First direct Cairo-Tehran flight in over 30 years

Cairo International Airport
Cairo International Airport

The first direct flight connecting Egypt and Iran in more than 30 years took off from Cairo International Airport on Saturday, airport officials said.Egypt and Iran flags

The Air Memphis plane, chartered by Egyptian businessman Ramy Lakah, is the first direct flight between the capitals since the two countries severed ties after Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

The flight, which was carrying the Iranian charge d’affaires and his family to Tehran, will then fly back to Egypt’s southern city of Aswan, airport officials said.

Egyptian officials said recently that scheduled charter flights between Iran and Egypt would be announced soon, but no date has yet been set.

Civil Aviation Minister Wael El-Maadawy had said the flights would link the historic cities of Luxor, Aswan, and Abu Simbel in southern Egypt with the Islamic republic.

Iran has been reaching out to Egypt since Islamists came to power in the wake of the 2011 revolution that ousted veteran president Hosni Mubarak, a staunch critic of Tehran.

Egypt’s Tourism Minister Hesham Zaazoua said Thursday that allowing Iranian tourists to visit Egypt after being banned for more than three decades would pose no threat and could help shore up the nation’s struggling tourism industry.

Zaazoua, who visited Tehran nearly a month ago and signed a memorandum of understanding to promote tourism, told reporters that Iranians were not going to visit Egypt to export an Islamic revolution. He said Iranian visitors, who would be restricted in their movements, would not be visiting religious sites.

“We have not received Iranians for 35 years,” Zaazoua said in his office. “They are pure tourists. They are not coming to create a revolution as far as I am concerned.”

“They are coming to visit tourist sites within Egypt,” he said referring to the ancient cities of Luxor and Aswan. “They are coming for vacationing.”

He said if problems surface, “we can stop it, as simple as that.”

Morsi greets Ahmadinejad
Morsi greets Ahmadinejad

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the first Iranian president to visit Cairo in more than 30 years, was given a red-carpet welcome by Islamist President Mohamed Morsi when he arrived in February.

Morsi, who hails from the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, has attended a Non-Aligned Summit in Iran, becoming the first Egyptian president to travel to Tehran since the Islamic revolution.

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