CAIRO: Former government archaeology official and world-renowned Egyptologist Zahi Hawwas is known for his passion for ancient Egypt and his eagerness to attract more tourists to his country.
However, Hawwas is also interested in the bridging of civilizations. So, it was no surprise to see Japan, another nation with a great ancient civilization, at the forefront of his endeavors while promoting tourism in Egypt.
In November 2018, Hawwas visited Japan, where he delivered a keynote lecture at Kanazawa University in Tokyo to a large audience fascinated by Egypt and its ancient glories.
During the lecture, Hawwas underscored the deep and strong Egyptian-Japanese relations, especially concerning archaeology, which he described as a major tool to enhance cultural communication, coexistence, and cooperation between the two countries.
Speaking to Arab News, Hawwas said that Egyptian Ambassador to Japan Ayman Kamel had quickly established an “extraordinary network of relations with the Japanese people and officials” that will help attract more Japanese tourists to Egypt.
“Undoubtedly, this better serves Egypt’s interests. I have personally witnessed part of his efforts when he agreed with Kanazawa University and tourism expert Fathy Ismail to hold an Egyptian day at the university’s campus.
“I was invited not only to provide information about the ancient Egyptians but also to talk about the archaeological activities of the Japanese in Egypt. The activities of the day included a lecture I delivered about my archaeological discoveries, Egyptian folk art and Egyptian food,” Hawwas said.
“Around 1,000 Japanese attended the event. Both the ambassador and I were keen to deliver a key message to the Japanese people: Egypt enjoys safety and security, and that it is important for them to visit Egypt because Egyptian monuments do not belong only to Egypt but rather to the whole world.”
Hawwas said that his visit to Japan will help in “restoring the monuments of this great civilization which fascinates the Japanese people.”
“The Japanese adore queens Nefertiti and Cleopatra. Japanese television networks aired a four-hour film about Cleopatra starring famous Japanese actors. Many other adventure films have been produced about Egyptian monuments,” he said.
Hawwas added that when he visited Japan, “I found that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had impressed on the Japanese people Egypt’s status as a safe country that attracts tourists.”
The famed Egyptologist said Egypt and Japan have been cooperating in major archaeological projects for years. These include the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), considered the world’s most important cultural project this century.
Another venture is Khufu’s second solar boat — an intact full-size vessel from ancient Egypt — which will be displayed in a special hall in GEM, where visitors will get to know about boats in ancient Egypt, as well as maritime activities in the ancient Egyptian and Japanese civilizations.
The Egyptian Association of Mosaferoon (Travelers) said in its latest report issued in July 2019 that 32,000 Japanese tourists visited Egypt this year. More than 200,000 Japanese tourists are expected to visit the country next year after the Japanese Foreign Ministry updated its travel advisory to Egypt acknowledging the improved security situation in the country.