Currently, Egypt and Bulgaria are bound by more than 20 cooperation agreements, our relations are based on sincere friendship and mutual respect.

E. Mrs. Manal Yehia El Shinnawi handed her credentials as Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Republic of Bulgaria on June 5, 2013. Her professional career until then included key positions in the Departments “International Organizations”, “Europe” and “Protocol” in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Arab Republic of Egypt. She was Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Chief of Mission in the Embassy of the Arab Republic of Egypt to the Republic of Greece, and she was a member of the External Affairs Committee of the Egyptian National Council for Women. At present, she is also a doyen of the Group of Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls of the African States.

- Your Excellency, 25 May is the Day of Africa. What does this day mean for African people?

- Africa Day is the annual commemoration of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, now recognized as the Africa Union. This year 2017 is the 54th anniversary. Celebrations take place all over the world to signify African identity and unity. In Egypt for instance we celebrate the whole month of May through several events organized mainly by the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Also events are organized by Cairo University, Egyptian associations interested in African affairs, the Egyptian Tourism Authority. There are various celebrations in different governorates of Egypt.

- As the Doyen of the African Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls in Bulgaria you are the heart of the organization of the celebration of this date in our country. What are you going to focus on this year, which face of Africa are you going to present?

- The African Union theme of this year is "harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in Youth". In fact, investments made today in the youth, who represent Africa’s greatest asset, could be a big factor for Africa’s development projects over the next 50 years, a factor towards the realization of the African Union ambitious Agenda 2063.

This year the African Group of Ambassadors and Honorary Consuls in Bulgaria celebrate the event through organizing a Conference in cooperation with Sofia University under the title “Bulgaria-Africa 21st Century and Beyond”. The aim of the Conference is to present opportunities for cooperation between the Republic of Bulgaria and African countries and to introduce different topics such as economic cooperation, energy issues and educational exchange.

- The establishment of our diplomatic relations with Egypt took place following a number of diplomatic moves, as a result of which Mohamed Hedaya Pasha handed his credentials as Minister Plenipotentiary to Bulgaria (based in Istanbul) on April 24, 1926. What has the development of our relations through the years been, where are we today?

- Since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Egypt and Bulgaria in 1926 , the relations witnessed developments in various fields. Now more than 20 agreements bind both countries. Our relations are based on sincere friendship and mutual respect.

- What about the economic and trade contacts?

- Still Egypt, and since few years ago, is the biggest trade partner to Bulgaria in Africa and the Middle East, as the  trade volume reached  707,4 US$ in 2016.

We have several economic agreements between our two countries which pave the way for more trade and economic relations, such as the Agreement on Promotion of Investments and the Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation.

In mid May 2017 we organized a successful visit for an Egyptian business delegation to Bulgaria. We held a business forum and the delegation had meetings at the headquarters of the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. I believe the visit was very successful, and we look forward for more business visits from both sides.

- Egypt and Bulgaria are countries with rich history and cultural heritage. What are our relations in the field of culture?

- Both countries signed an Agreement on Cooperation in the fields of Culture, Science and Education in 1998. Now we are in the process of signing the new executive programme of the Agreement for the coming three years. The programme provides more cooperation opportunities in the fields of science and education, culture and arts and youth and sports.

- The Archaeological sites by the river Nile are a dream for archaeologists all over the world. In March, the world's media broke the news that a huge statue of Pharaoh Ramses II was found in Cairo ... Another, already restored, was placed in front of the Luxor Temple. How does the Egyptian state manage to preserve this enormous heritage?

- In Egypt we say that archeological discoveries never end. I would like to mention also that the city of Luxor is considered the biggest world open museum.

As for some of the latest discoveries, Egypt has unveiled on April 18th 2017 the granite statue of Ramses the second at the temple of Luxor after a restoration process. The statue is 11 meters tall and weighs 75 tons.

Nowadays we are building the Grand Egyptian Museum (GEM), known also as the Giza Museum. The museum is set to host artifacts of ancient Egypt and is described by many as the largest archeological museum in the world.

- Do we have common archaeological projects?

- I believe that exchange of experience is very important and common archaeological projects could be very successful.

- Your country is preferred tourist destination for Bulgarians, but we do not see many Egyptian tourists here. Do you have data about the tourist exchange between our countries? How this exchange could be stimulated?

- Last year more than 3 thousand Bulgarian tourists visited Egypt, we expect that this year the number will be increased. Charter flights from Sofia will start the coming months to Hurgada, which is well known for its remarkable tourism capabilities.I would like to add also that tourists and touristic destinations enjoy highest safety measures and high quality service.  Charter flights from Egypt to Varna were launched in 2015 and they proved success. A new Agreement for cooperation in the field of tourism between both countries is on the process of finalization, and I believe would boost our cooperation in this field.

- You have been appointed as Ambassador of the Arab Republic of Egypt in Bulgaria on 5 June 2013. For the four years of work here, what are your impressions of our country and of our people?

- Since I started my mission in Bulgaria in 2013,  I have always felt the hospitality and warmth of the Bulgarian people. Bulgaria is a very beautiful country and I’d like to extend my appreciation for the support I received from all Bulgarian friends during my mission.

Photo: "Diplomatic Spectrum"