When he starts chatting about tourism, his face immediately lights up. From a tender age, His Excellency Ahmed Abdel Aziz, was introduced to natural beauty.
In Alexandria, where he is born, near the Mediterranean Sea, he recalls spending his evening with his younger brother by the seashore, watching beautiful sceneries of waves hitting each other on one side and people snaking through traffic on the bridge.
Aziz is Egypt’s ambassador to Uganda. Coming from a desert country, Aziz cannot get enough of the long stretches of green he has seen on his way from national parks such as Murchison Falls and Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The abandon with which locals live side by side with animals mesmerises him too.
“When I visited Queen Elizabeth, I remember seeing people cycling inside the park on bicycles carrying matooke, in peace. That was amazing. I have also been to Jinja. It is one of the loveliest places on earth, with a variety of birds,” he recounts.
When he compares with his home country, he says Uganda is truly gifted with a lot of natural resources.
He says Egypt is more or less a desert country with about 15 per cent of greenery. The rest is the Sahara Desert. But nature chose to join two countries using water- River Nile.
Ambassador Aziz says that many Egyptians, even dating back in history, have appreciated The Nile and have gone ahead to make expeditions to find out more about, not just about the water body, but the people with whom they share.”
“Egyptians believe that our reason for being is The Nile. We try to maximiSe the benefits that accrue from The Nile especially because we are the ones that use it last before it goes to the sea.
It has helped as a means of transport in Egypt and as a tourist attraction. We do plan on having a Nile Cruise for one week, on a hotel on a boat,” the ambassador reveals.
This enables tourists to go sight-seeing on the river. There are also a variety of water spots such as fishing, crocodile farm visits and cruises that ferry people cross The Nile from one end to another.
He adds, “We are encouraging more Egyptians to come to Uganda. There is a lot of promising investment. We have Cairo International Bank, Arab Contractors and EgyptAir which comes here five times a week,” he observes.
The career diplomat says the scopes of cooperation between Uganda and Egypt are many.
He says Uganda can learn or pick some lessons from Egypt given the fact that it is largely a desert but has used its other tourism aspects to develop, for example, the historical aspects like civilisation, history and culture to attract people from all over the world.
Part of the reason for the development of the tourism sector according to Aziz is dedication by government towards developing its potential by putting up both economic and high-end hospitality facilities.
He is emphatic on the need for stability for tourism to thrive. Media is an important tool of promotion.
“We as Africans do not present ourselves properly to the outside world. Media is number one, two and three and then government institutions.
Very few Egyptians know about Ugandan and the vice versa. There should be a strategy of exposure. There are few Ugandans who know why Nasser Road was named so. They don’t know that he was an Egyptian leader,” Ambassador Aziz adds.
He roots for use of avenues like films, documentaries and other promotional material to promote Africa’s beauty.
Egypt enjoys a wide range of historical attractions representing the various stages of human civilisation that it has passed through: Pharaonic, Roman, Greek, Islamic which diversify the places that come off head for tourists to visit : The Hanging church, where Jesus and Mary reached in Egypt, the wells of Moses, Pharaohs palaces and temples and the Oasis where it is said that Alexander the Great disappeared.
The itinerary could also include indulging in cultural and natural tourism where you can partake of literature, music, arts, sea shores, desert attractions.
Uganda is particularly endowed in similar areas and needs to pay more attention and direction by those in the promotion business.