Rare solar event in Egypt's Abu Sibmel temple attracts more Chinese tourists
The sculptures of Amun, King Ramses II and Re-Harakhty are illuminated by sunlight during the Sun Festival at the Great Temple of Abu Simbel in Aswan, Egypt, Oct. 22, 2016. (Xinhua/Zhao Dingzhe)
by Mahmoud Fouly, Wang Xue
ABU SIMBEL, Egypt, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Many Chinese tourists this year joined the long queues of thousands of people who gathered on Saturday early morning outside Abu Simbel temple in Upper Egypt's Aswan province to watch the sun illuminating the temple's inner sanctuary and shining the face of ancient Egyptian King Ramses II.
They all looked so attentive and excited while waiting for the extraordinary solar event that takes place twice a year, on Oct. 22 and Feb. 22, as an evidence of the advancement of Egypt's Pharaohs in the field of astronomy thousands of years ago.
Ren Wei, a 20-year-old Chinese visitor, was curiously talking with her friend about the magnificence of Pharaonic drawings on one of the walls of the huge temple, stressing the whole atmosphere was "magical and attractive" to her.
"I have always been curious about those Egyptian legends, magical stories and ancient sites since I was little. I read many books and watched many movies about Egypt. So, like many Chinese people, I always hoped to come here to see the ancient history of the country," the young woman told Xinhua.
Egypt has been suffering tourism recession over the past few years due to political turmoil and relevant security issues, yet the Chinese visitors expressed their feeling of safety in the country amid adequate security presence and deployment all around.
"We really feel safe here, although as a girl I am still a little reluctant to walk alone in the street," Ren remarked, expressing her impression about Egypt as "a country with huge potentials and fruitful tourism resources that just needs more development."
The number of Chinese visitors to Egypt increased from 65,000 to 135,000 in 2015, and the tourism ministry has been targeting to multiply the number in 2016.
Egypt's Tourism Minister Yehia Rashed, who attended the Pharaonic solar phenomenon with a number of other officials, noticed more Chinese tourists this year compared to previous ones, stressing Chinese tourism is on top of Egypt's marketing agenda.
"Among thousands of tourists, I see more Chinese faces today, and I believe the tourism from China is growing and we need to grow it more and more," the minister told Xinhua outside the temple after watching the sunrays on the face of King Ramses II along with fellow officials.
"We like the Chinese people very much and we're going to focus more on the Chinese market to improve the flow of Chinese tourists to Egypt," the minister continued, noting that the ministry has recently initiated tourism promotion activities targeting Chinese visitors.
During the unique solar event, tourists have been allowed to get inside the sanctuary in groups to take a look at the king's illuminated face and return from the other side of the same passage but mostly sticking to the wall and sometimes bending so as not to block the sunrays.
"It is the first time for me and my family to come to Egypt, and the only word to describe the temple is that it is breathtaking!" said Pan Hongyan, a lady in her 40s from the Chinese capital city of Beijing, who was taking pictures for her husband and son at the gate of the temple.
The lady added that she and her family visited many European and Asian countries for vacation and they preferred to come to Egypt this year to see its different culture and lifestyle, noting both China and Egypt are ancient civilizations.
"Egypt is no longer a remote, unreachable country for Chinese visitors. Egypt is unique, and we're lucky to meet a nice Egyptian tour guide who speaks very good Chinese. So we have really enjoyed the trip," Pan told Xinhua.
As for Li Jianfang, 50s, she said she came from northern Hebei Province in China along with some friends to see the solar festivity and the ancient Egyptian antiquities, saying the Egyptian government is doing a good job in the protection of such "priceless" sites.
She referred to China's further economic cooperation as one of the reasons for the growing numbers of Chinese visitors to Egyptian tourist attractions.
"The cultural and touristic sites here in Egypt deserve to be visited by more people around the world," Li told Xinhua.
Egyptian Culture Minister Helmi al-Nimnim said the festivity is very important to Egypt as it attracts thousands of tourists every year, praising the efforts done by the officials of Aswan province and various ministries for the success of such an "international event."
"This is our culture and our historical heritage. We will and we must continue promoting them and we welcome people from all over the world to come and visit, especially the Chinese tourists," the minister told Xinhua.
-- Sent from my monopoly-free Linux system.