Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
2 - 8 December 1999
Issue No. 458
Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875 Issues navigation Current Issue Previous Issue Back Issues

 
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Millennium extravaganza

By Rehab Saad

The World Travel Market (WTM), the second biggest international travel fair (held in London from 15 to 18 November), was a platform for Egypt to reveal its ambitious plans for the millennium celebrations.

"Egypt's contribution to this market aims at promoting the Egyptian tourist product as well as announcing preparations for the millennium," said Dr Mamdouh El-Beltagui, minister of tourism.

El-Beltagui explained that he had held a series of meetings with major travel agencies and tour operators to discuss ways of encouraging tourist movement between the two countries.

Egypt will host more than one event in celebration of the new millennium, the most important being the revival of the route of the biblical flight into Egypt. "The Holy Family stayed in Egypt for four years. They moved from the eastern Delta (El-Farama) to Upper Egypt, passing through many places en route," said El-Beltagui. "The Copts afterwards built churches and shrines all along the route and these are being upgraded and made easily accessible."

El-Beltagui said that many of the important stations along the route will be ready by the beginning of the next millennium. All the sacred sites will be completed by June 2000, the anniversary of the entry of the Holy Family into Egypt. A book covering the journey of the Holy Family revised by Pope Shenouda III has been published by the Ministry of Tourism in nine languages and is distributed all over the world.

The most highly-publicised event being marketed for the millennium is the gala celebration to be held at the foot of the pyramids. The Ministry of Culture will be responsible for the event, featuring Jean Michel Jarre's "electronic opera", The Twelve Dreams of the Sun, and extending from sunset of 31 December to sunrise on 1 January 2000.

In Luxor, the Ministry of Tourism will host a pharaonic-style wedding party held in the area between Luxor and Karnak temples. "We are inviting people from the five continents to celebrate their weddings in Egypt," said El-Beltagui. He added that the newly-weds will be invited for a Nile cruise between Luxor and Aswan.

At another press conference in London, El-Beltagui announced that there will also be a big event in southern Sinai, where a large number of tourists are expected to gather. "There will be international TV coverage at sunrise on the first day of the new millennium on Mount Sinai," he said. In addition, there will be a Nile festival, financed in part by the hotels overlooking the Nile. Beginning from midday on 31 December, all Nile hotels, cruise steamers, feluccas and other boats will be decorated with lights and balloons and fireworks will be set off.

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