Minister of Tourism Hesham Za’zou decided on Sunday to put Iranian tourist trips to Egypt on hold until mid-June.
Egypt and Iran agreed on a new tourism exchange treaty back in March that saw the arrival of Iranian tourists to the country last week for the first time in over 30 years.
In a statement released by the Ministry of Tourism, Za’zou said that this two-month period would be used to reevaluate the treaty and the experience of tourism exchange with Iran, reported state-owned Al-Ahram.
Dozens of Salafi protesters rallied around the Iranian ambassador’s house in Cairo on Friday in protest of Iranian tourism in Egypt. The protesters demanded cutting off all relations between Egypt and the “Iranian entity” and declared that Shi’a Muslims were not welcome in Egypt. They also demanded the expulsion of all Iranian tourists from the country.
Ahmed Mawlana, spokesperson of the Al-Sha’ab Party, described the hold on Iranian tourism as a positive move. Al-Sha’ab is an affiliate of the Salafi Front.
“Our problem with Iranian tourism is not a sectarian or racist one,” said Mawlana. “Iran possesses an expansive political project with an ideological basis.”
Mawlana stated that Iran would abuse tourism in Egypt to reinforce its “political project” and allow its Revolutionary Guards access into the country. He added that the Shi’a experiences of neigbouring countries such as Yemen and Saudi Arabia should be a warning for Egypt.
“We want to preserve the social peace of our country,” Mawlana said. He added that any Shi’a tourists from any nationality are welcome to Egypt. “Yet, Iranian tourists might have an agenda which serves their country’s political project.”
In a meeting held last week, the Iranian cabinet ratified the cancellation of entry-visas granted to Egyptian tourists visiting Iran, reported German press agency DPA.
The first flight from Cairo to Tehran since the Iranian revolution of 1979 left Cairo International Airport on 30 March.
Za’zou signed a cooperation agreement with his Iranian counterpart, aiming to increase the number of Iranians visiting Egypt. Flights between Egypt and Iran could be extended to other airports such as Luxor, DPA reported.