On the center of page 18 of the People’s Daily newspaper issued on Dec. 25, 2023, there is a photo in which an Egyptian tour guide is passionately explaining something to Chinese tourists.
This tour guide is Abbas El-Said. It is the second time for him to be reported by People’s Daily, and the first time came 11 years ago when a journalist from People’s Daily, captured a moment of Abbas, who was 28 and served as an assistant to the director of the China Cultural Center in Cairo, telling stories about the 12 Chinese zodiac animals to local students at the Center. This photo appeared on page 19 of the June 8, 2012 edition of People’s Daily.
“I always have the photo of this precious report in my phone, and I often show it to my friends, colleagues, family, and Chinese tourists. It is my great honor and pride that my photo appeared on People’s Daily, China’s largest newspaper!” Speaking of the 2012 interview by People’s Daily, Abbas was still excited.
Though Abbas had no elders in his family well versed in Chinese culture, he still developed a keen interest in China from a young age – a children’s book about the East sparked his longing for China.
After entering elementary school, his curiosity in and fascination with China further deepened as he learned the stories of the ancient Silk Road, the faraway and beautiful country of ancient China, and the wisdom-filled Confucius and Confucianism.
Later, Abbas was admitted to the Chinese language department of Ain Shams University. In order to excel in Chinese, he practiced thinking in Chinese, and his progress was indeed remarkable.
The Egyptian man said that he had three dreams of his life – learning Chinese, being a tour guide, and serving as an envoy of cultural exchange between Egypt and China. And he has always been progressing steadily on this path he has planned.
In 2006, Abbas completed his studies at the age of 22 and went on to further his education at Sinai College of Tourism. After graduating in 2009, he officially became a professional Chinese-language tour guide.
As a matter of fact, Abbas started receiving Chinese tourists as a sophomore. “By working as a tour guide, I was able to earn an income while practicing my Chinese. Most importantly, being a tour guide allowed me to make friends with more and more Chinese people,” he noted.
It was also during this year that Abbas started attending various activities at the China Cultural Center in Cairo. “The China Cultural Center is like a window that opens up to Chinese culture, allowing a ray of sunshine to shine into my heart.”
In 2010, Abbas became an assistant to the director of the Chinese Cultural Center in Cairo and served for a period of three years.
“This job gave me the opportunity to share my love for Chinese culture with more people. Through organizing lectures, exhibitions, and events like the Chinese New Year temple fair, more and more Egyptians started to embrace Chinese culture and became fond of it. Being able to contribute to the bridge of friendship between Egypt and China made me feel incredibly happy,” Abbas told People’s Daily.
Recently, Abbas has been studying a Chinese word “lianjie” (链接),” which means connectivity. “As ancient civilizations, Egypt and China had friendly exchanges over 2,000 years ago, which marked ‘lianjie’ in history. The China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is ‘lianjie’ in contemporary times that revitalizes the ancient Silk Road,” Abbas explained.
He said China actively cooperates with countries around the world for mutual benefit and win-win outcomes, and he believes that in today’s turbulent international environment, people will better understand the value and significance of the BRI.
Currently, “lianjie” is more reflected in the synergy between the BRI and Egypt’s Vision 2030.
“The BRI is helping me fulfill my dreams and also benefiting my country. China has helped us build the Central Business District in our new administrative capital, where the Iconic Tower is known as the ‘tallest building in Africa,’ which makes us very proud,” Abbas noted.
He also took the 10th of Ramadan Light Rail Transit program as an example, saying the program, as the first electrified railway in Egypt, adopts Chinese technologies and equipment.
“Many Egyptians, including myself, are personally experiencing the tangible benefits and conveniences brought about by the BRI,” he said.
Abbas said his life would not be the same if he had not studied Chinese or if the BRI had not come to Egypt.
“My life is splendid because of the BRI,” Abbas noted.
Currently, Abbas is preparing to establish a company that promotes Chinese culture and fosters cultural and economic exchanges between China and Egypt.
“I am willing to do my part to strengthen the connection between Egypt and China, bring the two countries closer and build closer ties between the two peoples!”
As tourism exchanges between Egypt and China continue to flourish, Abbas has become increasingly busy. Since the beginning of this year, he has been receiving an average of two to three Chinese tour groups every month, with each group staying in Egypt for a minimum of one week and a maximum of 20 days.
His busy schedule reflects the accelerated development of bilateral relations between China and Egypt, and highlights the successful implementation of the BRI in Egypt.
In today’s Egypt, the pragmatic cooperation between China and Egypt has brought about plenty of employment opportunities, leading to a high demand for Chinese-speaking talents. Learning Chinese has become a popular trend there.
In September 2022, a pilot project for Chinese language education in Egyptian secondary schools was launched, marking the inclusion of Chinese language into Egypt’s national education system.
The growing enthusiasm for the Chinese language and Chinese culture in Egypt demonstrates that the mutual understanding between China and Egypt is built on mutual learning between the two civilizations, and the strongest potential of China-Egypt cooperation lies in people-to-people bond.
Abbas El-Said explains the 12 Chinese zodiac animals to local students at the China Cultural Center in Cairo, Egypt. This photo appeared on page 19 of the June 8, 2012 edition of People’s Daily. (Photo by Wen Hongyan/People’s Daily)
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