour of its kind.
The visit came on the second day of the Saudi Crown Prince’s visit to Egypt – his first foreign visit since he became heir to the throne.
On a busy day, Prince Mohammed also visited Al-Azhar university, toured a section of the Suez Canal and watched a performance at the Cairo Opera House.
The start of the trip was marked by a series of deals and agreements relating to investment funds and projects.
But along with the key economic agreements, the Crown Prince held important and symbolic meetings with Egypt’s spiritual leaders.
He also met Egypt's top Islamic official, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb at Al-Azhar, the foremost seat of learning in Sunni Islam.
Earlier, the prince toured some of the infrastructure projects that Egypt has pushed through since El-Sisi came to power after the tumultuous years aftermath of the Arab Spring.
In Ismailia, the two leaders travelled through one of the new tunnels being built under the Suez canal. They then boarded a boat from a red-carpeted dock as an army band played marching music, to view the new section of the Suez Canal, AP reported.
He later cut the ribbon at a ceremony to inaugurate a nearby army-built resort.
The two countries agreed late on Sunday to set up a joint $10 billion fund to develop areas of Egypt linked to the Neom project, a planned $500 billion mega city, unveiled by Prince Mohammed last year.
The Saudi Press Agency said there was “wide potential … through cooperation opportunities between the Suez Canal economic zone and Saudi Arabia's Neom future-project on the Red Sea coast.”
In the evening, El-Sisi and Prince Mohammed attended a performance of "Salem nafsak" (Surrender Yourself) at the Cairo Opera House.
The play, which was created by students, sheds light on social problems of the modern era including the impact of social media, incitement of terrorism and violence against women.
Ismail Mokhtar, head of the government’s Artistic Theatre House, said the attendance of El-Sisi and the Crown Prince was an important gesture of support for the young actors and Egyptian theater in general.
As a sign of the importance afforded to the visit, posters of the Egyptian president, Prince Mohammed and Saudi King Salman have been posted across the city.
"Welcome to your second country," said one; another read "Saudi and Egypt are one hand, one nation."