In the home of Egyptian translator Mohsen Fergani, a Chinese knot and paper cutting hung on a wall of the living room are quite conspicuous. By the side of them, a certificate of the Award for Outstanding Contribution to China-Arab Friendship Fergani has received is also impressive.
The award was issued to Fergani by Chinese President Xi Jinping when the latter was paying a visit to Egypt in January 2016. Xi met with Fergani and nine other friendly personages, and shook hands and posed for pictures with them after conferring on them the awards.
“I was very honored that President Xi conferred the award on me in person. It was the proudest time of my life,” Fergani recalled the moment, which still excites him today.
The sixth UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, also former foreign minister of Egypt, received the award together with Fergani. The former UN head was in his nineties when receiving the honor. Xi came to him, bended over and shook hand with him, extending greetings to the old friend of the Chinese people.
“This scene made me feel deeper how President Xi cherishes the traditional friendship between China and Arab states,” Fergani told People’s Daily.
On the second day, Xi delivered an important speech titled “Work Together for a Bright Future of China-Arab Relations” at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.
“Yesterday, I met with ten old Arab friends who received the Award for Outstanding Contribution to China-Arab Friendship. It is the hard work of generations of friendly people from both sides that has enabled the seedlings of China-Arab friendship to grow into luxuriant and evergreen trees,” said the Chinese President in the speech.
Xi’s mentioning of the ten award receivers touched Fergani and also reminded the latter of his responsibility in promoting the friendship between Arab states and China.
Fergani has long been committed to the studies of Chinese literature and Chinese translation. He has published multiple translated Chinese ancient classics.
His study well reflects his passion and seriousness for translation – various types of books are often placed on his desk and the books piled up on the floor are as high as a meter. Besides, there are short sentences in both Chinese and Arabic neatly written by him on the door to and walls in the study, such as “both authenticity and simplicity are important for translation.”
He has translated a series of Chinese works into Arabic, including ancient classics such as The Analects of Confucius, The Book of Songs, Tao Te Ching and The Strategies of the Warring States, as well as some contemporary literature works.
Fergani received the Special Book Award of China in 2013, becoming the first Arabian winning the honor.
When receiving an interview with People’s Daily, the Egyptian translator cited Xi’s remarks at the opening ceremony of the eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum that the Chinese and the Arab civilizations, sharing a long history of mutually-reinforcing exchanges, have all the more reason to draw wisdom and strength from each other in this day and age.
He said Xi’s remarks inspire him to make greater contributions to translating Chinese literature works and promoting cultural exchanges between Arab states and China.
“Chinese literature works are valuable marks left by the Chinese culture over the long course of history. I aspire to better introduce China to Arabian readers and show them the splendid Chinese culture,” Fergani told People’s Daily.
In March 2014, Xi noted in a speech at the UNESCO headquarters that civilizations have become richer and more colorful with exchanges and mutual learning. Such exchanges and mutual learning form an important drive for human progress and global peace and development.
Fergani said this impressed him very much. He believes the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) proposed by Xi carries rich connotation, values people-to-people bond and has built a very important platform for cultural communication.
“The ancient Silk Road was once a channel of commerce and civilization exchanges between the East and the West. Today, the BRI is once again facilitating mutual learning and exchanges between different cultures and ideas. Arab states are actively looking eastward to draw wisdom from the Chinese civilization,” Fergani said.
China-Arab states relations are constantly being elevated to new heights today. Fergani told People’s Daily that there has been a “Mandarin fever” in Arab states, and more than 10 universities in Egypt have set up a Chinese language department or offered Chinese courses.
Since Oct. 1, 2022, the teaching of Chinese language has been included in Egypt’s national education system, becoming an optional foreign language course for middle school students. This creates more opportunities for young Egyptians to know more about China.
“The ‘Mandarin fever’ has significantly promoted Chinese culture in Egypt and forged a closer people-to-people bond between the two nations, forming a synergy in building a China-Arab community with a shared future in the new era,” Fergani said.
He told People’s Daily that apart from keeping translating Chinese literature works, he will focus more on the training of translators so as to build a bigger translation foundation among young Arabians.
“Under the strategic guidance of the heads of state, the strategic partnership between China and Arab states will achieve long-term and stable development. It is hoped that the two sides can further strengthen communication on literature and art, and jointly write a more splendid chapter of human civilization,” Fergani noted.
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