“Egypt,” notes His Excellency, Sergei Terentiev Belarusian Ambassador to Egypt, “is a completely different experience.”
With on-going communication, the floodgates to companionship are now cast open between Belarus and Egypt during a key point of their young relationship. The two countries have chosen to traverse new frontiers hand in hand, exchange existing expertise, and develop indispensable cultural ties.
In honor of the anniversary marking 30 years since the start of diplomatic relations, Egyptian Streets sat down with Belarusian Ambassador to Egypt, His Excellency Sergei Terentiev to discuss fields of cooperation and the growing momentum between the two countries.
“Here in Egypt, decisions are taken very timely and very bravely. They’re not only taken, they’re also fulfilled.”
Appointed in October 2019, Terentiev expressed his admiration to the “consecutive and brave efforts” of Egypt’s leadership, from national megaprojects to presidential initiatives like ‘Haya Karima’.
From Sharm el-Sheikh to the Sphinx
The relationship between Egypt and Belarus is perhaps at its most apparent when the matter of tourism arises. Belarusians remain among the most ardent visitors of Red Sea shores and Eastern Egyptian tourism. From sunbathing to scuba diving, upwards of 200,000 Belarusians annually enjoy Egyptian weather and hospitality.
“For us, Egypt is destination number one,” remarks Terentiev. “Peak timing was [during] 2019. About 280,000 Belarusians came to Egypt.”
He continues to note that, despite the figure being modest in comparison to larger, more populous nations, it is a huge amount for a small country such as Belarus—particularly prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after Egypt’s lockdowns, when the announcement came to reopen its borders, Belarusians were the first to book flights and prepare vacations.
“For one month, we were the number one or number two touristic supplier to Egypt,” explains Terentiev.
“Belarusians love the Red Sea,” he continues, though despite this, he is quick to note that there is far more to be explored in Egypt that does not gain enough public attention.
“Egypt is not only the Red Sea,” he insists. “Egypt is not only beautiful beaches, it’s not only nice cuisine. Egypt is much more than that and we all know it.”
“Alexandria, Cairo, Luxor, Aswan, Siwa—these kinds of places, [the lack of visitors] is a great loss for me. There are among 200,000 Belarusians coming to Egypt and only around three thousand, five thousand leave Hurghada or Sharm el-Sheikh.”
“We have already started to promote, and we have a good understanding with the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities here. A good step would be having a direct flight between the capitals. This is what we are now negotiating – everything is ready to go for that, the only thing is to start,” he said when asked about where to start with this symbiotic relationship.
Visas and embassies
Both Minsk and Cairo have been in talks throughout lockdowns, and have already made headway in the diplomatic arena.
Prior to October 2021, visas upon arrival were only granted to Belarusians in Red Sea provinces, specifically Sharm el-Sheikh and Hurghada. Today, Belarusians enjoy visas nationwide, from Cairo to Luxor. This solves one of two glaring issues, the second of which is the lack of an Egyptian Embassy in Minsk.
With Egypt now motioning to initiate its first embassy in Belarus as of 2022, and the concurrent visa developments, there is no doubt that the future of mutual, dovetailed tourism is on the incline. For Mr. Terentiev, this is a move of priceless impetus.
“Touristic dialogue is of principal importance. Tourism is a sort of locomotion for other fields, trade, economic, cultural, humanitarian, educational…people come and get to know each other, [and] start to get interested.”
The ambassador, who describes Egyptians as “very hospitable and kind people”, first visited Egypt in 2001.
“Two years of my stay in Egypt is not such a long time. But even during this short period, I witnessed development and endeavors by the President, the government, Parliament, academics, businesses, and people. Everybody is heading towards the same goal,” he adds, as he comments on Egypt’s strategy to achieve Egypt Vision 2030. “We try to be a part of every noble development we see here.”
Meanwhile, His Excellency commended Egypt’s investment in youth and youth policies, stressing the importance of youth participation and contribution on the political front.
“The youth have their own problems and they must be faced. If you don’t address their problems, you will have new problems of yours; not tomorrow, today,” says Terentiev.
His Excellency applauded the Egyptian youth’s active role in conferences and events such as the World Youth Forum (WYF) and its recommendations, in addition to the Coordination Committee of Party’s Youth Leaders and Politicians (CPYP) and their participation in parliament meetings and sessions. “We have things to learn from Egypt in this regard.”
International collaboration is a rising tide, serving to create new transcontinental bonds while continuing to flatter pre-existing ones. After thirty years of mutual aid, cultural dialogues, and flourishing tourism, both countries agree that this is only the beginning of their diplomatic journey.
Egyptian Streets is committed to conveying a range of voices and perspectives. This interview is part of its ongoing series with ambassadors and key political figures. Previously, interviews have been conducted with the Ambassador of the US, Chile, Australia, and Greece.