“Our civilization is ancient, and modern too”
Text: Martina Hošková and M.Zisso; Photo: Archive
Last year, 21% of all Czech holiday flights were headed for Egyptian destinations. The number of those who buy apartments in places like Hurghada is growing too. “We are very much pleased to see the increasing number of Czech tourists coming to different destinations in Egypt,” says H.E. Mr. Mahmoud Mostafa Afifi, Ambassador of Egypt, confirming this data. What is the role of the “three S’s” in Egypt’s popularity among Czech tourists? Where does the Ambassador feel the extra pressure of representing his country? The answers to these questions – and more – await you in our interview.
Can you tell us what made you become an Ambassador?
I was showing since a very young age a great interest in following international politics, as well as what is going on in the world of diplomacy. I was following the specialized news and reading about global affairs since I was a child. That is why I took the path of studying international politics and economics, in order to also academically prepare myself for this job.
I believe that I made a good career decision for myself. By now, I have been working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt for 29 years. I hold degrees in politics, international relations, and law. I have two children, and I even find time for my hobbies, which are reading, sports, and travelling.
You have been representing your country in the Czech Republic for less than a year. Can you share some of your impressions so far?
Before coming to the Czech Republic, I served in three countries: Gabon, the United Kingdom, and to Egypt ́s mission to the UN in Geneva, in addition to working as the Official Spokesperson of the League of Arab States in Cairo.
I had very good impressions of the Czech Republic even before arriving here as an Ambassador, especially because I had visited the country as a tourist a few times, so I always knew how beautiful and culturally rich the country was.
When assuming my position as an Ambassador, I also found the politics of the country to be interesting and vibrant. Of course, I had to take some time to understand the local culture and the society, given that it is someway different from my country and the places I had worked in before. However, this is usual for any new Ambassador, understanding how things work on different levels in his new posting, and getting to know the people and their customs after arriving in the country.
What is the most difficult part of being an ambassador?
The Ambassador is a significant part of the image of his country, so you always have to be watchful of your actions, the way you deal with people, the way you talk. Many times, you also have to sacrifice your personal life for the sake of your official engagements. You have to contain different situations and problems, to find solutions, and to be able at the same time to build good channels and connections in the country you work in, aiming to serve your country in the best possible way and enriching the bilateral relations between your country and the one you are accredited to.
How do you assess the current status of Czech – Egyptian relations?
The current relations are excellent and growing in solid steps. This does not come as a surprise, because the relationship between the two countries is historic as the diplomatic relations started over one hundred years ago, so it is very well established. The countries have supported each other in different situations. Currently, there are very good political relations, the commercial balance is increasing on both sides, investments also from the two sides are seeing significant advancement, and tourism is working very well. On the cultural level, we have been seeing very good development in recent years, and I note in this context the excellent work of the Czech archaeological mission in Egypt, which met significant success, as well as organizing the very successful exhibition “The Kings of the Sun” in 2020, held in the National Museum in Prague.
You mentioned very strong tourist relations. Can you expand on this idea a bit?
Czechia is currently the third market for tourism in Egypt, and the first market per capita, which is something that makes both sides happy. We are very much pleased to see the increasing number of Czech tourists coming to different destinations in Egypt. We tend to offer Czech people extensive information about tourism in Egypt to suit what they are looking for, including of course info relating to sea resorts, especially the Red Sea, which have a special appeal to the Czech market, since Czechia is a landlocked country. We have this promotion based on what we call the “three S’s”: sun, sand, and sea, and we always work to meet this level of expectation of the Czech people, while taking into consideration the tremendous steps and efforts Egypt exerted in recents to expand, diversify and promote the tourism sector.
Egypt has one of the longest histories of any country. Is that what makes you an important player?
Whenever the word Egypt is mentioned, people always think firstly about our great ancient civilization. That puts an important responsibility on the shoulders of the representatives of this country. This reputation has to be met by showing how rich and deep the Egyptian civilization is. At the same time, and coming to modern time, Egypt is a country which has significant leverage on both the regional and international levels. Egypt is an Arab, African and Mediterranean country at the crossroads of different parts of the world and a very close neighbour to Europe. It has always maintained solid, friendly and diversified relations with other countries, as well as a longstanding policy of non-aggression and peaceful coexistence with the goal of maintaining stability and security and seeking the welfare of all people. So, it is also important to talk about modern Egypt, and the major developments taking place, especially in the fields of modernization of the economy and the society. We present our country, not only as an ancient civilization, but also as a modernized young country with a solid established institutional structure, motivated society, energized economy and a bright future with great potential in different fields.
This interview is done on the occasion of your national day. What are you wishing for your country? And for the Czech Republic?
I wish both countries further progress, and to remain in the highest level of countries respected before anything else for their solid principles. I also hope that the current close friendship and cooperation between Egypt and the Czech Republic continues to grow in all fields and aspects, and that our partnership will reach new levels for the benefit of the friendly people of the two countries.